Hugh Hefner -- Pathetic, And Always Was?

A barber shop I frequent stocks a variety of lad-friendly magazines, and that is about the only time I have occasion to check out a Playboy magazine. No, I don’t read it for the articles. Not that I’m that interested in the pictorials, as the types they favor, I don’t.

What I always do read, though, is the part up front where they show “Hef” and his “girlfriends” at various celeb-studded gatherings (at the Mansion or elsewhere).

Which brings me to my OP. Does anyone take Hefner seriously, in any way? How can there be a television show premised around this fundamentally-uninteresting and pathetic creature?

The pictures of the gatherings are almost painful to look at. Hefner looks almost translucent. Can he really be enjoying himself, hanging out with rappers and pro athletes a third his age? Does he even know who, say, Rasheed Wallace or Kevin Dillon or Nelly are when he’s posing with them? Does he think anyone really believes he has three “girlfriends” (especially when one’s engaged to a pro football player, and Hefner himself is still married)? Has he not considered that the smoking jacket which he misguidedly thought made him look urbane and raffish in his 40s now conveys a strong (and not erroneous) implication that he’s some escaped nursing home patient wandering around in a weird bathrobe?

The other front of the magazine aspect that turns my nose up against anyone who’d subscribe to it is the earnest how-to-be-suave advice: here’s some sex tips, here’s what you need to know about absinthe, etc. Isn’t it women who traditionally buy magazines to tell them how to conform to society’s expectations, not men? Isn’t there something, going all the way back, fundamentally insecure in Hefner’s message of how to be a suave lady’s man – advice that may have seemed daring 50 years ago, but that now, like the man himself, comes across as just . . . sad?

It’s not like anyone is going to reinvent themselves at 82. Most of the profiles I’ve read of him claim that he is a basically shy Midwesterner trapped in living a fantasy persona he invented when he started Playboy. At the time, it was effective and attractive, although advancing age and changing styles have rendered it kind of sad. But, if I were in his place, I don’t think I’d wish to give up the lifestyle.

I do take him seriously as a champion of free speech, as I do his backwoods counterpart Larry Flynt.

I’ve got a different perspective on Playboy. I had my own subscription since I was 11. My family were nudists, and we had a cabin at a camp in rural Kansas. So I really did read Playboy for the articles. Yes, the girls were pretty, but the fact that they were naked was nothing special.

So. A Flint man then?
I got nothing against “El Hefe.” Dude’s got the same career at 82 that he had since before my dad was old enough to “apreciate” his work. The guy’s a legend. The whole mansion full of 'tang isn’t really my personal dream either, but that doesn’t mean it’s not somebody’s fantasy. And that’s all he’s ever really sold anyway.

Reminds me of maybe 2 years ago. There’s this magazine or newspaper or something (definitely not Playboy) sitting in the breakroom at work. One of my co-workers, who was a pastor on the weekends, walks by and scoffs and says, in disgust, “that’s got to be the most miserable man on Earth.”

I thought, that’s what you have to tell yourself to enjoy being religious?

Pathetic? Really?

The man has more wealth fame and influence than most of us could dream of and he’s pathetic because he’s old, or hanging out with people he barely knows?

Hef has money, which means he has options. He could retire to a quite little mansion any time he wanted. The fact that he doesn’t means he likes it where he is. I hope I have such options when I’m 82.

Obviously something didn’t make it from my brain to my fingers. Hugh Hefner was on the cover of the magazine in the break room, in case that wasn’t clear.

Mind you, disapproval of Hefner isn’t moralistic in my case. It’s aesthetic (on a lot of levels). Don’t like the type of girls he likes (at least two of the “girlfriends” strike me as actively unattractive, and of course he’s always been into implants, which leave me cold). Can’t imagine trying to spend any significant amount of time in the company of one, let alone three, of the type of uber attention whore who’d volunteer (no, I guess they actively campaign) for the goofy job description of “girlfriend” to an old relic.

I get what everyone says about he wouldn’t do it if it didn’t float his boat. And I’m not rejecting the notion that money and women would ease the pain of aging. I just might go about it in a less flamboyant and goofy way.

It’s funny . . . on paper, I should hate Kendra. I don’t like fake boobs, or dumb girls, or bottle blondes. But damn if I don’t find her one hot little number.

I’ve no use for Hustler magazine, but I do appreciate his sacrifices for the First Amendment. I own his autobiography “An Unseemly Man”. It’s uneven, but one has to admire the honesty of someone who will confess that his first sex was with a chicken.

I never went to business school, but I think he’s done a poor job of managing the brand. They’ve tried nightclubs, casinos, a cable channel, a website, etc. but none of these are significant in their markets any more. Even the magazine has been passed by competitors like Penthouse and Maxim. Properly managed, he could have had a multi-billion dollar enterprise like Disney.

Well, everyone has their prime years, and his ended in the 60s.

I’d agree the brand has been mismanaged for two decades or more, but he had a longer run of good business management than most.

Does he have anything to do with the management of the business anymore? I heard he doesn’t even own the Playboy Mansion.

The brand’s probably doing a lot better now than 10-15 years ago, when it was truly languishing, they were still reeling from the failure of the Clubs and the stupid bunny thing (way to be a proto-furry, Hugh), and the overall un-coolness of “swingerish” culture. With the stupid show, and having succeeded in tapping into some confluence of ironic retro-swingerism (and the Hollywood/Vegas crowd who’s bought into that), the visibility of the brand is higher now than probably any time since the '60s.

Of course market and cultural forces also work against Playboy. There are a lot more outlets competing for the naked-lady dollar. Jenna Jameson is getting dollars that thirty years ago would have gone to Playboy. So is FHM.

Warren Buffett has said of potential investments: If this company didn’t exist today, would it be worthwhile to invent it from scratch? I don’t know that you could answer yes with Playboy. The notion of bundling mild nudes, and tips on grooming or buying single malt scotch, and short fiction (a moribund genre in many ways), and celeb spottings – kind of a weird mishmash, and each of those segments is amply catered to elsewhere. I think the weirdness of the mixture is that Hefner really did believe (want to believe) he had the art of manliness down to a science, and that his mag would be the entree for other young insecure men to become the urbane renaissance man and Lothario he always wanted to be. Problem is that while (to his credit or the public’s discredit), he made a success out of playing “Hef,” that’s really not a viable game plan for most of his would-be readers, so it’s hard to see how he would scale up his brand other than by flogging it in whatever media he could.

He’s listed as Editor in Chief and “Chief Creative Officer” of the public corporation, which seems to mean no, he doesn’t have much say in running it (good thing for a publicly traded corporation – giving influence or control to an 82 year old who has to spend half of his day filiming a reality show sounds like a bad idea). Don’t know if he owns the mansion or not – but in an article claiming they were going to be stopping the parties (due to cost concerns), it mentioned that the mansion was frequently rented out for corporate functions/parties, which suggests that maybe he has other houses.

Hmmm…John McCain is an elderly man who has other houses too. Coincedence?

God…I think she’s hilarious and the most “real” of the three. My guiltiest pleasure is watching “The Girls Next Door.”

Hugh Hefner was revolutionary in terms of getting sexuality out into the mainstream in America, and I also think that his effort to keep it “classy” is laudable, even if it failed. He’s far from pathetic.

Probably true. Not sure everyone shares your implicit assumption that this was a desirable development.

Yeah, but maybe it was doomed to fail. He approached mainstreaming pictures of naked ladies just like a dorky White Midwesterner would: a combination of residual prudishness (no pubic hair or genital closeups) and chicken-a-la-king level tastelessness (implants, peroxide). Men look at naked lady pictures for a number of reasons, but a principal one that I can think of is not “classy” (I’m not condemning men for masturbating or for using porn as an aid thereto, just noting the incongruousness of having model “profiles” of her turn-ons and turn-offs, as though a stroke mag is actually a primer in how to romance women. There was something to be said for the days when porn was porn, but it was a fringe activity. The men who wanted it, got it, on fairly unambivalent grounds. But it wasn’t ubiquitous. Yes, Hefner ushered in some changes. One of them is that your (hypothetical) teenage daughter knows who Jenna Jameson is, and probably has a pretty fair notion of what she does.

Much depends on definition. Hefner is famous and wealthy. So is Mark Cuban. I’d argue a definition of “pathetic” that allows me to include “schlubs who struck it rich,” though I concede that in our culture, a schlub with money and fame is [so long as he retains both] not generally a figure of public derision. I guess I am aiming more at “essential” patheticness (whatever that is). Hefner just reminds me of that not-too-popular guy who used to have lots of female “friends,” or who would go to girls for “romantic advice,” or who was like a “big brother” to various hot girls. No matter how much he would say he just wanted friendship, etc., we all knew that what he really wanted (maybe not ALL that he wanted, but definitely A BIG PART of it) was to tag the girl(s). If you want to look at nudie pics, fine, but acting as though it matters what the model’s personality and preferences are is just silly. Does Hef (do the readers) really care? Is it like the reader will say: OMG! I have very complementary interests!" and three weeks later he and the centerfold are going steady? I don’t know, there just seems to be a lot of indirectness or passivity in using the “Playboy lifestyle” to feign urbanity/mask inner sub-alpha-male inadequacies (which everyone not a caveman or varsity quarterback naturally has – hence, I suppose, Hefner’s market).

He might be married, and the “girlfriends” might be engaged, but you can bet that Hef has slept with every single one of them.

Of course he’s pathetic, he’s always been so.

The Playboy cartoons have been great for many years. The interviews have been excellent and include stars ,politicians and sports figures. There has been a long history of excellent writers . It was a very good publication for many years. Heff is a little goofy though.