My savior of the day turned out to be a friend I’d met in the Army in Washington, Larry DuBois. He had been a reporter in Time Magazine Washington bureau, but at that point had left to work as a freelance writer. He said he had been commissioned to do a Playboy Interview with movie director Roman Polanski at his home in London. In one of the more shocking events of 1960s America, Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate and others in her Los Angeles home had been killed in 1969 by followers of cult leader Charles Manson. It was to be Polanski’s first interview after the event. Larry wanted to know if I’d like to take a break and join him and his wife for some rest and recreation before and after his interview. With my writing task foundering, I leapt at the chance to plug a real vacation into the time gap I’d created before having to turn up to work in Chicago.
The London part of the visit lasted only about a week but was fascinating. We’d booked rooms at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane near Hyde Park Corner. First off, I joined Larry for a tour of the nearby Playboy Casino. It was new and already running full tilt. Before long, Polanski’s chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce picked us up and dropped Larry off at Polanski’s mews residence for the interview. I had never imagined that just 60 days after mustering out of the Army, I would be chauffeured in solitary comfort back to my London hotel in the limousine of the Oscar-winning director of Rosemary’s Baby. After the Polanski interview had been completed, there was time for a cruise on the River Thames. We also took time to poke around Carnaby Street where we saw remnants of the London of the “Swinging ‘60s.” The fashion and cultural revolution that had brought stodgy and conservative London into the modern age was still in view.
Shortly after I had arrived in London, Judy Arndt, whom I had dated in Washington when I was in the Army, heard of our outing from Larry’s wife and joined the largely unplanned excursion. With a week in London passing quickly, we made side trips to see Billie Jean King play at Wimbledon and the busby-wearing guards in red tunics at Windsor Castle.