Gorgeous young women in revealing poses; extravagant mansion parties packed with celebrities; a hot-tub grotto, elegant smoking jackets, and round rotating beds; the hedonistic pursuit of uninhibited sex—put these images together and a single name springs to mind: Hugh Hefner. From his spectacular launch of Playboy magazine and the dizzying expansion of his leisure empire to his recent television hit The Girls Next Door, the publisher has attracted public attention and controversy for decades. But how did a man who is at once socially astute and morally unconventional, part Bill Gates and part Casanova, also evolve into a figure at the forefront of cultural change?
In Mr. Playboy, historian and biographer Steven Watts argues that, in the process of becoming fabulously wealthy and famous, Hefner has profoundly altered American life and values. Granted unprecedented access to the man and his enterprise, Watts traces Hef’s life and career from his Midwestern, Methodist upbringing and the first publication of Playboy in 1953 through the turbulent sixties, self-indulgent seventies, reactionary eighties, and traditionalist nineties up to the present. He reveals that from the beginning Hefner believed he could overturn social norms and take America with him.
Throughout this fascinating biography, Watts offers singular insights into the real man behind the flamboyant public persona. He shows Hefner’s personal dichotomies—the pleasure seeker and the workaholic, the consort of countless Playmates and the genuine romantic, the family man and the Gatsby-like host of lavish parties at his Chicago and Los Angeles mansions who enjoys well-publicized affairs with numerous Playmates, the fan of life’s simple pleasures who hobnobs with the Hollywood elite. Punctuated with descriptions and anecdotes of life at the Playboy Mansions, Mr. Playboy tells the compelling and uniquely American story of how one person with a provocative idea, a finger on the pulse of popular opinion, and a passion for his work altered the course of modern history.