March 10th, 2010
02:14 PM ET

The Reinvention of Hugh Hefner

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I'm going to ask you to do something for me. I need you to put your preconceived notions aside for a moment with regards to octogenarian über playboy Hugh Hefner because that's what I did last night.

I'm attending the Miami International Film Festival and one of many documentaries shown in South Beach was "Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel."

The film had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but few North American audiences have yet to see it before it releases theatrically in June.

As the lights went down and the documentary came on the first face I saw was KIIS frontman Gene Simmons who opens the film by saying that every man would love to be Hugh Hefner. Naturally I rolled my eyes thinking "Uh Oh here we go again an old man praising another  old man for sexually conquering and objectifying tons of women..where have I seen that before?"

But after the 2 hour documentary I changed my position.  That's because I got to see a side of Hefner I've never seen before. The documentary takes a look at how Hefner challenged so many stereotypes in the 1950s and 1960s in the midst of a very racially charged and socially conservative environment.

Hef was one of the few rich and famous people who openly challenged segregation and  obscenity laws. And although most of his life has been about him being surrounded by scantily clad women, the documentary hints that he was often lonely and longed for the real love he found at times.

The film humanizes Hefner in a way no one has attempted to do before on the big screen. His recent dalliances with his overexposed ex-girlfriends from the reality show "The Girls Next Door" become unimportant once the documentary shows  video of him being arrested for standing up to ridiculous obscenity laws, or challenging religious intolerance followed by pictures of him receiving a NAACP Image Award from Jim Brown for Hefner's tireless work to eradicate racist segregation laws.

Oscar-winning producer Brigette Berman made the flick and was granted unprecedented access to the mansion and Hefner as well as permission to use tons of pictures and archival video. She said the reason why she decided to make this documentary was because she always felt there was more to Hefner and no one was paying tribute to him.

Berman said she sent Hefner a treatment for her idea to document his life and one day later received word that he wanted to do it. So off she flew from Toronto, where she is based, and in she moved to the Playboy Mansion to do extensive interviews with the man himself.

When asked what was the one thing that surprised Berman the most about Hefner she quickly replied "His integrity! He is also so generous and really does everything to help those in need, that includes animals as well. He's helped out friends and ex-wives and ex-girlfriends financially many times."

Hmmmm....perhaps Hugh Hefner's best creation is reinventing himself!


soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. P Can

    Before you freak about him being such a "wild" man gather the facts or go see the movie. If you haven't seen the movie, I really don't understand how you could say anything on this post! I saw the movie and it revealed history about him which I was not aware of such as segregation. The movie shows how he was an activist during difficult times. YES, HE WAS AN ACTIVIST!!! There is more to it than pictures of naked girls. And really, is that so horrible? The movie did not focus on the girls rather his influence on our society and our modern day culture. These comments against him were exactly the same type of people he passionately fought against since the 50's. Hugh Hefner was and is a pioneer! These negative comments are pretty scary...

    March 11, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Get serious

    So what? The NAACP also gives "image" awars to people who support cop killers, thugs and wife beaters....come to think of it....that's exactly where he belongs....it takes more than posing for a few pictures and attacking people's religion to be an activist...

    March 11, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. entrope

    Oh, is meglomania what we're calling it these days? What will the kids think of next...

    March 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Alison

    Get serious- did you not read the article? He has been an activist for ending segregation and racial bias, and for challenging archaic obscenity laws. Just because you don't agree with his products does not mean that he hasn't made a positive change.

    March 11, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. jem0276

    Hugh is a kind, warm, magnanamous, sentimental genuine man. He is NOT a PORN peddler. Playboy is tasteful, insightful and has influenced countless people to open up to their own sexuality and be accepting of others. Anyone who doesn't see that this man is fighting the good fight even into his eighties is not looking or refuses to see. I mean simply You-tube some Playboy After Dark episodes where black and controversial entertainers like Sammy davis Jr. or Lenny Bruce were given a forum to express themselves, defend themselves or just introduce themselves to a public that was "in the dark" as far as information and exposure to different pop culture icons went. Playboy is an American institution and Hugh Heffner is one of our national icons, keep it up Hef, may peace and love be yours for the rest of your days.

    March 11, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. Get serious

    Activist? About what? What has he really done except peddle smut and stroke his own meglomania?

    March 11, 2010 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  7. laura TJ

    There are always 2 sides to every story & 2 sides to every human being– Hugh Hefner has been around for so many years–what a business man with much class. Documentary sounds good–he has lived a great life.

    March 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. GoSharks

    Hef is the man. Seriously. It's going to be a huge deal when he passes away. I think he is great, and I'm a woman who has no aspirations of being a Playmate... I just think he's brilliant.

    March 10, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Head Diva In Charge

    I have never respected Hugh although, the reality show makes me laugh. I felt like he made himself much more important then he is. He is a porn peddler (at least Larry Flint says it). But maybe, somewhere in that old haggard body full of Viagra, Scotch and Cigars (sounds like my ex) there is a good, talented, kind hearted man who really wants to change the world!
    Hmmm....do I really believe that?

    March 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |

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