His pals encircled him. "Hef's depressed!" they cried, encouraging him to step out into the world. The chauffeur was summoned to gas up the bulletproof Mercedes limo. Hef stripped off his pajamas (he has 10 pairs each of 15 different colors) and stepped into a white suit and rejoined the fun, not in some dark, dank house of retro, but in L.A.'s newest, hottest temple of the night, a club aptly named Garden of Eden.

It was a private party for author Bill Zehme, celebrating the release of his book about the late Frank Sinatra's style, The Way You Wear Your Hat. When Hef, a living, breathing remnant of the Rat Pack era, walked into the club, there was a collective gasp.

The scene was pure Austin Powers - Hef was hermetically unsealed and absolutely swinging, baby! Hipsters a third his age embraced him, thanking him for publishing Playboy. Young women lined up to sit on his lap. "You're the man!" shrieked a hundred voices. Hef was astounded. "I discovered a whole new generation that was waiting for me to come out and play!" he exclaims.

"What's really remarkable," he adds, "is that the mystique connected to my life, and also the magazine, is bigger than it ever was before, with more publicity, more media attention. Part of that is related to the fact that it was at the end of the century and the beginning of the millennium. A lot of looking back over the century. Even the bunnies are hot again. To some extent, there's a fascination with retro. It's like if the Rat Pack had gotten back together or Elvis had reappeared at a supermarket. It's that strange combination of old and new all at once."