Amanda is in the U.S. Army, with the rank of specialist. She is stationed at Bad Kreuznach, Germany - 40 miles from Frankfurt, in the heart of vineyard country - where she is a clarinetist with the First Armored Division band. Admittedly, this is not your typical photo shoot (soldiers on leave usually don't spend precious R&R hours beneath hot studio lamps). Amanda, though, takes it all in stride. In fact, she insists, there's a certain similarity to being a soldier and being a Playmate. "For both, you need discipline, pride and confidence," she says. "You also have to maintain a high standard of appearance, do a good job and pay attention to detail. And, yes, you have to be all that you can be." Amanda Hope was born on August 23, 1969, in Austin, Texas, but was raised in the tiny city of Cameron. The eighth of nine foster children, Amanda says her adoption almost didn't happen. "Right before I came along, my parents decided to stop taking in foster kids, mainly because it was so hard to give them up. Then one day, they got a phone call from someone at the agency who said, 'We have a little girl here who needs a whole lot of love.' My parents said, 'OK, bring her over.' Dad tells me it was love at first sight." Her childhood in Cameron, says Amanda, was uneventful and wholesome. "I was churchgoing, kind of an oddball and very shy." And dating? Amanda just laughs. "I was Miss Stay-at-home-and-wait-for-the- phone-to-ring. But then I found music." Having played the piano since the fourth grade, Amanda officially became a "band weirdo" when she was 11, joining her school's ensemble. The clarinet was her instrument of choice ("We had one in the attic"). It was after graduation from high school that Amanda and the Army found each other. "A friend from the school band gave my name to an Army recruiter, who tracked me down at the public library. I was reading fashion magazines. He suggested I try out for the Army band." Amanda breezed through the audition, enlisted in the Army and took to each new adventure with her trademark enthusiasm - from basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina ("It was the kind of fitness training I never had in high school. I always skipped gym because I was in the band") to her ultimate assignment at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas - only 60 miles from Cameron.
A little more than two years had passed before Amanda suddenly found herself in the Rhineland.
"The band was supposed to be deactivated," Amanda explains, "but when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, that was put on hold. Originally, we were told we were going to Saudi Arabia. But we shipped off for Germany, instead."
And if she had been given the Middle East assignment? "We would've played for soldiers and guarded prisoners." Then Amanda smiles. "We probably would have played for the prisoners, too."
It's dinnertime in London. Amanda Hope sits at a table in a Chinese restaurant in Soho. She orders mango ice cream along with her appetizer of hot-and-sour soup. "I always order dessert first," she tells us. "You never know when someone's going to throw a grenade into the chow hall."
Having spent a full day smiling and posing and flashing her unbelievably catlike eyes at the camera, Amanda is still going strong. "By the time my issue of Playboy comes out," she says, "I'll be a civilian. The Army's getting cut. So they offered me an early out -- and I took it."
Meanwhile, Amanda can't wait for her new Playboy career to take off. "It's a big step from being approached by the recruiter in the periodicals section of the library," she says, beaming. "Now I'm going to be on that newsstand."
But getting there wasn't so easy. Shortly after she enlisted in the Army, Amanda was stopped in a Cameron photo store by a man with the formidable name of Le-Land E. A. Chase-Meadows. "The first thing he said to me was, 'How tall are you?' Then he explained that he was a photographer and asked me to model."
A longtime fan of Playboy, Chase-Meadows showed Amanda some back issues of the magazine and suggested that he and his protegee go for the big time.
It took more than a year for soldier and men's magazine to hook up (ever try playing phone tag with someone in Germany?), but in the summer of 1991, Amanda flew to the States for a photo test. At Christmas, she got the news.
"I was on a military exercise," recalls Amanda, "staying in a tent with a wooden floor, and I went out to the pay phone to call Playboy. That's when they told me they wanted to shoot my centerfold.
"That night, I sang in my sleep," Amanda says softly. "The girl in the next cot told me that all the songs were happy songs. All major, no minor keys."
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