Five minutes with Hugh Hefner inside the Playboy mansion
The Playboy mansion was hidden behind huge gates and a thick hedge on the hilly roads below Sunset Boulevard.
Two men ogled for a closer view outside and one pointed his camera towards the gate. I drove up the winding driveway and a voice from a speaker hidden in a rock asked what I wanted.
Hugh Hefner, of course. I was promised five minutes to photograph the playboy of all playboys. “Hef gets impatient when having his photo taken,” his publicist said. The fans stepped back as the gates parted.
“Playmates at Play,” cautioned a yellow road sign. But there were no Playboy bunnies frolicking on the grounds — only an army of gardeners and a few strutting peacocks and parrots.
The gothic-tudor building looked like an English country house, with various coats of arms decorating stained glass windows.
The options for the photo shoot were the lobby and a screening room. “Hef isn’t photographed outside,” the publicist said, catching my glance out of the window.
Reuters Entertainment Editor Bob Tourtellotte was escorted into another room for his interview and I followed.
A life-size porcelain leopard sat stretched out in beautiful light next to an Eames lounge chair and Ottoman. Vintage Playboy magazines lined bookshelves behind the chair. It seemed perfect until the publicist said Hefner’s bad back prevented him from sitting in such a low chair.
I chose two other locations – one at the bottom of the grand staircase and the other in a chair next to a chess set – and waited for the Playboy king.
A photo of Hefner posing in prayer with three women dressed as nuns sat on the piano; a Picasso hung from the wall. He once joked: “Picasso had his blue period, I’m in my blonde period.”
The 84-year-old slowly made his way downstairs, wearing his trademark silk burgundy bathrobe. I introduced myself loudly because I’d been warned he was hard of hearing. He had a friendly smile, was polite and seemed at ease in front of the camera. He was short so I positioned him on the first step and took a few frames.
A few frames later it was over and he was off to the interview. I was handed a bottle of Playboy water and shown out through the back gate. It felt more like a choreographed visit to an elderly relative, than a glimpse of an orgy den.