A loud, long, self-satisfied laugh. "I mean, I've been famous for a long time," he says. "Since the end of 1959, the beginning of 1960, when I came out from behind the desk and started living the lifestyle to some extent. I started hosting the television show, bought the first Playboy Mansion in Chicago, opened the first Playboy Club. And all of that was in the space of a year. Changed my life. Ahh, but it's not like it is now. Now, it's this other incredible level of something."

That incredible level of something is connected to the central theme of Hef's life: "the ladies," meaning the young women who allow the aged Playboy to "see life afresh through youthful eyes." Among them are "The Twins," Mandy and Sandy Bentley from Joliet, Illinois. He met them shortly after his reemergence. One night at the Garden of Eden, he dispatched his date for the evening, Playmate Brande Roderick, to invite the twins over to his table for a cocktail. They accepted, then did the unconscionable. They left Hef without saying goodbye. Vanished! No one knew where they'd gone, or worse, where they could be found.

"Hef was consumed with finding us," the twins later revealed on their Web site. He dispatched his security forces to fetch his Cinderellas. One twin was tracked down at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she was studying pre-med, the other working in Chicago. Hef suggested they move to Los Angeles for the summer, offering plane tickets, accommodations, and, of course, instant fame. The Bentleys arrived soon after, moved into the Mansion, and joined Hef's harem.

"I met Brande Roderick in May and the twins in June of '98," he says. "And that turned into a very special relationship. Wherever we were, we were the center of attention."