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. β€œHef 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

β€œPlaymates 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.