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Mr. Playboy


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* Just past the round rotating bed, beyond the hot-tub grotto but before the pajama-draped walk-in, lies ... what? If we're to believe this book, it's the Truth about Hugh Hefner--and, by proxy, about American life since the 1950s. Of course, the larger legacy of Playboy has been considered long and well (in these pages a couple of years ago, and elsewhere). But Watts, a history professor prone to interpreting American Dreamers (he has written stellar works on Henry Ford and Walt Disney), is wise to draw a narrow bead on Hef qua Hef, dividing his life into tidy quadrants of postwar influence and iconography: as sexual liberator, avatar of consumerism, pop-culture purveyor, lightning rod for feminist ire. He also succeeds in identifying and exploring raging personal paradoxes--hedonist and workaholic, libertine and romantic, provocateur and traditionalist--while resisting the urge to attempt reconciliation. The Horatio-Alger-with-a-libido case he makes--where else but in America could a repressed midwestern boy rise, and fall into so many sacks, while creating and brand-managing a multimedia empire?--is only intermittently convincing. Still, there's plenty to enjoy here, from the factual wealth (Watts was granted access to the vast Playboy vaults and draws heavily on his subject's compulsively kept scrapbook collection) to the photographs aplenty (some offer revelatory glimpses; others give off the whiff of stale cheesecake) to the fundamental pleasures of watching a larger-than-life figure scuttle social norms and satisfy his own lavish urges. (The Atlantic, March 2009)

Riveting... Watts packs in plenty of gasp-inducing passages. (Newark Star Ledger)Like it or not, Hugh Hefner has affected all of us, so I treasured learning about how and why in the sober biography. (Chicago Sun Times)This is a fun book. How could it not be? Watts aims to give a full account of the man, his magazine and their place in social history. Playboy is no longer the cultural force it used to be, but it made a stamp on society. (Associated Press)In Steven Watts' exhaustive, illuminating biography Mr. Playboy, Hefner's ideal for living -- marked by his allegiances to Tarzan, Freud, Pepsi-Cola and jazz -- proves to be a kind of gloss on the Protestant work ethic. (Los Angeles Times)When Hugh Hefner quit his job at Esquire to start a magazine called Playboy, he didn't just want to make money. He wanted to make dreams come true. The first issue of Playboy had a Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an article on the Dorsey brothers, and a feature on desk design for the modern office, called Gentlemen, Be Seated. Hefner wrote much of the copy himself and drew all the cartoons. But the most memorable part by far was the set of pictures he bought from a local calendar printer of a scantily clad Marilyn Monroe.
In this wise and penetrating biography, intellectual historian Steven Watts looks at what Hugh Hefner went onto become, and how he took America with him. Hefner became one of the most hated and envied celebrities in America, dating a long list of his magazine's beauties and always standing just barely on the wrong side of decency and moral uprightness. He also, at one time, had 7 million subscribers to his magazine. Though in time he would lose readers to more explicit magazines on one side and lad magazines on the other, the Playboy brand never lost its luster....highly-readable and thought-provoking biography written by academic historian, Stephen Watts (Desire, November 2008)Hugh Hefner started Playboy magazine in 1953 using purchased photos of Marilyn Monroe, and including the article Miss Gold Digger 1953 about women who manipulate the legal system for alimony. Hefner positioned th

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