Hefner finds happiness, redefines 'sin' at mansion


September 28, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

LOS ANGELES -- He comes out of the mansion wearing purple pajamas and a black velvet smoking jacket.

It is about one in the afternoon and so Hugh Hefner has been awake about an hour.

Hugh Hefner likes to get up late. He likes to go around all day in his pj's drinking Pepsi-Cola out of bottles and cans.

There are many self-made men in American life. But almost all of them bow to some convention or other:

Ross Perot may disdain the snooty ways of the rich, but he dresses in blue pinstripe suits identical to those of a banker.

Lee Iacocca may have reached success on his own terms, but he gets up early in the morning and goes off to the office with a shine on his shoes.

Hugh Hefner hangs around the house and wears velvet slippers.

Now, he sits down at a table on his patio and quotes a line of F. Scott Fitzgerald to me: "So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end."

One could point out that the inventions of a 17-year-old are not what an adult should aspire to. And one could also point out that Jay Gatsby is not an entirely admirable character, nor does he come to a good end.

But that is not the point. The point is that both the real Hefner and the fictional Gatsby knew from an early age about dreams and making dreams come true.

And that, to Hefner, is the only point.

We are outside Hefner's 26-room Tudor Gothic home known as the Playboy Mansion West. The Chicago Playboy Mansion no longer exists by that name, Hef having given it to charity years ago. In 1985, he went back to visit and took a look at the downstairs bar, the one with portholes through which one used to see topless Bunnies swimming in the pool.

"This," Hefner said, "looks like a tacky Polynesian restaurant."

Now, Hefner is having lunch: chocolate milk and six pieces of toast smeared with jelly. Behind him a screeching peacock walks across the five-acre lawn. The screech is answered by a spider monkey. Flamingos stand in the shade of towering trees. Gigantic koi splash in the pond.

The secluded part of the flagstoned swimming pool, the part underneath the waterfall and known as the Woo Grotto, still exists, but one more expects to find rubber duckies than orgies there these days.

As one drives up to the mansion there are yellow caution signs that say: "Children At Play." And everywhere there are wagons and fire engines and other toys.

As I begin to interview Hefner, a voice calls out behind us: "There's Daddy!"

It is Kimberley Conrad, 30, who was Miss January 1988 and became Mrs. Hefner in July 1989. She is carrying a sleepy Cooper Bradford Hefner in her arms. He is 1 year old and has just been to the doctor for a shot.

Marston Glenn Hefner, 2, bounces along beside them doing a pretty good imitation of the screeching peacock. At his fifth or sixth screech, Kimberley sighs. "The Terrible Twos," she says.

Hefner has left his seat and kissed his wife and children. He cups his hand and gently strokes the back of Cooper's sleepy head.

After exchanging some domestic chitchat with Hef, Kimberley takes the children back into the house. Hefner's eyes follow them.

"A lot of my life," he says, "has been a quest for love."

And that is because Hugh Hefner has never, ever been a playboy. He has always been a hopeless romantic. He has always been the All American Boy looking for the All American Girl. Object: The All American Family.

"In my entire life," he says, "I could not have imagined such happiness and fulfillment in this very traditional way. I cannot express the magic these two children have brought to my life."

This is Hugh Hefner? But what about sex? What about sin? What about all them naked women?

The servant brings a plate bearing a piece of apple cake with white frosting and a large dollop of whip cream and sets it down before Hefner.

He picks up a fork.

"This," Hefner says, "is what passes for sin at the Playboy Mansion West these days."

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