Tuesday (March 21, 2006).
Humphry, 64, phones me back at 11:09 a.m.
Luke: "When did you begin work on this book?"
Humphry: "The early 80s. I started on a Mac Plus computer. I've had other projects in between. I finished it last year."
Luke: "What prompted you to join MySpace?"
Humphry: "Just a joke. The kids in the office, you catch 'em on MySpace. Hmm, obviously you have lots of spare time. Maybe I should find you something to do. The younger girls spend a lot of time on MySpace. I don't have the foggiest idea how to respond to anybody. I have the weirdest people wanting to be my friend."
Luke: "They are my readers. I linked to your MySpace profile."
Humphry: "I'm getting bombarded by the oddest people with not the faintest connection with what I'm about.
"If they are your readers, I will look at them with more respect."
Humphry: "Serfs and so on. You had a whole class of people that belonged to a different caste and it was as though they had different feelings. You couldn't exploit them if you didn't think that. That was the white mentality."
Luke: "Do you think things are better in South Africa today?"
Humphry: "Hell yes. I went back last October. My mother, God bless her, is still alive at 87. The mayor of the little town where she lives is a black lady. We are happy with the political situation. It is so much better than Zimbabwe, which is a horrible dictatorship."
Luke: "Isn't crime and rape out of control in South Africa?"
Humphry: "In large cities in particular. Many of the perpetrators aren't even South African. They come flowing down from the north, from Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Angola. In South Africa there's work."
Luke: "What was so puritanical and Calvinist about your background?"
Humphry: "My mother was brought up in the Dutch Reform Church, which is a Calvinistic sect. The whole period I was in South Africa [until 1966], television was banned. I didn't see television until I went to England at age 25."
Luke: "Was that a bad thing?"
Humphry: "It was awful. We really felt deprived. It was thought to be dangerous because it introduced foreign influences. The Afrikaaner apartheid regime wanted the modern world to stay away.
"I imagine that my early interest in porn was that we were never allowed to see anything like that in South Africa. The most risque thing you could see were bikinis.
"Then getting to swinging London in 1966 where you had Page Three topless girls, nude modeling agencies, that was a huge cultural shock."
Luke: "Did you have much sex in South Africa?"
Humphry: "Yes, at university, I managed to get it in a little bit. I worked there for a couple of years as a teacher after graduating. The girls were pretty hot.
"I wasn't into the swinging parties until London."
Luke: "You write: 'Nero seemed to the most 60s of the Roman emperors and, looking back, I probably wanted to recreate that magical time in a historical setting.' What was so magical about the swinging 60s in London?"
Humphry: "There was the feeling that the world was going to change, which of course it didn't. Not much, anyway. There was this feeling of infinite possibility. There was this curious mixture of gangsters, musicians, hipsters, aristocrats, moderns... Everyone was turning on together and you had this feeling of novelty and revelation.
Luke: "Cammell committed suicide in 1996."
Humphry: "I'm going to work him as a character into a new novel.
"There's a new book coming out called Donald Cammell: A Life on the Wild Side. My order has been in on Amazon for months.
"I was just watching a  BBC documentary entitled Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance.
"He was one of the most interesting people I've ever met. He was a naughty boy.
"London in the 60s was libertinism to the point of license. Acid, grass, booze, girls, rock 'n' roll, wild parties, taken to the extreme with the swinging parties. They were some of the funniest and most interesting experiences I've been through.
"I was introduced to it in 1971 with the Wet Dream Festival in Amsterdam. Germaine Greer was there."
Luke: "But it was all a delusion."
Humphry: "It wasn't a delusion. It was experimental and didn't work. Once the yobs started emptying out of the pubs and started busting these psychadelic gatherings, it ruined the whole thing. It only lasted three or four months. I remember being in a club where Pink Floyd was playing in the corner in 1966."
Luke: "This idea that the world was going to change was a delusion."
Humphry: "Yes. It didn't turn out that way. Part of it was the turbulence from the Vietnam War. It was the rock 'n' roll era and peace and love and all that stuff."
Luke: "Why would you want to recreate a magical time that was based upon delusional beliefs?"
Humphry: "It was an awful lot of fun. I know you're asking me about Nero.
"Nero was the first person in history, certainly the first leader, to use soft power. The whole Roman modus operandi was hard power. He was the first guy to use soft power as a diplomatic force.
"What we had was rock 'n' roll. It sped around the globe. I picked it up in South Africa. It was tremendously influential in introducing American values. It was an extremely successful use of soft power. That's what Nero was going for. That was the climax of the Roman empire during that [first] century.
"Nero had this brilliant flash that he could [govern] through converting people to the cause of art and music. We now think of it as delusionary. It was. It was a brilliant flash-forward to what is happening now.
"American culture is a huge force in the Third World. It's only a matter of time before it imposes the other aspects of democracy on the Third World. The music and the culture and the art are the stalking horse."
Luke: "Where do you identify with and admire Nero?"
Humphry: "In his use of soft power. He wasn't a homicidial lunatic as people claim. It was a time of enormous turbulence. You had to kill off your rivals if you were going to survive. He killed off fewer people than his predecessors Claudius and Tiberius.
"Why did certain people rebel at certain times? This comes back to the self-fulfilling prophecy. The stars say that Nero is in a dire situation on April 18, 65 AD when Epaphroditus (my narrator) foils the great conspiracy of Piso.
"When Halley's Comet appeared in 66, Nero was warned by his astrologer that he had to do something to placate the comet. The comet was thought to predict the death of a king. You'd know that at that time your enemies were putting their heads together to knock you off."
Luke: "Do you believe our lives are affected by the stars?"
Humphry: "Absolutely not."
Luke: "Why would you spend ten years of your life studying something you believe to be nonsense?"
Humphry: "It gives you a key that's almost never been used aside from Michael R. Molnar, who wrote 1999's The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi. He and I correspond.
"It's a historical tool. You can do an anthropological study of voodoo without believing in voodoo."
Luke: "Why not spend that time studying something you believe in?"
Humphry: "I just studied astrology to the degree that that proved to be a useful tool. I wondered why certain things in Nero's life happened at that time. Why did he kill his mother? Why did his mother try to kill him?
"The chronological scale is the vertebra of history. You can work out what the astrologer would've been whispering into his client's ear 2,000 years ago. Astrology exceeded every other religion in power and influence. Astrology is an intoxicating mixture of science and religion."
Luke: "Do you see anything good in religion?"
Humphry: "Solace. It cheers people up. It gives them hope."
Luke: "But you don't need that solace?"
Humphry: "Sure I do. Everybody does. It's just an impossibility, something for which absolutely no proof exists."
Luke: "Ultimately, is there objective meaning to life?"
Humphry: "Absolutely. Propagation."
Luke: "What's the point?"
Humphry: "So you live forever, or until the comet comes."
Luke: "So there isn't any ultimate meaning."
Humphry: "By having children, or relatives who have children, you do continue. You are billions of years of old. There's an unbroken stream of life from the beginning to you."
Luke: "Do you see yourself living on in your children?"
Humphry: "Notably, the poor bastards. They'll be carrying some of my strengths and a lot of my weaknesses."
Luke: "Is it fair to say that you hate religion?"
Humphry: "Absolutely not. I don't, for example, hate astrology. I find it interesting that people have these irrational convictions."
Luke: "You love Sam Harris's book The End of Faith. That book is bathed in hatred of religion."
Humphry: "He doesn't like religions that are jihadistic, that are aggressive. To have nuclear weapons in the hands of people who believe that the world has to be destroyed to save it is dangerous."
Luke: "How could you not hate religion when every organized religion of which I am aware says that the industry we work in is evil."
Humphry: "I don't know if you are correct in saying that every religion does so. Do the Hindus believe that? The Buddhists?"
Luke: "We know that the three monotheistic religions do."
Humphry: "Those are just our little religions. There are lots of others. I don't know if the Chinese, isn't that Shintoism? I don't know if they have the same attitude.
"During Greek and Roman culture, you had pornographic drawings in public bathhouses. It's not true to say that every religion hates erotica. Some of those Indian religions have the Kama Sutra and elaborate drawings of erotica."
Humphry says that free speech has always had its enemies, and that pornography is without a doubt a form of free speech. "Even a cartoon can cause a ripple that runs around the world and causes over 100 deaths."
Luke: "There was a time when you pulled Holly aside when she was eight and said, 'Mommy and daddy might be going to jail.'"
Humphry: "That was the Traci Lords thing. Now I'm afraid that our stuff is too vanilla."
Luke: "Would you elaborate on this sentence you wrote: 'I know that Nero would have approved that my wife Suze Randall has gone on to become the world's most successful erotic photographer.'"
Humphry: "Because erotic vignettes were a part of Roman dinner parties, even during the Republican period before Nero. It was usual for the more risque members of the aristocractic society to have a show as a highpoint of a dinner party. You bring on the actors and they do their scene and they get applause and some coins thrown at them. This is during Julius Caesar's time long before we get into 'decadent' Nero and Caligula.
"These are the roots of our civilization. We're trying to get there. They had a much more liberal attitude towards sexuality and erotica than we have."
Luke: "How would you feel if a daughter of yours became an xxx actress?"
Humphry pauses for five seconds. "Obviously there would be nothing I would try to do to prevent her. I'd prefer to have her at the books studying. It's a short shelf-life. As a result, I wouldn't recommend it to anybody who has any alternative."
Luke: "Would you not be filled with horror?"
Humphry: "I don't think so, otherwise I couldn't be associated with it at all.
"There would be some shock, initially, I'd imagine, if it was suddenly jumped on me, surprise. I would definitely not forbid it. I haven't forbidden anything."
Luke: "How would you feel about one or all of your offspring working in the family business behind the scenes?"
Humphry: "I don't mind at all."
Luke: "What wishes do you have for your kids aside from being happy?"
Humphry: "I can't think of anything better than happiness. Happiness requires a lot of components."
Luke: "Is happiness achievable as a direct objective or is it only achievable as a byproduct of higher pursuits?"
Humphry: "Happiness has so many components..."
Luke: "Are there parts of your book you are most happy with and parts you are least happy with?"
Humphry: "I was happy with the whole thing because I was able to rewrite it so many times. A lot of people find it hard to get it. They think it is a book by an astrologer. They don't understand that it is an anti-astrology book, that it shows it up as a false science. It's part of my general religious skepticism. It is preposterous to imbue these planets with human personalities."
Luke: "I saw in the book a metaphor for your own journey. The slave is you."
When I brought this up to Holly, she said her father would hate this theory.
Humphry: "That's certainly insightful. I do identify with Epaphroditus, coming from nowhere and ending up in Hefner's jacuzzi."
Luke: "Many of these porn potentates, such as Hefner and Larry Flynt, remind me of these Roman emperors."
Humphry: "The sybaritic lifestyle. These caesars were military dictators."
Luke: "They also had a court that paid them obeisance. If you betrayed them once, you were out."
Humphry: "They had to do that. There was no secure line of kingship."
Luke: "Do you regret writing the book Suze, which cost you your relationship with Hefner and his mansion?"
Humphry chuckles. "I suppose so."
On New Year's Eve (I guess it was after a few drinks), Humphry and Suze told me that they did not regret the book.
Humphry: "Suze was moving on with her career. The problem with working for Playboy was that they owned everything. We would not be in the financial position we are in now if we had stayed with Playboy.
"Hef's mansion was the most magical party center in America."
Luke: "What do you love and hate about being a part of the porn industry?"
Humphry: "You get to see some beautiful girls. I don't like meeting them because it usually ruins the illusion. As works of art, some of them are fantastic.
"What I hate about it is the sordidness that sometimes comes along with it. The drugs. They ruin themselves. They associate with the wrong people. Some of the producers do things I think are inappropriate and pretty disgusting and probably not healthy. You see girls who are roughed up."
Many of the things Holly told me about her parents they contradicted. Either she isn't seeing them clearly or they are not telling me the truth. Holly believed her parents would be appalled by my memoir. I don't think that would be true.
Holly often tells me that her mother could not accomplish a photo shoot without her. Somehow Suze was doing it for more than 20 years without Holly's help.
Holly doesn't believe her parents business would run without her help. She feels it is her fate to run it. I say she should create her own life separate from her parents and their business.
The happiest time of her life was when she lived in Santa Barbara (prior to 1997) a couple of hours drive from her family and away from their business.
Holly writes me: "I wasn't aware my grandmother was a member of a Calvinist sect! Ridiculous how I have to find out from Luke about my family!"
HollyRandall: i liked your interview
Amalek writes me: "You've had better. No sparks. And you failed to ask my questions. Your love for Holly's eggs blunted your style."
Publicist/agent Daniel Metcalf writes:
That's The Way I Like It
Leslie writes: "I would guess the average lukeisback reader doesn't give a damn about reading an interview with your future father-in-law but it would be a total different story if it was with your future mother-in-law though. I guess Suze would decline, it wouldn't be good for her business if you'd ask her the good questions."
Holly writes me:
A journalist writes me:
HollyRandall: i fixed up my dad's myspace
page for him
Chaim Amalek: Ask Hump if the Jewish lobby is insufficiently powerful
I interview author Humphry Knipe (husband to photographer Suze Randall and father of Holly Randall) about his book The dominant man: The mystique of personality and prestige:
* What are the implications for politics from your book?
HK: Profound. We have to be aware of the pecking order instinct that is wired into us and which makes us such easy prey to authoritarianism, whether religious (Islam) or secular (fascism). As long as we are human we will never be able to shake this thing off.
* How has it stood the test of time? Has new research validated or invalidated it? How so?
HK: Actually, when it was published in 1972 it was still widely held by liberals that the infant mind was tabula rasa - a blank table - on which anything could be written. The instinct theory was discredited by, for example, by Ashley Montagu in his influential "Man and Aggression" which was published in 1973.
The modern view is that we are, in fact, soft wired - we have an inborn propensity to behave in a certain way, but culture can modify that to some extent. However atavistic instinct remains only a heartbeat away. Why? Because it's the tried and true fall back position.
* Are humans just another animal? What distinguishes us from animals?
HK: Of course we are animals, smart animals although maybe not smart enough to deal with the power of destructive technology.
* What about the women? Your book is largely about men. Do women demonstrate status differentials in the same ways as men?
HK: We had a chapter on women but this grew into such a page consuming monster we dropped it. Thought of writing "The Dominant Woman" (I'm married to one, Holly is another). Could have, should have. Would have made me rich and famous by now and getting interviewed by the NY Times!
* What do you think of the book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life?
HK: Regarding The Bell Curve, which I have not read except in reviews: Obviously high intelligence coupled with high dominance (for example Julius Caesar et al) will improve the chances of the assertive individual getting to the top of the heap - although modern American politics indicates that intellectual brilliance is not essential for the highest political office - "people skills" is the must.
Brilliant but shy back room boys have the brains but not the extroversion, assertion, executive demeanor, charisma or whatever the latest buzz word is, to get into the executive office. The beta may be a tyrant to the gamma, delta and epsilons, but he (or she) goes mysteriously shy in the company of an alpha.