Mr Playboy by Steven Watts
Hugh Hefner and the American Dream

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Synopsis

The real Hugh Hefner-the extraordinary inside story of an American icon

"Riveting... Watts packs in plenty of gasp-inducing passages."-Newark Star Ledger

"Like it or not, Hugh Hefner has affected all of us, so I treasured learning about how and why in the sober biography."-Chicago Sun Times

"This is a fun book. How could it not be? Watts aims to give a full account of the man, his magazine and their place in social history. Playboy is no longer the cultural force it used to be, but it made a stamp on society."-Associated Press

"In Steven Watts' exhaustive, illuminating biography Mr. Playboy, Hefner's ideal for living -- marked by his allegiances to Tarzan, Freud, Pepsi-Cola and jazz -- proves to be a kind of gloss on the Protestant work ethic."-Los Angeles TimesGorgeous young women in revealing poses; extravagant mansion parties packed with celebrities; a hot-tub grotto, elegant smoking jackets, and round rotating beds; the hedonistic pursuit of uninhibited sex. Put these images together and a single name springs to mind-Hugh Hefner. From his spectacular launch of Playboy magazine and the dizzying expansion of his leisure empire to his recent television hit The Girls Next Door, the publisher has attracted public attention and controversy for decades. But how did a man who is at once socially astute and morally unconventional, part Bill Gates and part Casanova, also evolve into a figure at the forefront of cultural change?In Mr. Playboy, historian and biographer Steven Watts argues that, in the process of becoming fabulously wealthy and famous, Hefner has profoundly altered American life and values. Granted unprecedented access to the man and his enterprise, Watts traces Hef's life and career from his midwestern, Methodist upbringing and the first publication of Playboy in 1953 through the turbulent sixties, self-indulgent seventies, reactionary eighties, and traditionalist nineties, up to the present. He reveals that Hefner, from the beginning, believed he could overturn social norms and take America with him.This fascinating portrait illustrates four ways in which Hefner and Playboy stood at the center of several cultural upheavals that remade the postwar United States. The publisher played a crucial role in the sexual revolution that upended traditional notions of behavior and expectation regarding sex. He emerged as one of the most influential advocates of a rapidly developing consumer culture, flooding Playboy readers with images of material abundance and a leisurely lifestyle. He proved instrumental-with his influential magazine, syndicated television shows, fashionable nightclubs, swanky resorts, and movie and musical projects-in making popular culture into a dominant force in many people's lives. Ironically, Hefner also became a controversial force in the movement for women's rights. Although advocating women's sexual freedom and their liberation from traditional family constraints, the publisher became a whipping boy for feminists who viewed him as a prophet for a new kind of male domination.Throughout, Watts offers singular insights into the real man behind the flamboyant public persona. He shows Hefner's personal dichotomies-the pleasure seeker and the workaholic, the consort of countless Playmates and the genuine romantic, the family man and the Gatsby-like host of lavish parties at his Chicago and Los Angeles mansions who enjoys well-publicized affairs with numerous Playmates, the fan of life's simple pleasures who hobnobs with the Hollywood elite.Punctuated throughout with descriptions and anecdotes of life at the Playboy Mansions, Mr. Playboy tells the compelling and uniquely American story of how one person with a provocative idea, a finger on the pulse of popular opinion, and a passion for his work altered the course of modern history.Spans from Hefner's childhood to the launch of Playboy magazine and the expansion of the Playboy empire to the presentPuts Hefner's life and work into the cultural context of American life from the mid-twentieth-century onwardsContains over 50 B/W and color photos, including an actual fold-out centerfold

 

About Steven Watts

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Steven Watts is Professor of History at the University of Missouri. He is the author of four books, including The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century and The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life.
 
Published March 23, 2009 by Wiley. 545 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Business & Economics, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Within his deeply religious family, he was doted on by his mother and neglected by a mostly absent father, creating “a child who was extraordinarily self-absorbed.” Certainly, Hefner was fascinated by sexuality and how its acknowledgement was forbidden, but as he noted later, “Pop culture was my ...

Jul 15 2008 | Read Full Review of Mr Playboy: Hugh Hefner and t...

Publishers Weekly

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As he did in his previous books on Henry Ford (The People's Tycoon ) and Walt Disney (The Magic Kingdom ), Watts carefully details the life of Hugh Hefner and the influence his Playboy magazine has had on American culture.

Jul 28 2008 | Read Full Review of Mr Playboy: Hugh Hefner and t...

Publishers Weekly

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Watts, a history professor turned biographer, analyzes the life and times of Hugh Hefner in this fascinating biography.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Two-thirds of the way into Steven Watts's new biography of Hugh Hefner, the infamous publisher summarizes his brainchild's mission.

Dec 08 2008 | Read Full Review of Mr Playboy: Hugh Hefner and t...

Tampa Bay Times

(Hefner's compulsive behavior has led him to try to preserve every moment of his life.) Watts' book is so well crafted and even-handed that whether you regard Hefner as a sexist pig or a role model, you will consider the book a fair treatment.

Dec 13 2008 | Read Full Review of Mr Playboy: Hugh Hefner and t...

Bookmarks Magazine

He shows Hefner's personal dichotomies-the pleasure seeker and the workaholic, the consort of countless Playmates and the genuine romantic, the family man and the Gatsby-like host of lavish parties at his Chicago and Los Angeles mansions who enjoys well-publicized affairs with numerous Playmates,...

Oct 05 2008 | Read Full Review of Mr Playboy: Hugh Hefner and t...

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