Thursday, January 23, 2020

Lebanon advertising in Playboy in 1972: Dichotomy in a society

Lebanon advertising in Playboy - 1972 (from my personal archives)
“Meet Lebanon
Meet an Arabian Nights fantasy of unspoiled, unexpected ancient and modern delights. Meet a hundred-million years of civilization in the grottos of Jeita and a hundred-and-twenty super-swinging night clubs in Beirut.
Meet a peaceful sun on miles of untouched beaches and skiing among the Cedars of Lebanon. Meet superb food in great restaurants, and the world’s most fantastic bargains in the bazaars called “Souks”.
Meet your own Emeera… Like all the beautiful Lebanese you’ll find her warm, welcoming, worldly.”
And so Lebanon advertised in Playboy. Yes, that, Playboy.
Would today, the Ministry of Tourism take out any official funds to direct them to gentlemen' magazines? I doubt. No, actually the answer is a resounding no.
I traced back the ad to 1972 judging by the article on the musical play Wanted which was playing at the Cherry Lane theater which is next to it. 
But saying today no such ad would run would be unfair. Back then such an ad would not run either. Lebanon, want it or not, has always had a deep conservative streak running through it with small pockets of liberal attitudes. Sometimes such pockets are visible, other times less so. It so happened back then there was someone who agreed to run the ad (for the record it was minister Michel Sassine).
Whereas laughed at, the answer Lebanon's former foreign minister Gebran Bassil gave a few days back in an interview prior to attending (and then bailing) the Davos conference (after much local protest about his presence and him not representing Lebanon) that "Lebanon had family values" was a coded message which said "we always fall back on our clans". And clans are not exactly known to be permissive but they do offer safety and protection.
For all the brouhaha of protesters wanting a new system freed of Sectarian rule, as I said earlier - religion seems a predominant factor in their narrative. I am told that things are changing. But that change with a a capital "C" still needs a lot of time. My assumption would be a full generation.
Till then, good luck meeting your "Emeera"!