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."