Arts and Crafts at the Playboy Mansion

5 minute read
Joel Stein

I always imagined Hugh Hefner’s life was 20% boobs, 20% butts and 60% boobs and butts. But then I started reading his Twitter feed and found out he spends every Saturday scrapbooking. Scrapbooking is clearly way more fun than I thought. And since there was little chance of upping the boobs and butts in my life, I decided to learn how to scrapbook–from him.

Normally, the 87-year-old Hef scrapbooks with his 27-year-old wife Crystal, but for my lesson, he met me alone on a Thursday. I showed up at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles with a box of old photos and letters and an award I won in 2003 for Best Newspaper/Magazine Article from the International Hempology 101 Society. I also brought a 20-page blank scrapbook whose cover was printed with words like memories, cherish and reflect. I climbed up to Hef’s scrapbooking room in the attic, where he greeted me wearing a captain’s hat, a red robe over black pajamas and slippers. Hef’s uniform never made sense to me, since old men who date young women tend to wear tight jeans and patterned shirts. Now, however, I realize it’s the perfect scrapbooking outfit.

Hef’s scrapbooking room is staffed by Steve Martinez, who has been his full-time head scrapbooker for 22 years. Hef’s completed volumes fill shelves in two rooms and two hallways, where he also hangs his Guinness World Records certificate for the largest collection of personal scrapbooks. Hef has been scrapbooking nonstop since he was in high school, and each Saturday he cherishes memories from the week that occurred exactly three months earlier, so he can make sure all the relevant news clippings have arrived. On this day, he was working on Volumes 2,684 and 2,685. When I later asked Michelle Rubin, who had been the editor of Scrapbooks Etc. magazine and lives in Iowa, how many scrapbooks she had, she said, “Five.”

Each of Hef’s more recent handmade books are 60 pages. When he was married to Kimberley Conrad, each book covered about a month and looked kind of like mine would, with photos of kids riding bikes. But a few months after their separation in 1998, Viagra came out, and after that each volume covered only about two days. When I randomly took down the book dated Oct. 4–5, 2000, I saw lots of photos of microskirted blondes holding champagne flutes in limousines, plus Paris Hilton and James Carville. It looked like something someone had elaborately staged to blackmail Carville.

Though I had culled my letters and photos down to those I considered important enough for my book, Hef is a bit more catholic in his selections. He includes every one of his tweets (“Keith and I won tonight’s game of Gin Rummy with the guys”), plus his e-mails, articles about any Playmate ever, newspaper stories about any of his famous friends, most of every issue of Playboy, and all the photos from Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue to demonstrate Playboy’s influence. “Who are they kidding that this is a swimsuit issue?” he asked.

Each Hef volume has a title and a cover photo. He decided to call one of the volumes he was finishing on our day together “Holly Has a Daughter,” since there were a lot of articles in it about how his ex-girlfriend Holly Madison had a daughter. “Will your wife mind that you’re making a scrapbook about your ex?” I asked him. Hef looked at me, confused, and then told me he wasn’t worried. Still, I decided that for my book I would hide the pictures of me with ex-girlfriends behind photos of me with my lovely wife Cassandra and call the volume “Joel Is Still Married.”

I asked Hef if, during his weekly reflection, he ever got insights into the possibility of changing parts of his life. “That thought hasn’t crossed my mind,” he said. “What has crossed my mind is I’m the luckiest f—er in the world.” Which, I guess, is just another way of saying cherish and reflect.

In fact, Hef insists he rarely opens old volumes, which Rubin says is typical of scrapbookers. “I probably don’t go through my scrapbooks that much,” she said. I nodded, pretending I don’t go back and read my old columns all the time.

After Hef finished his volumes, he reviewed mine. It was the first scrapbook other than his own he’d ever seen. He was not impressed. He wanted me to put everything in chronological order and add captions. “When you do it this way, you’ll be telling a story,” he said. He also suggested I live a better story. “There was a moment in time–when I started the scrapbook–I reinvented myself,” he said. “I changed my clothing, called myself Hef.” The first trick to living a more interesting life, I was learning, was to give myself a scrapbooking name. I’m going with Stei. My second scrapbook is going to be much better. Mostly because I have some photos of Stei at the mansion.

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