Thursday, January 3, 2013

Au Revoir Playboys of the Western World

Hefner - the only man able to prosper as a playboy

A playboy — as conceived by publisher Hugh Hefner — owes much to 1950s America, the decade of his birth. No matter how many times Hefner tried to reboot his pipe-smoking Lothario into a more contemporary milieu, it didn’t really work. His jazz-swinging, cocktail-swirling bon vivant had nothing to do with the 60s counter-culture. He just wasn't cool.

And the disco-era was too dumbed-down for a guy who grooved on space-age vibes, Lenny Bruce and Stan Getz. The Playboy clubs became a kitschy anachronism and finally hit the wall. Eventually, Hef’s priapic creature lumbered into bed with soft porn, gobbled a Viagra, and then did it for the Gipper.

Rubirosa: Human pepper grinder
Post-WW II, real life playboys, as typified by Portfirio Rubirosa and Gunter Sachs, managed to rat-pack their way from the lizard lounges to the Whiskey-A-Go-Goes, and along the way learned how to stuff a wild bikini. But pop critics dismissed them as Euro-Trash, living off the avails of rich wives/girlfriends, or, in Gunter’s case, a substantial inheritance.

Gunter and B. Bardot (his wife)
So the playboy of the western world was forced to live with the Undead of Monaco and Vegas and Gstaad or any of those places that Peter Sarstedt knocked off in Where Do You Go to My Lovely – the ultimate anti-playboy/girl anthem.

In the end, following an all-night party in July 1965, Portfirio ran his Ferrari 250 GT into a tree in Paris, and violently removed himself from an era that was gearing up for Monterrey Pop. As for Gunter, he somehow made it to 2011, and then ended in suicide.

But those are just two high profile swingin’ guys. Millions of playboys got strangled by their own silk ascots, weighed under by their Peter-Lawford-sized sideburns, washing up on Malibu Beach, gamely clutching an Old Fashioned or Bloody Mary, gasping for one last listen to Herb Albert’s Whipped Cream LP.

Swingin' Guys...Swingin' Gals
And the pretty young girls who danced beneath the diamond sky, over the white sand, were too busy humming The Jefferson Airplane to even notice the tired mad men of yesteryear, now rolling in the waves, to be pulled out to sea.

Through it all, Hefner, clad only in pajamas and slippers, pads on, in a hermetically-sealed, time-resistant Miss Havisham biosphere, Vampire Number One, indestructible, and surely given to celebrating the colossal irony that the only man ever able to truly live as a playboy — and flourish — is Hugh Hefner.