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What We Talk About When We Talk About Herb


I imagined growing up to be like this woman. Her image was more disturbing to me than Petula Clark's; my feelings about her were more complex. The dark lady of my parents' record collection was the whipped-cream-covered woman on the Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass album. When I looked at her, I felt as furtive as if I were glancing at one of my uncle's Playboys. She reminded me of some bubblebath-lounging model with a blanket of suds drawn up to her chest, as, posed against her lime-green background, she licked the whipped cream off her forefinger while gazing up at me from beneath her eyebrows. I liked whipped cream, too - or at least, Cool Whip - but I felt that this picture was as disturbing as it was alluring. When I looked at the whipped cream album, and when my parents weren't in the same room with me and the record, I'd pull down my nightgown's top as low as I could, just to see how it felt. I'd go to the hall mirror and look at myself, and I'd feel that the sensation of cold air stirring along bare skin was a harbinger of what it would feel like to be an adult woman. Yet although the picture thrilled me, the album's instrumental music didn't interest me at all - the music was cheery and bouncy, but the dark-eyed woman was absent from it. --Sherry Fairchok

Our shared interest in cleavages led my brother and me to purchase a copy of Herb Albert's Whipped Cream... album--this, in the same spirit that he would later buy Penthouse. Behind his closed door, I performed strip teases to the Albert tunes, swinging one of my dad's wide ties for effect and never taking off more than my own striped Danskin top. I was a little disillusioned when someone said the white stuff on the album cover was actually shaving cream. --Murph Henderson

I can still see myself on my knees in front of the console, thumbing through the records, coming across the candy-apple green cover of Whipped Cream and Other Delights and slowly pulling it out of the bin. My jaw dropped and I stared at it. The woman on the cover, clad only in whipped cream, stared back at me. We were a church-going family. I ran into the kitchen, yelling, "MOM! You've got a dirty record!" She just laughed and said it was nothing shocking. "I can't believe you would buy something with that on the cover," I said. "Herb Alpert was very popular," she replied. So, Mom, if all your friends jumped off a bridge, you would too? I listened to one song and then turned it off, because the album contained only corny trumpet music and I liked songs with words. But with a picture like that, who needs words? --Julie Wiskirchen

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