EVENING UPDATE!! My field trip: Checking out new Tribune Media Center, the new home of the Chicago Tribune Washington BureauContinue reading.
Hugh Hefner Chicago Field Trip
Hef and Crystal Harris in front of the former Playboy Mansion, 1340 N. State.
I HEARD many interesting things during Hugh Hefner’s Friday afternoon bus tour of his hometown Chicago haunts.
But the best item might have been when Hef’s girl friend Crystal Harris suggested he wear the plaid scarf that was a gift to Hef from her mother and stepfather.
What do you get the man who has everything?
And doesn’t like clothes?
“It was a guess,” answered Harris, 24. “I got him the iPad and I didn’t know if he would like it. He uses it every day.”
Harris grew up in San Diego, Ca. Her mother is a real estate broker, her stepfather is a financial advisor.
They will be attending Hefner’s annual Halloween party at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
Hefner and his entourage were in town for the premiere of the acclaimed Brigitte Berman documentary “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel.” Even closer to Hefner’s heart was the chance to show Harris and his sons Cooper and Marston (Hefner’s middle name) his home town for the first time. Cooper is 19, Marston turns 21 on April 9, 2011–the same day Hefner turns 85……..
The documentary features priceless clips from Hefner’s groundbreaking “Playboy Penthouse” television show which debuted in 1959. A ring-a-ding highlight is Sammy Davis, Jr. celebrating a swinging Eisenhower-era Chicago. Sammy smiles, dances and sings about Chicago being a more happening place than Las Vegas or New York–mainly because of Playboy’s free spirit presence in Chicago.
“That was special to me because my Dad (Ray Harris) was a singer who was an opening act for Sammy Davis, Jr.,” Harris said. “That was in England.”
Hefner added, “She was conceived in England and born here.”
Harris continued, “My Dad passed away but he had a lot of music that was unpublished. During season six of (Playboy’s) ‘The Girls Next Door’ I sang ‘Say What You Want’, one of his unpublished songs. That got me signed to a label (Organica Music, an arm of Universal). The producer I’m working with has the rights to Sammy Davis, Jr.’s music.
“Its weird how everything connects.”
Harris will begin recording her debut contemporary-pop record next year.
Just as weird, Organica’s new VP of A&R is Jordan McGraw—the son of Dr. Phil.
Ironically, Hefner and Harris met two years ago at Hefner’s annual Halloween party.
“I’m shy but I walked over and said, ‘There’s Hef’,” she recalled. “I was on my last semester before getting my bachelor’s degree at San Diego State. I had packed up and moved to L.A. I was studying psychology. That’s what we had in common. Hef was a psychology major.” (At University of Illinois).
Early on in the tour Hefner remarked, “Despite the conservative nature of my (Methodist) family, my childhood was very happy. It was one filled of imagination and games.”
Again, ironically, Hefner said just last week he received a miniature dollhouse that is a wooden replica of the house he grew up in the 1900 North block of New England Avenue in Chicago. “It was a belated gift from Holly (Madison, former girl friend),” Hefner said. “She ordered it in May, 2008 when we were goin’ together. It took that long to construct. Its down to the toothbrush and toilet paper–every detail!”
Hefner was excited about his visit to Steinmetz High School, where he attended in the early 1940s. He founded the school newspaper and was president of the student council. (Steinmetz principals would not allow media into the assembly that featured Hefner). “Steinmetz has a strong print presence and won awards for its poetry people,” Hefner said. “Also, there were a couple hundred people in this mini-auditorium. And the vast majority of them were women. I was surprised.”
And Hefner laughed.
He then cited the popularity of Playboy’s “The Girls Next Door” reality show.
Playboy Enterprises spokespeople said it was the first time Hefner and his sons have sat down for an in-depth conversation with the media.
MY TWO SONS: Marston, left, Cooper right (Sun-Times photos by John Kim)
Hefner’s sons are incredibly humble and down to earth. Their parents did a good job. Their mother is former playmate Kimberley Conrad. Marston and Cooper grew up in a house next door to the Playboy Mansion in Los Angles. Hefner and Conrad divorced in 2009.
Marston is studying philosophy and planning to go to U.C.L.A. Cooper is attending Chapman University, a small liberal arts school near Los Angeles. He is studying film production with a minor in history.
He also reviews movies on the XM/Sirius Playboy channel. Every Friday morning he hosts the “Cooper’s Cougar” segment. The premise is that if Hef likes younger women, his son chats up women in their 40s.
“The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve enjoyed learning about the company,” he said. “And the more interested I’ve become. Right now my focus is school, but I’m enjoying life.”
For example, Cooper was excited about the police escort out of Steinmetz. His brother said, “He’s either going to be a police officer or the CEO of Playboy.”
They are music fans.
“I grew up with the Beatles when I was young,” Marston said. “I’d dance to them at the mansion. Then I’d listen to alternative and indy, which I still listen to as well as hip-hop. Recently I saw Sensitive Rubdown, which is really underground.”
Cooper added, “I grew up listening to the oldies, although Dad wouldn’t like us referring to it as the ‘oldies.’ Now I listen to indy rock. I’m not into hip-hop. I like old Weezer, the Sounds and the Killers.”
When Cooper was 13 years old he played in a Los Angeles alt-band called The Skips. “We played the Whiskey A-Go-Go,” he recalled. “We’d look at the crowd and there would be my 13, 14 year old friends and Marston. Then you had all the guests from the mansion who were 60, 70 and 80. My Dad always came to the shows.”
Hefner, of course, had different musical tastes than Cooper and Marston’s mother, former Playmate Kimberley Conrad.
“My Mom was jammin’ out to Guns n’ Roses in her Mercedes,” Cooper said. “My Dad was sitting on his silk bed in his silk pajamas listening to jazz. We were caught in the middle and got the best of both worlds.”
The current mansion’s ‘Game House’ has a 1945 jukebox with 78 RPM that recall Hefner’s high school years. “Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Artie Shaw,” Hefner said with a satisfied smile. “I started the magazine to create in the pages the party I thought I missed. I was born in 1926 and grew up during the Depression. I was the day after the party. I identified very much with the Jazz age: F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby. People have that feeling now, in things like the success of ‘Mad Men’ and Playboy globally. Much of the world has moved into what we were in the 1950s.
“They’ve missed a party.”