You don't golooking for the soul of Tinseltown in a compact car, and so the silver, fullystocked limo that pulls up to the Dallas Cowboys' Santa Monica hotel is not somuch a symbol of wretched excess as it is a concession to necessity. In thehotel coffee shop, defensive tackle Russell Maryland says goodbye to his momand dad. "Russell!" says Mom. She takes her son's arm and snips a labelfrom the sleeve of his new blue suit. She and Dad are just in from Chicago, butat some point a mother must set her offspring free. "Eleven o'clock isfine," she says sweetly. That's the curfew set by the Cowboys—and byMom—for tonight. It is 6:17 p.m., and there is no time to lose."Ready?" says Dallas defensive tackle Tony Casillas.
The two men boltfor the exit. Into the limo. Into the night. Into L.A. It probably should beenough for these players that they are here for the first Super Bowl of theircareers, but part of the hunger that has driven them to succeed afield alsopushes them to seek larger truths, beyond the game. "I've been to L.A. acouple of times, but I've never seen the town," says Maryland, who grew upin Chicago and played his college ball at Miami.
"I've beenhere five or six times," says Casillas, who hails from Tulsa and theUniversity of Oklahoma. "Went to Spago once with my wife, but I never didthe town up."
Casillas mentionsanother reason why he is eager to see what makes this city tick. "I'mgetting ready to hire a manager out here because I want to be an actor," hesays. "I want to do action-packed stuff, be the good guy. The HispanicTerminator."
"Be nice ifyou learned Spanish," Maryland says.
"How do youknow I don't know Spanish?" Casillas snaps.
Maryland laughs."It's common knowledge."
The firstdestination is ahead, just beyond a locked iron gate and a surveillance camera."Come in," says a voice that emanates from somewhere near the camera.The stretch moves up the driveway, past a plush lawn to a great stone house.This is the seat of at least some of Western man's knowledge, for this is thePlayboy Mansion.
Casillas andMaryland are greeted by Tina Bockrath, Miss May 1990, who will give them a tourof the grounds. She is fully clad in a long-sleeved blouse and a full-lengthskirt and boots, as though Miss May 1990's qualifications for this job were herbusiness acumen rather than a four-color, airbrushed foldout magazine photo.And wouldn't you know it: Though the young lady was born in Dayton, she went tocollege at St. Edward's in Austin, Texas. St. Edward's is—hold on to yourcaps—the site of the Cowboys' preseason training camp. "Small world, isn'tit," says Casillas.
She leads theplayers to the grotto, a stone cave near the waterfall at the edge of abathwater-warm pool. "A lot of crazy things used to go on in here," shesays.
Casillas andMaryland look at each other. "Used to," says Maryland.
As their tourcontinues, Casillas and Maryland get close looks at the monkeys, parrots,peacocks and other animals that inhabit this five-acre spread. "Haven't hadthis much fun since the Brookfield Zoo," says Maryland, warily eyeing aparrot perched on the arm of his new suit. Miss May 1990 leads them past thewishing well where Hugh Hefner and his wife, a former Playmate, were wed; pastthe tennis court where bare-chested women used to roller-skate; and theninto...the game room.
"Here's mygame," cries Maryland, rushing to a vintage pinball machine featuring apainting of Hef with his arms around two half-naked women. The players go atthe various electronic machines. But shortly, it's back to poolside to meetMiss January 1993, Echo Johnson, who also is fully clad, with a jacket to boot.She smiles shyly. "The name is just Echo," she says.
"Kind of likeMadonna," says Casillas.
Then, through theevening darkness strolls a figure, growing larger and larger, until he standsin the light, right hand extended to the players, left hand cradling a glass ofPepsi, piercing eyes framed by glasses. It is Hefner himself, clad in red silkpajamas, black velvet smoking jacket and slippers, just like somebody'swealthy, half-nutty grandfather. "I like the pinball machine," saysMaryland to Hef. "I grew up playing that machine."
"I liked thepool," says Casillas.
Hef smiles eerily."If those rocks could talk," he says. He says he hopes the fellows playwell on Sunday. Then he is gone.
"If rockscould talk," says Maryland.
Back in the limoon Sunset Boulevard the players look at billboards of Jean-Claude Van Damme andMarky Mark. They stare at the tacky Chateau Marmont, the hotel where JohnBelushi died of a drug overdose. The limo twists its way up Deronda Drive,stopping where the street ends at Mulholland Drive high above the city. To oneside is Alice Cooper's house. "We are not worthy!" bellows Casillas. Tothe other is the huge HOLLYWOOD sign that clings to the side of the cliff andreminds the world that this is where dreams are woven.
Maryland looks atthe sign. He tilts his head and says, "You know what would look good upthere? Russell."
Then it's backinto the car for a short jaunt to Hollywood and Vine and over to the Walk ofFame in front of Mann's Chinese Theater. The players stop in front of MichaelJackson's star. "Our halftime entertainment," says Casillas.
"Like we'llsee him," says Maryland. "We'll be inside getting bawled out."
Maryland pays astreet entrepreneur $20 to have his hand stuck in a take-home square ofconcrete. He then goes up to the theater entrance to ask if he can use therestroom to clean off his hand.
"Sure,"says the usher. "Don't you play for the Cowboys?" The next stop isPink's on La Brea, a hot-dog stand that has been in business since 1939. Thegrease is so thick that Maryland is loath to rest his elbows on thecounter.
"How do yousay 'cheese' in Spanish?" asks Casillas.
"Put somequeso on that burger, will you?" says Casillas to the cook.
The two men eattheir chili-cheeseburgers, fries and hot dogs while listening to a dude rapabout his abilities as an "agent." The man is dressed all in black,with a gold hoop earring, black-and-white shoes, a beeper on his belt and adiamond pinkie ring. His "associate," a little man dressed exactly likehim, laughs at whatever his partner says, while keeping an eye on the street.The "agent" gives Maryland his card, saying he can get him"gigs."
"I like thelogo, the champagne glass with the babe in it," says Maryland, perusing thecard.
As the limo pullsinto the hotel parking lot, Casillas looks at his teammate and says, "Ithink you and I are ready for the stars. Not the Super Bowl. Another sequel toLethal Weapon."
Maryland groans."You're the pretty boy, the media magnet," he says. "I just try todo my job and go home. That's all."
Casillas looksshocked. "Russell," he says, "it's me you're talking to.Tony."
They look at eachother and grin. Then they slap hands and embrace. It's 10:53, and they've seenthe lights.
Maryland promised his mom and dad he would be home by curfew.
At the Playboy Mansion, Maryland and Casillas admired the fauna, played a pinball machine under the gaze of Miss May 1990...
...and ran into the keeper of the hutch himself.
Casillas catered to a pair of autograph seekers at Pink's, while Maryland ordered chow.
The Cowboys stumbled on proof that their halftime entertainment was a big-time star.