Five minutes with Hugh Hefner inside the Playboy mansion

July 30, 2010

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.

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for a portrait at his Playboy mansion in Los Angeles, California, July 27, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

“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.

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for a portrait at his Playboy mansion in Los Angeles, California, July 27, 2010.   REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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.

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for a portrait at his Playboy mansion in Los Angeles, California, July 27, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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.

4 comments

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Aloha Lucy,

Cool portraits. I’m curious how did you light these photos? All natural, or did you bring some speedlights with you?

Posted by kentnish | Report as abusive

The portraits were lit with window light.

Posted by Lucy_Nicholson | Report as abusive

nice work under tough conditions. that leopard setup sounded cool. love the use of the chess pieces – pawn king! shame he seems to only have the one smirky expression.

Posted by Jamiedw | Report as abusive

Cool Portait, whether you used spot metering for the reading.

Posted by SHIVPHOTOS | Report as abusive