I’ll admit it. Playboy magazine was an important part of my youth. I still sneak a peek, um, every month to “read” its great “articles.”
But I have to say that I was surprised by the universal appeal of E! series The Girls Next Door, which opens season six on Oct. 11 and remains a mainstay in the Mr. TV household. Somehow, a bevy of young, beautiful and often scantily clad women hanging around with ageless Hugh Hefner is both appealing and family friendly. Go figure.
And like any veteran series, there are changes aplenty at the Playboy Mansion. Holly, Bridget and Kendra, “Hef’s” main squeezes for the first five seasons, have moved out. Newly married Kendra now has her own successful spinoff series. And the trio will make guest appearances. But the brunt of the action will now center on Hef’s new buxom crew: recent mansion occupants Crystal and twins Karissa and Kristina.
As we forge ahead into the new season, I had the opportunity to speak to the legend himself, Hugh Hefner.
In a nutshell, tell me how you got to the place where you are today. From the very beginning, I always had a great interest in the magazine business. In seventh grade, in fact, I started a school paper. I was a writer for a military newspaper in the Army. And one of my first jobs was as a copywriter for Esquire. But I knew it was time to leave when they would not give me a $5 raise. If you want to make it in this world, you have be aggressive, and you have to take a stance—and that is exactly what I did. You cannot be afraid to speak your mind, support a cause and be yourself.
So, how did this lead to Playboy? I thought the idea would click…it certainly got a lot of attention. And I raised the money to invest in it myself from a bunch of different people, which was not much in those days, and off we went in December 1953. It took right off.
TV isn’t new for you. But how did the idea of The Girls Next Door come about? These types of shows are hot right now, of course. And the idea was presented to me. But I had three conditions before I agreed to do it. I wanted to work with Kevin Burns. I wanted this show to be positive only; it is not about anyone’s feelings being hurt. And I wanted to have fun. If I’m not having a good time at this point of my life, what’s the point of doing it?
Do you watch a lot of TV yourself? I am a huge old movie buff, and I host weekly movie nights at the mansion. So, I don’t watch all that much TV. But I do like cable shows like True Blood, Mad Men and Hung.
What would get you more interested in watching more TV? Good writing appeals to me, and I would like to see The Playboy Channel progress into more of a home for original scripted programming…adult-themed product about people and relationships. Good dramas with interesting stories to tell. We have an available platform that could capitalize on that. With the right writers and production team, there are no limits to what we can do.
Is that something you are looking into? Actively? No. My latest project was being the subject of a documentary called Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel. But I’m always looking for something to keep me occupied. When you stop working, you grow old quickly. I will never stop.