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Obsessions: Twitter wars? C'mon, Hef ...

By Lisa Respers France, CNN
The public now knows way more about Playboy founder Hugh Hefner than it may want to after the latest revelations.
The public now knows way more about Playboy founder Hugh Hefner than it may want to after the latest revelations.
  • At 85, Hugh Hefner has been engaged in a war of words with his 25-year-old ex-fiancée
  • Crystal Harris has been telling tales out of the bedroom
  • It's an ugly situation for a man who has carved an empire based on beauty

(CNN) -- Honestly Hef, we really do expect better of you.

Certainly you are allowed some latitude, having been the founder of Playboy magazine and the man who helped usher in the sexual revolution.

You almost single-handedly made it seemingly all right for little girls to grow up aspiring to appear in their birthday suits with a well-placed staple covering their navels.

But honestly, despite your rank as the patriarch of porn must we be subjected to a highly publicized war of words with your 20-something ex who left you practically at the altar? Do we really need to know the details of your sexual prowess (or alleged lack thereof)?

Come on Hef, you are supposed to be so much cooler than that.

Hefner's ex-fiancée tells all on sex life
Hefner on why Crystal Harris left
Hefner ex-fiancée: I kept the ring

Tabloid titillation aside, the whirlwind engulfing 85-year-old Hugh Hefner right now is equal parts compelling and icky.

From the time the first issue of Playboy hit the newsstands in December 1953, Hef -- as he is lovingly known by everyone from girlfriends (of whom he has had a few) to fans -- has fashioned himself as the man who has it all: beautiful women, a swinging bachelor pad and a life so awesome that he doesn't even need to change out of his pajamas and lounging jacket during the day.

The kid from Chicago founded an empire based on giving people what they want -- even if they can't bring themselves to admit it.

"The perceptions and misconceptions of me are very much related to the prejudices and fantasies of the world around me," Hefner told Ask Men two years ago. "When you are dealing with sex, wealth and beautiful ladies, these are subjects that go deep into the American psyche.

"Because we are essentially still (a Puritan people), we love all things sexual but still have a lot of shame and guilt related to sex," he added. "That's what Playboy has been all about."

Growing up in the Midwest in the early part of the 20th century, Hefner knew all about those Puritan sensibilities.

After founding a student newspaper at Steinmetz High School in Chicago, Hefner served two years in the Army as a typist at the end of World War II before being discharged in 1946. He returned home to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and married his first wife, Mildred Williams.

The couple would have two children, Christie and David, before divorcing in 1959. Hefner would later marry Playmate of the Year Kimberley Conrad in 1989 and fathered two sons, Marston and Cooper.

When that marriage broke up, Hef returned to his bachelor ways in a big way -- sometimes sporting as many as a half-dozen, anatomically gifted girlfriends at a time living with him in the Playboy Mansion.

Thanks to his popular E! reality show, "The Girls Next Door," Hef gained a whole new legion of fans as he settled in to as almost as wizened a character as his publication.

With so much readily available porn in the digital age, Playboy now seems almost charmingly innocent in comparison to what can be viewed late night on cable channels or the Internet. And much the same could be said for Hef.

Watching Hef on his reality show, shuffling through the rooms of his mansion, occasionally dispensing advice and pecks on the lips to his three girlfriends, Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson, he appeared more loving than Lothario.

Which brings us to his recent drama.

When Hef announced in December via Twitter that he was marrying the December 2009 Playmate, 24-year-old Crystal Harris, it raised two questions: What was he thinking planning to marry a woman 60 years his junior, and what the hell was he doing on Twitter?

The planned wedding in June went up in flames when Harris bolted a few days before the ceremony leaving Hef to tweet (again with the Twitter), "The wedding is off. Crystal had a change of heart."

Now Harris is claiming her heart wasn't the only body part involved.

After some back in forth that included Hef saying in an interview he "missed a bullet" by not marrying Harris, she shot back by telling Howard Stern that sex with Hef lasted "like two seconds."


Hef countered that she was lying and the whole unsavory business was elevated to the point of "Do we really need to know all this?" Other playmates have stepped forward to defend his ... skills

Activist Gloria Steinem, who famously went undercover to work as a Playboy Bunny in one of Hef's clubs in the '60s and wrote about it, told CNN of his engagement, "I don't know whether that was real or for publicity or whatever it was, but in either case it was a joke because if he thinks that if he lost his wallet those women would still be there I somehow doubt it."

Steinem added, "Sometimes I feel sorry for him because he is a figure of ridicule. But he has done it to himself."

It hardly seems a storyline worthy of the Sultan of Swing who at this point is a little hard of hearing and who told Time magazine that "the Playboy philosophy makes a case for life as a celebration, that life should be lived with a little style."

Hugh Hefner is a bona fide American institution, and in this country we like our monuments to be dignified.