I had never really thought anything about Hugh Hefner, although as a little kid, I got to go to one of his Playboy clubs and remember vividly the women with the bunny ears and plushy on their butts, but it wasn't until I was working on another film project that I got his help which was pretty cool. We were setting up an interview and did not have the right backdrop, so after reaching out to Hugh Hefner (for an interview) mentioned that we were in a little bit of a bind, and he let us know to just come over to the Playboy studios and get whatever we needed. That was very cool of him, and once we got to the Playboy studio, his people let us know that we could sit in on one of their infamous Playmate shoots. So, that's how I came to know Hugh Hefner, and after that, had to give him a shoutout in our film.
Hugh Hefner seems to have gotten quite a bit of controversy over the years, and most people have a specific image of him. The womanizer, mogul, guy who throws big parties every Friday night at the Playboy mansion along with being a walking little blue pill. I finally got a chance to check out the documentary Hugh Hefner – Playboy, Activist and Rebel by Canadian filmmaker and Oscar winner Brigitte Berman. The compelling documentary takes a closer look at the man she says has helped liberate American culture – racially, sexually, politically, psychologically – since Playboy began publishing in December 1953.
I learned some very cool things about Hugh Hefner. Take one thing. Did you know that Hefner once sent his black Big Bunny jet to airlift orphaned babies and toddlers from Vietnam, with some of his Playboy bunnies assigned to watch over the kids? Neither did we. This has been a pretty cool year for documentaries that show us sides of celebrities like Joan Rivers that we never knew or though them capable of.
“I wanted to set the record straight, not whitewash Hefner or his reputation,” says the German-born Berman, who met Hefner at the 1987 Oscars when her film on bandleader Artie Shaw won best documentary. “Yes, he's a hedonistic playboy and lover of many women, but he's also the activist who fights for civil rights, freedom of speech, abortion rights, women's rights, gay rights.”
Berman does a really fine job with this documentary, and she does turn this film into just another gushing love letter to Hugh Hefner or Playboy. She gets some great viewpoints from all sides, which is something I truly respect in documentary filmmakers. Hugh Hefner, Playboy, Activist and Rebel is definitely worth the watch.
A documentary about Hugh Hefner seems like it would be quite surface on the surface, but this film gives some pretty interesting insight on the man you thought you knew everything about.