George Will

The magazine, the mere mention of which used to produce pursings of lips and sharp intakes of breaths, is still Hefner's preoccupation, but has been overtaken by the libertarian revolution he helped to foment. In 1953 Playboy magazine was pushing the parameters of the permissible, but it is hard to remain iconoclastic when standing waist-deep in the shards of smashed icons.

Born to ``puritanical'' (Hefner's words) parents in Chicago, city of broad shoulders, Hefner founded an empire based on breasts. What is it about that protean city? Chicagoan Ray Kroc, entrepreneur of McDonald's, did his Army training with Chicagoan Walt Disney--two prodigies of mass marketing, the creator of the Big Mac and the creator of Mickey Mouse, in the same Army unit.

Then Chicago produced the Henry Luce of the skin game--Hef, as everyone, including his daughter, calls him. The Chicago boy recalls that the Sears Roebuck mail order catalogue--another Chicago innovation--was called ``a dream book'' because it brought ``the dream of urbanity to rural communities. Playboy, for young, single men, is a variation of this.''

Recently, dressed in his black pajamas and merlot-colored smoking jacket--it was 1 p.m.--he looked a bit tuckered, but he had been living what Teddy Roosevelt called ``the strenuous life,'' although not as TR envisioned it. Hefner's recent 77th birthday party had rambled on for more than a week, during which he took to dinner--simultaneously--the seven ladies he is currently dating. As F. Scott Fitzgerald, writing of Jay Gatsby, suggested, ``personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.''

An 11th-generation descendant of William Bradford, who arrived on the Mayflower to begin a religious errand in the wilderness, Hefner says, ``In a real sense we live in a Playboy world.'' He lives here in a 30-room mock-Tudor mansion that sits on six acres of posh Holmby Hills decorated with wandering peacocks, among other fauna.

He says, ``I grew up in the Depression and World War II and I looked back to the roaring Twenties and I thought I'd missed the party.'' The party turned out to be a moveable feast.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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