Hef vs. WFB: The Playboy Philosophy In The Firing Line

In 1966, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was a guest on William F. Buckley, Jr.’s TV show “The Firing Line.” Here’s how it all went down. 

25 Comments on "Hef vs. WFB: The Playboy Philosophy In The Firing Line"

  1. It’s amazing to me just how Puritanical the U.S. is. European issues of Esquire for example feature topless women, something you never see in American Esquire or GQ. In Europe you also see nude women in ads on TV and on billboards. The U.S. still bans nudity in ads-thanks FCC!

    The New York Times has a collection of Her interviews over the years: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/28/arts/television/hugh-hefner-interviews.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-0&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region

  2. I meant to say “Hef’s interviews.” Auto-correct was turned on. Sorry.

  3. Let me fix that for you “The U.S. is holding on to one final shred of decency thanks FCC!” If you want to see naked women there are plenty of magazines and sites that can accommodate.

  4. Hear hear, GS


  5. @GS: Are you crazy?!!! Where do you go to school, Oral Roberts University?

    The fact is that this country has no tolerance for nude women in media. Violence is everywhere in movies and TV, but God forbid anyone catches a glimpse of some bare boobies. I really don’t understand how a nude or semi-nude woman in a magazine is indecent or obscene. I’m not defending Hugh Hefner, but I give him credit for rebelling against his staid ancestors (Puritans) and ushering in “a new mortality” as he put it.

  6. “New morality” is what I meant. No pun intended.

  7. I am very thankful to live in a country in which there is little tolerance for nude women (or men, for that matter) in the media and in public. Further, pointing out that obscene violence is allowed in the media is a very poor argument for lowering the bar even further to permit obscene nudity. All nonsense aside, this is a very interesting discussion between Hef and WFB. I do wish for a modern-day equivalent of WFB.

  8. GS

    You and Attorney General Ashcroft are peas in a pod.


  9. I met john Ashcroft many time in the early 70’s . He dressed very Ivy, he was a Yalie. If I remember correctly he was teaching at SW Missouri State. Seems he shifted from BDs and tabs to pointed collars when he got elected to office. Very personable guy and not a prude, although his father was the president of a bible college.

  10. When I watch things like this I realise how much better today’s ‘hotseat’ interviewers are. Just compare Buckley to BBC World’s Sackur, on Hardtalk. The collar roll just doesn’t make up for it. ‘In the Firing Line’? This was about as dangerous as being shot at by a water pistol.

  11. GS

    It appears that you and the Obama administration have something in common.


  12. H. Korn
    The CBS article you linked seems to suggest that this practice went further back than Bush. Ed Meese comments that media photogs would find ways to position shots to include the naked statues in compromising ways. Media photographers are as bias as the news readers, think of all the magazine covers of Obama with a halo.

    A read of Hef’s Playboy Philosophy seems to be a severe historical criticism of the West’s three main religions views on sex, he really seems to hate protestants. His views on the constitution are libertarian, most pornographers are.

    I don’t have a problem with Hef’s hedonism, but it only works if one is rich so as to avoid it’s consequences. His continually referencing Kinsey sex statistics is laughable. I think Kinsey’s stats are basically a way Kinsey justified his own perversions.

  13. Well Down Tradden, I’ll take William F. Buckley over anything the BBC offer today.

  14. Hear, hear, Mitate!

  15. Richard Meyer | October 1, 2017 at 8:53 am |

    Hefner ended as a pathetic ,shriveled ghost, endlessly in pajamas and a sailor’s cap, in a decaying mansion surrounded by Stepford playmates, all of a blonde, breast enhanced mold. His philosophy was embraced by Bill Cosby and the like. Good riddance, I say.

  16. whiskeydent | October 1, 2017 at 10:03 am |

    Mr. Meyer:

    You went a step too far in comparing Hefner, a hedonist, to Cosby, a rapist.

    What’s more, Cosby was once a scolding moralizer who ended up making Hef’s point about the hypocrisy and repression of puritan moral codes.

  17. I’m grateful for the platonic manner in which WFB handled most of his guests. Heather Hendershot covers this well in her “Open to Debate: How WFB put liberal America on the firing line.” He did well to keep a professional distance from his bias when he engaged with his guests; he often waited to pounce on their slips in logic as opposed to outright sallies against their opposing views. I have a lot of respect for that as it shows immense discipline. Today’s jounalists can barely sit still. Their rapaciousness laid bare as they spout a POV and obstreperously dominate as much airtime as possible before they’re interrupted by foe or commercial break.

    I don’t mind someone embracing a sybarite lifestyle; WFB didn’t either. Be a libertine as long as it’s consensual and amongst adults. Licentiousness is hard to confine to those constraints when it’s in advertising/TV. Why must we foist sensuality upon minors any earlier than need be? They’ll have a lifetime to wrestle with the control of their sensuality. Let them have their innocence.

    I’ve traveled abroad extensively and you can’t watch TV from 6-11 without seeing gratuitous displays of sexuality, all designed to grab eyeballs at the basest level; zero artistic or even belletristic quality. I’m thankful we’re not quite there yet, although we’re certainly no Hudderites. I do have three young children and it’s an annoyance to constantly have them assaulted by an advertiser’s desire to grab eyeballs. We don’t watch much TV or sports because…we’re not poor and boorish. But even walking through Times Square (much better than when I was a child) or the mall there’s Calvin Klein, VS, et.al. vociferously fighting for their attention and my money.

  18. Hef had a nose job, perhaps more, didn’t he, between the time the photo at the top of the “Penthouse in the Sky” blog entry was taken and his appearance with Buckley in 1966? Hef admitted to plastic surgery later in life, but I wonder if he didn’t first indulge himself much earlier?

  19. WFBjr wrote: “We don’t watch much TV or sports because…we’re not poor and boorish. ”

    Of course. Rich people never watch sports…

  20. “Of course. Rich people never watch sports…”

    They just play it or own the team. Some do watch it on TV occasionally, all sky boxes have wide screens for instant replays. 😉

    I think one of the Koch brothers is a big basketball fan. He was once the highest scorer at MIT, now second.

  21. Richard Meyer | October 5, 2017 at 6:57 am |

    @whiskeydent: Cosby was a frequent guest at the mansion, and the hedonism rubbed off. BTW-Cosby has yet to be convicted. Please read my link above. Agree re: Cosby’s once holier than thou crap.

  22. whiskeydent | October 5, 2017 at 11:46 am |

    @Richard Meyer

    Ross Douthat is, himself, a moralist scold well-seated upon his own high horse. I have little use for his religious zealotry. Though perhaps in his defense, the vaseline line suggests that Mr. Douthat knows more about kink than one would expect.

    Further, the innocent-until-proven-guilty defense of Cosby is like saying OJ didn’t kill Nicole. I think we’ve seen enough evidence to believe they’re both guilty.

    Let’s agree to disagree.

  23. Henry Contestwinner | October 5, 2017 at 7:12 pm |

    Wow. Buckley was good.

    Since Hefner’s arguments rest largely on Kinsey’s “research” and on his own authority, they all fall apart. Hefner expressed his preferences, but gave no reason to think that anything he said was actually moral. (Mac McConnell is right: what Kinsey did was largely a justification for his own perversions; it was also a way to promote the Sexual Revolution.)

    It seems that Mitchell doesn’t have a problem with the objectification and commoditization of women. I am happy to see that at least some Ivy Style commenters recognize the deleterious effects of pornography (because that’s what prurient pictures are). Mitchell, would you be OK with your mother, sister, wife, or daughter appearing topless in magazines, on TV, or on billboards? If not, then why is it OK for anyone’s mother, sister, wife, or daughter to be topless in such venues?

  24. Henry Contestwinner | October 5, 2017 at 7:13 pm |

    (Had to split this up due to being unable to access the “Post Comment” button with a longer comment.)

    The hedonists and libertines have been waging a war on the Puritans for quite some time—kind of unfair, since they aren’t around to defend themselves. The Puritans were not the dour prudes they are often misrepresented as. They embraced sexuality, but only in the context of marriage, which is the traditional biblical view of sex. Puritans promoted education (so that everyone could read the Bible), and were prominent in the Royal Society; it has also been argued that Protestant/Puritan views were instrumental in the expansion of capitalism.

    Like it or not, Puritan values shaped America, and we can thank them for the fact that our public morality has not yet deteriorated to the level of the European cesspool.

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