With his crushed velvet robe, sailor’s cap, pipe and grotto, Hugh Hefner’s idea of living the male dream was certainly a specialised one.
Just as it had been when he launched Playboy in 1953.
“Most of today’s ‘magazines for men’ spend all their time out-of-doors – thrashing through thorny thickets or splashing about in fast-flowing streams,” he wrote. “We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph, and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.”
(For a reminder just how bizarre that fantasy looked in practice, take a look at this.)
Amazingly, sharing his innermost thoughts about synthetic cubism and the Modern Jazz Quartet with women only seemed to thicken the crowd of “female acquaintances” that flocked around him whenever a photographer was present.
Indeed, so successful was his hors d’oevre and mood music–themed lifestyle vision that on his death at 91, the obituaries, reports and testimonials will have no shortage of material to work with.
Some will focus on the spectacular arc of his business (and although sales of the flagship title have been exposed to the same suffocating downward pressure as the rest of the magazine industry, they could still find $2million to fund the Kate Moss January 2014 sixtieth anniversary cover).
Others will dwell on his sustained contribution to civil rights and first amendment battles.
Yet more will “examine” his role in sexual fashions, pubic stylings and goings on at “The Mansion”.
Will any though, get to the bottom of the big mystery: was Hugh Hefner the inspiration for Elaine Benes’ fussy boss Mr Pitt in Seinfeld?
Among his many tics, Hefner, in later life at least, apparently was not keen to eat in front of other people.
But he was quite happy for other people to eat in front of him.
So if summoned to the Mansion for a business meeting, he would insist on having some heavy, carvery-style dinner served up for his guest, while he himself would sit at the end of the table daintily eating a candy bar with a knife and fork.
In the Seinfeld episode The Pledge Drive, which aired in 1994, Mr Pitt eats a Snickers bar with a knife and fork.
Coincidence? Or was it Pitt who influenced Hefner? (In the episode, the trend catches on and everyone has to try it.)
Until proven otherwise, Saint Peacock will believe this was yet another of the innumerable ways Hugh Hefner left his mark on the 20th century.