It was 1978, and for Lou Cove, it was a year of change and growth. Cove's family moved to Salem when he was 12 and a year later, a family friend helped set Lou on the course to adulthood.
That friend, Howie Gordon, was a Playgirl centerfold — Mr. November, 1978. And Gordon tapped the young Cove to help with an usual campaign... to be voted Playgirl's "man of the year."
And so began what Cove calls the most important campaign of his life.
On how Gordon came to stay with Cove’s family in Salem
[Gordon] and his wife had just been married in Berkeley California. They were real deal hippies - I say he looked like Jeff Bridges and talked like Lenny Bruce on acid. They were on a honeymoon, driving across country. Last stop on the tour was going to be Salem. They were going to stay with us for a couple of weeks and turn around and go back. But, they ended up living with us for twelve months in that house on Chestnut Street in Salem.”
On why Gordon enlisted the help of Cove in his ‘man of the year’ campaign
“Why not? I was the only twelve-year-old kid available that could run the campaign.... We began walking the streets of Salem, putting together posters, lobbying the girls in the Dunkin Donuts, and the bubbies in my grandmother's living room. Everyone that we could get to. I don't’ think Howie had any illusion that the work we were doing was going to shift the scales… of the four million votes that came into Playgirl that year for ‘man of the year.’ I think he was largely doing it to keep me busy, and we were both in Salem and it was the only place he could run a campaign from. We didn’t have the internet, it was all done in person, it was all done on paper. But for me it was the most important political campaign in modern history.”
On how Cove views the coming of age story in his memoir
“Really, for me, the coming of age and, certainly, the end of the innocence was the end of the family. The year that Howie and Carly lived in our home ended up being the last best year of my family’s life together… It wasn’t easy and it was clear that it was [my dad’s] decision and, because it was his decision, he was the one that I turned the anger towards. I also had a mother who was really hurt and I could see that. And what thirteen-year-old boy isn’t going to defend his mom?”
On what happened after Gordon won Playgirl’s ‘man of the year’
"After Howie and [his wife] Carly left us and he had won man of the year, he had gone on and was trying his hand in Hollywood. He said to me: ‘This could be my ticket to Hollywood. I could be the next Starsky and you could be my Hutch.’ I wanted to be his Hutch. When he went off to California, I wanted to go there and be with him and do that because that looked a helluva lot better than staying at home and watching my family disintegrate.”
“Ultimately, my parents split. I was fortunate enough [that] my mom gave me a plane ticket and, still at a very young age, I fly out to California and spent some time in Berkeley with Howie and Carly. It was at that time that his career was taking off, but not in the way I imagined. The glossy, sexuality of Playgirl was giving way to, not Hollywood films, but adult films. That became too adult for me... We all want to know about being an adult when we’re that age, but I started finding where the limits were...and ultimately I had to come home and find my own path.”
This segment aired on July 7, 2017.