It's really sad when a visionary gets desperate. This month's Vanity Fair features an article on Hugh Hefner in which the Playboy founder touts his current arrangement of having seven girlfriends. In recent years, Hef has come back out of his shell following his separation from Kimberly Conrad, who lives in a house next door to the Playboy Mansion. Since the couple's separation, he has been back on the prowl, so to speak. But where in the '60s and '70s, Hugh Hefner embodied the magazine's Dionysian philosophy, this latest resurgence has the cheap feeling of a marketing campaign.
Even though Playboy has been around for 50 years, only in the last couple years have publishers come up with concepts to lure modern male subscribers away from the publication. Magazines like Penthouse and Hustler have certainly carved out a piece of the pie, but they were still relegated to behind-the-counter status at the convenience store. And if the joke is that men don't pick up Playboy for the articles, the truth is that men really don't pick up Penthouse or Hustler for the articles.
But recently, publications like Maxim, Stuff, and FHM have chipped heavily at Playboy's toehold with smart-ass content and the titillation of scantily clad celebrities rather than girls-next-door in the buff. Unfortunately, this competition has also led to a dumbing down of Playboy's editorial content (e.g., this month's interview with WWF and XFL mastermind Vince McMahon).
So when Hef hit the clubs again, he did so with the air of a man seeking to remind everyone that his magazine had started it all. The problem is, he's executed this move with all the contrivance of a media blitz. The front of the magazine has started featuring pages of photos from Playboy Mansion parties, with Hef surrounded with the latest hip celebrities. When an old party regular like James Caan showed up, it had the appearance of someone's dirty uncle inviting himself over to the clubhouse. Meanwhile, Hef started publicizing his "return" by making appearances on the talk-show circuit and in magazines. The Vanity Fair article is the third on him in as many months.
Unfortunately, when Hefner talks about Viagra and the seven young girlfriends he's supposedly bedding, and when the Playboy Mansion starts hosting events like the Limp Bizkit album-release party, you wonder if Hugh Hefner wouldn't rather be rid of the Playboy lifestyle. Surely he finds conversation with dimwitted punks like Fred Durst incomparable to hobnobbing with Frank Sinatra in his prime. And while Hugh certainly looks better than just about any man in his 70sa good argument for rampant non-monogamous sex if there ever was oneI find it hard to believe he's truly making time with all of these nubile pixies. I'm betting that like most men in his 70s, more often than not he could just use a nap.
Playboy was once a trailblazer and has made an undeniable impact on our culture. Hugh Hefner has earned his place in the history booksbut maybe now it's time he just sat back and enjoyed it.
There's a long history of actors who have abandoned their cinematic careers to pursue a life in politics. Oddly enough, given Hollywood's supposedly liberal leanings, the majority of these civil servants have been Republicans. Now Arnold Schwarzenegger is the newest name on the list. Nothing official has been announced, but Arnie has been dropping little hints that Gov. Gray Davis' mishandling of the California energy crisis has possibly inspired him to seek the gubernatorial seat.
Another explanation is that Arnold's film career is flagging. He hasn't had an honest-to-God hit since 1994's True Lies. But thanks to Premiere magazine, he may be asked to switch political parties. A recent exposé unearths accusations of infidelity, sexual harassment, and possible drug abuse. Particularly reprehensible are numerous stories recounting his raunchy and inconsiderate behavior with women.
Already accused last year in Britain of groping a female television host, Schwarzenegger also reportedly stuck his hands down a woman's blouse after walking out of a trailer on a movie set. Shocked, the woman ran off crying but refused to press charges for fear of losing her job.
End of the road
I tell you what. It's been a tough couple of months for relationships. Meg and Dennis. Harrison Ford and his wife. Baldwin and Basinger. And now Tom and Nicole. It just seems like two kids in love can't keep it together anymore. That's the way of the world, though. Sometimes it's just too hard to bridge the gender gap till death do us part.
But when I found out last week that The Afghan Whigs were calling it quits after 14 rockin' years, I truly lost all faith in humanity. Men and women reaching an impasse I can understand. Four guys who make an incredible rock 'n' soul sound I cannot. But like other great critically championed bands of the past (Big Star, The Replacements), they've gone virtually unrecognized in their own time, so it's not surprising that they'd finally decide to give it a rest.
Still, this is simply baffling to me. We're not talking about some eccentric, off-the-beaten-track band that only music geeks would listen to. We're talking about a real rock 'n' roll outfit in the Springsteen vein, the type of band that can get people up off their asses dancingeven people who usually refuse to dance in public. And in penman Greg Dulli, the Whigs had a sharp, smart songwriter who knows how to give a simple turn of phrase infinite meaning.
Ironically, amid all this celebrity-couple fallout, it was the subject of sexual politics that The Afghan Whigs explored so well. Albums like Gentlemen and songs like "Faded" delved into the tenuous bond between man and woman like nobody else in the '90s, except for perhaps Liz Phair. But now it's all over, and your chance to jump on the bandwagon, or to help create a bandwagon, is gone. Dulli is already recording a follow-up to his Twilight Singers solo project from last year, so his talent will be around for years to come. But hardcore fans know that it will never be like the Whigs in their prime.
If you want to hear the group that other bands will be name-checking in 10 years, then pick up the dark relationship cycle of Gentlemen, the noirish Black Love, or what is now the Whigs' swan song, the good-times horniness of 1965. Tom and Nicole will keep making movies, but these are all we have left of the great Afghan Whigs.
As many of you have probably already guessed, I drink heavily and irresponsibly. As a result, I have a habit of doing stupid things and forgetting to correct them later on. When I drafted last week's "Pop Life" column, I inserted a fake name for the winner of Quotidian Challenge, because we had no winner yet. That name was the fifth-grade pun Phil McCrevis, which my more adult and mature editor did not catch. (Sorry, I was drunk too.ed.)
We did in fact have a winner. Not only was he the winner, but he was the only respondent who got the answer right. His name is Alan Wand, and he is a genius who deserves the respect and admiration of his peers...and some free useless crap from the Scene. My apologies to Alan and the many duped readers.
"People on 'ludes should not drive."
E-mail the origin of this useless bit of trivia to poplife the shame of your name printed in the paper and some free useless crap from the Nashville Scene!
Previous week's answer: "Anthrax," by Gang of Four.
Winner: Cary Blue.
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