Bunny Tales, by Izabella St. James



Real name: Izabella Katarina Kasprzyk

Nickname: Bella

Date of Birth: September 25, 1975

Birthplace: Kraków, Poland

Height: 1,70 or 5’ 7”

Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Juris Doctor degree from Pepperdine University School of Law, Malibu, California

Speaks Polish, Spanish and conversational French






July 19, 2009

Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion by Izabella St James

The Sunday Times review by Camilla Long: a deliciously bitchy memoir by one of Hugh Hefner's former "Girlfriends" about her two-year stint in Hef's mock-Tudor ‘bunny hutch


Bunny Tales by Izabella St James
Perseus pp256

ISBN: 978-0-7624-3230-1


If you have ever wondered (and I can understand if you haven’t) what it’s like to sleep with a fading septuagenarian playboy, then Izabella St James’s blow-by-blow account of her two-year stint as one of Hugh Hefner’s seven “Girlfriends” is a riveting read. Now 33 and a jobbing actress/model, the Polish-born St James (not, of course, her real name) cuts crisply through the bunny fluff to deliver, with Slavic bluntness, a deliciously bitchy memoir of her time behind closed doors at the Playboy mansion.

Arriving in California from Canada to study law (“a straight-A student…a good Catholic girl” — albeit with Pamela Anderson hair and an eye-watering rack), St James quickly bonds with a fellow student, Vivian, over not the finer points of tort but “our blondeness, our boobs”. As it turns out, Vivian knows just the chap who’d like this sort of conversation: Hugh Hefner. An invitation to the mansion, a manicured mock-Tudor bunny hutch in the LA Hills, follows, and after a bit of soul-searching (by “a bit” I mean none), St James is seduced into abandoning her degree and becoming one of his Girlfriends.

Not to be confused with Playboy Playmates (the magazine’s centrefolds), the posse of Barbie blondes that Hef cruises around with are largely a shrewd publicity stunt he started in 1998 after he divorced his second wife. Like the Bunny Girls before them, the Girlfriends are now an institution; today, the three remaining ones have their own reality show, The Girls Next Door. Back in 2002, however, there were seven of them, all living, dorm-like, in Hefner’s crumbling mansion. In return for board, lodging, $1,000 a week pocket money and a hugely raised profile, the girls were simply required to look good and party.

And, occasionally, “put out”. “The walls were greased with sex,” writes St James. Wednesdays and Fridays were “sex nights”: dinner and drinks on the town would conclude with Hef slipping his first Viagra, then they’d all belt back to the mansion as fast as possible so that he had time to perform in an “orgy” (a supremely clinical and courtly charade). Generally, but I’m not sure I believe this, St James says she would try to keep her “panties” on (the signal, FYI, that you are not up for it), and instead watch the porn playing on big screens, or (Hef’s favourite) the other girls making out. He would have sex with up to four of them in a row, she reveals, then there’d be a short pause, a wipe-down, more Viagra, and then…well, let’s just say the quote of the book has to be “God damn it… WOW.”

Hefner himself comes across as a befuddled old perv stuck in a bizarre approximation of the 1970s. He’s half-deaf and spits when he talks; in one scene she describes him shuffling around, Ozzy Osbourne-like, picking up dog excrement. He just about keeps the Girlfriends in line with handouts; they, conversely, spend most of their time attempting to tryst with celebrities and the staff. The set-up is so disingenuous that one of the Girlfriends turns out to be married with an 11-year-old. But St James admires Hefner’s legacy and his business acumen and, in a vague attempt to explain why she had sex with him, without mentioning the word “dollar”, she confesses, “there were many times when I had real feelings towards him”.

There is, oddly, more to this book than sex. The author’s princessy tone and odious high opinion of herself make for some unwittingly brilliant scenes. She is at pains to cast herself as the group’s “intellectual” — with hilarious consequences, for example, when she describes the Girlfriends’ deal with Hefner in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Still, she’s not dumb. Her writing is perfectly decent and her thinly veiled disdain for some of the Girlfriends is the purest poison-drenched candy: “‘We are family,’ Hef used to say. I would mutter under my breath, ‘I have no trailer trash in my family.’” She describes the spiky infighting with fabulous hauteur. “I once asked her who did her veneers,” she says of a fellow Bunny, “and she screamed that her teeth were perfect and real. When later one of her veneers cracked, I thought she was going to die of embarrassment. She seemed to me to be a helpless girl, with no skills other than modelling — [she] wanted Hef to buy her a computer, but didn’t know how to turn one on.”

Although she is happy to describe at length the others’ physical shortcomings and thirst for money, her own base motivations are, in true Hollywood style, glossed over. Perhaps it is damage limitation: she leaves the mansion under a cloud, seen off by another Girlfriend. Her reputation in tatters, and having survived a bout of skin cancer from the Playboy sunbed, she wants to tell her side of the story. She puts her case expertly and, I’m sure, better than the others could. Mean Girls, eat your heart out.






Lynn Barber steps inside Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion with the former Bunny Girl Izabella St James


By Lynn Barber


04 Aug 2009


Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion by Izabella St James

253pp, Perseus,


Izabella whatsit – presumably not her real name, given that she is Polish – was 26 and still at law school when she was picked up by Hugh Hefner in an LA bar. Well, not by him – that’s not his style – but by one of the “party posse” of platinum blondes who accompany him everywhere. Soon Izabella was being asked to Fun in the Sun Sundays at the Playboy Mansion and in January 2002 she was invited to move into the Mansion and become an official Hefner Girlfriend, one of seven at the time. She had all the right qualities – long platinum hair, doe eyes, big breasts and a limitless capacity to coo over animals and soft toys. She was also, judging from this book, not stupid – she says that she was “the token brain” of the harem and I’m inclined to believe her.

Being a Hefner Girlfriend was a specialised job, not to be confused with being a Playboy Playmate. In fact, Girlfriends were not allowed to become Playmates because Hef had found that they tended to flee the Mansion as soon as they collected their $25,000 Playmate cheque. Girlfriends were given their own bedroom, an allowance of $1,000 a week in cash, a new car, free dental and medical treatment, almost limitless clothes, hairdos, make-up and facials and all the cosmetic surgery they could wish for – Izabella reckons Hef shelled out $70,000 a year on breast implants.

It was a very generous deal in many ways, but it did have its drawbacks. First, there was a strict curfew, so unless you were out with Hef, you had to be back in the hutch by 9pm. Second, while you could order any food or drink you wanted, at any time, from one of the many Mansion “butlers”, you were not allowed into the kitchen, even for a glass of water. And third, of course, you had to live in the extraordinarily dingy Playboy mansion, where all the furniture was falling apart, the mattresses were stained and the carpets were covered in dog poo. I remember visiting it in the early Nineties and being struck by its shabbiness then, and evidently it was the same or worse when Izabella moved in. Part of the trouble might be that Hef does not actually own the mansion; he has to rent it, room by room, from Playboy Enterprises and, according to Izabella, pays $25,000 a month for his own bedroom.

But the real drawback was Hef. Stuck in his perpetual Groundhog Day, padding around in his pyjamas, eating all his meals in bed, watching the same classic films with the same old cronies night after night, going to the same bars – Las Palmas on Wednesdays, Barfly on Fridays – the only variation in the routine was restaurant night on Thursdays when the Girlfriends were allowed to choose where they went. But even so, Hef always took his own food, lamb chops. And even when they went out for parties or special occasions such as the Grammys, Hef would only stay long enough to have his photo taken before herding all the Girlfriends back into the car. Surrounded by phalanxes of security men, and roped off in VIP ghettos, they never had the chance to meet anyone.

And then, of course, there was the sex – though surprisingly little of it according to Izabella. She reckons she had “less than 15 intimate minutes” with Hef in her two-and-a-half years at the Mansion – “I may as well have lived in a convent.” His main Girlfriend, Holly, shared his bedroom and presumably took care of his quotidian sexual needs – but Wednesdays and Fridays were Sex Nights when all the Girlfriends were expected to be on bedroom duty – though it was up to them whether they participated. As Izabella remarks, “We didn’t actually swing… it was just one man and his seven Girlfriends.”

There was a big showdown when Hef sacked one of the Girlfriends, who was Izabella’s best friend. By this time the harem was split into two camps and the mood between them was venomous. Matters came to a head at a Wednesday nightclub outing, when Izabella started screaming “You psycho bitch!” at one of her housemates. Hef ordered her back to the Mansion but Izabella refused to leave and instead stayed at the club and told all to the paparazzi. Next day she packed her belongings and Hef waved through a window. The three remaining Girlfriends went on to make a reality television show called The Girls Next Door; Izabella is still planning to take her Bar exams. “Despite my bunny-fication over the years,” she admits, “I am still a nerd deep down inside.”




Sunday 9 August 2009

Bunny Tales by Izabella St James

An exposé of life in Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion lifts the lid on the sad, sordid life of a porn baron, says Carole Cadwalladr


Bunny Tales is subtitled "Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion", but it could have been called "Too Much Information". Because while there's a lot of detail in here which is really not terribly surprising – that Hugh Hefner, aged 78 when the book was written (now 83), is not, in fact, one of the world's hottest lovers – there's also an awful lot that the world didn't really need to know. Such as, after popping a Viagra twice a week, Wednesdays and Fridays, Hef still liked to sleep with up to four girls at a time and "wiped himself off with a wet bath towel… after he had sex with each girl and before the next". Or that during the ensuing performance, with many girls arrayed around the room, and porn showing on various screens, he encouraged them to give "Oh daddy!" shout-outs.

It's not a pretty picture that Izabella St James paints and it's certainly not an erotic one ("It seemed to me he just laid there like a dead fish"). The mansion, though still the stage set for regular Playboy parties, is a decrepit time-warp, unchanged since the 60s. "The carpet in the upstairs hallway also had not been changed in who knows how long. Everything was just old and stale. Archie the house dog would regularly relieve himself on the hallway curtains, adding the scent of urine to the general scent of decay."

So what exactly is St James doing there? She becomes one of Hef's "Girlfriends", with a room in the mansion, a $1,000 allowance (picked up in person from Hef's bedroom every Friday morning, when he'd make a point of discussing any perceived personal failings – usually "lack of harmony in the group or lack of sexual participation"), a $10,000 down-payment on a car and all the plastic surgery you could want. Hefner has one tab with a Beverly Hills hairdresser and another with a surgeon and all Girlfriends are encouraged to have what they want, although breast augmentation is the first and most urgent of his requirements (and costs him around $70,000 a year).

Unlike many of the girls, St James says she doesn't have "a plastic agenda" (not that this stops her), nor is she some poor and desperate would-be topless model from the Midwest. She graduated from McGill University in Montreal, and then went to Pepperdine Law School in Malibu where, she believes, she was "like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, with my blonde hair, pink tanktops, and low-rider jeans". Why did she then go to Hef? Because "how many of us actually get the chance to do something completely out of the ordinary in our lives?"

Well, yes, watching a 78-year-old man performing sex acts with teenagers is somewhat out of the ordinary, although St James rather blows her cover by mentioning in the prologue that the catalyst for her writing the book was meeting "one of the few elite actors who are members of the exclusive $20m-a-movie club". The actor, after chatting her up, was disturbed to discover that she once lived in the Playboy mansion, so Bunny Tales reads like an attempt at self-justification.

Just possibly, he was unimpressed by her account of sleeping with a man who eats all of his meals in bed, has a retinue of staff to maintain his 1,500 "scrapbooks" and insists all Girlfriends are tucked up inside by a strict 9pm curfew. And although she says sexual participation was voluntary, it doesn't sound all that voluntary.

There's more than a touch of the Howard Hughes about Hugh Hefner, from the compulsive behaviours – his evening meal is always served with "apple sauce and a glass of cold milk" – to the cataloguing of his sexual conquests. And as a sly biographical examination of Hef, his rampant egomania and his fossilised sexual attitudes, this book certainly provides good material for any future biographer. St James does eventually grow tired of living life as if she was "in a car commercial", not to mention the "sex duties" and the perpetual cat-fighting with the other Girlfriends.

But she also genuinely believes that it was a small price to pay for entry into an MTV lifestyle. Oh, and the $20m-a-movie actor? She reveals at the end of the book that he changed his mind and that they're now dating. Well, thank goodness for that. I really think they could be very happy together.





August 29, 2009


Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion, by Izabella St James


The Times review by Sarah Vine


Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion by Izabella St James (Running Press, £8.99, 256pp)

More than 500 years ago, deploying only the power of a classically trained education and a facility with terza rima, Dante Alighieri succeeded in creating the definitive depiction of Hell, a terrifying chronicle of tortured lives and spiritual emptiness never to be superseded. Until now.

For however horrifying the realm created by the literary father of the Renaissance, it is not a patch on the world recreated in these pages by Izabella St James, a former resident of the Playboy Mansion. It’s hard to conceive of any work, fictional or documentary, that contains so few sympathetic figures. Dante was careful to populate the successive circles of his Inferno with history’s worst tyrants, perjurers, adulterers and deceivers lest any reader feel too much for those on whom terrible tortures were being visited.

In St James’s account of the goings on in the depressing precincts of the Playboy Mansion we, similarly, encounter a selection of our own world’s most energetic Californian gold-diggers, horizontal adventuresses, silicone-powered courtesans and Ukrainian table dancers. And, again, because they are all given the chance to let their personalities unfold across the pages, we, the readers, are inoculated against any feelings of sympathy for them whatsoever, even as some of the most degrading treatment still permissible under the Geneva Conventions is visited on them.

Let no one be in any doubt; after reading this book you will never again use the world glamour adjacent to the term model when referring to ladies with well-stacked chests who let men look at their milk ducts for cash. There is nothing glamorous about life as a porn model. And especially not as a Playboy Bunny. It is an existence, reading this work, more similar to life as a North Sea roustabout or care assistant in a sheltered housing development. For most of the girls in the Playboy mansion life is spent either attempting to get a temperamental old geyser to spout or helping a man in an advanced state of decrepitude to get his head down for the night.

The old man in question is the presiding lord of the Playboy Mansion, Hugh Hefner, the Hef, who, like Lucifer in Hell, has built a world in his own image.

Hefner fancies himself as the quintessential modern Don Juan, his pipe sticking out from his mouth at a jaunty angle, giving off both a whiff of sulphur and a promise of classic performance to come. But, as St James’s account reveals, the pipe is the only thing about Hef still capable of maintaining a jaunty angle, or any sort of puff, for long.

The sad truth about Hef is that he is the principal victim not only of this story but also of the myth that he has created. The Playboy brand is all about selling an idealised vision of bachelor life — swinging, carefree, hip — an escapist refuge from the dull, repetitive thralldom of bourgeois married life. But the life laid bare here — the existence of Hef and his girlfriends in the Playboy Mansion — is an utterly empty, drily repetitive round of geriatric masturbation, without pleasure for any partner, played out evening after evening, week after week, like some infernal torture, in which self-loathing becomes the only emotion that lasts. Still, the pool looks nice.





Monday, September 25, 2006

New book tells tales of shacking up at Hef's Playboy mansion

By: Loriza Sasur


Izabella St James

Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion

ISBN: 0762427396

ISBN-13: 9780762427390

Hardcover, 253pp

Running Press Book Publishers

The parties. The girls. The sex. The legend. These things come to mind when Hugh "Hef" Hefner, the founding father of "Playboy," is mentioned.

In chapters such as "The Blonde Boob Brigade" and "Play mates at Play," former live-in girlfriend Izabella St. James discusses all of these and more in her tell-all book, "Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion."

In a recent press interview with the Toronto Star, St. James discussed her decision to write her book. "I didn't want to kiss and tell," she insisted. "But our society is absolutely fascinated by sex. I'm giving them what they want to hear."

It was at her second year at Pepperdine when St. James had a chance encounter with Mr. Playboy himself, "Hef," at a Los Angeles nightclub. After meeting Hefner, she would eventually move into the Playboy mansion.

She notes, "That night, although I didn't know it, I was being recruited."

In the book, St. James chronicles her life and the seduction of Playboy, and her eventual moving into the mansion, where she lived for almost three years. She was one of the infamous seven girlfriends, before his now-established trio of blondes. Her storytelling approach is very matter-of-fact, from the detailed mansion layout, to the chronological order of his revolving door of girlfriends.

No doubt, she is very aware of her audience. She teases, "You probably want details, don't you?" and then delivers.
Does Hefner really sleep with all his girlfriends? In a word, yes.
In the chapter entitled, "How to Make Love like a Rabbit," St. James describes the unconventional sexual routine that goes on in the master bedroom.

Sexual acts were a spectator sport, with multiple women and, of course, one man.

According to St. James, it was all a routine, from the beginning to end of the orgies. She says that there were actually designated days of the week for sex.

St. James claims to have written this book so that she "could finally set the record straight." However, this is clearly a cautionary tale. She wishes to debunk all the rumors of grandeur and excess, and expose the mundane reality of living in the mansion and being Hefner's girlfriend.

She stresses the catfights, the lack of privacy, and how "there are too many unwritten rules, too many power plays, and everyone acts." St. James reveals some surprising details, such as the strict 9 p.m. curfew, and the fact that Hefner does not actually own the mansion but rents it.

In the book, it's clear that that she viewed other girls who came in and out of the mansion as beneath her. St. James says she was the "token smart girl that validated the group in an intellectual way."

Her apparent goal is to have the audience sympathize with her, which we can at some points, but other times readers may wonder why she stuck around for as long as she did.
If she so detested the lifestyle she was living, then why did she get a Playboy bunny tattoo?

She does seem hypocritical at times, quick to mention Hefner's negative traits, but at the same time, lovingly writes how he is such a "good person."

If you wish to hold onto the allure and mystique of Hefner, and all things Playboy, then this book is not for you. Her apparent goal is to kill all the daydreams and fantasies that Playboy and Hefner have to offer.

If you hold a deep curiosity, and enjoy watching the e! television series, "The Girls Next Door," this will be a delicious read.





Book Review: Bunny Tales


Bunny Tales by Izabella St. James lets you take a peek behind the closed doors of the Playboy Mansion...


Clea Marshall


The book is Izabella St. James’ account of living as one of Hugh Hefner's girlfriends. A talented law student, Izabella met Hugh at an LA nightclub, a meeting which changed her life forever.

For a girl born in Poland under the Communist rule, the Playboy lifestyle was too much to resist. Izabella chucked in her studies (and a promising career) to live a life of private jets, limos and parties.

While it all sounds too Hollywood-trash to be any good, Bunny Tales is an intriguing read. For a book about the Playboy lifestyle, it’s not all sex and gossip – Izabella proves to be a well-rounded person, and you genuinely come to care about what happens to her.

I really enjoyed reading about her upbringing in Poland and how it affects her as an adult in the Playboy Mansion.


• The insider gossip on Hugh is fascinating. Finding out what those girls actually
do in the bedroom with Hugh is absorbingly disturbing. I was dying to find out if he actually sleeps with them or not (and I’m not going to tell you, because the answer to that is worth reading the book for!).
• Insider knowledge of the Girlfriend lifestyle – 9pm curfews and a $1000-a-week ‘allowance’ from Hugh are just two bizarre aspects of living in the Mansion.
• There is some
serious name-dropping in the book. Several of the Girlfriends have illicit affairs with celebrities.
• Learning that the Mansion isn’t quite as flash as it seems – the carpets are encrusted with dog poop from all the Girlfriends’ pets
• Fans of the TV show
Girls of the Playboy Mansion will love the bitchy insider gossip on the current Girlfriends.


As the book progressed, I found myself dramatically losing any previous respect for Izabella. She slowly becomes just like the rest of the blonde bimbos, and starts to dedicate entire chapters to the catty bitch-fights between the Girlfriends. Yawn.

Bunny Tales is easy to read and completely engrossing - I couldn’t put the bloody book down!

While I didn’t exactly have high expectations, Izabella definitely has a talent for writing. Her story isn’t for the faint-hearted, but in saying that, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. Read it – you know you want to, and curiosity
will get the better of you!




Izabella St. James

Running Press, 2006

253 pages

May, 2007

Note: My thanks to Amanda Brooks for authorizing this transcription from the site http://www.theinternetescortshandbook.com


Bunny Tales is a simple story - the first-person account of Izabella St. James, a woman who was one of Hugh Hefner's young blonde Girlfriends (a titled position, hence the capital "g") from 2002 to 2004. It's easily the dishiest book I've ever read. St. James answers every question you've ever had about living as a paid companion to a man in his late seventies.

Unfortunately, one of St. James' reasons for writing the book is to attempt to explain and defend her choice of becoming a quasi-sex worker/promotional toy for two years. Although she's very materially driven, she seems unable to honestly recognize that her "allowance" ($1000 cash every Friday) had nothing to do with love or romance. She seems desperate to get the reader to acknowledge that she is a unique person, perhaps because she felt like an interchangeable blonde lifestyle accessory. The book is packed with gossip and her personal history, but she seems determined to dance around and deny the sex work aspect of her life at the Mansion. She explains herself by musing, "It is as difficult to label my relationship with Hef as it is to explain its nature."

The $1000 weekly cash allowance is the obvious number one benefit of Girlfriend- hood, and from St. James' details of the gifts Girlfriends got, as well as the fringe benefits they received, it's pretty clear that Girlfriends are a tax-deductible expense for Hefner and/or the Playboy corporation (even with her law degree St. James never questions the reasons for these rules). Significantly, the allowance is not handed out if the Girlfriend in question doesn't participate in the week's public appearances and outings. In other words, if you don't do your part to promote Playboy, you don't get paid. St. James becomes irate over this, feeling that Hefner cares more for promoting the magazine and his image than about her as a romantic partner. St. James gripes when her material desires are thwarted because she wasn't putting out for Hefner; she seems incapable of realizing that she was, at best, a mistress, and at worst, a badly behaved prostitute.

St. James becomes excited about meeting Snoop Dogg and Don Magic Juan at a Mansion party. She gushes over their pimp outfits and bling, seemingly unaware of what a pimp is or what they do. She chafes under Hefner's seemingly arbitrary rules of behavior yet never connects the dots.

St. James refuses to entertain the idea that she falls under the broad umbrella of "sex worker." She looks down her nose at strippers, hookers, and wannabe-Girlfriends. Her tangled mass of emotions after she leaves the Mansion is not much different from those of sex workers who were harmed by their jobs. By refusing to acknowledge her feelings as anything other than romantic hangover she denies herself a chance to heal.

The book doesn't reveal anything about Hefner and his life that isn't obvious to any sex worker. I found St. James sadly curious because she is in such deep denial of the small role she played in helping to pimp Playboy magazine and Hefner; she is also unwilling to realize that she was technically a sex worker. Hefner didn't pay her because he felt a deep connection to her as a woman. She was an easily obtained means to an end. St. James, in denying the truth of the arrangement, lost her opportunity to use her choice as a springboard to better things—writing a tell-all is not one of those better things- —or the opportunity to give herself some closure. —

 Amanda Brooks  











Senior player


At 82 and going deaf, Hugh Hefner has authorized his definitive tell-all. While his cultural - and sexual - influence wanes, in his mind Hef is and always will be Lord of the Playboy Mansion




'Somebody once asked, 'What's your best pickup line?' and I laughed and I said, 'I think my best line is, 'My name is Hugh Hefner.' But that doesn't mean I don't get turned down."

The Lord of the Playboy Mansion is relaxed in the lap of a cushiony sofa in his dark-wood-panelled study on the first floor of his infamous residence in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles. A portrait of him, one of many strewn about the house, hangs above the small fireplace. It is painted in the manner of Hans Holbein, the great 16th-century portraitist who worked for Henry VIII.

"Have you been turned down many times?" I ask in a strong voice, as instructed by his publicist. Mr. Hefner, who will be 83 in April, is losing hearing in both ears. On his left side, into which I am to direct my questions, he wears a discreet hearing aid.

"I don't count the yeses or the nos," he demurs, suddenly as circumspect as a corporate executive in his black silk pajamas and red smoking jacket - his Mr. Playboy suit.

Not even his conquests?

"No, I don't." He laughs again.

Behind his head looms a painted sculpture of the head and torso of Barbi Benton, one of the great loves of his life. Her breasts are fantastic globes with nipples the size of acorns.

Such is the decor of the mansion: an odd juxtaposition of movie-set grandeur and a frat-boy zeal for tastelessness. In the foyer, a small bronze sculpture of a male figure has two Barbie dolls clambering over him, one with her legs wrapped around his neck.

Mr. Hefner mirrors the opposing moods of his house. He is, by turns, a gentleman, dignified in his discretion, and a goofy adolescent, eager to telegraph his view that sex is like an intimate form of handshake. "There's an infinite variety of people and an infinite variety of sexual responses. It's always different because people are different," he answers with obvious disdain when asked whether rotating sexual partners ever gets tiresome. "That's like saying, 'I wouldn't like to meet this other person, because I have already met enough people.' "

Have women come after him? "Oh, ho, ho, ho," he trills, collapsing back into the cushions. "Never more than now. I think it's the TV show [The Girls Next Door on E!]. ... Usually they're not ones I would be interested in. [But] I have no objection to girls taking the initiative," he explains. "One of the best relationships was Holly [Madison], and she very much took the initiative."

Oh yes, Holly. There will be more about the 30-year-old former Hooters girl. Mr. Hefner's girlfriend for eight years, she dumped him a few months ago for Criss Angel, the Las Vegas-based illusionist.

The interview, which took many twists and turns, started right on time.

On the stroke of the appointed hour, Mr. Hefner emerges from his private quarters. Holding onto the banister of an impressive mahogany staircase, he descends gingerly into the faux-baronial glory of the Great Hall with its white marble floors and stained-glass windows. In white socks and black slippers, he shuffles through the living room.

With the recent publication of the definitive and authorized biography of him, Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream, by Steven Watts, Mr. Hefner is happily fielding interview requests as an icon of the 20th century.

Mr. Watts, a history professor at the University of Missouri and noted biographer of Henry Ford and Walt Disney, argues that Mr. Hefner ushered in not just the marriage-free sexual revolution, but also the consumer one that promoted possessions as the achievement of the American dream.

A biographical movie of Mr. Hefner's life is also in the works. Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr. have both been named as possible Hef candidates.

It is Mr. Hefner's swan-song moment to relish his legacy, and not just because of his age. He recognizes that the revolution he sired has peaked. "I don't think that the magazine will ever exist as it did in that perfect time where Playboy literally was changing the world. That time has passed," he says. Still, "it's very satisfying to have lived through it all and feel as though you have won some of the important battles."

The 55-year-old brand is under siege on several fronts, including online pornography and the religious right. Its U.S. circulation is about three million, down from seven million at its height in the seventies.

"We also face the problem of all media: What is the future of print?" Mr. Hefner says. Last week, his seven-bedroom home next door to the mansion was put up for sale, listed at $28-million (U.S.). His daughter, Christie, one of two children from his first marriage, stepped down as CEO in February, a job she held for more than 20 years.

"I think she did it for the sake of the company," he explains. "It's clear that we're going to have to go through some really dramatic changes here."

As for an heir apparent, he has two spares in the wings, he points out: Marston and Cooper, his teenaged sons from his second marriage to Playmate Kimberley Conrad, whom he married in 1989 and separated from nine years later. "When it became obvious that [Christie] wasn't going to have children, then I had my own grandchildren."

The biography strips Mr. Hefner naked. There was his addiction to Dexedrine, a stimulant, in the 1950s; a homosexual experience; orgies; his stroke in 1985; use of Viagra; his neck lift; and his predilection for innocent co-eds, several of whom were virgins. Also documented is "the single most devastating experience of his life," according to Mr. Hefner - the infidelity of his first wife, Millie Williams, before they were married. "I was a true innocent," he tells me, sounding sorry for himself.

That a double standard is at play - that he was experimenting sexually and was unfaithful to his wife - doesn't seem to enter his consciousness. Mr. Hefner sees people and events simply as catalysts that helped shape the crusader he believes he is.

"The more interesting question for me is what would my life had been like if she had not been unfaithful to me," he muses about his first wife.

Despite his disappointments with marriage, he remains a hopeless romantic. But hasn't he missed out on understanding how to sustain long-term love?

"I thought I had it with Holly," he says with a sigh. "I really thought I would be happy spending the rest of my life with her. ... I fell in love with, for the first time, someone who loved me more than I loved her. And who seemed to love me for the right reasons. So I really felt that I had found a more mature kind of love."

Mr. Hefner chooses to ignore the fact that becoming an anointed "girlfriend" is akin to landing a lucrative job, one that comes with a $1,000-a-week allowance, free room and board, grooming perks, medical, dental and plastic surgery coverage, birthday and Christmas cash bonuses, access to stars and guaranteed publicity.

That there is a curfew, surveillance by Playboy security, and mandatory appearances at events seems a small price to pay. Besides, in Hollywood, being an official girlfriend can be seen as an entry-level acting gig.

The platinum-blonde 19-year-old twins, Kristina and Karissa Shannon, who along with Crystal Harris, 22, make up his current trio of live-in girlfriends, have arrest records for aggravated assault, according to TMZ.com. Even so, they play the girls-next-door who love sex - the classic bunny persona.

When it is suggested to him, delicately, that perhaps women take advantage of him, he casts himself as too big-hearted to care. "I'm easy to take advantage of, because I do wear my heart on my sleeve. I feel sorry for people who close themselves off. Being in love is the essence of being alive for me."

It is his right, one supposes, as Playboy of the Mansion, to live in the bubble of his own self-belief, sentimental about his journey and his own psychological makeup.

"Emotionally, it is probably a way of avoiding the hurt of loving one woman and being deceived as I was in both my marriages," he says of his multiple-girlfriend lifestyle. He is defiant about his role as Chief Wooer, seemingly unconcerned that he has become a pervy parody of himself. "Quite frankly, I'm one of the best boyfriends they are likely to run into," he maintains.

Interestingly, despite his control of his own Mr. Playboy brand, he doesn't require his girlfriends to sign confidentiality agreements. It may be his way of underscoring the free-love and free-speech ethos he espouses, but it has resulted in embarrassing tell-all interviews and a book, Bunny Tales; Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion, by Izabella St. James in 2006.

In it, the former girlfriend revealed that sex with Mr. Hefner is a sordid affair, involving baby oil, theatrical moaning, staged lesbian make-out sessions and his wilting erection, and ends with him masturbating to porn to achieve orgasm. That self-love would be his preferred sexual method wouldn't be surprising. Mr. Hefner longs for passion, but his greatest, most enduring infatuation is with himself.

He appears to be deaf and blind to outside perception, cocooned in a mansion that has a retro seventies vibe in many rooms, left untouched since his heyday. Asked if he considers sex a means to stay young, he happily concurs, producing the debauched grin of an aristocratic gentleman.

This is La La Land, after all, where you can believe what you want.







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