Remembering Hugh Hefner

September 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

Hugh Hefner and Me, Post-Interview/Hope Anderson Productions

My first and only meeting with Hugh Hefner, who died yesterday at 91, took place in 2008, when I interviewed him for my documentary “Under the Hollywood Sign.” Our meeting took place at the Playboy Mansion, in a room that was permanently lit and dressed for filming. It was an afternoon of rules and rituals: after announcing myself at the hidden intercom outside the gate (“talk to the rock,” in “Entourage” parlance) I was instructed to stand with my crew in the courtyard until the PR rep admitted us. Peacocks wandered by as we waited, and noises from unseen animals eminated from the zoo. Once we were inside and set up, Hugh Hefner appeared in his trademark silk smoking jacket. He sat down in a throne-like chair and the interview began.

It was a strange, yet not entirely unfamiliar, experience. At fifteen, I toured Buckingham Palace with my family, a visit made possible by a former employee of my father’s company who was then Keeper of the Privy Purse. After watching the Changing of the Guard from inside the gates, we trooped through the Palace’s public rooms, all of them vast and a hundred years behind the times in their decor. The Playboy Mansion, with its protocol and fusty oak paneled rooms, was the closest I’ve come to revisiting Buckingham Palace, though unlike the Queen, Hugh Hefner was present. He was also gracious. After the interview, I told him that reading my father’s Playboy magazines as a child had given me an excellent sex education, which didn’t surprise him in the least. We posed for a picture, he exited and I was soon outside the gates again, in the real world.

“Under the Hollywood Sign” is available on DVD and streaming at http://www.hopeandersonproductions.com

Related article:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/hef-saves-the-hollywood-sign-again/

The Hollywood Sign’s Renovation, Week Six: Painting the Y

November 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Hollywood Sign at Midday, 11/9/12/Hope Anderson Productions

Yesterday it rained; today, along with sunshine, there is a beautiful bank of clouds behind the Hollywood Sign instead of the usual cloudless blue sky. The painters have reached the Y which, some will remember, is the letter Hugh Hefner chose to pay for when Sign was rebuilt in 1978.

Without Hugh Hefner’s fundraising efforts, the Hollywood Sign would not exist today. In 1978, the original 1923 Sign was in ruins, and no one else seemed particularly concerned about its fate. It took someone of Hefner’s stature to draw attention to the eyesore on Mt. Lee and do something about it.

In the decades since, the Hollywood Sign has become a huge tourist draw, creating headaches for those of us who live near it. Nevertheless, it would be hard to find anyone here who doesn’t enjoy looking at the Sign. Whether we regard it as a historical monument, a mascot and or a navigational device, Hollywoodlanders love the Hollywood Sign as much as tourists do, and–because it began as our neighborhood’s billboard–perhaps a little more.

Hef Saves the Hollywood Sign–Again

April 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

Monday’s announcement from the Trust For Public Land–that Hugh Hefner had donated the final $900,000 needed to buy the Cahuenga Peak parcel–marks the publisher’s second time as savior of the Hollywood Sign. The first came in 1978, when he conceived the fundraising campaign to tear down and replace the original Hollywood Sign with the replica that stands today. Although a number of individuals and studios eventually contributed to the cause, the idea–as well as the initial donation–was entirely Hefner’s.

Two years ago, when I interviewed Hugh Hefner for my documentary “Under the Hollywood Sign,” I asked whether any city officials had approached him about saving the Sign, which by the 1970s was in ruins. “No,” he said. “Nobody cared.” He went on to say, “Clearly the town had forgotten it, or it wouldn’t have been in such terrible disrepair.”

In June of 1978, a party at the Playboy Mansion kicked off the campaign. Within four months, Hefner had raised more than $200,000 for the new Sign. Unlike the original, it was anchored in bedrock and engineered to withstand wind and earthquakes. Work began on August 8th and was completed on October 30th, ahead of schedule and under budget. The new Hollywood Sign has held up beautifully, enduring the Northridge earthquake without damage and not budging in the three decades since its completion.

Hugh Hefner and Me, Post-Interview/Hope Anderson Productions

Our interview took place at the Playboy Mansion, a Holmby Hills estate that boasts no views beyond its own lush grounds. Given these surroundings, the fact that Hugh Hefner would care at all about the Hollywood Sign was striking to me. That he has continued to care in the 30 years since it was rebuilt seems proof of his remarkable generosity.

That day, Hugh Hefner spoke movingly of the Sign. “Hollywood is the city of dreams,” he said, “and the Hollywood Sign represents those dreams.”

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