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Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream

Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream

By: Steven Watts
Publisher: Wiley
Publication Date: October, 2008
ISBN: 978-0471690597
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: March 2009

Steven Watts, a noted biographer of books about Walt Disney and Henry Ford, has this time tackled the story of another American icon by writing a thorough, page turning, and entertaining biography of the quintessential playboy and seeker of the American Dream, Mr. Hugh Hefner.

Being born into, and growing up in the era of post war monetary depression and sexual repression, Hefner's early life reflected the aspirations of his generation. He received a good education, found solid employment, fell in love, got married and had children, but something was missing for him in that life -- he wanted more.

Since childhood, writing and creating fantasy had been one of the ways Hefner escaped from reality. This led him into latching onto an idea of a lifestyle magazine for men who wanted to break free from the stifling mold set in place by previous generations. The critical importance of this magazine was not only to display photos of scantily clad women, but to create a road map for the modern male, offering a model for a new lifestyle that included everything from food to clothing to entertainment.

Of course, not every road to success is always effortlessly paved, and Hefner is definitely no stranger towards adversity. Yet, not only did he manage to create an empire through an unswerving and strong business ethic, he also managed to practice what he preached. Unfortunately, this often came at a price that at times would seem to signal the end of his reign as king of his empire. Society and the media were not always kind to this man who had the nerve to openly boast about his wild days living in his adult playground. But these dark days of societal ridicule, errors in business maneuvers and blunders in his own personal life, never deterred this man. He would pick himself up after every downward spiral and stand by his gut feelings and beliefs of what society, and most importantly, he needed out of life.

Throughout the book the author easily engages the reader with his well organized prose. Although it did appear to be a bit wordy at times, readers are not only given plentiful information concerning Hefner's life, including a few notable pictures, but they are afforded easy access to where, and from whom, the sources of information were obtained. This appears to enhance the credibility of the story, and lessens the appearance that this is an unauthorized smutty tell-all tale.

Quill says: A thorough and enlightening examination of one man's life that is often seen as overly crude and abundant. Told through his own personal and professional quest for obtaining the American Dream, this book may afford the reader a different, more respected perspective on Hefner’s life.

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