Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hef Leaves Chicago

For awhile now, and especially after hearing Lee talk last week, I've wondered why Hugh Hefner decided to move the infamous Playboy company out of the city in which he had been born and raised. What with Chicago's history of being a bit more risque than other cities around the country, it would seem that Chicago would be the perfect setting for an enterprise steered towards social revolution and the creation of a swinging, carefree lifestyle. Unfortunately, some local some local politicians and U.S. Attorney James R. Thompson felt otherwise and aimed at bringing down the drug-and-sex wonderland held by the company and its founder.
One young woman (one of VERY many I should add) who was immediately drawn into the lifestyle offered by Playboy was Bobbie Arnstein who applied to be Hef's secretary in the early '60's. Upon meeting Hef, Arnstein was offered a job to be Hef's private assistant which she immediately accepted. Arnstein's time with Playboy was a time of self-discovery which ultimately ended in disaster. In 1963, Arnstein's fiance was killed in an automobile crash and she became submersed in the drug culture of the time. After suffering from a drug-induced coma and living her life in a fragile state, Arnstein was also sought by the federal government to gather evidence in a drug-ring probe supposedly run by Hefner. She was arrested outside of the Playboy mansion on March 21, 1974 for the possession of and intent to distribute cocaine. Prosecutors pressed Arnstein to confess that that Hefner and Playboy were involved in a drug-ring, but Arnstein remained loyal to Hefner despite facing the possibility of prison.


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In October of '74, Arnstein was sentenced to 15 years in prison and was also informed by James Thompson that a contract was put on her life (some say by Hefner to protect his name) although the truth of this statement is unknown. After posting bond, Arnstein checked into the Maryland Hotel, a hotel known for "mob-connected pimps and prostitutes", and committed suicide with a lethal combination of tranquilizers, barbiturates, and sleeping pills.
Later in 1975, Hefner was exonerated by U.S. Attorney Sam Skinner and exiled himself to Los Angeles where he remains to this day. He donated the original Playboy mansion to the Art Institute of Chicago.

It kind of sucks that Hef had to leave town on a bad note, especially after seeing how much of an impact he's had on society and culture over the course of the past 50 years. I wouldn't have minded being around to experience some of the crazy life that was taking place back then.

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