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Posted at 9:52 AM ET, 11/10/2008

Comment Box: Have We Had Enough Hef?

By Liz Kelly

Hugh Hefner and Paris Hilton at Hef's 80th birthday party in 2006. (AP)

Would we respect Hugh Hefner and his legacy more if he just gave up the young chicks and the illusion of studliness to which he clings?

This week, I decided to go with a question that has been gnawing at the edges of my brain for a while now: Is an 82-year-old man who still primarily identifies himself as sexually voracious impressive or pitiable?

Whether you love or hate Hugh Hefner, there's no doubt that the man lives a life not only of his own choosing, but his own creation. There was certainly sexually explicit material before Hef, but he mainstreamed it. The iconic Playboy bunny symbol is recognizable the world over and the porn industry is one of the most reliably profitable businesses around (if only there were a mutual fund).

(For the sake of considering this question, let's put aside the debate about whether what he did was to free up human nature or exploit women. The truth is, it's probably a little of both.)

Here's what I'm interested in: More than 50 years after he broke barriers of taste and, arguably, helped to usher in the sexual revolution, is it time for Hef to put an end to his party? Is it time for him to finally settle down or will we be treated a decade from now to a hospital bed-ridden, oxygen-tubed Hef pillowed between two buxom bunnies in nurse uniforms? Is there a point where it just becomes a grotesque, a self-parody?

I realize I'm asking more questions than providing answers. I'm hoping we can all weigh in on this question. It might help to define how we deal with sex and aging in an America that is greying by leaps and bounds. Baby boomers now make up 26 percent of the population and, with almost miraculous advances in medicine, many can expect to live longer than at any time in the history of the world.

But about that voraciousness. If it is, as I suspect, a put-on at this point or is Hef really still that interested? It's possible. One study done in the 1970s -- the Baltimore Longitudinal Study -- found that "men who reported the highest frequency of sexual activity when they were younger had the slowest decline in sexual activity as they got older." So, considering that Hef was probably 500 percent more sexually active as a young man than most of his peers, it would follow -- according to this model -- that he's still got it to some degree. A more recent survey, though, found that natural decreases in testosterone leads to a decrease in sexual desire and to, ummm, malfunctioning equipment.

But, thanks to an unprecedented atmosphere of openness about sexuality -- that Hef himself helped bring about -- seniors are increasingly asking for help. And, true to stockholder-pleasing form, Big Pharma is here to help: Viagra, Cialis and the like continue to proliferate. Even Bob Dole -- possibly one of the most straight-laced men on the planet -- became a pitchman for Viagra following his failed bid for the White House in 1996.

After learning all that, I'm not willing to begrudge anyone -- senior or not -- a sex life. Yet Hef and his legendary libido still bugs me.

Maybe, though, it isn't Hef's actual sexual activity so much as the massive mystique he's built up around it. A mystique as recognizable as a Coke can -- the mansion, the bunny, the grotto. Hef has turned his personal love life into a Las Vegas of lust: the pajamas, the rotating cast of blondes, the legendary parties. But lately Hef's appearances on "The Girls Next Door" and the series of tabloid stories about his girls -- one's dating Criss Angel, another engaged to an NFL player and his newest models (and I mean that in the Chevy sense, not the Linda Evangelista sense) are 19-year-old twins -- have served to make Hef's Vegas more Circus Circus than Bellagio, if you catch my drift.

Hef became a caricature of himself decades ago. But only in the past few has he become a punchline. Come on, man. It's time to grow up. Pull yourself together. You've made yourself ridiculous. Less is more and a little mystery can aggrandize one's legend more than all the reality TV bedroom scenes you can muster.

---

Comment of the Week
"I hope the Mac guy has some good anti-virus protection." -- Dorkus, reacting to news that actor Justin Long (who represents Mac computers in a series of TV spots) was spotted snuggling up to Tila Tequila in Las Vegas last week.

By Liz Kelly  | November 10, 2008; 9:52 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Comment Box  
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Comments

Yep, time to stop acting like a drunken frat boy and grow up. He can still have an active sex life at his age. However 1) it needs to be age appropriate, women young enough to be his grandchildren is just creepy and 2) it needs to be a little more private.

How does he stay up for all those Mansion parties anyway? Doesn't he have to go to bed at like 8 p.m.?

Posted by: epjd | November 10, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Somehow, the image I have in my head of Hef enjoying "age-appropriate" sex is even more disturbing than the one of him getting it on with a 21-year-old.

Posted by: byoolin1 | November 10, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Hef could tap into the senior sex market. Call it Playboy Silver or something. It could feature articles like:

"Missionary Without Breaking a Hip, Yours or Hers"

"To Dye or Not to Dye"

"Pacing Yourself"

"Sex in the Nursing Home"

"Pill, Pump or Prosthesis"

Posted by: MStreet1 | November 10, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Hugh Hefner is a victim of his own branding. And isn't The Mansion stocked with Vi@gra like Sweetarts on Halloween?

Posted by: yellojkt | November 10, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Posted by: jezebel3 | November 10, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Comment of the Week! Yay, that just made my day.

Well I couldn't find any mutual funds that dealt with porn, however there is a mutual fund that invests in gaming, tobacco, and booze called the vice fund. Apparently it has some pretty good returns.

Posted by: DorkusMaximus1 | November 10, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

The truth is I wouldn't begruge Hef his sex-life or his multiple girlfriends really (I even liked Girls Next Door for about 1/2 a season). However even though we all kind of suspected those girls were in it for the free digs and money more than actual love and sex with Hef, now we know for sure with the girls pairing off with other guys while still living (not perfectly clear on timeline) at the Mansion.

Now that we know for sure it was all for show, its way more pathetic.

Posted by: sjcpeach | November 10, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

epjd:

Yep, time to stop acting like a drunken frat boy and grow up. He can still have an active sex life at his age. However...it needs to be age appropriate, women young enough to be his grandchildren is just creepy...

****************************

Grandchildren? Try Great Grandchildren.

It's great that Hef is still apparently getting it up, and he knows how to sell himself. But c'mon, enough's enough.

Perhaps he can go with a 40-something who's desperate for PR. Anyone wanna give him Sarah Palin's number? ;) (okay, wee bit harsh, but I couldn't resist...)

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | November 10, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Tired of Hef?

duh!

I was tired of him 30 years ago.

VTY

Curmudgeon

Posted by: bmschumacher | November 10, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Does the thought of Hugh Hefner having sex make me queasy? Of course. Does the thought of any other 82 year old having sex make me queasy? Absolutely. Would these nauseating mental images improve if I thought of him doing it with another 82 year old? Not really.

There are many awful jobs on this planet. If you think removing Hugh’s smoking jacket and tending to his wrinkled parts is one of the worst, you really need to get out more.

Posted by: HortensiaRedcock | November 10, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

The creepyness factor to me is primarily due to the in-yo-face publicity of it all. I think he's kinda a joke now but I also think that he's in on it.

Posted by: ronjaboy | November 10, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I don't care what Hef does behind closed doors, but I don't want to hear about it.

I've never understood why these women wan to be Hef's playthings. I can't imagine that life/career post-Mansion would be anything except the porn industry and trophy wife-dom, but hey, whatever tacos your bell. I just know that I'd never in a million years willingly put myself in that situation.

Posted by: eet7e | November 10, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'm just sick of Hef -- the ink and whatever the Internet equivilent is called; not him personally. I've kinda jokingly admired him over the past few years, but the 19-year-old twins are just too much. It's just sad. And I don't even find the former three or current two to be very attractive. They look like they were poured out of a bottle Instant Blondes with Big'uns.

Maybe he should invite Ronny Wood and his new 19-year-old GF over to comapre notes.

Posted by: rashibama | November 10, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Hate to admit it, but I have actually logged some time watching "Girls Next Door." Hef just looks feeble sometimes. There was a scene where he had old man bed head. He does funny things with his mouth, like an old dog. He is just kind of a gross old man. I think there are some handsome hot older men out there. Hef just isn't one of them.
Would his activity be as sad and repulsive if he were actually attractive and had a bit of class?

Posted by: ssg3 | November 10, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Hugh Hefner (TM), a grotesque self-parody? Only for the past 20 or so years.

Posted by: northgs | November 10, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sick of Hef because I pay no attention to Hef, or his girls, or who is living with him. I just don't care. That said, if these types of "ladies" are willing to line up and lay down, well, that's their business.

Posted by: jelo | November 10, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I agree - he has been creepy for a long long time, and the multiple bimbo girls make it worse. I think no one wants to call him out for being a joke for fear of being called a prude.

Posted by: msame | November 10, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

82 or not, Hef has always been emotionally about 12. He is the living (at least temporarily) embodiment of the Peter Pan syndrome. I think the only way to make him go away is stop watching. And I guess stop writing about him.

Posted by: reddragon1 | November 10, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Why should he grow up? He's gettin' closer to Depends every day so maybe he should just start regressing & get it over with.

Posted by: wadejg | November 10, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Liz et al. - perhaps one of the posts could be dedicated to developing a rating category for reality shows - something like "Amazing Race" is at the top and "Girls Next Store" is the line dividing entertaining from pure crap (Charm School etc.)

Having admitted some knowledge of the topic, I will say that there is a whole icky Freudian thing at work. The fact that Hefner is apparently giving the one girl away at her wedding speaks to this. And apparently his sons, who are closer in age to the "girlfriends," live next door.

Posted by: kvs09 | November 10, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Hef should retire. I volunteer to take over and maintain the rep of the Playboy Mansion. It might kill me, but I feel it is my duty to take one (or more at a time) for the team!!! It doesn't really sound like a bad way to go!

Posted by: brutal | November 10, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Not knowing much about the subject, I did research (on Wikipedia).

What I learned is that we do have Hugh Hefner to thank in large part for the multi-million dollar adult entertainment industry and he even dabbled in the multi-million dollar gaming industry for a while. However, it appears he was a better "idea man" than business man. Playboy Enterprises, the public company, made a few business mistakes over the years and appears to be in rather dire straits now. According to wiki, poor Hugh is reduced to selling tickets to his parties to offset losses at the company. So, in other words, he may not have much of a choice in continuing with the self-parody.

Posted by: 44west | November 10, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I say give that man an IV to replace his essential bodily fluids and get him a decent hobby, like playing Bridge or building bird houses. Enough with fondling the youngsters. It was sort of funny when I was a kid, 35 years ago, but it's gross and pathetic now.

Posted by: possum_pouch | November 10, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Hef took the oldest male temptation known to humankind and declared its unapologetic pursuit revolutionary.

The only novel part was the lack of shame about it all, but there was nothing revolutionary about dirtbag guys doing what dirtbag guys always do.

But civilization has evolved despite and women are now claiming their sexuality well into their golden years. Older women having relationships with older and younger men...now THAT'S revolutionary.

So I would say that Hef is irrelevant. Helen Mirren, on the other hand, is the sex symbol for the 21st century.

Posted by: mdreader01 | November 10, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations epjd, esq!

Now the fun begins.

VTY

Curmudgeon

Posted by: bmschumacher | November 10, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

While I grew tired of Hef's generic tastes awhile ago (ANOTHER fake platinum fake busty blonde?), I see no problem with him wanting hot chicks to look at whenever he wants. I think maintaining the illusion that they are anything more than kept girls is becoming a bit much.

Our culture has issues with sex itself, and any sort of deviance is doubly so- but I don't see anything weird or wrong about what Hef does. Much better than the 40% or so of supposedly secure relationships who cheat on eachother.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | November 10, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

The comments on Hef remind me of an old Zippy cartoon, in which Griffy and Zippy are walking on a street filled with McMansions. Griffy turns to Zippy and says, "I don't know whether to hate the rich or to be jealous of them."

Hef lives a libertine's dream, but the libertine dreamer is an adolescent trapped in an 82 year-old body.

I think that while some people who watch "The Girls Next Door," aspire to become Hef, most people probably watch it are voyeurs who wonder how Hef has the gall to posit himself as a sex symbol at age 82, and what ambition and lack of self-respect the bimbos have to become Hef's barely legal playmates.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | November 10, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Sas makes a very eloquent and well thought out statement while the only thing I could think of was that in the picture Hef looks like he is wanting to say, "Get this skank off me now."

Posted by: DorkusMaximus1 | November 10, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

All I could think of was, when did Paris Hilton become a Girl Next Door?

Posted by: jes11 | November 10, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Liz,

You can blame this one entirely the MEDIA.

Why they even bother to report on his gf's is completely beyond my comprehension.

Posted by: charley42 | November 10, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Hef is my hero! I mean come on, its every man's fantasy to have sex life! So long as those women are willing, why should any of us begrudge him. I just wish he'd lose the pajamas and robe and wear regular clothes instead. It was fine when he was young and virile but now he just looks like a nursing home resident shuffling about in his slippers - yes, it is definitely creepy. So how about it Hef? Put on some tasteful designer duds and regain some respect.

Posted by: sensible2001 | November 10, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

He's been married. He has at least one child. He's created, developed and run a multi-million dollar business most of his adult life... How much more 'grown up' should he be? At age 82 his male 'qualifier' won't work forever so why should he stop? Because some uptight writer has her panties in a bunch? Get over it.

Posted by: Mitchavery7 | November 10, 2008 6:30 PM | Report abuse

It must be terrible to be a parody of your younger self, though. Everyone's laughing at him, not with him. He just looks like a sad, depressed old man who's being led around by his keepers for yet another photo op when all he wants to do is play cards with his old buddies and smoke cigars in peace, or so I understand from an interview a couple of years ago.

Posted by: chappell1 | November 10, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

I noticed some of the girls that Hefner keeps in his entourage are just young, good looking airheads. I guess if you are young, desperate for attention and money, and you know no other way to earn money because of limited job skills, Hugh Hefner would not be too bad to have as a sugar daddy for some of those girls. However, regardless of how much financial support those girls get from Hefner, I find it disgusting and demeaning to see that old wrinkled-prune still using women the way he does. Yak!

Posted by: fridaolay | November 11, 2008 12:39 AM | Report abuse

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