A reflection by Mark Cromer
A long time ago, in a bygone era of Commie scares and natural bosoms and reefer fiends and a new thing called ‘television,’ Hugh Hefner was, without question, The Man.
A quintessential playboy who featured a chick named Marilyn Monroe on his first magazine cover, Hef put the jet-into-the-set even before his perpetual pajama period set in. Back in the days when he was still in that toddlin’ town Chicago, sporting smart suits and his only piece of wood that’s never failed him—his pipe. His penthouse parties, broadcast on the classic episodes of Playboy After Dark, looked truly swingin’. One can almost smell the vermouth wafting from those martini glasses as his happening crowd grooved to cool jazz and the musings of Lenny Bruce.
Then of course came the move to LA and the war and the orgies and freak scenes and the Great Happenings which rolled right into the 1970s, when free love turned into sport fucking and Hef looked like some wife-swapping savant clad in silk jammies while they passed out Quaaludes around the pool to make sure everyone Had A Nice Day.
By the 1980s the parties must have been getting old. Herpes gave way in our national psyche to AIDS and the man who stood in the crow’s nest to point the way during the Sexual Revolution was quickly becoming irrelevant with a magazine that was downright staid compared to the hardcore highs demanded by the coked-up Go-Go decade.
The 1990s, well, for Hef it might be summed up in a word: Viagra.
In the years since he has become a bachelor again and found a medicinal crane for his cock, Hef has been intent on throwing ragers at his mansion, bacchanals notorious enough to get plenty of play-by-play analysis on the Howard Stern show.
I interviewed Hefner in 1998, and he was charming, lucid and quite candid, pensively reflecting on the more hedonistic extremes of his run. “There’s a reason we call them the good old days,” he said with more than a tinge of bitter-sweetness in his voice.
Having grown up—and now old—with Playboy, I always admired Hef’s cool panache and irrepressible wit, his undeniable success at helming the Intelligentsia-wing of the Sexual Revolution, deftly portraying the hedonist as smart, healthy and fun at the same time.
But now it seems that Hef, who just turned 80-years-old, not only doesn’t want the party to end, but he doesn’t want to leave it. Ever.
In an uncharacteristic miscalculation, Hef believes Playboy’s demo is honestly interested in watching him cavort with the prostitutes he pays to call his “girlfriends.”
It is sad to watch a man as culturally important as Hefner squander the fine twilight of his day by pathetically showcasing his creepy canoodling on every cable freak show he can find. For a bib-wearing Larry Flynt, it would be par for the course, a natural for his own legacy.
But for Hefner, I can only shake my head and wonder why.
Now well into the new Millennium, Hef is on what we can only pray is his Farewell Media Tour, propped up and wedged between the giggling, mindless blondes and fawned over by an embalmed Larry King and professional sycophant Donnie Deutsch.
In case you miss these train wrecks or question the nuclear half-life of Hef’s alleged virility, Playboy features snapshots of the revelry each month in the section “Hanging with Hef.”
Pictures of the parties at the mansion are more for fans of science fiction (or Fear Factor) than true connoisseurs of the good life he once embodied.
The Man of the Hour five decades ago still thinks we want to see his stroke-enhanced grin fixed below his blank stare as he cavorts with blonde triplets or quadruplets that are straight-up vintage Cold War, Stepford-class lobotomy patients disguised as today’s women.
I never thought I’d share a philosophical barricade with Gloria Steinem, but we need to see Hef’s boogie today about as much as a fish needs a bicycle.
And as he prances, dances and poses with these lips/tits/ass/gut augmented or reduced Frankensteins, Hef seems to gleefully be playing a part in The Mummy Returns. His reanimated frame looks more ready for an mortician than a threesome.
I honestly don’t want to rain on his parade (like I could anyway), but I piss on the arrogance of the copy writers at Playboy, who actually expect us to believe all the poon that’s stocked at the mansion like so much fresh trout are actually there because Hef is so damn hip and happening. Just stop it.
If that electro-shock grin on his mug is a radiant acknowledgement that he’s got so much money these girls will still be fucking him after his corpse finally goes cold, then more power to him.
But if Hef believes his own hype, if he actually thinks these Hollywood call girls are into him, then he should pop a few more Prozacs, swig a little more gin and wait for Kimberly Conrad to come back.
Or maybe Dorothy Stratten.