FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Will Hugh Hefner Be Remembered as a Visionary or a Flesh Peddler?

Even in his golden years, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner made headlines like celebrities a quarter of his age. After his bride-to-be Crystal Harris left him at the altar in 2011, he rallied with a new show on NBC, The Playboy Club, and reduced the October issue of Playboy to its 1961 price of 60 cents to help buzz the TV show.

In 2010, Hefner attended the premier of a film commemorating his life called Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel at the Gene Siskel Film Center, part of Chicago’s Art Institute. Looking more like a seasoned Maurice Chevalier or elder statesman than Bathrobe Erectus, Hefner received a standing ovation. I did not stand.

The movie, directed by Brigitte Berman, was one of several to chronicle Chicago history including Disturbing the Universe about Chicago 8 lawyer William Kunstler and Radical Disciple: The Story of Father Pfleger Chicago’s best known activist priest.

Some Playboy history may be new to the public––that Playboy sponsored one of the biggest jazz festivals in history and sent the Playboy jet to retrieve Vietnam orphans who were nursed back to health by bunnies (out of costume). Playboy supported Children of the Night, a group that helps runaways evade prostitution. TV clips from Playboy’s Penthouse and Playboy After Dark feature folk singers Pete Seeger and Joan Baez in rare performances.

But halfway through the movie, a creep factor sets in led by appearances of Kiss’ Gene Simmons–known for telling NPR’s Terry Gross to “open your legs” in an interview–and a leering James Caan who was linked to Hollywood prostitute broker Heidi Fleiss.

What, for example, is the Rev. Malcolm Boyd, author of Are You Running With Me Jesus, doing at an establishment where half the sky, as Nicholas Kristof puts it, is deemed worthy of wearing animal tails? The same can be asked about Bill Maher. Hefner says in the film he feels pride for “liberating” the segregated New Orleans Playboy Club so that African-American men could enjoy “cottontail” service. Bunnies donned bunny ears and a white tail and were supposed to serve customers with a back-arched, knees-bent “bunny dip.” Thanks for the liberation, Hef. (“Always remember,” said the job manual, “your proudest possession is your Bunny tail. You must make sure it is white and fluffy.”)

An admitted sex, Dexedrine, Pepsi and work addict, Hefner oozes narcissism and grandiosity in the film. He says he “deserved” seven girlfriends because he had been monogamous for eight years before that. He says the death of playmate Dorothy Stratten, who was murdered by her husband, Paul Snider, months after she was named the 1980 Playmate of the Year, gave him his stroke and that it was a “miracle,” he got through it. (Let’s talk about ME.) And he says the suicide of his former secretary, Bobbie Arnstein, who was found dead in a Chicago hotel room after an overdose of drugs in January 1975, was the fault of federal drug officials and hurt the Playboy brand and image.

Some credit Hefner, with his eternal bathrobe and pipe, with helping the nation lose its 1950s Puritanism and gray flannel workaholism and enjoy recreational sex and drugs. Women, whose lives could be ruined at the time by unwanted pregnancies, were no  longer “bad” if they consented to sex thanks to the Playboy philosophy.

By the 2000s, however, laddie magazines and cyber porn carved away most of the Playboy market. Hefner took the brand hard core in 2001 over the objections of daughter Christie, CEO of Playboy Enterprises, who told the Daily Telegraph as a “feminist” she would not take the magazine hard core.

Of course the half the sky who became doctors, judges, senators, astronauts, scientists, House Speakers, Secretaries of State and magazine publishers also helped retire the Playboy brand along and a backlash against commodification capitalism and mindless consumerism. It is no surprise, for example, that Bill Cosby was a frequent guest at the Playboy Mansion with bunny girlfriends.

When considering Hefner’s legacy, daughter Christie, can be seen as the ultimate casualty of the Playboy philosophy’s second class view of women. She was not pretty enough to pose in the magazine but not male enough to rate Playboy stock which Hefner bestowed only to his sons in 1997.

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail