The outline below is for John’s first UFO article. He had written a radio show (“Things in the Sky”) for the American Forces Network while he was stationed in Frankfurt, but hadn’t pursued the subject after that, despite a sighting in Egypt in 1954.
He had been working in television, writing game shows (“Play Your Hunch”) and kids’ shows (“Mack and Myer,” “The Chuck McCann Show”), and had become unhappy with the business. Playboy had published a letter of his, about the poet and Bohemian wastrel Maxwell Bodenheim, so he followed up in March, 1966, with a few pitches. The editor, Jack Kessie, turned down pieces on Hugo Gernsback (the founder of Amazing Stories) and on the colorful Hobo News that had printed some of John’s first poems. But he was interested in an article on UFOs, which were then very much in the news. John agreed to write 8,000 words on spec, and went to work.
Unfortunately, he became more and more obsessed with the subject; the article grew longer and longer; and his correspondence with Playboy grew acrimonious. Eventually, Kessie rejected the article as far too long and credulous, and ran a piece by J. Allen Hynek instead. Much, of course, to John’s dismay.
It’s perhaps just as well. The surviving draft is, essentially, a digest of the current literature, taking the reader from simple lights in the sky up to the Villas-Boaz incident (a famous case in which a Brazilian farmer claimed a sexual experience with an alien). John started doing his own research shortly after, leading to the book with the same title.
But here’s that first outline. It shows John’s approach to the subject back then, and contains a number of piquant details. I hadn’t known, for example, that he dated Carl Sagan’s former secretary.