Hugh Hefner had a profound impact on American culture and business, and on me personally. The founder of Playboy Magazine and overlord of the empire it spawned employed thousands of citizens, only a very small number of whom had to take their clothes off. A Playboy layout was just the break many aspiring Hollywood starlets needed.

Hefner advocated for women’s equality. The delicious irony of this is still lost on mission-minded feminists who can’t see the map for all the road signs.

Hefner also paid big bucks to serious journal- ists to do thoughtful, well-researched articles; the kind of money that helped influence mainstream publications to pay top-tier journalists what they were worth.
Hefner’s little endeavor forced America into a long litigious fight that redefined the First Amendment and free speech.

Hefner took an idea and turned it into a kingdom of sorts. He started a magazine with high-quality photographs of lovely naked women and sold it, not in alleys, but alongside Newsweek and delivered to the same mailboxes as The Farmer’s Almanac.

Hugh Hefner died a few weeks ago. He was 91. So much for the notion that hedonism leads to an early grave.

Upon hearing of Hefner’s death. I started think- ing about pipes. When I was a college freshman,
and thinking that Hugh Hefner was the epitome of sophistication, I decided to try to emulate him in the easiest way I could. “Hef” was frequently photographed sitting at his typewriter with a pipe clenched in his teeth. I already had a typewriter. So, I bought a pipe and a pouch of cherry-scented tobacco.

The girls didn’t swoon. I got an idea of why after a week or so when I bought pipe cleaners. I pushed one through the pipe’s stem, and it came out a dark nasty color, dripping a gooey, brown liquid onto my lap. Very sophisticated, no?

In high school, I was a drugstore delivery boy, which in some ways remains my favorite job ever. The pharmacy had a relatively large magazine selection. On the top rack (no pun intended) were the Playboy magazines. Of course, if you were old enough to be interested in naked women, you were tall enough to peer into the top shelf, so I don’t know what good the precaution did. It was a small town, and this pharmacy was the only respectable place you could buy Playboy. Mostof the customers were church-going types, quite a few ordained ministers. It seems odd in these current times, but no one organized a protest or wrote a letter to the editor in complaint. Somehow, everybody just minded their own business.
Hefner knew what the Greco-Roman sculptors and even cave wall painters knew: the female breast is fascinating. But I don’t know if he foresaw the intersection of his centerfolds and the advent of cosmetic makeovers, or plastic surgery. Now, the latter can include many types of makeovers, from the eyes to the tummy. But what’s commonly called a “boob job” is what always leaps first to mind.

Older women get what’s sometimes called a “mommy makeover” to try to restore a youthful look that nursing babies took away. Years ago, in Atlanta, I dated an older woman who, on about
the fifth date, told me she had had such surgery. I asked if she had also had her breasts enlarged while she was at it. She hemmed and hawed and finally said only because the surgeon urged her to. Contrast that response with that of a woman I dated more recently, who, while we were in an amorous embrace, confessed that her breasts weren’t “real.” I asked if she had done it as a mommy makeover.
“No, I just wanted bigger breasts.” Her candor made me like her even more.
I can tell you from just those two experiences that some boob jobs turn out better than others. And they’re expensive. If you’re considering breast augmentation, get recommendations for a surgeon. There must be at least a website. Maybe someone should start a support group.

Let me conclude by saying to my female readers (if I have any left) that breast size doesn’t matter to me. So, if I’m walking down the sidewalk with you and some nice cleavage happens by and I gaze a moment too long, forgive me, as long as my eyes return to you.

And RIP, Hugh Hefner.


Whatever you think of professional football players protesting during the playing of the na- tional anthem, one thing is for sure: the president of the United States only aided their support with his school-yard name-calling. Team owners and many pundits have affirmed the players’ right to free speech.

But Donald Trump only wants to hear the roar of approval from those who support him. Listen,
Donnie Boy (I think that’s what I’ll start calling you), since you won the blasted election, now is the time to govern, not campaign.
What’s scarier is Donnie Boy’s trading of insults and threats with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Here you have two leaders with obviously bad hair stylists and apparently mental instability, who have the wherewithal to launch nuclear attacks.

On a sad note, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin died in late September at the age of 88. I always liked him. He regularly attended the annual meeting of the Georgia Press Association to give a little spiel touting Georgia-grown produce. I received his quarterly reports for years. He always came across as a jovial, devoted bureaucrat, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But what I remember most is when I was a rookie reporter at The Augusta Chronicle, hoping for my first big story. I got a tip that a rural sheriff was pocketing meal money for prisoners by feeding them from his own farm, including slaughtered hogs. I was getting nowhere with the good-ol’-boy network in county government. I don’t remember what made me call the Georgia Department of Agriculture, but after an explanation a spokesman gave me a pretty usable quote.
About 10 minutes later, my phone rang. “Bryant, this Tommy Irvin. What we need to know is whether that farm and especially the slaughtering of hogs is under regular inspection.”
Bingo! Front page. So, thank you, Tommy Irvin.

Tell Hef the next round is on me.

J. Bryant Steele was first published when he was 14 and has made a living stringing words together for 40 years. But the main reason he writes is to avoid housework. He has won 50 or so writing awards. He is a graduate of the Grady School of Journalism (The University of Georgia) and of Education for Ministry (The University of the South). He also publishes poetry and fiction. He is the proud father of two magnificent adult children. He is also very opinionated.