I want to begin this column with a moment of silence for Hugh Hefner. Sure, he’s still technically alive, but after his 25-year-old fiancée Crystal Harris backed out of their nuptials last week, he might as well be dead. And even if Harris’ dumping of the Playboy magnate failed to kill Hefner, she certainly snuffed out the fantasies of every red-blooded male in America. So a moment of silence, please, for the death of debauchery and the end of a lifestyle more central to the American dream than anything having to do with white picket fences.
Of course, I should point out that I consider myself an enlightened man, a modern-day feminist who believes in women’s rights and opposes the objectification of the female body that, for thousands of years, reduced women to second-class citizens. In fact, my life-long motto has been: down with patriarchy, burn those bras, and, “hey, her eyes are up here, buddy.”
And for the record, that motto is a really shitty pick-up line and hasn’t gotten me laid once—though it has led many women to try and set me up with their gay friends. Still, I largely agree with those who have criticized Hefner for objectifying women and creating unreal expectations of female beauty, what with his magazine’s air-brushed models, anorexic waistlines, and the inner tubes stitched to nipples that we call breasts.
So yeah, ideologically speaking, I’m a feminist. That said, I’ve never spent a second at the Playboy Mansion, and I fear simply driving by the estate would be enough to turn me into a full-on misogynist—at least for the time it took police to show up and have my idling vehicle towed away. Yes, that makes me a pig, and I’d like to think I’m better than that, even if I’m not.
Honestly though most of you are in the same boat, regardless of gender. The truth is, both men and women have their ideas about how we should treat one another, speak about one another, and respect one another. We have our notions—largely shared—of equality, civil liberties, and a truly liberated social state. Whether you call it enlightenment or “following the instruction of our higher selves,” most of us want to be better people. But there is a problem with the principles that define our “higher selves,” at least when it comes to human sexuality. That problem? For women, perhaps it’s the fact that while love is nice, you can’t lease a BMW with it. Or maybe it’s because, when you boil matters down to basic attraction, the bad guy, the misogynist jerk, the aloof, uncaring trouble maker: He’s hot and enticing as hell, whereas the funny nice guy who respects you is about as sexy as an adult diaper but nowhere near as disposable.
For men, the problem is simpler: our intellects can be entirely short-circuited by a scantily dressed and headless mannequin. Seriously, you put a garter belt and a pair of stockings on a palm tree in your front yard and dudes will be slamming into light poles and knocking over garbage cans left and right. We really are that simple. And no, I’m not suggesting men are dogs who only think about one thing.
I’m saying it’s really easy to get us to quit thinking all together. Just ask Anthony Weiner.
Besides, it’s not like the Playboy Mansion is simply a flirtatious waitress, a cute woman at the stop light, or a nice pair of legs walking down the street. No, it’s an adult’s version of Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and if Hefner put five golden tickets in the next edition of Playboy, that magazine would sell more copies in a week than McDonald’s has sold burgers.
If you feel I’m exaggerating, consider this: In the name of Allah, suicide bombers strap dynamite to their crotches hoping to earn an eternity with 72 virgins. This is without question silly because A), if they went their entire life without having sex, what makes you think they’re going to go all “free love” once they get to Heaven, and B), compared to Hefner’s pad, 72 is a ridiculously low number. At the Playboy Mansion, 72 women is a slow weekend. Plus, since they’re virgins, their asses aren’t even getting past the front gate. The comparison isn’t even close. Playboy Mansion: 1; Virgin-filled afterlife: 0.
In fact, the Playboy Mansion is so alluring, we might be able to end the war on terror by flooding the Middle East with copies of Hefner’s biography. I mean, you get one jihadist to read that book, and pretty soon they’ll all be trading in their AK-47s for a digital camera, some Nair and an age-verifying Web site. And while filming amateur pornography won’t suddenly turn these terrorists into wonderful people, it’s got to be better than having pieces of your testicles plucked from a U.S. Embassy wall with tweezers.
The Christian world, by the way, is no better. After all, would you rather spend the rest of eternity with a bunch of people you didn’t expect to see in Heaven, listening to them talk about love and singing “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, down in my heart,” or waste away forever at the Playboy Mansion, which gives out more rides annually than Disneyland?
In the end, despite what we may think about Hugh Hefner—or about the literal Eden he’s built out in L.A.—the man has accomplished something extraordinary. There are a lot of wealthy people in this world, but aside from Hefner, none of them managed to convert their fortunes into a life of complete bacchanalia that not only evaded the scorn of the public but somehow became an endearing and vibrant part of America’s pop landscape. Others have tried and failed miserably. Just look at Charlie Sheen.
Sheen tried to be a modern-day Hugh Hefner, governed by a convention-free morality and living to party hardy. But within two months, the highest-paid actor on TV and his extraterrestrial DNA lost his career, his sanity, and the respect of millions of fans.
Hefner, on the other hand, has spent the better part of a century tapping ass so fine it belongs in a China cabinet. Seriously, the dude’s screwed more people than the IRS, and with the advent of Viagra it appeared as if the only thing standing between him and America’s daughters was a defibrillator.
This past weekend, that all came to end for Hefner, the real-life manifestation of Dos Equis’ most interesting man alive. Sure, the Hef is still rich and still living in a gigantic mansion filled with sycophants. And, yeah, the women are still there as well. And not just any women, but women so physically beautiful that, even in my wildest fantasies, they’d still say no. So I can’t say I feel bad for the man.
But there is a pathetic irony to Hefner’s breakup. After all, for years he used his wealth and power to build the Playboy mystique, to foster an image of a man who was sexy and charming, a man with a carefree lifestyle and an impeccable taste in smoking pipes. So now, to have one of the very “pets” he exploited for decades disrobe “the Wizard” and expose him as a fraud? To let the world know that, rather than the suave and sophisticated gent he presented himself as, Hugh Hefner is little more than a high-rolling pimp and a trick with a fat wallet? An emperor as naked as the models he built his empire upon? Ouch.
Most of us knew this already, but I’m wondering if Hef hadn’t forgotten this truth at some point during the 60s or 70s. If he had forgotten, he can thank Crystal Harris for reminding him. The rest of us can thank Harris for demonstrating that even the biggest gold diggers have their limits. And Harris’ limit? Eighty-five—the age at which the money quits being worth it.
And if so, I’ve only got 47 years left to make enough money to be jilted by someone 60 years younger than me. Ah, if only all our lives could end so tragically.