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Sugar Daddy / Sugar Baby

In our ailing economy, even Hugh Hefner is plagued by financial troubles, on top of which he’s also juggling romantic problems, perhaps for the first time in his 80-something years. The combination of the two put Hef into the news spotlight recently—so it seemed a good time to post this slightly revised excerpt of something I wrote for a book on the topic of Sugar Daddy/Sugar Baby relationships.

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Hugh Hefner : The Ultimate Sugar Daddy

While Sugar Daddies existed long before Hugh Hefner came along, he, more than anyone else, perfected the art of Sugar dating – and not just for himself, but for every man in the civilized world. The first issue of Playboy sold 50,000 copies, enabling Hef (his nickname since high school) to publish the next issue; he went on to build Playboy into an empire, and himself into a living legend. Beautiful girls of all ages still flock to his side. With the exception of a minority of rigidly anti-porn crusaders, women tend to respect and appreciate Hef, partly because he’s the quintessential gentleman, but, more important, because he pioneered the cause of equal sex rights for women way before anyone else even dared to think about it.  “Playboy,” he once said, “was founded on the notion that nice girls like sex too.”

Like the rest of the economy, Playboy is falling on hard times. It’s a sad state of affairs when an iconic 83-year-old multimillionaire has to lay off staff or go bankrupt – yet that might happen. In addition, Hef’s happy household split up: the three twenty-something blonde Sugar Babies, including long-time girlfriend Holly, all of whom had lived with him for years, moved out of his Chicago mansion. A host of new girls jumped at the opportunity to become Hugh’s new Sugar Babies, though, and he’s now living with a fresh new trio of twenty-something blondes.

Hef and women

From its inception, Playboy was revolutionary. It was the first mainstream publication to print pictures of naked women right next to intelligent and trenchant articles of social commentary. A widely popular joke, still told today, was, I read it for the articles. Every issue featured probing stories about prominent thinkers, celebrities, movers and shakers. In the pages of Playboy, President Jimmy Carter confessed to having “lusted in my heart.” John Lennon and Yoko Ono revealed secrets told nowhere else, and the interview was later published as a book. Interviews with everyone from rock stars to world leaders ran for twenty, thirty or more pages. The best contemporary writers vied to get into Playboy: Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Kurt Vonnegut.

PlayboyPlayboy’s chief purpose, however, was as instruction manual for men who aspired to be, like its creator, a carefree playboy. In what are now called “lifestyle” articles, the magazine shaped a universe with Hefner’s taste indelibly stamped on everything in it. Pictorials of swanky homes exhibited up-to-the-minute decorating trends, including Hef’s famous round bed with built-in shelves holding everything he might need while in it…well, except for the one vital element he invited in when he so desired. Men’s clothing, electronic equipment, cars, restaurants…Playboy gave American men a crash course in sophistication. They soon believed that if they furnished their living room with a leopard skin sofa and reclined on it in a smoking jacket, they might turn into a clone of their idol.

Unlike most producers of adult material, Hef is highly esteemed by the publishing industry – and he managed to pull it off while still in his pajamas. Girls still want to be with him, and guys still want to be him.

Hefner donates to anti-censorship groups, sex research institutions, and various kinds of film organizations. He also gives generously to the Democrats. When Sarah Palin emerged from the snows of Alaska into the bright light of public scrutiny, Hef’s assessment was that she’d make a terrific Playboy centerfold. “Imagine what she’s like when those glasses come off,” he said. “It would be a new definition of the word vice in vice-president.” Only Hugh Hefner could get away with saying something like that.

Hugh Hefner trivia:

• A species of rabbit is named in his honor (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri).

• He’s the first magazine publisher to become a major celebrity.

• He had a Genius IQ of 152 in high school but was an ”unenthusiastic” student.

• He was arrested in 1963 for possessing “indecent” photos of actress Jayne Mansfield.

• The first centerfold in the first issue of Playboy magazine, which came out in 1953, was Marilyn Monroe. After Monroe was buried in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, Hefner bought the vault next to hers. It seems fitting that the ultimate Sugar Daddy will spend eternity next to the quintessential Sugar Baby of all time…

Marilyn Monroe: Sugar Babe Extraordinaire

Marilyn in white

If America held a Miss Sugar Baby Pageant, the winner would surely be Norma Jean Baker, aka Marilyn Monroe. Unlike most Sugar Babies, Marilyn was focused on achieving stardom, and she didn’t set out to find herself a Sugar Daddy. Rather, she became a Sugar Baby by default, in her life as well as on screen. She attracted wealthy and accomplished men – Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio, playwright Arthur Miller, and President John F. Kennedy, to name just a few – who showered her with expensive gifts and outsized attention. Until his own death a few years ago, DiMaggio had flowers delivered to her grave every day of his life.

On the screen, Marilyn was typecast as a Sugar Baby early on. In How to Marry A Millionaire she declared, “I’d rather marry a rich man than a poor man.” The distinction between the woman and the character frequently blurred, at least to her audience. Only after her death did the world learn about the real Marilyn – that she was no ditzy blonde, but fairly intelligent; that she was a dedicated actor whose extraordinary physicality overshadowed her work, which was never taken seriously. Men, of course, adored and wanted her. Women either hated her out of envy, or wanted to be her – or both. Her legions of fans never knew how hurt and frustrated she was being seen only as a sex symbol.

Even when you died, the press still hounded you

All the papers had to say was that Marilyn was found in the nude…

–Elton John, “Candle in the Wind”

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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the archetypal Monroe flick, could be taken for a Sugar Baby manifesto. Marilyn plays Lorelei, a showgirl on tour with her stage partner Jane Russell. Lorelei is engaged to a pipsqueak oil man (yesteryear’s version of the techie geek), and Russell, a knockout in her own right, is charged with keeping Lorelei out of man trouble – which, predictably, fails. Pipsqueak’s father, who thinks Lorelei is a cruel mercenary exploiting his son, tries to get rid of her. In their climactic confrontation, Lorelei/Marilyn speaks with pride and self-confidence for all Sugar Babies when she says that wanting money and jewelry doesn’t make her cruel or heartless—after all, she insists, she does love Pipsqueak. She claims the right to use her looks for material gain since, she points out, men use their money to impress girls. So why shouldn’t a pretty girl use her assets?

The movie’s highlight is the song-and-dance number Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. The song could easily serve as the official Sugar Baby national anthem.

Girls grow old, and men grow cold and we all lose our charms in the end.
But square cut or pear shaped these rocks don’t lose their shape.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

You can see and hear Marilyn sing it. You’ll never be the same, believe me!

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2 responses »

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