PERSONAL: Born in MN. Education: Graduate of Washington and Lee University; attended University of Southern California.
CAREER: Writer. Worked variously as an actor, insurance salesman, roofer, waiter, pizza man, and toymaker. Researcher and video producer for television programs, including Later and Fox's Funniest Wedding Videos; Road Rules, MTV, story editor.
(With Alison Pollet) Road Rules: Passport Abroad, MTV Books/Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Accidental Playboy: Caught in the Ultimate Male Fantasy, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Author of "Fearless Reporter" column for Playboy Online; contributor to periodicals and Web sites, including Nerve.com, Jane, LA Weekly, and Marketplace.
ADAPTATIONS: The film rights to Accidental Playboy were purchased by DreamWorks.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Leif Ueland is a Minnesotan whose writing was first influenced by his aunt, Brenda Ueland, author of the writing bible If You Want to Write. The young Ueland studied acting, modern dance, mime, and circus skills and worked as a child actor before going off to Washington and Lee University. After graduation, Ueland was an insurance salesman in Chicago, and then, according to his Web site, he "had an early mid-life crisis at twenty-three," and fled to Aspen, Colorado, where he lived the life of a ski bum and worked odd jobs.
Ueland applied to the University of Southern California master's level writing program, but when he first moved to California, it was to San Francisco. Ueland was wary about living in Los Angeles, and when he did make the move, it was on the day before the Northridge earthquake. At the University of Southern California, Ueland studied under such luminaries as Gay Talese and Shana Alexander, and he picked up work in television production. He coauthored a fan book for MTV's Road Rules, which required that he tour the Caribbean and do a lot of snorkeling. And then Ueland got every man's dream job. During the year 2000, he traveled on a Playboy bus that toured America looking for the "Playmate of the Millennium." Ueland reported from the road on the Playboy Web site and ultimately wrote the book on his road trip and adventures, beginning with the launch from Hugh Hefner's Los Angeles mansion. Accidental Playboy: Caught in the Ultimate Male Fantasy, is based on the thirty-two-year-old Ueland's six-month residence in the traveling casting studio.
Ueland admits to being far from a playboy himself, having had no sexual encounters for several years before the trip, and having been in therapy as a result. And during the trip, he writes that he had only two, although Playmate hopefuls were more than willing to discard their clothing in order for him to take a wide array of photographs, one of which might land them in the magazine.
In an interview with Salon.com's Suzy Hansen, Ueland said that he grew up in a family of "forceful, amazing women," which may have affected his outlook. "About the whole question of taking advantage of people . . . just taking their pictures and putting them on the Web site. These women are just blindly signing releases. I was definitely like, 'What are you doing? What are you thinking?' So as I went along, I either became corrupted or I thought, far be it for me. They are getting something out of this."
Ueland told Hansen that the woman who most appealed to him was the publicity person who accompanied him, and he noted that one character, Vegas, is actually fictional. Most of the scenes, he said, were based on fact, like the one in which a girl poured oil over her clothing during a bikini contest. Ueland also talked about how his experiences changed his views. "I ended up with a soft spot for people in the sex industry," he said. "They are outcasts, and they're very nonjudgmental because everybody judges them." As to how he now looks at women as a photographer, he said that "it's a slippery slope once you start looking at people like that. Nobody is perfect. I think people are really beautiful in general. And I still love taking people's pictures, and I love people's faces."
Hansen wrote that "fortunately, Ueland's past inhibitions have no effect on his writing. Accidental Playboy is a wonderfully unguarded, almost sweet book, especially at its tawdriest moments (often also its most awkward). Playboy diehards, those who send the 'Fearless Reporter' boozy late-night e-mails, tell Ueland that he's the luckiest man alive. But what we see—between the forays to strip clubs—is a tortured, self-professed nice guy fumbling across the country in the company of many women, his conscience, and ultimately his own happiness."
Wisconsin State Journal's William Wineke described Accidental Playboy as "a very funny book that probably tells us more about red-blooded American men than those of us who are of the male persuasion really want to know."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Accidental Playboy: Caught in the Ultimate Male Fantasy, p. 1208.
Publishers Weekly, July 29, 2002, review of Accidental Playboy, p. 61.
Wisconsin State Journal, December 15, 2002, William Wineke, review of Accidental Playboy, p. F3.
Leif Ueland Home Page,http://www.leifueland.com (March 6, 2003).