He bounds into his library, the personification of the Playboy lifestyle, a lightning rod of the last four decades - from Marilyn Monroe to Pamela Lee and the infinity in between. Admittedly a relic, but hip once again in the era of retro, he is every inch his image: the square jaw, the silk pajamas, that famous grin. Hugh M. Hefner, "Hef" to all, remains the king of swing.
"If You Don't Swing, Don't Ring," forewarned a plaque beside the doorbell on the original Playboy Mansion in Chicago, and the Playboy Mansion West, just off the Sunset Strip, was designed with the swinger in mind. The fabled 1927 Gothic-Tudor, where Hef lives and works with a household staff of 70 and a menagerie of peacocks, monkeys, exotic birds, and sleepover Playmates, still wows. All of the legendary locales known to Playboy readers everywhere - the Grotto, the Game House (which includes the TV Room, known for its rubbery floor and plethora of pillows), the mirrored bedrooms, the baccarat boards, and the Seburg LP record machine - remain, as if preserved in the amber of the 1970s, when, fueled by baby boomers and the Vietnam War, Playboy's monthly circulation soared to seven million. Only the partyers have changed, with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Cameron Diaz, and Jim Carrey joining perennials Jack Nicholson, Tony Curtis, James Caan, and a cast of thousands.
Celebrating his 75th birthday on April 9, Hef is the subject of an upcoming major film biopic and long-awaited biography. His magazine will turn 50 in 2003. But most importantly, Hef is swinging again, and fingers are snapping everywhere in celebration. "Oh, it was definitely one of the great ones, everybody will tell you that," he says of his last Halloween party, a bash to which almost everyone in celebrity Los Angeles begged invitation and only 800 of his closest friends and Playmates were admitted.