"I've had a bad week," says Debra Jensen, removing the screen from the window of her apartment. "I've lost two sets of house keys and last night I lost the master key that I got from the manager." The window is slid open, a louvered shutter pushed aside, and suddenly you are watching the definitive pair of French jeans disappear through the narrow opening. You feign cardiac arrest. This is the Big One. "Come on, you've seen French jeans before," says the fresh Miss January. A few minutes later, you are seated at the kitchen table, on either side of two glasses of California white, studying the layouts for the January gatefold, listening to a life story.
"I had your basic Orange County, Southern California, childhood. Cars with jacked-up rear ends, the works. A part-time job scooping ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins. At night, I would hang out with the Our Gang Van Club. Go to rallies, caravans with my boyfriend. Spend the night in the parking lot of Bob's Big Boy. Come home to find your family waiting on the front lawn. When we broke up, I bought every sad song in the record store. There were a lot of sad songs around then." Debra goes to a box of 45s and sorts through the titles. A song for the first kiss. A song for . . . well, a song for everything. "Now I'm leading my own life. I have an apartment of my own, a place to come home to. This is a time for having adventures, for having flings. I'm an unlicensed flier. Every weekend, my girlfriend, Linda from upstairs, and I go over to Westwood Village and hang out. We get a little crazy. See a movie. Eat at the Taco Bell. Play pinball. Walk around the gallery. Run, skip. Every week, the same guys try to pick us up. There's this one dude in an Excalibur who's notorious for making it with girls under 18. Last weekend, he came up to me and said, 'You're gorgeous.' I pointed to Linda from upstairs and said, 'Would you please leave us alone? This is my wife.' Mostly, we browse through the shops. I collect stuffed animals. T-shirts. I play tennis and really admire Jimmy Connors. So I went into a T-shirt shop and asked if they had an iron-on of Jimmy Connors. The lady looked at me strangely, said, 'Yes, but you're the first person who ever asked for one.' So now I have a one-of-a-kind Jimmy Connors shirt." The iron-on totally fills the top, which is the size of a wrist sweatband. Connors never had it so good. The telephone rings. Debra answers it, disguising her voice. For an instant, she sounds like an 80-year-old Hungarian. But the caller, it turns out, is someone she wants to talk to. She converses animatedly, then returns to the table. "Working with Playboy really changed my life. Phillip Dixon is a darling. He taught me how to be comfortable with myself. When someone takes 3000 shots of your legs, you begin to believe that you have nice legs, that you could actually model. I'm hoping someone will call." Looking from her portfolio to her French jeans, you know someone will.
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