By Devon Wendell
Having covered The Playboy Jazz Festival for Don Heckman & The International Review Of Music for many years, I had met Hugh Hefner a few times.I didn’t get out of it what most might think. Growing up I was one of the few nerds who really did read Playboy for the articles and interviews with people like John Cheever and Gore Vidal. The rest wasn’t bad either for a budding teen. But I was too socially naive to grasp why.
Hefner was getting frail by the time I met him with his bubbly Bunnies (they found me irresistible, of course) in the now defunct press room backstage at The Hollywood Bowl. He was always a gentleman. Behind the caricature image was a true intellectual and patron of the arts. That’s the Hugh I wanted to meet but Hollywood prefers the billion dollar image with the Bunnies by his side, his smoking jackets and sailor hat. I was new in town and would never have any deeply intellectual conversations with Hef but I knew it was there inside of him every time I’d see him at the festival. He was sharp as a tack at all times.
Hef loved jazz. His money once kept KJAZZ here in Los Angeles going and his jazz festival introduced throngs of partying patrons to the music of Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock and several generations of the music’s greatest practitioners.
We at The International Review Of Music shall miss you Hef and continue to celebrate your legacy. Rest in peace.