I will never forget driving my MGB up from Dupo, Illinois to the big city of Chicago. Not only was this going to be my first time in a city this size but I was also moving into the Playboy Mansion as I was a new bunny at the Chicago Club. Swimmin' pools....movie stars...And I sure wasn't disappointed. Hef still smoked a pipe in those days and loved playing backgammon with his friends who included Bill Cosby, Vic Damone, Shel Silverstein, Tony Curtis and James Caan among many others. I loved being able to order up room service 24 hours a day and swim in the pool or bowl in the bowling alley anytime I wanted. It was a surreal life and Hefner was the ultimate gentleman. Still is to this day.
So it was a real thrill to see him on his first trip back home with his two sons Marston and Cooper. He took them to his old home on the Northwest side, visited his high school (Steinmetz) and even popped in on the students. He attended a Halloween party at the Playboy offices and took a drive past his old Mansion at 1340 N. State St. and finally, Friday night, arrived at the Gene Siskel Film Center for a screening of his documentary, "Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel." And this was all in two days!
He arrived at the Film Center, after being stuck in their elevator with his girlfriend Crystal Harris (Miss Dec. 2009), his sons, Anna Berglund (upcoming Playmate) and Samantha Crawley (Cooper's girlfriend). After his bodyguards managed to pry the doors open, they opted, wisely, for the stairs.
The film, directed by award winning documentarian, Brigitte Berman, ran two hours and covered all of the highlights of Hef's life. You see fabulous black and white clips from his early TV shows with stars like Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Lenny Bruce, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Bobbie Doyle among others. There are clips with Barbi Benton, Shannon Tweed, Jenny McCarthy, Gene Simmons, George Lucas, Dick Cavett, Dick Gregory, Tony Curtis (looking gravely ill) and others. Hef's daughter Christie was there with her husband Bill Marovitz, Elizabeth Norris (who was the Playmate Promotions Director when I was a centerfold), Jimmy Jellinek (Chief Content and Editorial Director of Playboy), Shanthi and Rob Wilson (Art Director for PB) and Art Paul (original Art Director who designed the iconic rabbit-head logo). After the film, Hef received a standing ovation and made his way to the stage for a Q & A. Michael Kutza, Chicago Film Festival founder, interviewed Hef and the director, Berman.
I loved hearing Hef talk about his lifelong beliefs and I can't believe how courageous it was that he stuck to his guns despite all of the controversy and legal concerns he had because of them.
His last comment was the best, "I dreamed impossible dreams and made them come true." Good for you Hef and I hope your wishing well is always filled with bright, shiny pennies!
The movie is a must-see....a wonderful walk down memory lane, not only for Hefner and his fans but for anyone who's grown up during the Playboy years. It will be shown at the Gene Siskel Film Center through November 4th. (www.siskelfilmcenter.org) (Photos by Caitlin Saville).
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Tags: Anna Berglund, Art Paul, Brigitte Berman, Caitlin Saville, Candace Collins, Candace Jordan, Candid Candace, centerfolds, Christie Hefner, Chuck Jordan, Cooper Hefner, Crystal Harris, Gene Simmons, Hef, Hugh Hefner, Jean St. Aubin, Jenny McCarthy, Jimmy Jellinek, Joel Mangers, Keith Hefner, Marston Hefner, Mary O'Connor, Playboy, Playboy Playmate, Playmates, Raymond Benson, Rob Wilson, Shannon Tweed, Shanthi Wilson, Steve Starr, Vanessa Goodmanson, Vicky McCarty