How did you get a hold of it?
I was a reader. I read a lot of science fiction, I was a big fan of plot-driven stories. A lot of the people — you may not remember this series called The Twilight Zone —
Hey, come on! Of course I know it! It scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid!
Well, a lot of the Twilight Zone writers also wrote for Playboy.
Would you have said you were a science fiction fan?
Well yeah, I subscribed to a magazine called Weird Tales. . . when I was a kid I drew comic books and created a magazine called Shudder, because I was a fan of monster movies and mysteries, etc. Much of what I did in starting Playboy, I had really been in rehearsal for since childhood. I created my first penny newspaper when I was nine years old, I started a school paper that lasted about 20 years in sixth grade, and created comic books and wrote stories, so I was in rehearsal right up to the time I launched Playboy.
Were you a geek?
Well, the term didn't exist then. . . .
Were you a "poindexter"?
Well, difficult to say . . . I did all right with the ladies, though not nearly as well as I did after I launched Playboy.
I read an interview with you where you said you got together with a girl you had a crush on in high school, like, every year?
The girl I had a crush on, named Betty Conklin, lives in California, so she comes to visit on major holidays and etc.
Were you in touch all those years?
We remain in touch. I've remained in touch with her and some of the other small circle of classmates from high school.
So did she know you had a crush on her at the time?
She knew. She picked another boy. Picked another boy, and that was the first time, in my 16th summer, it was that fall after that rejection that I really reinvented myself and started referring to myself as "Hef." Changed my wardrobe, learned the jitterbug, and became a very cool cat.
That must have been one hell of a rejection.
Well, I became, as a result of it, a class leader, and I created in high school a small version of what I did later on with Playboy. When I launched Playboy, it was inspired in a very real way by the fact that I was in an unhappy marriage, and I went to a high school alumni show that my best buddy from high school and I wrote and hosted. And it was that experience that reminded me of all the dreams put away, and that's what really motivated me to start Playboy.
I think I just stumbled upon your secret origins, here. You got rejected by Betty Conklin —
She picked another boy —
And you became Batman, basically.
The closer you get to my life the more awesome it becomes! Not only am I Batman, I even used to have the black plane! [The Big Bunny, Hef's private jet.]
The parallels are startling.