By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
"We don't come for Hefner, we come to party," says Dayna DeVorre, 24, wearing a bikini made from strings of hard candy.
Guests enter through a glowing portal, greeted by tiny actors dressed up as green-haired Oompa Loompas from Willy Wonky and the Chocolate Factory. Seven guests dressed as cowboys in matching black twirl a woman in bunny ears on the driveway, and she falls partly out of her bikini top.
Back in the games room, Kally Wyatt, 18, sits at the upright piano playing "Moonlight Sonata" and some "retarded" Justin Bieber, along with her own music. Her cheeks are pierced and she is wearing black fishnets. Next to her is friend Laci Kay Somers, an aspiring model in a pink bikini top who is considering trying out for Playboy. "I want to," says Somers, "but I can't tell if I really want to."
Both Somers and Wyatt have been running into people having sex all night, out on the grounds and in one of the mirrored cubbies of the games room. "Five minutes ago, I saw them!" says Somers, 18. "They were very loud. I've seen, like, 5 million people having sex so far tonight."
The proximity to Hef and his sexual playground has some of the guests crossing boundaries they might not elsewhere. "This guy, like, grabbed my butt hole! I've never been touched like that at a club," says Wyatt. "He stuck his hand in me and I pushed him. They think they can do whatever they want, just cuz they're here. They're crazy."
Hef's own sex life has been the subject of great interest since the debut of Playboy, his healthy complexion owing much to the baby oil he's slathered over himself and a thousand girlfriends over the decades. That interest only grew after he reemerged as a single man at the end of the '90s, making the rounds with seven blond live-in girlfriends.
"Complicated, yes," he recalls of the arrangement, "though not as complicated sometimes as one wife."
It is a lifestyle perfected decades ago, back at the old Playboy Mansion in Chicago, with the fireman's pole, the indoor swimming pool. Age does factor into this. After a decade or more of testing in his second-floor boudoir with a long line of volunteers, Viagra remains Hefner's rocket fuel of choice, a brand he can trust.
When Kendra Wilkinson first arrived for a party at the mansion, she was 18, and Hefner immediately asked her to move in as one of his girlfriends, as she recounts in her just-released book, Sliding Into Home. She went back home to San Diego instead. Hef kept calling.
This is how it's done: "I called her, and said: 'This may be a little presumptuous. This summer, unless you're otherwise involved in a serious relationship, I thought you might like to spend the summer here as my girlfriend,' " Hefner says today. "I only learned more recently, when she received the call, she was sitting there in bed with her then-current boyfriend. Obviously, it wasn't a very serious relationship because she was here in short order."
By the time she was 20, The Girls Next Door had made cable-TV stars of Wilkinson as well as co-stars Bridget Marquardt and Hef's No. 1, Holly Madison. The questions they got from journalists and the curious were often the same, focused on age and sex, and Wilkinson includes in her book moderately graphic scenes of weekly group-sex sessions with Hef. She participated but recalls those nights as a crowd of girls taking turns for a joyless 60-second hop on pop, not romance. She now calls him her "mentor," and one of her closest friends, and was worried about his reaction to the book. Wilkinson says she got an e-mail from Hefner after the book came out, thanking her: "You wrote a really great book."
Wilkinson is unimpressed with young men who openly crave his life, who want to emulate the man. "If they really knew the gentleman, if they really knew the type of man Hugh Hefner really is — the gentleman and the great guy — do they really want to be Hugh Hefner? Really? Come on."
Another side of Hugh M. Hefner is the focus of Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, which documents the publisher's role during the turbulent postwar period. (For a review, see Film openings.) In it, director Berman makes that case for Hef as crucial figure and spokesman for not only the sexual revolution but civil rights and human rights. That was not the prevailing wisdom of the time.
During a vintage television interview, future 60 Minutes icon Mike Wallace drilled into Hefner and Playboy: "I think you'll agree that it's a sniggering kind of sex. It's a lascivious kind of sex. It's certainly not a healthy approach to sex, but you suggest that it is."
Gloria Steinem has ridiculed Playboy's revolution as being about "Making more women sexually available to men," and refused three times to be interviewed for the documentary, but feminist Susan Brownmiller appears in the film, in footage from her withering 1970 debate with Hef on Dick Cavett's show and in a new interview. Brownmiller's views on the man are unchanged.