As I write this, it overwhelms me to think that in not too far of the future, I too would have the teams of editors sitting around the dining table or the outdoor picnic bench of my Evanston house, and I too would be flipping through pages of several issues piled high on the dining table, to make a point.  And telling them what it would take for them to take on a product as personal as Playboy.   And that someday, I would pen the messages to the readers of every new edition, that would appear on the opening pages of their premier issues, signed: Hugh M. Hefner

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I return to the Mansion five days later, on October 12, with the Japanese team comprising of Messers. Shimaji, Yokuhama and Sasaki. We are there to interview Hefner for the Japanese edition. We sit in his smallish library, decorated in the subdued English ambiance. While the bust of Barbi Benton stares down at us from its perch, we get our wish as we see him shuffling down the stairs in his silk pajamas. He seems more at ease in his usual attire. He is friendly, mild mannered and soft spoken, warm and welcoming. The interview begins and it takes more than twice as long because Mr. Shimaji, like most Japanese editors, speaks only perfunctory English and the conversation has to be translated back and forth. We are given an hour, but it stretches into an hour and a half and perhaps more. He ignores the nudging from whoever is in charge of his agenda. Its cara-a-cara between the two editors and he gives his fellow editor his due respect. Through the interview, he downs cans and cans of Pepsi from the mini refrigerator across the room, stocked to the brim with nothing else but cans of Pepsi.  He saunters back and forth to get another can and yet another, and excuses himself a couple of times to go to the bathroom. There is nothing that Shimaji asks that is new. By then the man has lived such a public life that there is not much left to reveal, if anything.

Except little snippet like this: As early on as the early Seventies, he didn’t just have a phone installed in his limo, but as Bob (Gutwilig) tells it, once when they were riding together, Hefner signals him to pick up the ringing phone, to tell the caller, ‘can you please hold, Mr. Hefner is on the other line.’ Now that’s what I call a class. But other than that, as he has often said: My life is an open book. With illustrations.

© Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

Other Face to Face Stories

FACE TO FACE WITH GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

FACE TO FACE WITH JAN CREMER

Next Friday, July 26, 2013

BOYS’ NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN WITH PLAYMATES

Twelve of our Japanese readers won a trip to Los Angeles and Chicago that included a tour of the Playboy Mansion and the Dodger’s game in Los Angeles. A visit to Playboy’s  headquarters in Chicago and dinners at Playboy Club and at a Jazz Restaurant with the director of Playboy International Publishing – that’s moi, accompanied by two Playmates, Susi Schott (August 1984) and Carole Ficatier, (December 1985) A true kids in the candy store experience.

 

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