Hugh Hefner - A Personal Tribute
By Rosemary Grayson AKA Rosemarie Hillcrest
Miss October 1964 Playboy Magazine
Si non oscillas, noli tintinare—Latin for
“If you don’t swing, don’t ring.”
Famously it’s engraved below the door knocker
on Hugh Hefner’s original mansion.
In the summer of 1963, I had just arrived on a Greyhound bus in Chicago. I made a beeline for the nearest payphone. Magically, I nailed an innocent lady on Playboy Magazine’s switchboard. She refused me Hugh Hefner’s phone number, yet curiously gave me the address of his mansion on North State Parkway. Later, it emerged that she thought my call was from London.
I was a British cub reporter. I had visions of breaking the big interview story in the UK. Hugh Hefner was the millionaire owner and publisher of Playboy Magazine in glitzy Chicago. My story was aimed at my student newspaper at Exeter University, in rural Devon. I had no idea what plans if any, he had for his story.
Many Americans fuzzily envisage the British living in castles, whilst the British think most Americans are millionaires. I was in hot pursuit of a millionaire; any millionaire, for my story. So here he was, on a plate. I simply rang the bell and announced Playboy Magazine had sent me. A young black lad in white wig and buckled shoes let me in. I thought, let the pantomime begin. Charming, smiling, pipe-smoking, in his silk pajamas, Hef gave me a superb interview. What a bull’s eye.
On my feet ready to run like a rabbit; Hef gently sat me down suggesting that I might like to be their next centerfold. I equally gently said ‘no’. He scribbled his direct line in my notebook ,“In case I should change my mind.”
I did, but for a bet. Three days before flying home I rang Hef within earshot of a skeptical fellow student who bet me five dollars I would never get through. Bikini style test shots followed at the mansion. This time I noticed, with a slight shudder, that infamous door knocker motto.
Duty called back at University. My interview was burning a hole in my pocket to be written up for our South Westerner newspaper. But I mentally filed Hef’s centerfold request under ‘deeply embarrassing’ and ‘pie in the sky.’
Yet as a penniless 19-year-old, the dollars in five figures, a free Christmas trip for a month at a mansion crammed with celebrities, predictably had me hooked. I was invited to join Hef in the famous big round bed. I can happily and possibly disappointingly, reveal every detail. We both pored over the prototypes of Playboy. These were appalling scrap books on brown sugar paper. Every badly shot black and white photo featured Hef with some dire-looking girl. Yet he was fearless in his faith and vision. It would all metamorphose into the glossy, tasteful, informative American’s dream of a sexual Shangri-La; which came to pass . . .
The Playboy ‘family’ is perhaps one of the world’s most glamorous and friendly of alumnus; so an enormous plus there. Free of wannabes, all the girls I met had ‘made it,’ so no catty jockeying for position in a pecking order.
At last, this side of the pond, at Lakeside I have been able to ‘come out.’ My salute to Hugh Hefner at his death on September 27th at 91 years old is with one of my nude Playboy photographs on Face Book. I said “Farewell, dear Hef. You gave us all a good time. You gave me a great story.”