Hugh Hefner


When it comes to the issue of motivation in a man’s life, Hugh Hefner is very much of the Aristotle Onassis school of thought.

“If it weren’t for the women,” he beams, “money and power would have no meaning. I mean, what the hell are we working for ? Do you think most rock musicians become rock musicians because they love the MUSIC ! It’s for the women. It’s for the sex !”

As the creator of Playboy – the magazine, the mansion, the legendarily decadent lifestyle – you wouldn’t necessarily equate Hugh Hefner with understatement. But when the 75 year-old bon viveur suggests “I am trying to re-define being a senior citizen”, you know you are in the presence of a master.

It is, after all, a grey, rainy day in London (“London has its own special – wet – charm,” he purrs), and Hef, as everyone calls him, has arrived accompanied by his seven girlfriends – one for every day of the week.

Tiffany, Stephanie, Cathi, Katie, Buffy, Tina, and Regina
are classically curvy “Playmates”, forming what one observer called “a nubile, all-blonde harem.”

The complications of seven girlfriends at any age would seem legion. But ask him how he would describe his sex life today – one of the more ridiculous and more rhetorical questions you can asked in life – and he will just, rather sweetly, beam as if nothing could be more simple.
“Awfully good,” he says. “Even better than it appears to be.”

Since suffering a stroke in 1985, Hefner has, rather disappointingly, stopped smoking Viagra – crushed up in to his pipe – but he still swears by it and maintains that, “although I don’t necessarily have intercourse every night, I do most nights.”

Obviously, he concedes, maintaining seven relationships emotionally takes a certain amount of delicate juggling.
“But I handle them. I am very good at doing that.”

Before that, after his second marriage broke up, his previous relationship had been with only three similar-looking girls – two of them twins.
“I didn’t think there would be a topper after that,” he muses. “But the last three years for me have been the best time of my life. And that’s having LIVED an absolutely extraordinary life.”

Again, his use of under-statement is marvellous. The combination of the end of political correctness and the impact of the internet, Playboy has been revitalised.
Hefner is making his first visit to Britain for ten years, as party of a European tour encompassing several parties celebrating his 75th birthday.

It had occurred to me that if you’re Hugh Hefner though,
Parties are a bit of a busman’s holiday. Any party that is not HIS party is obviously going to be dull.
“It’s definitely a little chancey,” he acknowledges with a mischievous twinkle already in his eye.

For a start, I point out, at the sort of parties we throw in England, all the girls will probably have their clothes on.

“We just have to deal with it,” he shrugs, as if to say that life is full of challenges. “We have to take the luck of the draw.”

“They have been pretty great parties actually. Not as good as the Playboy Mansion, it’s true. At the Playboy mansion, we have naked ladies wearing nothing but paint.”

He scoffs at the obviously naïve notion that every day at the mansion is a party, but admits that, with seven girlfriends, it is rarely dull.

“Friends are part of what my life is all about,” adding with a typically cryptic rejoinder, “Everything is more fun shared.”

To his amazement, he admits, with a chuckle, people will occasionally ask him if he ever gets bored of parties.
“As if I am at a party with a thousand people and a bunch of naked ladies – as if THAT happens every night.”

This, he suggests, would be ridiculous.
“He doesn’t happen every night. There ARE quiet evenings in with the seven girlfriends. I guess those are quiet.”

Then again, he doesn’t sound entirely sure. His sex life, he admits, is “the focus of my life.”
“My romantic relationships have always been the most important part of my life.”
And that is how he talks about “the seven girlfriends” – as seven romantic relationships.

If you were talking about virtually anyone else on the planet, you would understandably assume that Hefner’s seven girlfriends act was just a publicity act.

But Hefner has been behaving this way, very publicly, with thousands of witnesses, for four decades.

In the 70s, his pick-up line bore the simplicity of genius:
“My name is Hugh Hefner.”

He claims to have slept with over a thousand women and acknowledged his tendency for what he calls
“multi-person sex” by saying that, for him, having sex with “eight or nine people” was “common” for most of the second HALF of the 70s.
“I needed a very big bed,” he nods, with the sort of understatement that renders one speechless.

“I think I’m a good lover,” he continues. “I’ve certainly had a lot of practice.”

What is his definition of good sex ?
“The major sexual organ is the mind.”

Talking in this vein and conducting himself with the dignified, donnish manner of a liberal (very liberal) professor-philosopher, Hefner is not the sort of person that most of us will ever understand easily.

Entirely his own creation, he does not seem like a real person and happily admits “I feel like I am living a movie. My life is like very bad fiction.”

As a symbol that epitomises the American Dream over four decades, he is hard to beat.

He is not, today at least, wearing his trademark silk pyjamas, but a red checked shirt, yellow socks, blue jeans and brown tweed jacket – like a debonair American tourist who has come over to play golf or enjoy a spot of sailing.

Like a cross between Alan Alda and Mr Magoo, he has that truly strange/eerily normal aura of the genuine Hollywood star. He is a little deaf, but otherwise quick-witted, curious, and generally in tremendous shape, as his punishing schedule of recent nightclub parties in different European capitals testifies.

He finds the concept that he might have cooked up the idea of the seven girlfriends as a publicity stunt hilarious and not a little insulting. After all, his logic follows, he would hardly NEED to.
“Some think it is a PR stunt !” he roars, in disbelief. “Some people WISH that were true.”
“I listen to them. They listen to me. I emphasise the fact the relationship is only going to work if they focussed on the group. Harmony is absolutely essential.”

Does he worry about safe sex ?
“No,” he says flatly. “I am very sophisticated in terms of sexuality. I know the myths related to sexual disease and I know what is true. I have had a great deal of sex with a great many partners and I have never had any serious disease problems and I have never gotten anybody pregnant, except the two women that I married.”

This is in many ways the most surprising and the strangest part of Hugh Hefner’s life – not the sex or the self-invention, but the supposedly conventional aspect of his two, supposedly faithful marriages.

His first marriage, after the war, lasted ten years and yielded two children. Having worked industriously on the local papers at school and during the war, as well as being a cartoonist and a copywriter at Esquire, Hefner started formulating ideas for what he called “a sophisticated men’s magazine in 1953.

He was, bizarrely, the circulation manager of Children’s Activities magazine at the time. He put what were seen as unpublishable topless calendar sots of Marilyn Monroe on the cover of the first issue and ended up selling 50, 000 copies of it.
“It showed girls as human beings,” he said. “It said implicitly that nice girls like sex, which was deeply radical and deeply positive.”

By 1971, Playboy was selling seven million copies a month. There were 23 Playboy clubs, resorts, hotels and gaming casinos.

The combination of the magazine and the goings on at the mansion had made him a living legend. The image and the lifestyle fuelled each other until it was impossible to tell the difference.

While critics blamed him for all manner of social ills from the rise in pornography and promiscuity, to AIDS and divorce rates, Hefner has always taken umbrage at this, presenting himself as “a very moral man”, something he took from his upbringing.

Raised in a “puritanical” typical family in the Mid-West, Hefner was a virgin until the age of 22, and regards his libertarian attitudes to sex as a reaction to the lack of emotion or affection from his parents.
“Maybe I over-reacted a little,” he laughs. “My mother Grace (a Methodist) once said to me, long after Playboy had begun, she apologised to me for her inability to show affection in my childhood. And I said , ‘mum please don’t feel guilty about anything, whatever you did or didn’t do, my life could not be any better. Sometimes you need that repression for something to change.”

Given that he describes himself as someone who was having “multi-person sex” for “most of the second half of the 1970s”, I can’t wondering if he knows anyone who has had MORE sex than he has.
“Oh sure,” he says categorically, as if he were a virtual virgin himself. “Absolutely. But I’m not sure about QUALITY. But QUANTITY, sure.”

Who ? I wonder, thinking he can have, at best, one specific person in mind.
“Oh, plenty of people. Anyone that was really promiscuous. Somebody who was into the swing scene, or who was promiscuous or who didn’t give a shit.

“I’ve done it all, not including livestock,” he mentions, enjoying the effect. “Not boundaries uncrossed. But I was off the scene for ten years and faithful to a marriage. That was a long rest. I would think that a lot of athletes and sports stars and rock stars would, certainly, out-do me in terms of numbers.”

After the glorious abandon of the 60s and the 70s, the 1980s were payback time for Playboy with issues such as AIDS, the murder of Playboy cover star Dorothy Stratton, and the explosion of hardcore pornography all eating away at Playboy’s market share.

The casinos closed down and the emergence of Ronald Reagan, feminism, and Political Correctness saw Playboy widely branded in America as pornography.

Ask Hefner what HE sees as pornography and he points to his well-worn definition “pornography is the sex that YOU find distasteful. ‘Erotic’ is just the positive name for the same thing that ‘pornography ‘ is the negative of.”

Feeling, perhaps, embattled by the combined effects of all this and the effects of his stroke, in 1989, Hefner, the world’s most famous playboy, settled down when he married Playboy’s Playmate of the Year, Kimberley Conrad. She was 25, he was 63.
“I thought marriage would be the epilogue of my life,” he sighs, not a little wistfully.

They had two sons – Marston (now 11) and Cooper (10) and for several years, a sign on the gate of the Playboy mansion – Children At Play – symbolised the end of an era had arrived.

For the likes of Charlie Sheen, Jack Nicholson and other regulars, these are probably regarded as The Depression Years.
“You can imagine ! Hollywood was on a downer. The country was on a downer in the 1980s/early 1990s. It was a more conservative time, socially, economically and sexually. But I think now we have come out of it.”

When the marriage ended in 1995, Hefner, buoyed by the invention of Viagra reappeared, unbowed and actually revitalised, discovering “a new generation of girls who wanted to come out and play.”

“Viagra is the best recreational drug on the market. Viagra has done for men what the pill did for women. It’s the fountain of youth.”

He has described having his stroke as ‘a stroke of luck” – “because I used it. I lost the ability to read, couldn’t even read the headlines of newspapers. There was some slurring of speech, a slight paralysis. It lasted about a month.”

He changed his diet, gave up his pipe and started exercising – “although sex is a great form of exercise, ask any doctor. I take the girls out dancing three or four time a week.”

He found, thanks to the return of Hollywood glamour and hip-hop, the Playboy ethos was back in vogue.
“A whole generation of celebrities,” he sympathises, “were feeling this sense of loss. I was off the scene. We weren’t throwing the parties. So when I was back out and about again, throwing the parties, it lit a spark.”

Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Sarah Michelle Geller are among the stars to have bestowed some glamour back to Hefner’s dream. Leonardo Di Caprio famously said it had fulfilled his fantasy to find himself at 3 am in the grotto – the Mansion’s infamous underground Jacuzzi.

Hefner is back now working on the magazine – “editorial and marketing, re-inventing the trademark”, with his daughter Christie as the CEO.

The internet ( means Playboy’s business has exploded again, especially now that, in lieu of the casinos, they have launched the gambling site

Hefner has – probably disingenuously – presented the acquisition of seven girlfriends as something of a reaction to the way he felt “emotionally bruised” from the break-up with his wife.
“I loved her very much and wanted the marriage to work.”

So why didn’t it ?
“The marriage started coming apart after the first three or four years and the reasons for it, I think, are fairly complicated but fairly common. There was not as many mutual interest as I thought. Being a romantic, I tend to put a great deal of my own fantasy into any relationship and everybody does a little of that.

At the beginning of the relationship everybody is on their best behaviour, but for a while they are who you want them to be, and then all of a sudden, whoops.

I am an old-fashioned, dyed-in-the-wool romantic, she is not. She is very much like my parents, I think that was one of the reasons, unconsciously, I was attracted to her at the time. I didn’t recognise that was what it was. It seemed like a safe harbour but…”

How do you get on at the moment ?
“Could not be better. I got her the estate immediately adjoining, with an open gate, the children are over every day, she is over using the gym, we have our family night every week and she loves me more than she loved me before. Now she wants me back !”

Why do you say that?
“Because she says it all the time !” he laughs. “It is missing what something in a relationship that I don’t think she is CAPABLE of. I think she is a very good mother but not a good wife.”

In a recent profile in Vanity Fair, Kimberly criticised the high profile publicity of his relationship with the 7 girlfriends and said he was hardly setting a good example for their sons, accusing him of missing out.
“Well, I haven’t been vying for Parent of the Year, quite frankly,” he shrugs, seemingly unconcerned. “I am trying for man of the century. I will settle for that. I set a very good example for my children. My boys adore me,” he says sounding wounded.

In the past he has admitted he did not take to parenthood naturally.
“Only in the sense that, I love the IDEA of the children.
I love the notion of having two boys similar to my own childhood because I have a younger brother, and my own childhood was wonderful, even though it was a very repressive home. Both my brother and I disappeared into games and I loved that and I think my grown up life is just an extension of my childhood. But the things the children do are pretty boring to me. But some people love ‘em !”

Kimberly also said pointedly that her sons had told her they intended to have only ONE girlfriend.
“Yes that’s what they SAY. Let’s see,” Hefner says bizarrely.
“I hope they will. I see myself in the young boys very much. They remind me very much of myself and my brother.”

As he points out, “you never know what’s going to happen.
I certainly didn’t think that I was going to be dating seven girls a couple of weeks ago, so who can tell ?”

This is not exactly the sort of scenario the rest of us can relate to, but you get the general idea.
“The last three years have been the absolute best and I would settle for another thirty years of the same.”

His mother, he points out, lived to be 101.
“And still very alert up to the very end.”

“Seven girlfriends !” he mentions again, as if even he cannot quite believe it. “What is it they say: a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s heaven for ?” At least Hugh Hefner knows how lucky he is.

As he shows me to the door, he starts enthusing again about his magic blue pills, like a salesman.
“They say that Viagra only works for about seven out of ten men. Maybe seven is a lucky number for me. I’m in my seventies, I have seven girls. And I have none of the symptoms I have heard about. There are some symptoms where people wake up the next day with a kind of blue haze.”

Hugh Hefner pauses, as he ushers me out of the door.
“When I wake up in the morning, after sex, it is very sunny.”

He looks out of the window.
“When I wake up, it isn’t ever raining.”