Hugh Hefner: ''I am still very romantic. Being in love completes me'


I was very conservative as a teenager I was raised in a Puritan home and I was planning to get married to a girl from high-school, once we graduated. But right before we tied the knot, she had an affair. It was devastating for me; she had been the only person I'd had sex with and it doomed the marriage.

'Playboy' was a flag of liberation for myself and society at large I was trying to bring sex into the fold of a healthy lifestyle. But I had no idea what was going to happen. The first issue had no date as I didn't know if I was going to be able to publish a second. But in the first few weeks the magazine took off.

I helped change the law The 1950s was a very conservative decade, and if the sex laws in the 48 states at the time were effectively applied, most adult men in the US would have been serving prison time. The Playboy Foundation was the activist arm of the Playboy Philosophy and in the 1960s we helped a lot of people; we helped a woman who was serving time for manslaughter for having an illegal abortion get out of prison, and we helped free a married man for having anal sex with his wife. In a social-sexual sense the world is a Playboy world now and I take great pride in that.

Viagra has freed older people We are living longer now and we should live life to the fullest as long as we are able. I got my first prescription in the weeks my marriage [to former Playboy Playmate Kimberley Conrad] was ending [they separated in 1998 and finally divorced last year]. It was a hallelujah moment for me. I went through a period of excess and I had seven girlfriends. I said at the time, "Seven girlfriends are easier to handle than one wife."

People talk about religion as a civilising force. It's not; sex is The attachment between the two sexes is the beginning of family, tribe and most things on the planet. Responding to a woman's beauty is in our DNA; it makes the world go round.

I am still very romantic Being in love completes me. I went from having seven girlfriends down to three – Holly, Bridget and Kendra – but for the past two-and-a-half years it's been one, Crystal [whom he is marrying next month]. She makes me feel like a teen again. I don't think I can do any better than spend the rest of my life with her.

Re-Opening the London Playboy Club has real meaning for me The original London club, which opened in 1966, was iconic. London was the centre of the world back then and everybody came – members of the Beatles, Mick Jagger... There was the Mod scene, mini-skirts were here; the sexual revolution had arrived and I felt like I needed to get ready for it.

America is still schizophrenic when it comes to sexuality There have always been two threads of America. One is the rebel part, which says, "Don't tread on me." The other is the puritan part, where the only moral purpose of sex is procreation; if you're enjoying it, well, that's immoral, and based on nothing. Our attitudes towards sex in the US are still very screwed.

I always tried to treat the women in my life decently I've remained good friends with the majority of my wives and the other romances I've had in life, and I take great pride in that. The only one who gives me bad reviews is someone [former Playboy Playmate Izabella St James] who has gotten left behind. Her book [Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion] was just a projection of her own negativity.

Hugh Hefner, 85, is an American magazine publisher and chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises. The Playboy Club London is to re-open on Saturday at 14 Old Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1 ( playboyclublondon.com)

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