Sunday, October 1, 2017
With all the Viagra he has been taking, Hef probably died with a hard on. It is difficult to feel much empathy for a man who spent his last years popping little blue tablets like skittles until he went deaf, just so he could satisfy himself with his harem of young women at his Playboy mansion in Los Angeles. There was an initial outpouring of condolences from those closest to him, including a tearful video from Pamela Anderson. Since then few tears have been shed for the "glorified pimp."
Hef liked to project himself as the man who emancipated women by ringing in the sexual revolution of the 60s, but to hear these women speak the Playboy mansion sounded like a Saudi Sheik's brokedown palace. I guess after a certain age you just don't care that much about hygiene anymore.
For the girls, this must have been hell because Hef no longer carried very much clout in Hollywood. The days you could use a Playboy photo shoot to jump start your career were pretty much over. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue had long supplanted Playboy as the hottest girlie magazine on the newsstand, ever evolving to include athletes and "curvy" women, while Playboy tried to cash in on the Eastern European market.
For a brief time, there was a Lithuanian edition of the magazine, but I guess the girls ran out after a certain point and the glossy mag disappeared from the shelves. There still are Russian and Polish editions. You figure all these magazines had to dilute the product, but Playboy kept trying to crack new markets as American sales dipped. Hef even tried to break into Muslim countries like Turkey and Indonesia. That must have been a pretty tough sell!
Through it all, Hef kept turning his harem over, finding new gals to sleep with him in the master suite. It was no longer enough to have a girl on each side of him, he was often photographed with six scantily-clad women at a time. I guess Sunday was a day of rest.
He supposedly found true love in Barbie Benton, at least he said so at the time. In recent years, he claimed to have never found the soulmate he was looking for, resorting to the cliches you would expect from America's number one "ladies's man."
Hef came to prominence with his television show, Playboy Penthouse, which aired between 1959-1961. The magazine was a big hit by this point, but Hef wanted a venue to project himself onto a broader American audience. The variety show was considered quite daring in its time. He engaged in a faux banter with celebrity guests, showcasing his liberal views on sexuality. He wanted to open up the show to black celebrities, but ABC said no. He went to CBS, which let him bring Sammy Davis Jr. to his inner sanctum high above Chicago's downtown. Americans apparently weren't ready for this and CBS pulled the plug after five episodes. Hef had better luck a few years later with Playboy After Dark, moving his operations to Los Angeles.
He augmented his "men's magazine" with articles and interviews with leading figures of the day, giving the journal an air of sophistication, as if to say it is perfectly OK to revel in these little fun and games. Gloria Steinem tried to blow the lid off this scam by famously posing undercover as a playboy bunny in the mid-60s, but it made little dent in his empire. It did however show him to be as much a cheapskate then as now when it came to paying his "bunnies."
By the 70s there was Penthouse, Hustler and many other "men's magazines" to contend with. Even magazines like Playgirl sprang up during this time to give women a bit of the titillation that to this point had been reserved exclusively for men. Playboy appeared on the brink of collapse, but Hef managed to find a new angle to keep his empire going.
Barbi Benton is credited for coming up with the idea of the Playboy mansion, which she and Hef moved into in the early 70s. It became a pleasure palace for the libido, with scores of women lounging around the pool in their bikinis and taking part in "slumber parties" at night. Hef obviously had a hard time containing himself with so much flesh on parade. Barbi had enough by 1976 and moved on. It was one of the few times Hef was taken aback, not used to having a woman walk out on him like this. But, he quickly got over it.
Whatever progressive ideals Hef once imagined himself projecting on screen were pretty much gone by this point. This was all about satisfying the libido. Celebrities flowed through his mansion on a constant basis. Hef pretended that it was all on the up and up, but his women were expected to perform for their crisp one-hundred dollar bills. How he got away with it is anyone's guess. After all, this wasn't Nevada.
Eventually, the novelty of the fun house faded and Hef had to find other ways to keep his empire going: Playboy movies, his own cable channel and of course a wide range of products. Surprised he didn't buy the patent for Viagra, as he could have marketed it with his little bunny on the pills, but I guess he was still virile enough not to need it.
The mansion suffered over the years. It was listed on the market in 2016 but sold for much less than Hef was asking for it. One of the stipulations was that he would be allowed to stay until his death. Fortunately for Daren Metropolous that came rather quickly.
It seems Hef picked a good time to check out. His empire was crumbling around him. It is doubtful the magazine will last much longer, having gone "nude-free" in 2015, which his son says was a big mistake. But, I suppose Playboy will live on in its international incarnations. If not, collectors will be able to fetch even higher prices for their past editions. A Marilyn Monroe 1953 Playboy magazine, the "holy grail," is worth between $20,000 and $40,000 in mint condition.
I thought it was a hoax, but Hef really did buy a crypt next to Marilyn Monroe in 1992, and this will apparently be his final resting place. I suppose this is the "soulmate" he had been waiting for all these years, biding his time with "bunnies" until the propitious moment came for him to move to that great mansion in the sky with Marilyn.