Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017|5:59 a.m.
LOS ANGELES– It is time to confess something I did as a teenage mail handler in the late 1960s, when Playboy reigned supreme, its rabbit-head logo design marked on a voluptuary empire of publishing, tv, restaurants and bunnies.
Monthly, I would obstruct a half-dozen copies of Playboy publication at a hectic Los Angeles post workplace, slip them from their plain brown wrappers and set them aside. Postal workers with a free minute would pass the magazines across the desks and cancellation machines. Then they thoroughly tucked the issues back into their wrappers and sent them on to their rightful customers.
Periodically, problems cropped up in Playboy’s letters-to-the-editor column: Some prankster at the post workplace had put a postage-due stamp across the Playmate of the Month’s breasts.
Though lured, I never ever did that– I had too much respect for the publication. I had checked out Playboy considering that I was 13, thanks in big part to a crusty old newsstand operator who would willingly offer a copy to any kid who had the 75 cents to pay for it.
I understood about Hugh Hefner. Who didn’t? Depending on your perspective, Hefner– who died this week at age 91– either launched the sexual transformation or set ladies’s rights back by half a century. Or both. However in the pages of Playboy, he appeared impossibly cool, with his pipe and silk pajamas and the evident ability to attract all the most stunning ladies in the world, initially to his Chicago mansion and after that to an incredible castle in the tony Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles.
Even if generations retold the joke that they check out Playboy for the short articles, Hefner was major about words. In the pages of Playboy, I discovered the works of writers like Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury, after perusing the images, naturally. Years later on, I got to tell Bradbury that I discovered among his greatest narratives, “The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair,” in Playboy. He said he had an unique affection for the publication, which serialized his development novel “Farenheit 451” right after it was founded.
Author Gay Talese may have described Playboy finest in 2015 when he stated it was “the very first publication in the mainstream that could both be called a literary publication and a publication for masturbation.”
I twice encountered Hefner, the first time nearly Twenty Years after sorting those magazines. In 1988, he called a news conference to announce he was countersuing a woman who had actually sued him for palimony. To obtain there, I traveled up along the turreted, Tudor-style estate’s long driveway to a huge fountain, mindful to follow the indication that read “Own Slowly, Playmates at Play.”
Hefner was nearly 62. But minus the pipeline and trading his pajamas for a leisure suit, he looked pretty much like the guy in the publication. M&M sweets, said to be his preferred, remained in bowls everywhere, and reporters were encouraged to indulge. The guy whose publication provided conclusive guidance on scotch and other whiskeys, had his preferred beverage in hand, a Pepsi.
He angrily declared it was his previous enthusiast and not he who had actually cheated relentlessly during their relationship, which sounded kind of odd coming from a man who had boasted of bedding more than a thousand women. Buddies tried to alert him about her, he stated, “however I simply saw what I wanted to see.”
Then, regaining the old Hef spirit, he added, “I desire you to satisfy my new lady,” and presented a female I described in a subsequent story as a “high, stunning blonde model.” An editor cut out the word stunning; in retrospect, it most likely was redundant, this being Hefner.
She was Kimberly Conrad, quickly to end up being Hefner’s 2nd better half and later mother of his youngest sons, Cooper and Marston. Asked her age, she replied with some humiliation, “I’m 24. But I’m almost 25.”
I didn’t see the man for almost 20 years. In 2006, after Hefner announced a particularly outstanding lineup for that year’s annual Playboy Jazz Celebration, I owned again to the mansion for another news conference. The “Playmates at Play” sign was back after being replaced for a time with one that read “Kid at Play.” Hefner’s children’ video games and sports gear showed up through the upstairs windows.
Hefner himself had prepared to present jazz great George Duke and others, then duck back into the privacy of the mansion while people mingled in the yard, that included to name a few features a little creek, waterfall, swimming pool and a tennis court. Buttonholed at his backdoor, however, he accepted talk– if the subject was jazz.
“It’s the music of my youth. It’s the music I grew up with. It’s the music of my dreams,” he stated, wistfully.
He argued briefly and pleasantly that there was nothing weird about inviting rocker Elvis Costello to that year’s jazz program, noting the type has drawn from numerous musical cultures over the years.
“It’s a mix of music from many, numerous sources, a combination of Afro and Caribbean and Cuban sounds … mixed in with especially American sounds,” he said, including, “And I favor anything that breaks down walls.”
Sipping a Pepsi on the rocks, his face now deeply lined and his hair white and thinning, he mused about turning 80 in a few weeks and all the events that had happened to him since he borrowed $1,000 from his mom in 1953 and assembled the very first edition of Playboy from his kitchen area table. It included a famously naked Marilyn Monroe.
He could barely believe that a lot of years had passed ever since, he stated.
Then, he smiled.
“When you’re having a good time,” he said, “time flies.”