SHAWANO, WI—Here in this sleepy northeastern Wisconsin town, a time-honored ritual is about to be solemnly observed, as 16-year-old Chris Weineke prepares to ceremonially pass on his beloved, dog-eared copy of the March 1974 issue of Oui to the next generation of sexually needy adolescents.
Chris' younger brother, 12-year-old Kyle, will receive the treasured periodical in a brief ceremony accompanied by minimal fanfare but not lacking in beauty. The custom has been observed here in Shawano without interruption for more than two decades, as unbroken generations of post-pubescent teens keep the secret magazine's tradition of naked-lady photographs alive, a living legacy handed down from the hormone-gripped youths of yesteryear to the as-yet-unborn masturbators of tomorrow.
The well-worn copy of Oui—a Playboy spin-off published by Hugh Hefner in the '70s and '80s—has been held by 22 Shawano boys since its February 1974 purchase. With the exception of its original 18-year-old buyer, who hid it in a woodshed where it was discovered by a group of boys in January 1976, the magazine has never been in the hands of anyone over the age of 16.
"It's nice to see that in today's media-saturated, change-obsessed world, there are still some places where tradition is valued and respected," says Chris, growing contemplative as the Passing Of The Oui approaches. "In some ways, I hate to give it up—it has served me well through these long, lonely years, a faithful companion in times of need. When there was no one else, my March '74 Oui was there for me."
Chris then pauses for a moment, steeling himself for the parting. "Nevertheless," he says, "I recognize that the time has come for me to pass on the Oui, as my older cousin Doug did before me, as his neighbor Brent before him, as Brent's older brother Reggie before him."
As the ceremony draws near, Kyle is eager but nervous, aware of the obligation he'll soon take on as the new Keeper Of The Oui.
"Though I am excited to receive the sacred naked-lady pictures, I realize that with them comes great responsibility," Kyle says. "If Mom or Aunt Gladys were to discover this magazine, the priceless beauty contained therein would be lost forever to future generations of Shawano boys. It is my solemn duty to see to it that such a thing never comes to pass."
"Furthermore, I cannot wait to see the big, exciting, naked breasts," he adds, blushing slightly.
The Passing Of The Oui occurs every 8 to 15 months, when the current Keeper Of The Oui begins tentative dating. In the weeks leading up to the Keeper's initiation into the world of sexual contact, tradition holds that he must seek out a worthy successor, one who has not yet begun his own foray into the magical, mysterious world of females, one who is desperately in need of sexual release.
"This trusty Oui has been a valued friend and companion," says Chris, who began his search for a successor last month after getting to second base with Suzie Hildebrandt while parked behind the Shawano Seed & Feed on Schuyler Road. "I will never forget those memories. In many ways, this March '74 Oui will always be with me in my heart. But my time of Manhood is fast approaching, and I know that we must now part. It must now move on to spread its joy to another sexually needy soul. It has always been thus."
A pair of candles are lit, Chris' bedroom door is locked and, finally, the hallowed Passing Of The Oui begins. Neither brother speaks as the periodical is passed from Chris to Kyle. Once the Oui is handed over, the ceremony ends as the boys' mother yells at them from the kitchen to take the laundry out of the dryer.
"Yes, mom," they reply, hastily slipping the magazine under Chris' mattress and hurrying off. The circle has begun anew.
For the past 10 months, the Oui has made its home in the space behind a board that rests against the back wall of Chris' bedroom closet, behind his foot locker and laundry basket. Today, it will go to its new home, a box of sweaters on the top shelf of Kyle's bedroom closet.
This new location, however, is only temporary: The boys' mother, Judith Weineke, a 44-year-old homemaker with a great interest in the sweaters Kyle refuses to wear, will surely find it there if it is not relocated to a better hiding place soon. As the new Keeper Of The Oui, Kyle's principal duty is to find a place of safe keeping for the treasured magazine, a place where it will not fall into enemy hands.
"If Mom were to find that thing, it would be the end of a great era in our town's history," Kyle says. "I cannot allow that to happen, for I would not only be failing myself, but the children of tomorrow, who one day will need this precious Oui as badly as I need it today. I cannot let them down."
Tonight, long after his parents have gone to bed, the young Kyle will finally enter the realm of the March '74 Oui for the first time. He will gaze with wide-eyed wonderment at its table of contents, with its promises of such mysterious features as a short story by John Updike, a preview of the 1974 men's fall fashions and a "How to drink Tequila" photo essay by acclaimed director Sam Peckinpah. He does not know yet what exotic delights these unfamiliar features hold, but he is eager to find out. And, of course, there will also be the breasts and vaginas. Always, always vaginas.
And here in Shawano, as it has been for over 20 years, the tradition of the March '74 Oui will live to see another day.