When he first started publishing Playboy in December of 1953 at the age of 27, and was putting together his magazine on the kitchen table of his apartment on the University of Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park, he aspired to the lifestyle of,  if not famous, certainly well to do, who in his imagination occupied the penthouse apartments in the highrises that lined North Shore Drive of the city. Just like I had aspired to be living in a similar flat on Bombay’s Marine Drive, famously known as the Queen’s Necklace. He aspired to living a life of an affluent young man about town  showing up at the “in” spots of the city with an enviously pretty thing hanging on his arm. One of those “in” spots was the Gaslight Club, established also in 1953, which inspired Hefner to open Playboy Club scant seven years later, also in what is now known as River North neighborhood.

Not only that, the way Playboy sky rocketed to an unprecedented heights that even surpassed his wildest dreams,  he never got to live on the umpteenth  floor of any of the skyscrapers he dreamed about but went way beyond by bringing the whatever good life was happening up above, down to the ground level when he bought a 70 room classical French brick and limestone mansion at 1340 State Street in the exclusive Gold Coast of Chicago – only a stone’s throw away from those tall and the glittering dwellings and at the intersection of the trendy Division, State and Rush streets where Chicago’s thriving night life overlapped. Just a short stroll away were Chez Paul and Biggs, the two of Chicago’s most elegant restaurants of the time and Ricardo’s,  where Chicago Sun Times and Chicago Tribune gang hung out.  As it turns out, he didn’t even have to take those walks. He brought everyone and everything he desired within the confines of his famed Chicago mansion. Complete with underwater bar and firemen’s pole to slide down to the swimming pool down below the main floor.

I could probably see myself being aspired to something to that extent. But beyond?

Not even his most ardent imitators such as Bob Guccione of Penthouse, Daniel Filipacchi of Lui (Oui in the US, published by Playboy under cross licensing agreement in which Filipacchi published the French edition of Playboy) or even Larry Flynt of Hustler aspired to imitate his lifestyle. They emulated Hefner to an extent and then stopped. None of them went as far as to buy a private jet. Serial marriages yes, but Guccione stayed true to Kathy Keeton and Flynt to Althea Leasure till death did indeed  them part. Filipacchi never even married.  And  most importantly, none of them retreated inside the confines of their habitats.

Their publications never became impersonation of themselves as did Playboy. So much so that the mere mention of the name Playboy conjures up an instant image of Hugh M. Hefner. His Playmates and his Bunnies, his silk pajamas and robes, his ubiquitous pipe and his private jet and his clubs, and of course his mansions. Did I ever envy his world? Did anyone at Playboy?  God NO! Not even the men who worked closest to him. They all lead what can easily be termed as normal American lives with wives and kids, houses with white picket fences in the suburbs, SUVs, dogs and all.

If you are thinking of us Playboy-ites to be submerged in the underground swimming pool of the Chicago mansion or the Grotto of the Los Angeles estate, frolicking with the most beautiful and desired naked women swarming all over us – you will be absolutely and horrifyingly disappointed, shaking your head in utter disbelief. As did then seven year old Graham (Miller), Anjuli’s littlie cousin from Minnesota.  Carolyn’s sister LeAnne was visiting Chicago with her younger son and they all stopped at my office in Playboy Building. While they sat down to visit for a while, Graham jumps off his chair and promptly runs out the door and I hear him run up the corridor. I could sense his running up and down the passage and then returning back to my office, slowed down, looking disappointed and shaking his head in disbelief. Even before anyone could ask him where he ran off to, he just blurts out: There are no naked ladies! I don’t even have any juicy Christmas party stories of “squeezed together in the closet” to tell – a la Playboy cartoons in its holiday issues.

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