Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 29, 1999
Head: Hugh Hefner on "The Century of Sex"
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.
TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guest, Hugh Hefner, founded "Playboy" magazine in 1953 and remains its editor in chief. "Playboy" is just one of many men's magazines now, but when it had the field more to itself in the '50s and '60s, it was, for a lot of men, the place to get aroused by centerfolds, to get advice on sexual positions -- and how to position your stereo speakers -- and to read new short stories by the top writers of the day.
For its feminist critics, "Playboy" epitomized a culture in which women were expected to be cute, naked, and vapid. The "Playboy" philosophy may seem like a throwback to another era, but Hefner, now in his 70s, is still practicing it in the Playboy mansion with his four girlfriends, who are in their 20s.
He's edited the new book "The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution." It's written by James Peterson, who for more than 20 years wrote The Playboy Advisor column.
We phoned Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion. I asked him first what he thought "Playboy" magazine's greatest contributions were to the sexual revolution.
HUGH HEFNER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "PLAYBOY" MAGAZINE: Well, "Playboy" from the very beginning has been a very personal magazine, and I think that it is a direct result of my response to my own puritan upbringing. My parents were typically Midwestern Methodist puritans, and our roots go all the way back to William Bradford and the Pilgrims.
And I think that I saw things in growing up, in my own home and in society around me, that I thought were hurtful and hypocritical, and after World War Two I thought that things were going to change. I think to some extent I had a romantic notion of a time that I had missed in the Roaring '20s -- because I grew up during the Depression in the 1930s. And I expected the postwar -- post-World War Two period to be rather like the period after World War One, and it wasn't.
And I think that I started "Playboy" in response to all of that. And I believe and hope that "Playboy" has played some small part in changing the values, social and sexual, of our time.
GROSS: Now, tell me more about the sexual standards you were brought up with. You described the background as being hypocritical sexually.
HEFNER: Well, hypocritical in the sense that -- I mean, puritanism by its nature is very hypocritical. There is a real denial of the reality of human sexuality, and I think that conflict, that unwillingness to deal with reality, is the essence of what most repression is all about and what puritanism is all about.
GROSS: Did your parents ever discuss sex? Did either of them teach you the facts of life?
HEFNER: Both my parents were college educated. They were farm people from Nebraska, but they were college educated. And I think that my mother was the first woman in her family to be college educated. And they were teachers. So they -- there was an intellectual curiosity there. But the curiosity ended at the doorway of sexuality.
My mother took the time and trouble to tell us where children came from, and although that may seem very strange today, back in the 1930s, that itself was very controversial. We were the first, my brother and myself, the first boys in our neighborhood to actually know where babies came from.
But how they got there, or any discussion of sexuality itself, we learned like everybody else, in the street.
GROSS: Was it relatively easy for you to get dates in high school and college?
HEFNER: Well, I think that I began dating when I was in eighth grade. We played our first, you know, kissing games and Post Office and games of that kind when we were in eighth grade, and learned to dance. And I was a relatively socially active kid, but also, you know, like my peers, very straitlaced and repressed.
I had a big crush on a girl when I was in my -- the last couple of years of high school were a magic time for me, and the best time of my life, quite frankly, until I started "Playboy." And I had a big crush on a girl in my junior year who was interested in another boy. And it was -- and I -- and it was in that time frame that I really started to reinvent myself and started referring to myself as Hef and changed my wardrobe and my manner and language.
And in the last year of high school, I was very active in extracurricular activities, became a student leader and wrote plays and edited the school paper and acted in plays and wrote songs. And went steady two times in my senior year. So I -- that was a fairly active time.
But it didn't include sexual intercourse. It included intimacy, but no sexual intercourse.
GROSS: Did you ever think back then, My name will be permanently linked to the pleasures of sex as a recreational activity?
HEFNER: Well, I couldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams, even when I began "Playboy," how my life would be changed and how my life would influence society. All of that would -- was inconceivable to me. But the fact that that has occurred is something with which I take a great deal of pride and pleasure.
GROSS: Now, you worked briefly, I think, at "Esquire" magazine before starting "Playboy." When you started "Playboy," what was the initial emphasis? What did you think this magazine was going to be about?
HEFNER: Well, it was -- men's magazines in the period immediately after World War Two were almost all outdoor oriented. They were connected to some extent in the bonding -- in the male bonding that came out of a war. And there was a great deal of emphasis on getting women back into the home. World War Two had brought them out into the workplace, and there was -- everything from the government to TV to -- there were powerful forces urging women to return to the home.
And, you know, the ideal kind of relationship, the togetherness that existed back then, was mother and children in the home, father the breadwinner. And spending time with other guys, you know, playing poker, bowling, hunting, fishing, things that had no real interest for me.
And what I tried to create was a magazine for the indoor guy, but focused specifically on the single life, in other words, the period of bachelorhood before you settle down. And that magazine, or that concept for a magazine, was a revelation.
GROSS: Were you a bachelor at the time?
HEFNER: I was coming out of a bad marriage.
GROSS: So you were already a father by then.
HEFNER: I accepted all of the perceptions related to a full and happy and moral life before I began "Playboy." I was as anxious to get out of college, actually doubled up because I was in the Army for two years during World War Two and felt as if I'd fallen behind. And I went to the University of Illinois after I got out of the Army in 1946, and in part because a girl that I had met right after I graduated from high school was there.
And doubled up my classes and finished college in two and a half years because I wanted to get on with my life and felt that I had fallen behind. And we married very -- almost immediately after I graduated. And so my expectations, even though I had no real game plan in terms of a job, my game plan was very typically conservative and typical of the time.
And like almost all of my peers, I got married immediately after school.
GROSS: How old were you when you lost your virginity? Was it before marriage?
HEFNER: No, as a matter of fact it was typical. I lost it with the girl that I was planning on marrying, and after about two and a half years of foreplay while we were in college, she was graduating, and we had sex shortly before we got married. We graduated -- we had sex right after -- at the same time that she graduated from college.
And I think that's typical. In other words, I had sex for the first time with the woman that I planned on marrying. The bad news is that she went off while I finished the last semester of college, and she went off to teach and promptly had an affair. And then confessed that affair a couple months later, and that was the single most devastating experience of my life.
GROSS: So you ended up not marrying this woman?
HEFNER: I went on and did marry that woman.
GROSS: Oh, in spite of the affair, the relationship stayed together.
HEFNER: Yes. I think my reaction was to -- far from being -- I think the notion of ending the relationship because that would have been unthinkable. But my reaction was actually almost the opposite, it was sort of like, you know, wanting to put my arms around her and protect her and -- but it was a devastating experience for me.
GROSS: Yes. So what did you find interesting or appealing about the bachelor lifestyle? When you started "Playboy," was your interest in bachelor lifestyle because you thought it would sell magazines, or was it a personal interest of yours that you wanted to pursue through the magazine?
HEFNER: It came from the heart from the beginning, not in terms of the fact that it was going to give me that kind of life. I mean, I don't think that anybody in that time frame thought in those kinds of ways. In other words, you don't start a magazine to live a good life or meet girls, because that isn't what traditionally, historically, magazine editing is all about.
But I created the magazine because it was a magazine that I thought that I would enjoy, and because I saw no other magazines in the marketplace that were there aimed specifically in a classy way to single life.
GROSS: The first issue of "Playboy" had a centerfold of the now-famous photo of a naked Marilyn Monroe. How did you get that?
HEFNER: Well, I was looking or some kind of a gimmick for the first issue, and the first thing I came up with, as a matter of fact, 3-D movies were very popular at the time, so I thought about actually putting a 3-D pictorial in the magazine. And we actually shot it, as a matter of fact. Then I discovered that putting those 3-D glasses in each issue would be very expensive, and something I couldn't afford.
And at the same time that I was going through that, I discovered that the already-famous Marilyn Monroe calendar picture, which nobody up to that time had seen, was owned by the John Baumgarth (ph) Calendar Company out on the West Side of Chicago, very close to where I grew up. So I got in my beat-up Chevy and drove out there and met with John Baumgarth and talked him into letting me publish it in the very first issue.
GROSS: How much did you have to pay for it?
HEFNER: Five hundred dollars.
GROSS: Oh, wow, gosh, nothing!
HEFNER: And he threw in the color separations. And the color separations would have cost me over $1,000 by themselves.
GROSS: Why did he give it to you so cheap?
HEFNER: Well, I think it was a very good and special day for me. I think that he saw in me perhaps a young entrepreneurial kid, some variation of himself at a younger time.
GROSS: What about Marilyn Monroe? What was her reaction when you published it? And did you need to get her permission? Did you ask for her permission?
HEFNER: Well, we didn't need her permission. The photos were shot by Tom Kelly, and those, in turn, or one of them, in turn, was sold to the calendar company. But it was her reaction, of course, that changed everything. And indeed I think was very key to her own successful career thereafter.
Her famous comment was, "I had nothing on but the radio." And that classic reaction, in that very repressive time -- because one must remember what -- how really conservative the '50s were, for a major star to appear in the altogether and to treat it in such a casual way, with humor, was a revelation and a very welcome one.
GROSS: My guest is Hugh Hefner. He edited the new book "The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution." We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is Hugh Hefner, and he edited and wrote the foreword for the new book, "The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution, 1900-1999."
What was your reaction when some feminists started to describe "Playboy" as exemplifying, you know, woman as sex object, woman as accessory, or the image that women's main function in the world is to give sexual pleasure to men?
HEFNER: Well, I think for a long time I didn't have the language to respond to those accusations, because, quite frankly, the women's movement, from my point of view, was part of the larger sexual revolution that "Playboy" had played such a large part in.
So I really felt as if it was an attack from the rear. The enemy, it seemed to me, prior to that was clearly the right wing, and, you know, Moral Majority and the puritan part of society. When it came from what was called the liberal left, specifically as a part of the women's movement, when the women's movement became antisexual, it was a very confusing time for me then. It isn't now.
GROSS: Don't you think that some of the feminists then and now who had certain objections to a certain type of men's magazine were actually -- that these were more actually pro-sex, but they thought that, you know, "Playboy" at the time and some other men's magazines had a kind of backwards idea of women, that sexuality was seen as something -- that women weren't seen as equals to men, either in bed or out of it?
HEFNER: Yes, and I think that that -- and, you know, and that point of view is understandable in the context of male-female relations historically. But the reality is that the major beneficiaries of the sexual revolution are women. It is women who have traditionally, historically been given nonhuman roles, perceived as simply the daughters of Eve, perceived as either madonna or whore.
And I think that it is the sexual revolution that is -- plays one part in female emancipation.
GROSS: But I think the emancipation came far beyond, you know, women being seen as, say, a sex toy. It became women to define their own sexuality, use it independently as they pleased, and also be equals in the workplace and at home and so on.
HEFNER: Yes. Yes, all of that. And the notion that simply because they are perceived in some quarters as sexual objects does not necessarily deny any of that. We are sexual objects. At our best, that's part of who we are. But it's only a part of who we are. We want to be attractive to members of the opposite sex.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Hugh Hefner, the founder of "Playboy" magazine. Now he's edited and written the foreword for a new book called "The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution, from 1900 to 1999."
Now, in the book, you're quoted as saying in 1960 you came out from behind the desk and started living the life that the magazine promoted. How did you come to see yourself as a man who could embody, you know, the Playboy lifestyle?
HEFNER: Well, I don't know that, quite frankly, that I thought of myself as the idealization of Mr. Playboy. But I was the guy who got the job. I think that the magazine was a projection of my own dreams and aspirations, and what made it successful, and indeed to some extent has made my life so remarkable, is the fact that it is also a projection of a great many other men's dreams and aspirations.
GROSS: What were those dreams? What did you want out of the bachelor life?
HEFNER: Well, I think on a personal level for me, it was a romantic pursuit of a kind of world that existed only in the classic songs of my youth, songs by Cole Porter and Gershwin, that impossible world that was in those lyrics. And I think that to some extent, all of that comes directly out of the fact that I was raised in a very repressive home, a home in which there was no expression of love of any kind.
We knew that -- my brother and I knew we were loved, but there was no demonstration of love, no hugging, no kissing. And therefore, for me, in a very real way, I disappeared into the movies. My dreams came out of the motion pictures of the 1930s and early 1940s, and I think that love, any kind of love, was by and large defined as romantic love, as you found it on the cinema -- on the silver screen.
GROSS: But there's the songs that you mentioned, like the classic songs by Cole Porter, and the movies of the '30s and '40s, they were about -- those romances were about sophistication and wordplay, but they really weren't about sex.
HEFNER: Well, I don't think any of this is really about sex, it's about romantic dreams. Sex is only a component of that.
GROSS: Well, I think people saw "Playboy" as being about sex.
HEFNER: Well, if it was only about sex, then those other more explicit specific explicit magazines would be the ones that were successful. I think that what has set "Playboy" apart from the beginning is the fact that it does represent something else. It's a lifestyle magazine that encompasses sex as one part of the total fabric of what it means to be a young man.
GROSS: The image of you as, you know, wearing your silk pajamas and the smoking jacket, does that come out of the movies of the '30s and '40s that you were talking about?
HEFNER: Probably on an unconscious level, but much of it was not really, you know, it was not really thought out. But I do think so. I think that in a very real way, and much of that is clearer to me today than it was at the time, I think that just as I reinvented myself when I was rejected in high school, I reinvented myself in the late '50s and early 1960s as Mr. Playboy, and the trappings went with it, the pipe, the 300-S.L., the mansion, the pajamas, the silk robe, they were all part of the same mystique.
It was like a grown-up version of an adolescent dream.
GROSS: Hugh Hefner edited and wrote the foreword to the new book "The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution." He'll be back in the second half of the show.
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Hugh Hefner, the founder and editor in chief of "Playboy" magazine. He edited and wrote the foreword to the new book "The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution."
I think it's in "The Century of Sex" that you're quoted as saying that you saw the Playboy Bunny as waitresses elevated to the level of Ziegfeld Follies girls. How did you come up with the concept of the Playboy Bunny? Was that yours?
HEFNER: Well, yes, because it was our trademark. In other words, the -- originally, the magazine was going to be called "Stag Party," and fortunately that title was changed at the very last minute because I got a cease and desist from the lawyer of "Stag" magazine that felt that it was an infringement.
HEFNER: And I was originally going to use a -- "New Yorker," "The New Yorker" and "Esquire" were the magazines that most influenced me related to the creation of "Playboy." Each of them had a male figure, Esquie (ph) and Eustace Tilley (ph), Eustace Tilley, the fellow with the lorgnette looking at the butterfly on the cover of "The New Yorker."
I wanted a male figure, but I figured that an animal would make more sense to separate myself from "Esquire" and "The New Yorker." So originally it was going to be a stag, and it was a stag right up to just weeks before publication. As a matter of fact, the illustration with that first introduction in that -- that I wrote for the very first issue was a stag, and at the very last minute, we simply had the cartoonist draw a rabbit's head and paste it on top of the stag. So if you look very closely at that picture, the first rabbit actually has a stag's hoofs.
So with the rabbit as our emblem, when we got to the point in 1960 of opening the first Playboy Club, my original notion was to have the girls called Playmates. But that would get a little confusing, because those are the centerfolds. So one of our executives suggested the possibility of a bunny costume. We tried it out, I made some modifications, added the cuffs and the bow tie and collar, and the bunny was born.
GROSS: I'm wondering, you know, when you started to, like, live in the Playboy mansion and to become a symbol to America of the adventures of the bachelor life, did you see yourself as a kind of role model for a kind of fantasy, and did you start building your life, you know, not just for your personal satisfaction but to kind of further that fantasy image, and to further that iconic image?
HEFNER: Well, I don't think much of it was unconscious. In other words, I -- you know, when I began -- when, in effect, I did step out from behind the desk and started living the life in the early 1960s, and moved into the first Playboy mansion in Chicago, it was done for personal reasons. But it was very obvious to me very quickly that it was having an impact on the company, and what we were doing.
Within the space of about six or eight months in the end of 19509 and the beginning of 1960, I started hosting a television show called "Playboy's Penthouse." I bought the Playboy mansion in Chicago, and we opened the first Playboy Club.
Well, all of that, in the most dramatic fashion, changed my life. And within a year, you know, I was very famous.
GROSS: Very famous. It strikes me that you're both -- that you're a real paradox, in a way. You're a very public and a very private person, very public in the sense that, you know, your mansion has had TV shows built around it, and you have these, you know, parties that you're famous for. On the other hand, you're -- I think you're a very private person in the sense that you rarely leave the mansion. I mean, I think you're known as a bit of a recluse in that respect.
So it's this sense of both public and private at the same time?
HEFNER: Very little private. The notion of recluse is largely created by the fact that I did spend much of my time, both in Chicago and Los Angeles, in the Playboy mansion, but it was not a private life. I simply brought the party to me rather than going out. It...
GROSS: Why not go out? What was the problem with going out?
HEFNER: Well, I simply had something -- I had something -- here at the Playboy mansion that was far richer and much more satisfying than anything I could find outside.
Now, all of that also has changed rather dramatically in the last two years. In other words, I came out of a 10-year relationship and an eight-and-a-half-year marriage at the beginning of last year, beginning of 1998. And in this last two years, I have indeed been out and about, going out regularly to the club scene here in Los Angeles, but also traveling to Europe. And we just came back, as a matter of fact, from a trip to the Breeders Cup in Miami last weekend.
GROSS: You were married twice, once, as you described it, right after college when, you know, people were supposed to just get married, and you described that as an unhappy relationship. Then you had what I think was a happier marriage for, as you said, eight and a half years. Did you want different things out of both marriages? Did you see marriage differently in each of those relationships?
HEFNER: Well, I found in both cases, quite frankly, certain concerns that are similar, and that is that in the quest for romantic love, at least in my won experience, marriage and romantic love are not the same thing. And priorities start to change, the focus of the relationship begins to change, and people begin to take one another for granted.
And there was a period in the last two or three years of this last marriage in which there was a great deal of pain. And I worked very hard at that marriage and tried very -- and was faithful to it throughout the 10 years, and tried very hard to make it work.
GROSS: Well, that line between marriage and romantic love, I think some people are, you know, perfectly happy to give up the romantic love aspect of it, that sense of the new, exciting adventure of a romantic relationship, and to trade that in for the constancy and depth of a long-term relationship, and I wonder about your thoughts on that.
HEFNER: My thoughts are that it is different with each person, but it is historically in our society, it's a little worse than that. The reality is, most of our romantic concepts end with "They lived happily ever after," but they never really deal with the ever after. Our great romantic myths are frequently the Romeo and Juliet sort of thing, where they both die.
And historically, the Old World perception in terms of romance and marriage is transferred after marriage. In other words, the lovers turn into husband and wife, and into parents, and then the husband takes a mistress, and the romantic love is then transferred from the marriage into a mistress or that -- another relationship of that kind. And I've always felt that that was part of the hypocrisy and the hurtful part of our traditional values.
GROSS: My guest is Hugh Hefner, founder and editor in chief of "Playboy" magazine. We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is Hugh Hefner. He edited the new book "The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution."
Well, now that you're single again, I've read you're involved with four women...
HEFNER: That's true.
GROSS: ... and two of them are twins.
HEFNER: That's true.
GROSS: They're 21, a third woman is 25, and the other is, I think, around 30?
HEFNER: No, the other's also 21. She's a classmate. The three -- the twins and the other girl, Jessica, are all college students.
GROSS: So you're about 52 years older than they are.
HEFNER: It's true.
GROSS: I -- you know, does that make you feel younger because you're with younger women, or older because you're so much older than they are?
HEFNER: It makes me feel much younger. It's a real revitalization process, the connection with younger people and with younger girlfriends, without question. Whether it's politically correct or not, definitely is a reconnection with youth. And I think at this stage of my life much of what I'm doing is kind of a recapturing of my own boyhood and my adolescent dreams.
And I have -- throughout most of my life, I've tried to stay connected as much as possible with the boy, the boy who dreamed those dreams is who I really am and always have been.
And age by and large is, for me, if you're healthy, is largely a number, it's just a point of view.
GROSS: Well, here's something I sometimes wonder about couples in which there's a really big age disparity between them, like, if you're 52 years older than the woman you're seeing, she -- in some ways she couldn't possibly be your equal because you've lived, you know, a long time, you've been very successful, you've amassed a fortune and published this world, you know, world-renowned magazine, whereas they're not even out of college yet.
So, you know, it would -- just, like, wouldn't be possible for them to function as your equal.
HEFNER: Is that of some importance?
GROSS: Well, if I was the woman in the relationship, it would be important to me. I mean...
HEFNER: Well, I think, quite frankly, that people are attracted to one another for a variety of reasons. And, you know, there's more than one kind of equality. In my relationships with women, with women that I'm seeing now, there's a very real equality in terms of, you know, who makes the decisions in the relationship and what we do and how we spend our time, et cetera.
But I would say that the relationships are more complementary than equal. Each of us brings something different to the relationship. I bring the experience and the years and the wisdom and whatever, and they bring a very special joy related to life that is not so sophisticated, not so cynical, and very refreshing.
GROSS: Let me know if this is too personal, but when you have a relationship with a woman, how much of that relationship is solely about sex, and how much of it is about -- you know, a relationship about other things, sharing things in common, having, you know, intellectual interests to talk about, or experiences to share and so on?
HEFNER: I don't think that you can have a good relationship with a woman if it isn't primarily connected to common interests. If you don't really like the person, sex isn't going to hold it together.
GROSS: A lot of people would assume that the reason why your current lovers are so much younger is because they're so sexually attractive to you because of their youth.
HEFNER: True. But it is, as I said, something beyond simply sex. In other words, there's a romantic connection that has to do with my own childhood. I think that being a dreamer, a lot of my relationships are projections of dreams and needs and yearnings that come right out of childhood. And I'm sure a lot them come from those movies.
HEFNER: And I stay very much connected to those dreams. And I have attempted in the last few years to reconnect as much as possible with the boy, and including, as a matter of fact, a lot of revisiting the films of my youth. And a lot of my friends now are people of whatever age who share those kind of boyhood joyous views on life.
GROSS: What about the wisdom of the man, though?
HEFNER: What's that?
GROSS: What about the wisdom of the man who's lived 73 years?
HEFNER: This is the wisdom of the man.
GROSS: To go back to the boy.
HEFNER: You betcha.
GROSS: Now, you have four girlfriends. Do you go places, the five of you?
GROSS: And they're OK with that?
HEFNER: Oh, yes. Yes, well, I think the thing that's remarkable about it is that, because certainly there was a point in time in the '60s, '70s, and early '80s, in which I dated many women, and frequently more than one at a time. But what is unique about this is that indeed, it's like a little family. We really are very, very close. And they love it, and that may be a little -- you know, it's obviously unorthodox, maybe a little difficult to explain.
I suppose one could find some parallel to it, maybe, in Utah, with multiple wives with, you know, with the Mormons. But it really isn't like that. It's just a very special time of life.
GROSS: Do you ever worry or feel insecure that maybe they're OK with that because they don't love you in the kind of way where it would matter to them if they were monogamous to you?
HEFNER: I think one would wonder that in any case. I think that, you know, one could argue, quite frankly, that having more than one girlfriend is a form of security. I don't think it's the major motivation, but it forms a kind of security that minimizes the danger of not being loved or being left.
GROSS: What (inaudible) for them, though?
HEFNER: Well, I think that what -- now, this is the part that's difficult to explain. I think that they are, quite unexpectedly, much happier in this relationship because of the interconnectionship and friendship with the other girls that would not be there in another romantic relationship. Girls do enjoy, and these particular girls are very close friends, and as I said, two of them are twin sisters, and one of them, the other one, grew up with them from early childhood.
So the fact that we're able to do these things together is actually a lot of fun for them as well.
GROSS: Do they have other lovers, in the same way that you do?
HEFNER: I don't have other lovers, and neither do they.
GROSS: Well, you have other -- I mean, you have four of them. Do any of the women who are your girlfriends have other male or female lovers of their own?
HEFNER: I am their boyfriend, and they are my girlfriend.
HEFNER: I understand it's unorthodox, but that's the way of things.
GROSS: Well, seems a little unbalanced too that you have the liberty of having several and they don't.
HEFNER: Well, obviously they could if they wanted to.
GROSS: Would you put up with that?
HEFNER: Probably not.
GROSS: Well, then -- (laughs)
HEFNER: Well, I -- but don't misunderstand me. I don't really mean that. In other words, have I and would I date somebody who was also seeing other men? Of course I would. I mean, that was commonplace, and that's more the way of things. That's the way it was before this relationship began. What happened here is quite unique, and we all kind of bonded together, and, you know, one hopes it will last, but, you know, we will see.
But let's say this. The last year has been really quite wonderful.
GROSS: You've said in print and recently on television that you use Viagra. Do you see that as, like, a recreational drug?
HEFNER: Well, I see it as more than what Pfizer is promoting it as. Of necessity, they are promoting it as -- you know, its first and primary function, which is an impotence drug. But, yes, it is a good deal more. And or good reason, you know, Pfizer doesn't tend to promote it that way. But I have said that it, you know, it is a good deal more, because it breaks down the boundaries, at whatever age, it breaks down the boundaries between reality and fantasy.
GROSS: You know, it's funny, I was going through some old articles about you, and there was an article in "Time" magazine from February 14, 1964, that had the headline, "Hugh Hefner Faces Middle Age."
GROSS: And so do you feel like you've spent a lot of your life trying to, like, lick the idea that you're growing old?
HEFNER: Well, I think that I've managed to spend the second half of my life successfully avoiding growing old. I think that all of us have to deal with the reality of our mortality, and I'm doing a little better job than most.
GROSS: Now, I always wonder this about men who have -- who always seem to choose younger lovers. What would be -- what would make you feel not comfortable about having a lover who was your age, or even 20 years younger, say 53?
HEFNER: Well, I don't really know how to respond to that. I don't think I'd be uncomfortable with it. I think one is attracted to whoever they are attracted to. Quite frankly, you know, the age of women that I'm attracted to has never changed. It's simply that over the years, I've grown older.
But this can't be separated entirely from the fact that I'm in a very unique situation. My life is filled with, because of the magazine, is filled with young women of a certain age, and, you know, and they are the stuff that dreams are made of, and very much related, I'm sure, to those images of women that influenced me when I was young.
GROSS: Forgive me for asking this, but I know it's the kind of thing a lot of people wonder. Do you think that your girlfriends who are in their 20s are -- do you think that what they find most attractive is, you know, your body or your fame and money and image?
HEFNER: I think they're most attracted to me because who I am.
GROSS: The whole package.
HEFNER: I think that, you know, it's kind of like, you know -- you know, some of it obviously has to do with money and power, but most of it, I think, has to do with the fame. I think it's an attraction to who I am. And I don't have any problem with that, because I spent a lot of time becoming who I am.
GROSS: Right. Describe what you think people imagine goes on at the Playboy mansion with what actually goes on at the Playboy mansion.
HEFNER: Well, I think most of the fantasies related to the Playboy mansion are accurate. I think the thing that's missing, quite frankly, both in terms of a projection, in terms of my life, and also in terms of the Playboy mansion, is the lack of awareness of the amount of love and friendship that exists here.
That's the part that's very difficult to perceive or really believe, because there's a great need, I think, in our society to project -- and "Playboy" evokes that, and my life evokes that -- project a lot of one's own fantasies and prejudices onto "Playboy" and onto me.
GROSS: My guest is Hugh Hefner, founder and editor in chief of "Playboy" magazine. We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is Hugh Hefner. He edited the new book "The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution."
I'm wondering how sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS in particular have affected your sex life and, you know, if you started practicing safe sex and things like that. And let me know if I'm asking things that are too personal.
HEFNER: No, no, no, that's all right. Well, I've never had a great problem in that area, and I think that has to do with understanding the nature of how these diseases are communicated, and who you spend your time with. Certainly in terms of HIV, if one understands how the disease is transmitted and, you know, in America, it is not a disease that -- well, once again, this is not very politically correct. It is not a disease that is transmitted, by and large, from the female to the male, and is, you know, mostly related to homosexual contacts and drug use.
But also, if you, you know, if you limit your sexual contacts to, you know, whether it is one or whether it is four or five, to the same group of people, you're obviously not in what you'd call in a great risk.
GROSS: So can I conclude, then, that you don't practice safe sex, you just try to choose your partners?
HEFNER: Yes, I think you can say that. Yes, although I think that's part of safe sex.
GROSS: No condoms.
GROSS: You are speaking to us now from the Playboy mansion, where you life. Would you describe the room that you're in?
HEFNER: Well, we're in the library, and the library is -- the Playboy mansion is English Tudor. We're in a wood-paneled library with leaden -- leaded windows. It looks very English, and a lot of books on the shelves, and pictures of my family, and directly in front of me are bound volumes of all the issues of "Playboy" going back to the number, my first issue.
GROSS: Are you wearing silk pajamas and a smoking jacket?
HEFNER: I certainly am.
GROSS: You really are?
HEFNER: I am.
GROSS: (laughs) What do you like about wearing that?
HEFNER: Very comfortable. (laughs) I started wearing pajamas on a regular basis when I discovered I could get away with it.
GROSS: It's like the language of the clothes is, you know, well, you couldn't possibly wear this to work or in a corporate environment, and it's the clothes that say...
HEFNER: You're free.
GROSS: ... bedtime and, you know, right before sex or right after sex. And, like, you're free, you're at home, you're in your own...
GROSS: ... in your own place.
HEFNER: That's it. And that's why my life is much more than just sex, and the message about my life is much more than sex. It has to do with freedom. I don't live in the corporate world, I don't live in somebody else's world.
GROSS: Did you ever work in the "Playboy" offices, or did you always work outside of that?
HEFNER: No, no, I did -- I lived and had my own offices and actually had a small apartment in those offices. And it was -- and the magazine began in 1953, and in early 1954, we got our own offices. But I got the mansion at the beginning of 1960 precisely so that it would draw me away part of the time from the office and give me some escape from the office. And very quickly, of course, I escaped into the mansion and stopped returning.
GROSS: Right. What did your puritan parents think when you started publishing "Playboy"?
HEFNER: Well, they were very proud of their son, but not through the magazine. But it must be said that my father very quickly, because he's a certified public accountant, my father came to work for me fairly early on, and became our accountant and then our treasurer. So he was there to keep the books and make sure that everything was straight in the accounting office.
My mother was one of those -- not because she believed in the magazine but because she believed in her son -- who actually gave me $1,000 before I published the first issue. And so my parents became very, very wealthy, and -- as a result of that original investment, and were able to live out their later years in a very nice way, and that was very satisfactory for me.
My mother passed away just three years ago at the age of 101.
HEFNER: Good genes.
GROSS: Yes, really.
Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.
HEFNER: It is my pleasure.
GROSS: Hugh Hefner edited the new book "The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution."
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Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Hugh Hefner
High: The founder and editor-in-chief of "Playboy" magazine, Hugh Hefner, wrote the forward and edited the new book, "The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution 1900-1999," by James R. Peterson, who wrote and edited the "Playboy Advisor" sex-advice column.
Spec: Entertainment; Sexuality; Hugh Hefner; "Playboy"
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Hugh Hefner on "The Century of Sex"
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