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Ranger Rich: Where would you rather work? 

Playboy and our village's own Gazette newspaper already have a lot in common. First is the way people who gaze at the magazine's centerfolds and also read Gazette columnist Barry Noreen and editorial writer Wayne Laugesen have the same reaction: "Wow! What a pair of boobs."

The other similarity, of course, is that if anyone walks into the room while you're reading either publication, you feel ashamed and try to stuff it under the mattress.

So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that Scott Flanders, president and CEO of Freedom Communications, Inc., which owns the Gazette, is suddenly leaving that job to become — I'm not kidding — the new boss at Playboy.

To use the old expression, he has a big pair of fluffy bedroom slippers to fill.

Citing "people familiar with the matter," the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that after "a couple of recent visits to the Playboy Mansion, Mr. Flanders ... emerged as the clear favorite." He also apparently emerged from the mansion with a funny look on his face and a Bonded Organizational Negotiable Earnings Report (BONER). The folks at Playboy Enterprises, Inc., must have felt the same way, because later that day, they made it official and jumped on him like ... uh, you finish the sentence.

By way of background, Freedom is a family-owned company rooted in the deep thinking of founder R.C. Hoiles, who died in 1970 and whose soul now resides in heaven. His soul tells the other souls they'd be better off if they had handguns.

In addition to the Gazette (motto: "Bringing You Yesterday's Denver Post Tomorrow"), Freedom's vast media empire includes actual publications called The Topsail Advertiser ("Coming About to the Windward Tack of the Halyard Beam Reach"), the Lima News ("We've Bean Around for 100 Years") and the Destin Log ("Killed Off by the Internet and Pine Beetles").

It's hard to imagine leaving that kind of an empire, but the vast Playboy empire features a magazine now read, worldwide, by nearly a dozen people.

Playboy was founded more than 50 years ago by Hugh Hefner, who today stands for hours near a window at the mansion, looking up and saying, "That cloud looks like Jean Harlow. Now there was a woman!"

Then he hugs beautiful women who are in their late teens and early 20s and who adore him in a sexual, lusty, "Terrific ... great-grandpa just drooled on my shoulder again" sort of way.

Flanders, who took Freedom's top job in 2006, has a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Colorado and a juris doctor from Indiana University, and is a certified public accountant. He has been successfully avoided at more than 600 cocktail parties, and at a seminar in Chicago in June 1998, during his keynote address on corporate investiture strategies, he even put himself to sleep.

(Footnote: Flanders should not be confused with Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, who, as the story goes, was an unruly child until his parents enrolled him in the University of Minnesota Spankalogical Protocol, where he was spanked continuously for eight months. He turned out a perfectly normal and well-adjusted adult, like Dick Cheney.)

The point is, Freedom's Flanders is a master in the exciting world of business. Brian Wood, a former colleague at Columbia House, the discount music retailer that Flanders once ruled, had these actual words: "When Scott arrived the corporate culture at Columbia House was very siloed. The finance department was protecting its turf, the marketing department was protecting its turf, and so on. There were many well-defended silos with well-built moats."

Because, as the old saying tells us: "A man's home is his silo."

There was no immediate public reaction from the Gazette about Flanders' leap to the sexy magazine, and insiders say the "business as usual" tone at the newspaper was set by editor Jeff Thomas, who came to work Monday smoking a pipe and wearing silk pajamas and a robe.

Tuesday, the Gazette hired a 19-year-old blonde reporter named Melodee whose favorite things include "sunrises and kittens." And I don't want to say anything about her, uh, boobs.

Except, like Noreen and Laugesen, they're going to be bumping into each other trying to get through the door at the end of the day.

rangerrich@csindy.com

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