Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream” as Want to Read:
Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  232 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
The real Hugh Hefner-the extraordinary inside story of an American icon

"Riveting... Watts packs in plenty of gasp-inducing passages."-Newark Star Ledger

"Like it or not, Hugh Hefner has affected all of us, so I treasured learning about how and why in the sober biography."-Chicago Sun Times

"This is a fun book. How could it not be? Watts aims to give a full account of the man
Hardcover, 568 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Wiley (first published January 1st 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mr. Playboy, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mr. Playboy

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 09, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
hefner is certainly a cultural player worthy of a thoughtful biography; however, i remain unconvinced that mr. playboy needed its full 453 pages. my biggest complaint was the wordiness, the repetitiveness. i felt the book could have been shortened by at least 100 pgs. entire chapters felt unnecessary, such as chapter seven which, except for a few paragraphs about his political interests, was largely a reiteration of ideas well covered in previous chapters. while there is some discussion of how t ...more
May 01, 2013 Chessmen rated it it was amazing
I found it funny that the same author of Mr.Playboy also wrote a biography on Walt Disney. Clearly he sees them both as iconic American entertainers who transformed their societies through the creation of their personal fantasies.

Hefner never published his own autobiography in whole, so this is the most complete biography you'll get! The author (professor of histroy) gives Mr.Playboy the scholarly treatment, analyzing how and to what extent Playboy magazine influenced American society. He conclu
May 18, 2009 Bunny rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-09
Hugh Hefner is a douchebag. If you know this already, and you know that the grotto exists, you don't need to read the book.

Okay, that's not really fair. The book has a lot of interesting information from the start of the magazine. I wasn't so much interested in Hefner as I was in the origins of the magazine, and the trials and tribulations. Having to deal with Hefner's opinion that women were inferior to men and how, despite his hatred of his "Puritan" upbringing, and his own "bisexual encounter
Ash Ryan
It is easy to criticize Hugh Hefner for sometimes having poor judgment or questionable taste (though compared to his many imitators and competitors, he's a veritable paragon of these virtues). But in this book, equal parts business biography, intellectual history, and sensationalism/scandalmongering (but in the best sense of the terms, only in that he honestly tells about the more shocking aspects of his subject's life when they are relevant to the bigger picture), Steven Watts gives a fuller, ...more
Oct 04, 2008 Cameron rated it really liked it
Two-thirds of the way into Steven Watts’ new biography, Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream, the infamous publisher summarizes the mission of his monthly publication. “What the book is first and foremost: a lifestyle magazine devoted to how one spends one’s leisure time.” Thankfully for Hefner, Watts and readers of this biography, there’s so much more to the story of Playboy, an empire that “expanded to include clubs, resorts, music, films, television shows and a wide array of ...more
Aug 29, 2013 dejah_thoris rated it liked it
All right, let me first lead off by noting that I have never read a Playboy or knew much about the business or the man behind it. (I know, strange considering all the other sex history I've studied.) So, I consider myself unbiased towards the company and its owner.

That said, this book clearly shows the importance of Hef's influence in breaking down some barriers and steadfastly preserving others. On the one hand, he was a sexual revolutionary in the 1950s-60s pushing the boundaries of tradition
Sep 27, 2015 Donna rated it it was amazing
This was fascinating to me. The author presented more than I ever expected about Hefner. So much history, social and cultural attitudes were affected. Hefner was in the middle whether he wanted to be or not.

This author certainly portrays Hefner as a man who accomplished the American Dream. Well he did, I have to agree. I admire his confidence in pursuing his idea and beliefs. Hefner did break with the 50’s attitude of sex. His photos weren’t the crude kind; he presented the girl next door type.
This book is fascinating as much for its analysis of changing American culture and how Playboy fit (and fits) into it as for its portrayal of Hefner.

I'm always torn when reviewing an audiobook as to whether my issues are with the actual content, or the drawbacks inherent in listening while driving.

I found the organization of the text into parts, then chapters, then numbered sections to be a bit jarring and confusing. This would probably be less of an issue in print. However, the text is overly
James Perkins
Feb 06, 2012 James Perkins rated it really liked it
Written by the Professor of History at the University of Missouri, this book is a comprehensive, objective look at the life of Hugh Hefner and his role in the shaping of modern America. Far from being merely a smut magazine, Hefner's goal (through his publication) was to open society to a more liberal attitude and promote the idea that sexual expression was a healthy part of being human. It was a long, rocky road, but Hefner has, over the last 50 plus years, profoundly affected the values that ...more
Nov 26, 2011 Christine rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011-reads
A biography of Hugh Hefner is not complete without delving into the Playboy Mansion, the rotating round bed and the infamous grotto …I understand that. A biography of Hugh Hefner is not complete without looking at Mr. Hefner’s personal sexual philosophy … I get that too. This book offers just a little too much of all that. Titillating? Not so much … parts of this book could have been called The American “Wet” Dream.

Okay, with that rant out of the way, the rest of book was extremely interesting.
Feb 06, 2009 Kim rated it liked it
Shelves: finished
If I were basing my review solely on the wild stories from the mansion, I'd give this book a hundred stars. I liked the book and would probably waver between three and four stars. The only reason why it is not a clear four is that Watts is often too chained up in the Ivory Tower, in my opinion. As I read parts of this book, I had serious flashbacks (nightmares?) of the writing instruction I received when working on my master's thesis. It is almost too technical for the subject matter. I also ...more
Mar 01, 2009 VegasGal rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: playboy fans
Shelves: read-2009
The interesting aspect of this book, is that this review needs to touch on two important parts, the author and of course the subject, Hugh Hefner, himself. Sure, this is like any biography, but the fact that the subject about such an important and often seen as notorious character, it needs to be touched on separately.

The book was well written, organized, flowed smoothly, although it was a bit wordy and slightly repetitive at times, Watts definitely made sure every detail of Hefner's life was d
Jun 18, 2009 Steven rated it really liked it
I started this book in hopes of reading some juicy, scandalous stories about the infamy in the Playboy mansion. And there is plenty of that in the book. Including an embarrassing accidental swallowing of a "toy " by Hef.

But there is also detailed analysis of how the magazine helped to shape our national values. They helped to usher in the consumer values, love of leisure, and pursuit of self fulfillment that started in the 50's and has continued ever since.

The book also covers the political batt
Poet Lovesmith
Jan 05, 2012 Poet Lovesmith rated it liked it
The best thing about hefner's life when quited his job and walking out on the road, without money but the big dream inside his heart, and choosed the way which was almost impossible in that century, braving and started the play boy with three man one of his friend photographer he and his model.he get the feat. The story of his life sensetional. I am not interested in his personal sex philiosophy but i like his dream and feat which turn this playboy in the vivtory of his dream. In this book whole ...more
Jamie Hicks
Dec 29, 2014 Jamie Hicks rated it liked it
While this book is fairly comprehensive in its coverage of events in Hefs life as would befit a biography I feel it could have been shorter - by about 100 pages to paraphrase a reviewer below. It seems as though the same idea is reinforced at various points throughout the point - just worded differently. We get it, Playboy is both sexist and feminist at the same time. Overall it is about the most complete Hef bio out there so read carefully with patience. After all, we all read "just for the ...more
May 13, 2009 Vince rated it it was ok
I can't believe that Hugh Hefner is this uninteresting so I have to hold the author responsible for portraying him as such. It is amusing to think he really believes all of these young women who come to live in the mansion really find him this deep, great lover. It couldn't be thr free rent and advancement of their respective careers. Nah not very likely. The author repeats himself over and over in each chapter and could have shaved 100 plus pages and not altered the story just saved me some ...more
Aug 20, 2014 Deborah rated it it was amazing
Author Watts made an excellent attempt at objectivity, telling the pros and cons of the sexual revolution and respective positions of the parties involved (feminists, conservatives, etc.)but his bias is clearly in favor of Hefner. It's a good book anyhow.

I personally feel that Hefner and his ilk are nothing but glorified pimps, and their female counterparts are prostitutes (pornography IS literature about prostitutes). These publishers have hid behind the first amendment for too long. A pimp is
Jun 10, 2010 Erica rated it liked it
Shelves: true-stories
This book is okay, depending on what you're looking for. To call it a biography of Hugh Hefner is a bit of a misnomer. The book is MUCH more about the history of Playboy magazine and the social, political, and financial issues surrounding its publication. The 10 percent or so actually dedicated to Hefner as an individual didn't contain anything not covered in the E! True Hollywood Story (literally). I expected more about Hefner given the book was advertised as his biography. However, it was ...more
Rhoda Alfeche
Oct 01, 2009 Rhoda Alfeche rated it did not like it
It's about the man who built an empire on pleasure. But midway to reading it, I had to stop before getting brainwashed into the logic of: if it doesn't feel good, it must be bad. Standing by integrity and being responsible does not always "feel" good, but when it is thrown away, there is nothing left that matters.

I read enough about his life for me to realize that I can live a life of passion, but I want to be responsible about it.
May 25, 2011 Amanda rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
I thought this would be a basic biography of Hugh Hefner, but it turned out to be much more about the intersection of Playboy and the changing social mores of America and how the magazine both helped to usher in the sexual revolution and was ultimately left behind by it. At the same time, the book examined Hefner and his double standard of behavior, his embracing of living as the ultimate Playboy and how disconnected he was from the wider world as he isolated himself in his own fantasy.
Jul 06, 2015 Eric rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
A good look at how Mr. Hefner began possibly the greatest magazine in history. The journey has been long and arduous, but Playboy has weather the years. While not necessarily filled with my political viewpoint, the magazine was ground breaking. This a a behind the story to the Playboy Enterprise. Well worth the read.
Jul 17, 2009 Kevin rated it really liked it
An extremely insightful read. It was interesting to see how Hefner was able to constantly remake himself into whatever he needed his image to be. And there's just enough juicy stories to keep it interesting. Also, a very thorough analysis on how Hefner and the idea of PLAYBOY has shaped our modern sexual mores and culture.
Ace Wall
Sep 07, 2013 Ace Wall rated it liked it
I've always been interested in the man who created the American empire known as Playboy. This book tells the story of Hue's creation of the magazine and his famous life afterwards. It's a great story with some history of American sexual liberation interwoven. The author does get long winded at times but overall I enjoyed the book.
Jul 25, 2016 Samantha rated it really liked it
Shelves: never-finished
For some reason, I found this book really interesting. I applaud Hef's choice to dream and achieve, if against the best interest of the wider public's opinions. I had to return it to the library, so I never got to finish it, which is probably okay since I read up until the 80's which is a little too close to home for me. I like the history part.
Nov 12, 2013 Yvonne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished, own
I have a strange obsession with Hefner, probably from "The Girls Next Door." This is a comprehensive biography that is worth reading. It's a thick book, but it moves smoothly and quickly without lacking detail. It's probably the best biography I've read, though I admit I don't read many biographies.
David Strong
Sep 19, 2013 David Strong rated it did not like it
Very disappointed and stopped reading it about halfway through. Hugh Hefner, Playboy, Playmates, The would think this would be a fun book, right? Wrong! The author takes a very intellectual tone in his writing, repeats himself constantly, and drags out the story to the point of boredom and frustration. Skip this one!
Dec 21, 2008 Jane rated it liked it
Since I grew up while Playboy magazine became popular, I found this biography rather interesting.....more so for the history of my era than for the story of Hefner, but he is a pretty interesting character, too. It's a long book.....I read portions and then put it down for a while while I read some fiction.
Dec 05, 2008 Jennifer rated it liked it
Well written book about a dirty young, now old, man. Kind of nauseating, but subtle enough to keep me from vomiting. I had no idea the turmoil Hefner went through whilst creating and recreating his empire. And the magazine itself? It IS about the articles! :)
Kim Hamilton
Nov 26, 2016 Kim Hamilton rated it it was amazing
The definitive biography of Hugh Hefner and his empire. Well written and entertaining; a fun, wild ride. If you have any interest or curiosity at all in the man and the magazine, you won't be disappointed.
Polyvivi Marthell
Feb 18, 2010 Polyvivi Marthell rated it liked it
A voluminous, repetitive, detailed -not that detailed ;) account of Hugh Hefners life. At times in the book I fluctuate between wanting to bitch slap him and elect him for President. The story of how we almost choked to death on a Ben Wa ball...
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Sages: Warren Buffett, George Soros, Paul Volcker, and the Maelstrom of Markets
  • Sneaker Wars: The Enemy Brothers Who Founded Adidas and Puma and the Family Feud That Forever Changed the Business of Sport
  • Ugly Beauty: Helena Rubinstein, L'Oreal, and the Blemished History of Looking Good
  • The Shrine at Altamira
  • The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice
  • Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn't Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science
  • Secrets of Silicon Valley: What Everyone Else Can Learn from the Innovation Capital of the World
  • The First Billion Is the Hardest: How Believing It's Still Early in the Game Can Lead to Life's Greatest Comebacks
  • Brothers Emanuel: A Memoir of an American Family
  • Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More
  • The Sweet Life: The Serial (The Sweet Life, #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6)
  • Skywalking: The Life And Films of George Lucas
  • The High-Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition
  • Katharine Graham's Washington
  • Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach
  • Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History
  • The Waste Makers
  • My Life on the Rock: A Rebel Returns to the Catholic Faith

Share This Book