Yes? No? I will go. The Mansion... where else on New Year’s Eve? I am off to Hugh Hefner’s immortalized business of splendor.
The limousine awaits, with my perennial mates - Hollywood royalty past and pressed. We pick up a young couple at the Four Seasons Hotel. She, from South Africa, a dazzling mulatto with body shaped by Azzedine Alaia. My friend Terry asks: “Can we use that word mulatto anymore?” He, an Australian; suave, handsome, a promoter of fights, music and other events.
We arrive in no time, no traffic and no holdups. No inspections at the Charing Cross entry gate. We sweep up the usually jam-packed driveway in minutes. Our hands are stamped with an inky green symbol for further passage, then we stride towards the narrow, faux medieval doorway.
Where’s the crowd? The usual energy-consuming entrance one makes is now bare, well almost. There are far fewer photographers dogging your every step. The welcoming bevy of nude women has winnowed down to a paltry three. Where are the high-powered celebrities, the producer types with their hyperbolic dolls?
Good heavens, it’s a disaster! Can that be? Although the calm is much more to my liking and comfort level. Where’s Hef? Not to be seen, yet. Ah well, it’s only 9 P.M.
The feeling of it being more comfortable at the Mansion tells me this is not good for business. True, it’s not Hef’s house anymore. He just lives there. It’s been sold to the snappiest bidder, via a Robert Wagner reverse mortgage, no doubt. Gone! Down the tubes, in a glassy-eyed farewell.
I’ve just been handed the latest copy of Playboy magazine with an awkward, squatting Lindsay Lohan on the cover. “Biggest seller of all time,” announces Sis, a member of the Hefner-family staff. Lindsay is spread, a la Marilyn Monroe, in a kind of over-buffed, superperfectedness across ten pages. In this copy, there is not one, but two fold-out pages. The reader is to be gorged on excess.
So what’s left? If not the Mansion, then only parts of the business?
It’s clear; Mr. Hefner’s staff adores him. “But who’s going to take care of him?” Sis asks. “He’s very persnickety. You can only serve him whole potato chips, not chipped ones. His watermelon must come from the center of the melon.”
The new bosses are vetoing away Hefner’s staff. Retire now or you don’t get your pension. Downsizing has hit the rich.
One of his party planners tells me he happily drives fifty miles each way to work for Mr. Hefner. Hefner’s spirit survives, he is loved, the aura maintained, somewhat.
I enjoy myself this night, more than I ever have. By 10 P.M., I am in the baronial dining room away from the booming music, which becomes louder by the minute. I think about those resigning members of the U.S. President’s cabinet, that the job is fun for a while but sanity needs space, reflection distance. I can’t shout every sentence for the rest of my life.
Sitting at his bird’s-eye maple-surfaced dinner table with paintings by de Kooning, Pollock on the wall, I notice a life-sized cardboard facsimile of the maestro himself leaning oddly in a corner. A butler enters.
He serves me whatever I dream of asking for. It’s a palace of pleasures. Tonight and every night, Hef is still brightly awake for this sin center of consumable conquest and delivery. He has pushed the perfect button. This nerve point of preferred power which claims: I can have what I want. The dream is real, whatever the cost.
Every few minutes a totally naked girl with painted-on bra and garters passes behind us toward the pantry, tray-in-hand, breasts immobile, with vodka-laced Jello shooters.
Ah, for now the costs are delayed.
Bring in 2012! We’ll deal with it later.