Friday, April 06, 2007

Hef on Anna Nicole Smith

Hugh Hefner is slowing down. At 81, it’s taken two months for him to get into the Anna Nicole Smith act by announcing, “I am not the father of the child” to promote upcoming tributes to her in Playboy, the magazine, TV show and web site.

The Hef of old would have been leading the pack, but time takes its toll. I prefer to think of him in his prime.

In 1969, I was being courted to succeed Hefner as editor of the magazine. At lunch, the publisher, his oldest friend, was talking about perpetual parties and a seldom-used but always available 727 and, at the same time, probing to see if I too might go hog wild over such amenities.

It is an out-of-body experience. I am listening and nodding, while an inner voice is questioning my sanity. Am I toying with the idea of putting myself, against all evidence of my nature and experience, into an X-rated world?

Over coffee, the publisher suggests dinner with Hef. “He’s going to fall in love with you and offer you the job on the spot,” he says, then hesitates. “If he does, what will you say?”

Toying can only go so far. I answer honestly: “I don’t know."

He seems unnerved. “Unless you’re sure you’ll say yes, I can’t take you to meet him.”

So it’s settled. But I feel entitled to a small indulgence. “Does it work this way,” I ask, “with women, too?"

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