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Verging On 81, Hef Is Still Going Strong

The most popular program on E! Entertainment television is a reality show about an 80-year-old man and three housemates. The old man is Hugh Hefner, and his housemates are three young women who don't exactly look like the "Girls Next Door."

"How are you?" Harry Smith asked a smoking jacket clad Hefner. "You'll be eighty..."

"Eighty-one," Hefner said. "Where have all the years gone? I have used them very well."

Hugh Hefner has no plans to fade away. Not when there's a new generation to woo and new women to love. All on display to viewers of the cable show that's become a hit. "The Girls Next Door" is about to start its third season on E!

It stars Hefner and his three girlfriends: Bridget, Kendra, and Holly.

Twice married, twice divorced, Hefner says he's ready to settle down again with Holly.

"How old are you?" Smith asked the Playmate.

"Twenty-seven," she said.

"Twenty-seven!" Smith said. "I've read that you're interested in becoming a mom."

"Yeah, definitely." —

"Right, and you already know what your names would be for the kids," Smith said drawing a chuckle from Hefner.

"Will you be a father again?" he asked Hefner. "It's possible. The gods permitting, you know, at 81."

When Hugh Hefner founded Playboy magazine more than 50 years ago, he helped to fuel the sexual revolution. He brought fantasies – and centerfolds – center-stage. Among the women to appear in Playboy: Marilyn Monroe in the very first issue and Anna Nicole Smith, whose career Hefner helped launch.

Hefner has mostly stayed silent since Anna Nicole's death last month. Until now.

"I have not spoken out on it only because, uh, I loved her, we loved her, and I didn't want to be a part of the feeding frenzy that followed," Hefner said. "What else is there to really say? It was a troubled life... And then you run into the problems in terms of character and people you choose as your friends, and you pay a price for it!"

Hefner said the two Playmates were so much alike. "The irony in it, of course, is how much she identified with Marilyn Monroe, right to the end. She managed to die in her 30s as Marilyn Monroe did."

It also turns out that, while Hefner continues to surround himself with a life of fantasy, reality has not always been smooth.

"I mean I've lost some very dear friends, certainly made some business decisions that went awry," he said.

And 20 years ago, Hefner suffered a debilitating stroke.

"If that had been it, the epilogue would have been a whole lot different than it is now," Hefner said.

"Did you get a second chance at life with that stroke?" Smith asked.

"Yes, without question – I made the comment at the time – I called it a 'stroke of luck'," Hefner said. "I recovered completely, and started taking better care of myself, changed my priorities a little bit."

But only a bit, for the Hugh Hefner you see today still looks a lot like the Hefner of old. —

"So do you really stay in your pajamas all day?" Smith asked. —

"As often as I can!" Hefner said. "It's a big occasion when I put my pants on It's a nice place to be in."

Even Hefner agrees that growing old without growing up may be an over-reaction to his conservative upbringing. — —

"I was raised in a very typical Midwestern Methodist home with very little hugging and kissing," Herfner said. "I feel a great sadness for my, for the lives, the half-lives that my parents lived."

"On the other hand, people from the outside would look at you and say, 'he's a hedonist'," Smith said.

"Well I think a celebration of life can be called hedonistic and self-involved in some ways, but quite frankly what I've tried to do and what I've managed to do is... try to make some positive difference, and at the same time, have a very good time doing it! — That's what it's really all about, after all!"