Remembering Bob Guccione and Kathy Keeton and the Penthouse Mansion

Bob_Guccione_1993 (1)

VARIETY, the entertainment industry news site, recently announced that a production company composed of Jerrick Media and Maven Pictures are producing a new TV series about the life of Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse Magazine. The announcement had me reminiscing about a press event in 1992 were I met Bob and Kathy at the Penthouse Mansion which was located at 14-16 East 67th Street. A historic, pricey neighborhood near New York City’s  Central Park. Kathy_Keeton

I was invited to attend the Omni Magazine press party at the Penthouse Mansion by a good friend, Jan Altman, who freelanced for Omni, a techie mag run by Kathy which was a “little” less controversial than the flagship Penthouse Magazine. While most of the others were eating caviar and hors d’oeuvres and talking tech in a large entertainment reception area, my friend and I wandered off toward the front central staircase.

The double staircase looked like something leading to the grand ballroom of the Titanic. It was heavily guarded by four (maybe it was two) very tough looking security personnel in black Armani suits –on each side of the staircase (likely armed) all with earphones and twisted wires embedded behind their ears.

Shortly, Bob Guccione wandered over to us. I guess he was wondering why we were so interested in the security around the staircase.  He asked us about our backgrounds and my friend Jan started to talk about her interest in art.  Jan was the real art maven and she and he got into a meaty discussion about art. He asked us if we wanted to see his art collection. We realized then what the security detail was needed for. We figured they might be there just to protect the Gucciones’s considerable personal valuables upstairs. Suddenly, the guards posted on each side no longer looked like overkill. We hesitated for about a second each probably thinking is this really happening? Then in unison said: “We’d love too.”  With a wave from Bob, they let us pass the [stanchions/pole barriers] guarding the stairway to the upper double staircase and took us to the private elevator on the second floor. From there, we went straight to the fourth floor where his office was located.

So, off we go with Bob, wearing a dark shirt opened to his chest with his signature gold pendant and leather pants on a private tour which ended up in his office on the 4th floor of the Penthouse Mansion reachable only by private elevator. I didn’t see him use a  key or combination. Maybe he had an IR blaster.  These are the kind of elevators old mansions usually have that have been working for a hundred years. But this was the Penthouse Mansion so I’m sure it was refurbished to exact replicas of inside some castle and extremely safe. It opened to a hallway that was rather dark until he opened the door to his huge dark office. There, propped up against every available wall space, where at least a hundred paintings bathing in the red glow coming from a lamp that hung from the ceiling above Guccione’s’ huge antique hand-carved wooden desk. Maybe the red light was good for paintings. That never occurred to me. I associated it with the Penthouse lifestyle. Wrong! It was an unusual office but something not unexpected for a man like Bob or the “Knights of the Round Table.” The huge old wooden panels that surrounded the entire office were breathtaking.

The big red light over his desk provided faint illumination of the paintings against the wall so he switched on the main light. Gasp.  Jaws dropped. There, packed tightly into every available space on each handcrafted ancient dark wooden wall we were surrounded by what seemed to be a collection of all the world’s masters.  Neither of us had ever seen a collection like this up close other than in the major art museums.

In one corner of the room was his desk with a subdued red light above. When our eyes adjusted we were stunned!  Degas, Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani and a Pablo Picasso portrait of the artist’s son, Paulo. Paintings by Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, El Greco, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, Giorgio de Chirico, Edgar Degas, Fernand Léger, Gilbert Stone, Henri Matisse, Jules Pascin, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georges Henri Rouault, Chaïm Soutine, and Vincent van Gogh all lined up around the walls of the entire 40+ foot office.  We walked slowly around the room taking in this once in a lifetime experience savoring over every brush mark as we continued to stop, look, mouths agape, and slowly working our way around the square of the office. Bob said they were going to be shipped to an art exhibit in crates in the next few days. It took a few minutes to recover.

Still, in shock, Bob said to us,  “The wood from the walls were imported from a castle in Scotland”.  He really took great pride in having them disassembled from the castle and reworked into his office decor.We didn’t realize it but the value of his art collection at that time was valued at 49 million dollars USD and Bob was having financial troubles so he may have been selling the artwork at auction in batches. The Penthouse Mansion on Central Park cost over 26 million USD to build. This was before his financial troubles. After his death, it was eventually sold to a hedge fund owner. See history below.

After the tour of the room, Bob graciously took my Windows User Group business card we quickly traded pleasantries and a few ideas of how we might work together in the future. I didn’t realize that his empire was starting to crumble and that his wife and best friend Kathy would eventually be diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.

He took us downstairs where I left Bob and Jan and was met his beautiful and lovely wife Kathy Keaton the COO of Omni Media. I was chatting away and told Kathy an hour earlier about my passion for cooking so she took me on the elevator tour stopping at the dumb waiter and on to the kitchen level. After a brief view of the kitchen, we went down to the pool floor to see the Penthouse pool.  I was still too much in awe to let my imagination run wild about the stories the pool room could have told but didn’t talk about it at all other to rave about how cool it was. Then back to the main floor exit and back to the party because she was the host and brains behind Omni and boss of the Magazine. It’s a night I’ll never forget. Sometimes, the public sold Bob short.

The public perception of Guccione was of a “Porn mogul” but many didn’t get to see the intellectual side or the humility of Guccione unless you met him and had a chance to discuss art or a variety of other subjects. You also would not know that he was a humble guy who grew up hard. Reminded me in a way of my dad.  I had the feeling that he put on no airs and would feel comfortable with anyone anywhere.  As I thought about the chance meeting I knew Bob Guccione had the gift of humility. It’s fascinating that I came away from maybe 45 minutes in his presence and felt I knew the guy for a few years. If there is a new show coming out it will be vastly more interesting then the bomb about Hugh Hefner. Bob’s character was more humble, his thoughts deeply intellectual, and his love heartfelt.  All in all, a plot with so much more depth and interest than what was served up with Hefner. I hope it comes out it’s a successful series!

Me. Sometimes I  feel a little like Forest Gump. I’ve met a wide swatch of the rich and famous in my life: Famous actors and actresses, tech billionaires, politicians of and of course the Three Stooges in their dressing room. I have been really oddly fortunate. “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”  My dad read me the poem The Poem”If—” by Rudyard Kipling when I was an infant. I stuck with me my whole life. I know some folks think that Kipling glorified war.  For me, it later was about being humble yet striving to try to grab the brass ring. Making it wasn’t as important as trying. My dad said “always treat everyone the same because you will meet them on the way down. I have never forgotten those words.

—Howard Sobel (©) 2017

*Bob and Kathy Keeton Guccione – Wikipedia Fair Use with attribution

Penthouse Founder Bob Guccione’s Life Being Turned Into TV Series
Penthouse Founder Bob Guccione’s Life Being Turned Into TV Series (EXCLUSIVE)

*Bob and Kathy Keeton Guccione history
Image fair use Wikipedia Commons 
*Kathy Keaton Guccione
President/Chief Operating Officer of General Media Communications, Inc. She founded the magazines Viva (1973), Omni (1978), and Longevity (1989). She also wrote two non-fiction books, Woman of Tomorrow (1986) and Longevity: The Science of Staying Young (1992
Penthouse Mansion
Bob Guccione Obituary




AT&T Asurion Refurbished Warranty IMEI Unlock Problem Srikes Again

Lightning strikes twice. I received a replacement Samsung Galaxy Active this April, 2017 under the Asurion replacement program.When I tried to unlock the phone on the AT&T unlock website it refused to unlock telling me I owed a subsidy. Red flag. Last year, I spent 40 hours trying to resolve the issue going all the way to the Office of the President and was finally connected to a very capable customer service representative  who was able to identify the problem and unlock the device in ten minutes. Here’s the scoop. I was either extremely unlucky or there is a larger problem with the Asurion/ AT&T database process. Both times my account and IMEI were linked to another account owing money. I now believe this happens on a larger scale. When someone returns a phone it is refurbished and sent to the new owner under the Asurion replacement. In both cases, the former account holder who still owed money was linked to my account. Inside AT&T, agents scrambled to help me. Many ran into system catch-22 which appeared to cancel the ticket and returned the bad news message. The agent who was supposed to get back to me never did.  I wish you the best of luck should this happen to you. Here’s the email reply you get back.  More bad service.  It’s a no reply auto responder. Maybe  AT@T  doesn’t really want you to unlock your device.

Thank you for contacting AT&T Customer Care about unlocking your AT&T Mobile device:

Thank you for contacting AT&T Customer Care about unlocking your device.

We cannot complete your request for one of the following reasons:
• You have not completed all the payments for your device according to your AT&T Next service agreement.

Great! I had no service agreement and owned all my phones. So it was apparent that someone else was also connected to my account.

After two hours and three agents, warranty service was able to figure it out and provide an unlock code. If you get a refurbished phone that wont unlock now you know the hassle you can look forward to.  I wish I could tell you that it will be easy to solve but it isn’t. It depends on the luck of the draw. AT&T customer support are often ill trained. It may take 20 hours of persistence. Last year, one agent apparently didn’t know a device could be locked. She said, after all you’re talking to me. Oy. Leave a comment if this has happened to you!



Did you know FM Radio reception is built into Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge?

I totally overlooked this one. Unless you intensely read the specs for the Galaxy S7/Edge you might not know that Samsung included an FM receiver on a chip.  It’s more of a convenience than an earth shattering feature but it really does work. To get it to work just download an FM app from Google Play Store and plug in a pair of wired ear phones into the earphone jack. The earphone jack is essential as it functions as the FM antenna! So what’s the big attraction? If you’re trying to conserve your precious data plan and out of the car jogging you don’t have to use a lot of data to stream from the internet.  Just download one of the FM apps from the Google Play Store. FM apps.

#joggers #fmradio #Samsung S7/S7 Edge

Logitech Legacy Camera’s May Work with Windows 10

Not sure why I wrote this article. I think I’ve watched too many Mythbusters  episodes and now that Jamie and Adam never want to work with each other again I’ll need to bust my own myths. Sometimes that itch needs to be scratched. This is probably why I wrote this short article. I needed to find a valid excuse to avoid trimming the trees. Now I’m answering the question of the century. Will your old Logitech webcam work with Windows 10?

Webcams are pretty cheap now but what if you have an older Logitech will that old QuickCam software still work if you upgrade ? And why are you hanging on to 10-year-old technology? Maybe you’re happy with Windows Vista/7/8.x or you’ve moved on to Windows 10? Or maybe you have an older computer that wants to become a petcam.

If you’re using Windows Vista/7/ 8.x and you just need to find the driver again to reinstall you could use Driverupdate software,navigate Logitech’s website or you could risk malware infections and PUPS (Potentially Unwanted Programs) being installed on your machine trying to download old drivers from download sites that add unwanted programs in their install. My two-hour detour trying to avoid some household chores resulted in some interesting discoveries in search of ancient web cams.

Some legacy drivers will not work with Windows 10. But here’s the official list of webcams purported to work with Windows 10 directly from Logitech . Chart of Logitech’s official support under Windows 10 for older product versions.  They also have an FTP site for legacy products.

Out of curiosity, I called up my old Logitech Orbit AF from retirement

quickcamafto see if the new Windows 10 Driver lws280.exe would work. It installed but advises incompatibility issues. Knowing the consequences of drivers causing instability and crashes, I backed up my settings and was able to install the Windows 10 software for my legacy Orbit AF.  It worked! I did have to sacrifice my horizontal/vertical controls which don’t seem to be supported. But it works perfectly with Skype and I can also use it as a doggie cam in a pinch.


Android Pay Tap Ten Program Taps My Patience

In September of 2015, Google launched its Android mobile wallet payment solution which still has a very limited participating retail list. See list: Android Pay Partners. If you’re lucky to be located near one of the participating retail stores that has something you need it’s very convenient.  You can keep all those wallet-busting credit cards and loyalty cards inside your Android phone.  Mobile payments could be the cure for the fat “wallet ass” problems men have forever been dealing with. But things have been going slow for Android Pay due to usability issues by experienced by users and store clerks. Which is probably why you’re now seeing TV ads for Samsung Pay presumably capitalizing on the frustrations of Android Pay users.

Most retail stores do not hire their clerks for their computer tech savviness and they already have an assortment of payment possibilities including, Google Wallet, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and Apple Pay in addition to multiple card swipe options. Store clerks use the  equipment the establishment offers and likely get minimal training for the several mobile payment options now available.

The Samsung Pay ad begins with the guys behind the counter going into stitches when a customer approaches the counter asking to use his smartphone for Android Pay. “It don’t work,” one of the guys laughs as the others join in letting the customer in on the joke. So the customer says, “here try it”  and low and behold he taps, it works and he pays. Everyone gets high fives.

That’s not too far from the truth from my experience with Android Pay. First you are reminded to turn on Android “NFC”. This enables the near payments process layer. Then you have to figure out how to dance with the swipe device. This requires some thinking. Do you just touch it to the swipe screen? Do you swipe it?  Don’t bother asking the store clerks –most are as confused as the users. Oh, and you have to hit the “pay it” icon too.Too many steps.

Google realized that they were falling behind the Tap wars so they introduced the “Tap tapten1Ten” rewards program in late January. The program offered customers rewards of a free music track for every few taps. When you got to ten purchase “taps” you could redeem your 10th tap for a Chromecast device. Whoa! Great deal! Retail cost is 35 USD. I started tapping, and tapping and tapping and finally reached my tenth Tap at Walgreen’s (the only convenient store near me). I was starting to feel very weird about buying one paper towel a day, and becoming compulsive about tapping. Why didn’t I just didn’t buy one. But like Pavlov’s dogs or pigeons pecking for a cocaine rush.  I kept at it.

On my tenth tap, while sitting in my car in the parking lot surrounded by my paper towel, I felt the dopamine rushing to my brain in anticipation of the big reward. With another wave of tap-induced steroid adrenaline streaming through my veins, I tapped to redeem the two remaining songs and then went for the Big Kahuna, the Chromecast.  I had visions of black, red, or yellow Chromecasts dangling from my TV’s HDMI port and streaming binges on weekends. But nothing seemed to happen after my final tap. I thought I did something wrong so I backtracked to click on a previous song while Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” played endlessly in my head. Then a minute later, a code flashed quickly by.  I figured that Google had a way to seamlessly capture and register that promo code which is needed at the online Google Chromecast store. Google is a payment processing player and an engineering company. They’ve been operating Google Wallet for several  years so they should know better. I looked in settings. Nope. No code there. It was gone forever.

While the program ended at the end of Febuarary you have until March 31, 2016  st to redeem the Chromecast.  After six calls to Google Support and escalations, they are still trying to figure out how to get me a code.  Of course, software companies have been using one-time registration codes forever and intuitively now how to issue and deliver a replacement code.  Apparently, Google hasn’t solved this technical rubic’s cube yet.

Waiting a week for customer service responses and resolution from a company like Google is not acceptable. I don’t know if I’ll ever receive a code and get my black, red or yellow Caster.  Are you a happy tapper? Did you tap your way to ten and get the Chromecast of your dreams or were you left streaming in the wind?

Update: Google support finally got back to me and issued a redemption code. I was able to redeem it for a new Chromecast. The optional fast delivery shipping charges were $12.00 or almost 1/3 the cost of a Chromecast. But that’s fine. It was my option to elect two day delivery.


Day Ten: Nomorobo Eliminates All of My Robocalls!

I promised to update you on my progress using Normorobo. After ten days using the service, the verdict is in. It’s a game changer for me. No more interruptions to my concentration from companies telling me how they’re going to get me on page one of Google Search. I’ve gone from about ten robocalls per day using two Vonage lines connected to the Nomorobo service to zero. That would amount to 1800 calls for one line and 3600 calls a year for the two. No more pollster calls, dinner interruptions or early morning weekend calls. I’m thrilled. If I were you I’d give it a try. It’s free and if it doesn’t work for you just delete the Nomorobo number from your telephone services Simulcall feature! Here’s another recent review from AARP. The AARP article missed support for other major services including Verizon FIOS, Comcast Xfinity and others.The concern there is that people with cognitive loss may be duped by unscrupulous callers. If you’re concerned about your older family members you might consider setting it up for them too! – Howard

Outwitting Robocallers – Say Goodbye to Scammers and Unwanted Callers

Life is full of little annoyances and the opportunity to take one off the list frees up more time and it maybe it will eliminate 1 mm Hg off the blood pressure scale. One major annoyance to me is recorded Robocalls. You know the kind.  Is your site listed on the first page of Google? Hi, this is John from Microsoft. Did you know your computer was infected with Ebola? It’s hard to believe that I missed a service that started that 2013 to solve this problem. If I missed it then maybe you did too. The free service is Nomorobo It works like a community sandbox. That is, it relies on a collective pool of reported robocall numbers in a database gleaned from other users. It then matches that number instantly to determine if it’s a robocall or a real person trying to get in touch. If it decides it’s a robot call it diverts the call and you’ll just hear one ring which you can ignore.  How Does Nomorobo Work? It uses the Simultaneous Ring” feature offered by many telephone services. You add the toll-free Nomorobo number to your simultaneous ring” list. Nomorobo gets the call as soon as you do and instantly compares it to the robocall database. If it finds a match it quashes the call. Simple and free are two words I like.  I’m testing the service and will update this blog to let you know how it works. Supported carriers include: AT&T U-Verse, broadvoice, Comcast Xfininity, fronteir, ooma, optimum, (what’s with all this lower case branding?), SONIC, SureWest, TimeWarnerCable, Verizon Fios,, VOIPo, Vonage, WAVE, and 1-VOIP. I give it 5 stars out of 5!  Signup here.

To Cast or Not to Cast

chromecastI had been unable to cast from any of my Windows 10 PC’s to either of my two Chromecasts for at least a week.  I have a first gen limited to 2.4 MH spectrum, and the newer dual channel device.  I went down the rabbit hole and checked the list of Google’s support FAQ’s. Network discovery, rebooting the device you name it. Nothing worked. For a moment,  I even considered adding my Xfinity connection as a suspect but quickly ruled that out as I had not changed anything recently. I also noted that I had several failed Windows 10 updates. My conclusion was that the problem could be with Google’s Chrome Browser and Windows 10.

After a week of pulling out my hair, I got on the phone with a Google support agent. I gave her a rundown of the problems and my efforts to troubleshoot them and told her I casthad just updated Chrome yesterday but felt that it was a Chrome bug.  While on the phone, Google started updating itself to version  Chrome Update 50.3029.81 64bit. Eureka. Game over. Problem solved. If you are having problems casting Google Chrome’s auto update should be fixing it shortly.

Howard Sobel

Asurion Refurbished Phones May Cause Inability to Unlock AT&T Phones – On the trail of the unrequited​ IMEI!

Did you get a replacement phone from AT&T  or another carrier using phone insurance partner Asurion? You may be sitting on a potential device unlocking headache. I just wasted hours trying to figure out why I couldn’t unlock my “refurbished” S6 Active replacement phone. Since I met all the requirements the phone should have unlocked, but the AT&T system kept refusing.

After sleuthing about for two hours with AT&T customer service and going through the device unlock portal I have  a possible scenario while I await official confirmation. 1) broken phone is returned for replacement to Asurion 2) the previous owner of that phone has unresolved outstanding payments or contract requirements 3) the unique IMEI  passed along to the new owner may also pass along unfilled contract requirements. I suspect this could be the result of a data entry problem by someone at Asurion.

Device requirements for ALL requests

Devices must:

  • Be designed for use on, and locked to, the AT&T network. (Questions? See Device Unlock Support )
  • Not be reported lost or stolen
  • Not be involved with fraudulent activity
  • Have all service commitments and installment plans completed and all early termination fees paid in full
  • Not currently be active on a different AT&T customer’s account


I’m waiting for the resolution of this problem which hopefully will be in a  few days. If you own a refurbished device from AT&T (or another carrier) and meet the requirements for eligibility to have your phone unlocked, but are getting the same error, I’d like to hear about it. Let me know by posting a comment. And perhaps you should ask your carrier too!

I would assume that unpaid balance information (connected to an IMEI) from the former owners would be considered privacy protected information. On the other hand, Predictive Analytics are all the rage and knowing the aggregated profile of a smartphone holder default behavior (nonprivate anonymous information) could be interesting to other companies seeking to profile bad risks.

Update 7/22

Spoke to AT&T Customer Support person yesterday who had the presence of mind to escalate to his manager. Whenever I spot an up and coming outstanding customer support person I always ask to speak to his/her manager and tell them they have a good hire. Which I did.  Initial review of prior owner IMEI not showing outstanding balance.  It is still a mystery to AT&T and I am still inconvenienced.