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Meeting a Mensan-who is also a Playboy model

Column/Steven H. Wheatman

Many of us know how hard it is to meet people of the opposite sex at MIT. Many of you may wonder how you can get lucky. Well, it's easy. Join The Tech.

The Tech provided yours truly with the opportunity of a lifetime: dinner with a Playboy model.

Valerie C. Coel SM '80 has posed for the November issue of Playboy magazine in "The Women of MENSA" spread. MENSA is an international society for people with high IQ's. The feature promises brains and beauty, all rolled into one.

Valerie has been on campus often since she received her degree, most recently in MTG's production of Applause.

Last week The Tech received a phone call about the Playboy pictorial. Joanne Selig, publicist, told us that Valerie is in town touring to publicize the feature. She asked if we "would like to do anything with her?" Valerie would be in town at the Copley Plaza Marriott for one day only. A woman attractive enough for Playboy. A meeting at her hotel. An offer not to be refused if I've ever heard one.

As photo editor, it was my responsibility to send a photographer to cover this interview. I am a fair person and I would never ask one of my staff members to do anything that I would not do myself. A staff member and I scheduled the event for Friday evening.

Leaving MIT, we wondered, "How will we recognize her when we get to the hotel." The solution -- we stopped into Kendall Drugs and purchased a copy of Playboy.

On Friday, inside the T-station, we waited. A garbled voice mentioned something about delays. At this rate we would never make our meeting on time. We dashed out of the station, searching frantically for a cab. But there is never a taxi around when you need one, is there? Out of breath, sweating, we finally caught a cab in front of Lobby 7, told the driver our destination and rode off into rush hour traffic.

We pulled up to the lobby of the Marriott. The doorman met our cab dressed somewhat like a major-general in the Austrian army and offered assistance. The place has style. We were to meet them in Singletons, a coffee shop that rates two dollar signs in Boston Magazine. Very expensive. They wouldn't let us in the door. Our appearance was not up to their standards of dignity.

The front desk of the hotel told us that Joanne checked out early that morning. At that point, the whole episode began to look like a giant practical joke.

We were ready to give up when suddenly there they were, Valerie, Joanne Selig and Joann Harjes, one of the other models appearing in the pictorial. Valerie wondered how we had picked her out. Two models and a rep who could have been a model herself? There was no need to refer to the magazine we had purchased earlier to pick them out of a crowd.

We entered the lounge. There was a lot of music and talking all around -- not the best surroundings for an interview. But we journalists must learn to work under adverse conditions.

During the interview it came up that the model's hectic schedule that day had not allowed a chance to eat lunch. Being gentlemen, we asked if they would like to grab a bite. Our invitation was eagerly accepted. After a bit of discussion we decided to dine at Singletons (remember $$). This time the hostess let us in. Maybe because of our guests?

Now that we were not conducting "business," everyone was much more relaxed. Conversation ranged widely.

Valerie went to MIT for the usual reasons. "Do you know of a better place to get a Masters in Computer Science?" she asked.

Why did she model for Playboy? She said it was to show that brains and beauty could coexist in the same person. (The feature in Playboy claimed that her prom date ignored her looks, and only dated her for her intelligence. I wonder, who was that poor deluded person?)

In this reporter's opinion (I have always wanted to use that line) it was to promote her career as a rock singer. Her group is putting together an album which should be released in a month or two. Can the publicity possibly hurt?

After dinner, we gathered in the lobby of the hotel to take pictures. That is the reason I was there, remember. As we were about to say goodbye, she graciously presented me with an autographed picture addressed to "the world's greatest photographer." How could one argue with a Mensan?