"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 11 January 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.

The Rabbit in Winter



You would think — given the

bosomy teens on TV, the

promiscuities of online chat,

the easy availability of Viagra,

the fetish vogue, and the de

rigueur presence of

better-lovemaking features in

every magazine from Horizon to Cat

Fancy, — that the sexual

revolution is in good shape.

Unhappily, it isn't. Sex circa

2000 is going in every direction

at once; it lacks a unifying

mood, à la Victorianism

or hippie-style free love. Media

and marketing are riding the

copulation train for all it's

worth, but can the American

libido really find itself in

these dark days?


It can, if one man has his say.


Hugh Hefner, the elder statesman

of American sybaritism, is

riding high these days. His

presence in the public sphere

hasn't been so pronounced since

the days of Playboy's Penthouse

and the Playboy Clubs: A

brand-new gift tome, The Century

of Sex, has been published, a

history of which he is both

editor and pivotal subject.

("This was the century of sex,"

Hef writes, "when mankind

confronted the fears that

controlled and shaped sex as

they had since the beginning of

time — and triumphed."). A

recent biopic on USA Network

painted him as mystic and satyr,

a man for the ages. Hef himself,

now a spry 387 years young, has

been in the public eye

constantly, his live-in quartet

of 21-year-old girlfriends

(including twins Mandy and Sandy

Bentley) offering a

double-whammy rejoinder to

relationship experts and

nondivorced men everywhere. Hef

has once again found the

unerring path between the Scylla

and Charybdis of Oprah-esque

neo-Puritanism and faux-hip

deviancy. On the left hand are

the solemnities of S&M

"providers" with their

"safewords," and on the right,

such giggly feats of eunuchdom

as Maxim and The Man Show. The

man rises to the hour, and in

this age of Sapphic sweeps

stunts and crush videos, Hef and

only Hef has the power to

reclaim sex for civilization.



It was ever thus — even in

the '50s. Contrary to the

revolutionary mystique that Hef

has himself perpetrated, there

was no shortage of porn in the

1950s. It just lacked class.

Nasty skanks shook their flabby

behinds in "stag reels," and

men's magazines weren't much

better. Nature, it seemed, had

set Her gifts on the left and on

the right; virgins and whores to

the max, Jack. Hef stepped into

the breach and invented

soft-core, unapologetic and

suave. Eventually, Playboy

established itself as a

lifestyle magazine for the

liberated burgher. Playboy

stripped the stigma away from

what all men wanted and

ameliorated stark lust with

stereo-equipped nowness —

with the ultracool publisher as

the ultimate avatar. When, a

decade later, the atavism of

free love threatened to make

Hef's martinis-and-Montovani

deliberations obsolete, Hef set

a middle course by dint of sheer

personality. And he was

vindicated: By the 1970s, Hef

had come into his own. The

capital of the good life wasn't

Woodstock but the Mansion West.

"I didn't have a private life,"

the playboy-in-chief recently

told NPR's Terry Gross. "I

simply brought the party to me

rather than going out." And what

a party it was! Hef's immortal

pleasure dome was as famous for

its cultural capital (Beatty and

Nicholson running wild,

badminton with Hoyt Axton, Shel

Silverstein as resident bard) as

it was for its unimaginable

carnal delights.



Flash forward to the dawn of a

new century, and Hef is rocking

along in Clinton-like high

style. If only we would heed the

call! While today's young man of

spirit is affecting the

mack-daddy majesty of the

ghetto or preening himself on

Loveline for his tantric moxie,

Hef is doing it right. It's

still about more than sex. The

omnipresent pipe is still in

hand, and silk pajamas are now,

as ever, the order of the day.

Hef understands that it's not

enough for one man to live the

high life; he has to be a myth

unto himself. No doubt he, too,

would like to slip on a pair of

Sansabelt trousers or a fuzzy

cardigan on a winter afternoon,

but his mission demands the

priestly robe, and for four

decades Hef has heeded the call.


All you need to know about the

rightness of Hef's vocation can

be gleaned from comparing Hef's

divorce with Howard Stern's. The

"king of all media" has

Zeitgeist credentials galore,

but he has clearly hit the wall.

When Stern was married, his

impotent lust for buxom

strippers was endearing in a

Sisyphean way. But now that wife

Alison has walked, Howard seems

to have no idea what to do with

the strippers and hoo-wahs who

attend to him. His howls sound

hollow, and now that he's no

longer keeping it real, who

cares? Hef, on the other hand,

not only has taken four —

count 'em, four —

girlfriends, he has made it

clear that he is doing it for

all of us. "When I came out of

the marriage," he told Larry

King recently, "I was not

prepared for the number of

people, the young people, who

were out there, you know,

waiting for me to come out and

play. And that obviously

coincides with the fact that ...

there's a causal connection

between my reemergence and how

hot the brand is again."



Unfortunately for Hef, "the

brand" is only too illustrative

of how sex without his example

is going into the gutter.

Daughter Christie took over the

day-to-day operations of

Playboy a decade ago, and

keeping it competitive in this

brave new world of Internet porn

has, alas, meant selling

Playboy's pipe-smoking soul. It

no longer suffices, in today's

degenerate marketplace, merely

to show pictures of pretty girls

without any clothes on. In

recent years, even Playboy has

been forced to move closer and

closer to the former fringe.

First came a sisters video,

and then one dedicated to twins,

the better to compete with

Family Action! Subsequently,

Playboy has produced

Barefoot Beauties for the foot fetish

crowd, Freshman Class for the

gent who prefers 'em Barely

Legal, Voluptuous Vixens for the

Juggs fancier. Even a nude

pictorial of a very pregnant

Lisa Rinna from TV's Melrose

Place was not deemed out of

bounds last year. (Poppin'

Mommas subscribers, watch out!)

Hef can't do anything for

professional porn, because it's

moved beyond the swanky middle

ground that he invented.


Still, Hef stands for a better

way, and that is all we can ask

from one man. In both his manner

and his look — that odd

combination of Puritan severity

and high-life wonderment —

Hef calls to mind another great

trailblazer of '60s culture,

astronaut Dave Bowman. Some sad

day in the not-too-distant

future, Hef will be lying on his

rotating deathbed in an eerie

Louis XV room with two or three

beautiful women beside him, when

a 10-foot centerfold,

resplendently buxom and

radiantly glossy, will appear.

With his last measure of strength,

he will raise a weary erection in

salute and then expire. Whether he

is transformed into a suprahuman

star-child or just a subject for

A&E's Biography, we cannot

safely predict. But Hef's way

will endure. Whether we end up

as decadent cyborgs, flailing

frantically away at our pleasure

circuits, or as Teletubbies,

subdued by soothing

psychobabble, depends on whether

we follow the great man's


courtesy of The Boob
picturesTerry Colon