September 28, 2017

"What do you believe happens after death?"/"I haven't a clue. I'm always struck by the people who think they do have a clue."

"It's perfectly clear to me that religion is a myth. It's something we have invented to explain the inexplicable. My religion and the spiritual side of my life come from a sense of connection to the humankind and nature on this planet and in the universe. I am in overwhelming awe of it all: It is so fantastic, so complex, so beyond comprehension. What does it all mean -- if it has any meaning at all? But how can it all exist if it doesn't have some kind of meaning? I think anyone who suggests that they have the answer is motivated by the need to invent answers, because we have no such answers."

Said Hugh Hefner, who, after 91 years, has finally gotten a clue.

Good-bye to the long-lived satyr, the man who packaged and delivered sexual liberation to the masses. He had a mission in life, and he pursued it with great energy, imagination, and influence. He's beyond love and hate for me. I grew up in a secure, middle-class home with a father who had every issue (except, perhaps, the first issue), where the magazine was not hidden away, but on the coffee table next to Life and Look, and we did live and look. Nobody stopped us. I paged through Playboy before I could read. I was so young that topless women didn't even seem to me to be naked and only reacted to the nakedness when, after many pictures of breasts, I saw a photograph I can still see in my head: a woman, lying prone and wearing an amber-colored satin blouse, with what we would have called her heinie just out there, for all to see.

In high school, I enjoyed easy access to things about the parts of the culture I liked: an interview with The Beatles in 1965...
PLAYBOY: "Speaking of nutters, do you ever wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, 'My god, I'm a Beatle?'"

PAUL: "No, not quite."

(laughter)

JOHN: "Actually, we only do it in each other's company. I know I never do it alone."

RINGO: "We used to do it more. We'd get in the car. I'd look over at John and say, 'Christ, look at you; you're a bloody phenomenon!' and just laugh... 'cuz it was only him, you know. And a few old friends of ours done it, from Liverpool. I'd catch 'em looking at me, and I'd say, 'What's the matter with you?' It's just daft, them just screaming and laughing, thinking I'm one of them people."

PLAYBOY: "A Beatle?"

RINGO: "Yes."
... and with Bob Dylan in 1966.
PLAYBOY: Why do you think rock 'n' roll has become such an international phenomenon?

DYLAN: I can't really think that there is any rock 'n' roll. Actually, when you think about it, anything that has no real existence is bound to become an international phenomenon. Anyway, what does it mean, rock 'n' roll? Does it mean Beatles, does it mean John Lee Hooker, Bobby Vinton, Jerry Lewis' kid? What about Lawrence Welk? He must play a few rock-'n'-roll songs. Are all these people the same? Is Ricky Nelson like Otis Redding? Is Mick Jagger really Ma Rainey? I can tell by the way people hold their cigarettes if they like Ricky Nelson. I think it's fine to like Ricky Nelson: I couldn't care less if somebody likes Ricky Nelson. But I think we're getting off the track here. There isn't any Ricky Nelson. There isn't any Beatles; oh, I take that back: there are a lot of beetles. But there isn't any Bobby Vinton. Anyway, the word is not "international phenomenon"; the word is "parental nightmare."
By the time I went to college (in 1969), I viewed Playboy as a thing of the past, where my father lived, but irrelevant to the new generation. The culture had moved to a new place, and we had new viewing-and-reading material....
But Hugh Hefner lived on, selling his particular vision of the good life. The music was jazz, the smoke was tobacco pipe, the sex was glossy and clean, the mansion creepily dark and ornate. It would not die, and the vision got planted in who knows how many heads...
Without Hugh Hefner, where would we be today? Who would we be? The cultural influence is beyond calculation.

53 comments:

Bad Lieutenant said...

"I haven't a clue."

Channeling jimbino, I do enjoy an educated speaker of English using haven't instead of don't have as appropriate.

alan markus said...

Our family had Playboys laying around the house too. I had been buying them at the local drugstore and keeping them hidden, about 1968. Then my dad informed me that my mother was finding them while I was at school and enjoying the articles. So, he said not to hide them. With that, I went ahead and got a subscription. In the late 80's I stopped subscribing - I really did like the articles, but seemed to not be finding the time to read them. I had saved them all - had at least 6 files boxes full - one day I got fed up with having them take space and took them all to the recycling center.

Amadeus 48 said...

Things were a little different in the Amadeus household. I can still hear my mother saying, "Why fill your mind with that trash?" She never bought the interviews excuse.

By the way, I knew the humanities were off track 25 years ago when the Chicago Humanities Festival had the theme "He and She" and refused to invite my friend Asa Baber, who wrote the "Men" column in Playboy, as a presenter. As near as I could tell, all the male presenters were gays who spouted the feminist line nonstop.

Sad.

David Baker said...

Before 1953 we had National Geographic. Then came Playboy, and suddenly the blind could see.

And for that I'd put Hugh Hefner right up there with Jonas Salk.

etbass said...

"...Hugh Hefner, who, after 91 years, has finally gotten a clue.

Indeed.

David Begley said...

" My religion and the spiritual side of my life come from a sense of connection to the humankind and nature on this planet and in the universe." Hugh Hefner. And that explains the popularity of today's new religion: climate change.

Otto said...

nostalgie de la boue

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I believe it was Larry Flynt who said, of Hefner, "He thinks he isn't a pornographer." Or words to that effect.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Then came Playboy, and suddenly the blind could see.

And for that I'd put Hugh Hefner right up there with Jonas Salk.


Oh contraire, think how many young boys may have gone blind thanks to him. More from Bob Guccione, probably.

exhelodrvr1 said...

So Hefner finally went tits up.

TwilightofLiberty.com said...

Always nice to wake up to good news.

Now we just have to suffer through the national media orgy (intentional word choice) lamenting the death of this particular degenerate culture warrior.

Guildofcannonballs said...

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/07/whefb_bill_buckley_playboy_and.html

John said...

Had a college roommate with a similar collection to Althouse's dad. Boxed in sets of 12 (1 box per year) on display on a shelf in his room.

When we'd watch TV, if a "Playmate" appeared on screen in a cameo role he'd immediately identify her name and month, walk to his room and return with the identified issue. Happened more than a few times - especially due to the early MTV videos.

BTW - he's now living a normal life with 3 grown children and a long career teaching history at the high school level. Not a stalker - although we were a little worried.

Sebastian said...

"has finally gotten a clue" How do you know?

Sebastian said...

"The cultural influence is beyond calculation" Which cultural influence isn't?

Guildofcannonballs said...

Hefner is an exact match (to me) of this part of The Garden of Earthly Delights:

14. Bosch may make a cameo in the piece.
It's not a flattering self-portrait, but art historian Hans Belting has theorized that Bosch placed himself in the hell panel, split in two. According to this interpretation, the artist is the man whose torso resembles a cracked eggshell, his face turned back smiling gently on this dark scene. Or as Belting described it, the face has an "expression of irony and the slightly sideways gaze [which would] then constitute the signature of an artist who claimed a bizarre pictorial world for his own personal imagination." - http://mentalfloss.com/article/65670/15-things-you-should-know-about-boschs-garden-earthly-delights

EDH said...

Turns out, the afterlife is just like the Playboy Mansion.

"Just don't bring too many dudes."

tcrosse said...

So Hefner is finally jerked off this Mortal Coil.

Laslo Spatula said...

Regarding the Trump Playboy cover:

When Jimmy Crater was the Playboy Interview he did not get on the cover.

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

About that Playboy cover...

The woman is the erect phallus.

Fernandinande said...

"What do you believe happens after death?"

Your body rots. If he has evidence of anything else, I'd be glad to hear it.

"I'm always struck by the people who think they do have a clue."

I struck by all the people who believe in ghosts and shit.

But how can it all exist if it doesn't have some kind of meaning?

He discovered the wonders of teleology. Young children are especially prone to it.

Laslo Spatula said...

I Went to the Playboy Mansion (and It Was Kinda Depressing)

The bathroom photos are sad.

I am Laslo.

holdfast said...

In light of later developments, Hef seems weirdly quaint and wholesome.

RIP.

Bill said...

Lenny Bruce at Playboy Penthouse, 1959.

Ann Althouse said...

I love how that 1990 Playboy cover (with Trump) is trying to wring sex out of fax machines!

tcrosse said...

This month's Playmate hates plastic people, loves tennis, swimming, and backgammon.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

"In light of later developments, Hef seems weirdly quaint and wholesome."

Maybe, but the politics of the last 20 years make it clear that a solid half of the electorate are blind and crazy. So he has to answer for that.

tcrosse said...

Every month there was a page What Kind of Man Reads Playboy. It always showed Hef's beau idéal, but it never showed a guy like me.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@Laslo

I remember reading an article a few months ago. They were trying to sell the Playboy mansion, but Hefner was supposed to get life tenantship. In other words, a reverse mortgage. The Playboy brand peaked in the 70s and since the birth of the Internet and the easy availability of porn, has been barely hanging on for a couple of decades. Turns out most people weren't really all that interested in the articles.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Every month there was a page What Kind of Man Reads Playboy. It always showed Hef's beau idéal, but it never showed a guy like me.

Larry Flynt noticed that too.

William said...

He was the beau ideal of pornographers. Compared to Guccione and Flynt, he carried it off with a fair amount of grace and elegance.....He certainly had a pleasant life. So far as enjoyable lives go, he was almost certainly in the top 1% of lives lived in the 20th century. I would much rather be reincarnated as Hugh Hefner than Mother Theresa or even Hillary Clinton.

Laslo Spatula said...

I will offer a name that began the irreversible decline of Playboy:
Playboy Playmate of April 1986, Teri Weigel

"{As mainstream jobs became increasingly fewer, Teri Weigel finally considered a career in the adult film industry – something no other Playboy Centerfold had ever done (or has done since). Because of this decision, Teri Weigel became persona non grata within Playboy, which has gone to extraordinary lengths to squelch her porn career. In one notable example, Hugh Hefner is said to have called Bob Guccione asking him not to make Teri Weigel a Penthouse Pet."

Decades were spent crafting the Playmate Illusion: Hefner's Girl-Next-Door was supposed to be sexy, but not with actual sex.

Sure, they were expected to fuck celebrities at the Playboy Mansion, but the common man was not supposed to see them near a cock.

When Weigel went hardcore it indicated that there really wasn't a magical separation between Playboy and pornography -- a knife to Hefner's heart.

Hefner lost control of the Imagery he had painstakingly crafted: Playmates were supposed to do bit parts in real Hollywood movies where they showed their breasts, not hardcore sex in the Valley. We were supposed to fantasize about the girls sucking cock -- not actually see it.

Playboy's Playmates were about leaving you room to imagine. Now, no imagination was needed.

Of course, today the Girl Next Door posts nude selfies on the Internet with no need of Playboy. A lot of th time she now has tattoos.

I am Laslo.

Bob Boyd said...

"Pussy gon' sell when cotton and corn won't." - Fillmore Slim, pimp.

tcrosse said...

Playmates were supposed to do bit parts in real Hollywood movies where they showed their breasts, not hardcore sex in the Valley. We were supposed to fantasize about the girls sucking cock -- not actually see it.

I offer in evidence the film career of Shannon Tweed (Simmons).

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Playmates were supposed to do bit parts in real Hollywood movies where they showed their breasts, not hardcore sex in the Valley. We were supposed to fantasize about the girls sucking cock -- not actually see it.

At one time, perhaps. But I seem to recall the existence of a Playboy Channel on cable and an Internet presence.

Laslo Spatula said...

"At one time, perhaps. But I seem to recall the existence of a Playboy Channel on cable and an Internet presence."

Weigel passed the baton from Playboy to VHS porn.

VHS porn led to Playboy videos. No interviews or articles in those Playboy videos, just naked girls: Playboy minus what Hefner wanted to believe about Playboy.

And then the Internet came...

I am Laslo.

gg6 said...

A wonderfully provocative and intellectually 'fun' posting. Thanks!

FullMoon said...

The federal government tried to frame Hefner for drugs. They pressured one of his employees, attempting to make her lie and testify against him. She killed herself because of it.
Memory hazy but I think Hefner wrote a lot of stuff in the mag about it.
Anyway, that is what I think of when Playboy or Hefner is mentioned. Not tits or jokes or interviews. I think of cocksucker federal prosecutors railroading people.

They fucked John DeLorean by instructing him on how to make money selling cocaine so he could finance his DeLorean automobile, sold him the cocaine, then aressted him for it.

Fucked Scooter Libby when the already knew the real culprit.

Fortunately, these sort of abuses do not occur anymore.

FullMoon said...

Oh, and I have Madonna and Vanna White issues. Make me an offer!

Ron Winkleheimer said...

They fucked John DeLorean by instructing him on how to make money selling cocaine so he could finance his DeLorean automobile, sold him the cocaine, then aressted him for it.

Well, that's what you get for trying to compete with wealthy, well-connected, multi-billion dollar corporations.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Playboy minus what Hefner wanted to believe about Playboy.

Yep. For a few years Hefner was able to give Playboy a patina of sophistication. Guccione was able to do that for Penthouse as well. Flynt was not just uninterested in sophistication, he was against it. Felt it would get in the way of what he wanted to do, make money. Thus a slew of strip clubs called The Hustler Club.

walter said...

Blogger Laslo Spatula said...Regarding the Trump Playboy cover: When Jimmy Crater was the Playboy Interview
--
Typo or dead-on skewer?

Hey Aamadeus,
I shared an argumentation and debate class with Asa's son, Jim.
I can't remember how the very preggers TA "triggered" the topics of presentation. But I still remember the tone of his defense of porn and how he moved away from the lectern to add a dramatic flare.
This was in the days of "Take Back the Night" where it was commonly proclaimed "Every man is a potential rapist."
My presentation was "Every orange is a potential weapon".
TA was not amused.

Mountain Maven said...

There's not much mystery about his fate.

n.n said...

There is a fine line that separates erotic (i.e. form) from pornographic (i.e. function), where the former stimulates and the latter corrupts.

Job said...

Hefner did a lot of harm to the culture and the world.

Charlie Martin said...

Said Hugh Hefner, who, after 91 years, has finally gotten a clue.

Or not.

Bad Lieutenant said...

and the vision got planted in who knows how many heads...


Speaking of which, that's a great photo of you with Trump, before you started dying it blonde.

Bad Lieutenant said...

This was in the days of "Take Back the Night" where it was commonly proclaimed "Every man is a potential rapist."
My presentation was "Every orange is a potential weapon".
TA was not amused.


Wonder if "Every woman is a potential whore" would have been funnier?

walter said...

Maybe..but I might have been accused of lifting it from Sam Kinison.

Otto said...

" I grew up in a secure, middle-class home with a father who had every issue (except, perhaps, the first issue), where the magazine was not hidden away, but on the coffee table next to Life and Look, and we did live and look. Nobody stopped us. "
Did grandma and grandpa leaf through them with their little granddaughter when they came to visit?
How about the local rabbi or pastor?
What do you mean by "we did live"?

The Godfather said...

In my teens and early twenties I was a regular reader of Playboy. I bought it for the pictures, but I did read some of the articles. Some of them were good, and more seemed good to an immature mind. Hefner presented himself as Mr. Sophistication. Now I read at the beginning of this post what Hefner said about religion*, and it's clear how shallow, thoughtless, and uneducated this man was. His lesson to us is that you can count on tits, and that's about all.

* "It's perfectly clear to me that religion is a myth. It's something we have invented to explain the inexplicable. My religion and the spiritual side of my life come from a sense of connection to the humankind and nature on this planet and in the universe. I am in overwhelming awe of it all: It is so fantastic, so complex, so beyond comprehension. What does it all mean -- if it has any meaning at all? But how can it all exist if it doesn't have some kind of meaning?")

walter said...

Yeah..much more thoughtful to believe languages were created at the Tower of Babel.

Jon Burack said...

Nothing is ever going to convince me that Heffner was anything but the conduit of poison into the cultural bloodstream. Don't get me wrong. I was a teenager in the 1950s. I know its mores were already the combination of prudish-with-prurient that created the context for Playboy. It is a contradiction that always undermines relations between men and women and family in general. It was particularly intense in the 1950s, and Playboy offered a totally false resolution of it. That resolution has now morphed into the hookup culture of college days and the giant porn obsession of society at large, mostly unadmitted to but malevolently widespread. Today, with a feminist movement hopelessly at odds with itself about it all (celebrating Clinton, condemning Trump, preening about the new strong independent women of the day while calling for Inquisitorial sacrifices to protect the poor dears supposedly beset on all sides), a pop culture mired in prudish political posturing combined with a totally fake liberated hip posturing, we are as far from getting over it all as when I grew up in the 1950s - taking sideways glances at the soft-porn magazines hidden at the bottom of the rack in the variety store and one day finding the smiling bunnies at play beckoning me as the glossy harbinger of things to come.