Rocking the Bunny

The only thing more amusing about celebrity than how self-absorbed most celebrities are is the fascination us non-celebrities have with them. Some celebrities are notable for the talent that brought them into the public sphere in the first place, but the most ridiculous are the ones that are simply famous for being famous. Contemporary talent is so manufactured and synthetic that being a celebrity is more about the careful management of image and public perception by agencies than it is about the qualities of the individual themselves.

On Tuesday, Crystal Harris took to the Howard Stern show to spill dirt on her aborted relationship, and engagement, to Hugh Hefner. Pulling few punches and most likely playing loose with the truth, Harris ripped Hefner and catapulted herself back into the news cycle for another few days, and in doing so secured an extension on her 15 minutes of fame. It’s sad for so many reasons, not the least of which is our obvious fascination with drivel and dirt. Who says reality TV hasn’t drained a fair share of intelligence from us all?


I avoid reality TV like the plague quite simply because it is a soul-sucking, brain-eating, laziness-inducing pile of excrement. That said, I have started watching “The Girls Next Door” on DVD the past while because I am curious. And, I’m male. For all of you who will condemn me as a hypocrit, I’ll confess that there is a slight bit of hypocrisy to railing against reality TV while watching a reality TV series about Hugh Hefner and his girlfriends. But, I’d also say that given the fact that I can only count this one series among all of the other things I watch, and given the fact that a good deal of my interest revolves around the typically male fascination with naked young women, you and all your Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Meet the Kardashian-watching fellow lemmings can apply liberal oral suction to my left nut. My hypocrisy is slight. Your laziness of brain is epic by comparison.

What strikes me in the first few seasons of “The Girls Next Door,” other than fathomless envy, is not the fact that Hefner’s girlfriends seem very ungirlfriendlike towards him. What strikes me is that not all of them are like that. The knee-jerk reaction to any image or talk of the 85-year old Hef and his 20-something year old girlfriends is to immediately dismiss them as money grubbing sluts and Hef as a dirty, perverted old man. And, there’s definitely some of that. I mean, men like younger women, so the fact that Hef gets a tingle out of bedding women a quarter his age doesn’t exactly surprise, does it? Nor does the fact that some women, particularly very beautiful women, take advantage of their power over the men that desire them and do it for their own gain.

All those retarded questions about “How can a woman possibly have a relationship with a man four times her age without it being about money?” don’t need to be asked, because you’ve already answered it in the asking. And, if you’re going to condemn Hef for coupling with young women, I’d ask you all to remember a time not so long ago when Liz Taylor was notorious for serial-marriage to men far younger than her age. I don’t recall hearing that particular “icon” being called a perverted slut, or a pedophile. Sure, Hefner is a little more extreme by comparison, mostly because of the number of girlfriends he typically has. But, the comparison isn’t far off.

Watching Kendra Wilkinson and Bridget Marquardt and Holly Madison through these first three seasons has been interesting because of the contrast between characters and their juxtaposition with Hef. Kendra is obviously attractive but also the most obviously into it for the fame and fortune. Don’t get me wrong, she seems like a nice girl, but it’s obvious that her relationship with Hef is all about what it brings to her. Bridget doesn’t do a thing for me but is the most educated of the three and seems to regard Hef as a vehicle for her professional advancement, a good friend and good fun. Personally I like Holly the most, both for her personality and obvious looks. She also seems to be genuinely attracted to and connected to Hef, not just the trappings of Hef-dom.

As for Hef, I think it’s more complicated. Sure, he’s a man like any other man, and ridiculously hot young women will always be ridiculously hot to a man, regardless of his age. What healthy-libidoed octogenarian can honestly say they wouldn’t take a roll with a 24 year old naked model? Seriously? But, with Hef I think it’s not all about that. Watching his interaction on the show, it seems obvious that beyond the sex and beauty it’s the energy and youth that he is trying to remain connected to. Hugh Hefner is like a contemporary Peter Pan fed by the youthful exuberance and beautfy of a harem. Some people would say that he should grow up, but I would challenge that and ask why he should? He’s a responsible and successful professional who enjoys a lifestyle that keeps him eternally young and happy within himself. Isn’t that a worthy aspiration for all of us?

There is no doubt that the majority of the women around Hef are self-interested and motivated by a certain amount of greed. Hef makes celebrities. Simply by being in Playboy a woman becomes more famous than most women will ever be. That’s not to say that they’re all brainless and promiscuous. Many of those women are intelligent, educated and exceptional in other ways. But, Playboy gives them a dose of fame and an opportunity of advancement that they might not otherwise get in a competitive and obliquely cynical world. By baring their bodies for the camera, they’re owning their beauty and the attraction men have to it, rather than battling in opposition to the stereotypes and prejudices that beautiful women are confronted with the moment they try and find professional success. Hef is the vehicle for their empowerment, as ludicrous as some people will think that sounds.

Let the debate commence.

However, what the women do with this opportunity is completely up to them. Some become professionals in broadcasting or media, others go on to different careers. There will always be the substantial bunch that simply ride their fame for all it’s worth, savouring being famous for being famous, and doing next to nothing else with it. That’s fine if it isn’t at someone else’s expense, even though I find it kind of sad and pathetic. At least it’s benign.

Which brings us back to Crystal Harris.

Crystal Harris is fsmous for being Hef’s girlfriend. Other than that, she’s essentially done nothing. Sure, she released a dance single on iTunes, but any 12 year old with a computer can put out that kind of synthesized crap and sell it, so I don’t think the accomplishment is that startling. Her fame is entirely composed of Hef’s. So, it’s not a very big surprise that Crystal is still milking this for all it’s worth; the only way she’s going to make headlines now that she’s not with Hef is by talking about the time when she was. It’s sick and pathetic that she would take such low and dirty shots at the man, such as claiming that sex with him only happened once and lasted two seconds because she had to stop she was so disgusted. She claimed she never saw him naked, and that she couldn’t go through with the marriage because, essentially, she just couldn’t be a part of Hef’s lifestyle.

Rrrriiiight.

In other interviews she professed her continued caring for Hef, and answered the questions on sex as though it was a normal relationship between a man and a woman, even saying on “The View” that “everything works like it normally does down there.” That hardly implies a 2 second, one time romp that ended in disgust on her part. Whether she was in fact disgusted or not is not at issue here, rather her honesty in the way she is representing the relationship they had and her callousness in treating Hefner this way after the fact. Equally at issue is her honesty to herself, because she clearly hasn’t admitted that she used her looks and charm to get close to a man she knew could make her more famous and wealthy than she was without him, and that she’s still using him to try and keep the ride going.

People are being hard on Hef for his lifestyle, and I don’t know if I want to get into too much of an argument over that. The man has done more for freedom of speech and expression of sexuality than few, if any, have in the last century. He is a generous man who gives Christmas gifts to underpriviledged families, and he is known for his contribution to the community. He’s also a man who likes women and likes sex, even if he is 85. There are a hell of a lot worse rolemodels out there in the celebrity community.

What’s sad is that the modern Peter Pan is being slighted by a woman he has professed his love for and gone out of his way to support and promote, even after the failure of their relationship. And, he’s too big of a person to respond to her cruel and immature insults in kind. Those who say he needs to grow up should take note of the fact that in standing tall the way he is, he’s demonstrating a maturity most of us wouldn’t be able to muster.

Crystal Harris is Kendra Wilkinson, just not as good looking, less athletic, and with less class. Kendra was at least genuine, where Crystal is showing herself for the phoney most people think all of Hef’s girlfriends are. It’s too bad that they’re all painted with the same brush, and that the old guy gets the hard rap he gets. He’s a legend with few years left before his time is done. Let’s hope we remember him for more than what Crystal is trying to define him to be. If not, we’ve failed to look past the celebrity fame-for-fame’s- sake bullshit we all seem so rapt by.

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