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Prop 8 Overturned; Interview With Hugh Hefner

Aired August 8, 2010 - 11:00   ET


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Good morning from Los Angeles, where today our program has a distinctly California flavor.

The big story this week is what's known here as Prop 8 and a federal judge's decision to overturn the law that banned same-sex marriage.

Are the media being swept away by the sight of gay couples celebrating what they see as a landmark ruling for equality and playing down the fact that a judge has struck down a referendum approved by the voters less than two years ago?

We'll also look at Meg Whitman ducking out on her own news conference in the gubernatorial race against Jerry Brown, and the tendency of some Republican candidates to view the press as the enemy.

It is a media empire built on sex and skin, but the "Playboy" franchise isn't what it used to be. Now Hugh Hefner, who happens to be the subject of a new movie, wants to buy the company.

We'll visit the Playboy Mansion to ask whether the brand still matters in an era of celebrity sex tapes.

It seems like every time you look up, there's Gloria Allred on the tube, representing some celebrity's ex-mistress or alleged victim of sexual harassment. Are the media her chief weapon? We'll ask her.

Plus, a blogger here who wants to start a newspaper. What is he thinking?

I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES from L.A.

Here in the land of motion pictures it's the images that matter, and the images that followed a federal judge's decision to strike down what's known in California as Prop 8, the ban on same-sex marriage, were often of gay couples celebrating the ruling. You can see them right here on the front page of the "Los Angeles Times."

If you look only at the words of the news coverage, they were generally fair, offering viewpoints of both supporters and opponents of gay marriage. But the pictures and sometimes the tone of the "straight news stories" reflected a sympathy for the gay rights position, even if they didn't go as far as "The Huffington Post" banner headline: "Love Beats Hate."


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: In California tonight, a historic court decision on same-sex marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reaction was swift and intense from the lesbian couple that brought the case jubilation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This decision says that we are Americans too, we too should be treated equally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But this is a devastating opinion for opponents of gay -- of same-sex marriage.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN: Supporters of same-sex marriage are on the streets, and they are celebrating tonight over a ruling that has overruled the ban on such marriages.


KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about the Prop 8 story and the coverage of California's political races, Steve Lopez, columnist for the "Los Angeles Times"; Jill Stewart, deputy editor at the "L.A. Weekly"; and in Washington, Roger Cossack, visiting professor at Pepperdine University Law School out here and an ESPN legal analyst.

And Steve Lopez, as if to prove my point, "The New York Times" this morning: "Gay Couples Cheer Ruling on Marriage from Provincetown, Massachusetts."

So when the media describe this ruling as a historic or a landmark ruling, as opposed to controversial or divisive, as in the case of the Arizona immigration law, is there kind of a wink and a nod that we think this is generally a good thing?

STEVE LOPEZ, COLUMNIST, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": I don't think anybody knew what to expect with this decision. I didn't know what was going to happen. And I think that we're just responding to the reaction to it.

This is a time I think when you want to hear from the victors, but there have been both sides represented. It's, I think, a good ruling. But this story will go on for years.

KURTZ: Clearly, more appeals to come.

And Roger Cossack, regardless of what you think of the ruling -- I think in 20 years gay marriage will be widely accepted because of the views of the younger generation -- this is a case where the court is overriding the voters, and yet you haven't seen it framed as a case of judicial activism.

ROGER COSSACK, VISITING PROFESSOR, PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Well, that's right. And I think that eventually, when this case does get to the Supreme Court, you are going to hear an opinion, whether it's the majority or the minority, that spends a great deal of time talking about the will of the voters being overturned by a court. But remember, what this case was all about is discrimination. And that's what the judge said. And the judge made some interesting findings of fact, if I can just for a second.

For example, one of the things he decided was that there was absolutely no evidence that indicates that gay parents are any less effective at parenting than straight parents would be. And that's a finding of fact. And that makes the kinds of things that appellate courts have to review difficult to overturn these kinds of decisions. So I think this is a firm decision.

KURTZ: So, Roger, but do you think that the coverage has been fair in reflecting both sides of this debate?

COSSACK: Well, I read "The New York Times" and I read "The Washington Post" and the "Los Angeles Times" on this matter, and I saw quotes from both sides indicating, obviously, disappointment from those who were in favor of Proposition 8, and I think I've seen obviously happy statements from those who were in favor of the opinion. And I think basically the media coverage on this has been fair.

Look, this is a case of discrimination, and I think that you see -- I think media recognizes discrimination and generally are happy when it ends.

KURTZ: Interesting point, Jill Stewart.

Vaughn Walker, who was the judge who issued this ruling, he was first nominated by Ronald Reagan. And "The San Francisco Chronicle" had a column a few months ago saying that it's an open secret that he's gay. He's never confirmed that. I've seen it repeated as fact everywhere.

Should the press report this? Is it relevant, whether he is or not?

JILL STEWART, "L.A. WEEKLY": I think it is maybe not relevant, but it's still a fact that should be reported during the course of covering the trial. It may or may not become relevant as time goes along. But I would like to say that despite my personal feelings about the ruling, and having many friends who are so happy about it, and knowing most journalists are happy about the ruling because most journalists in California are liberal Democrats, I do think the media dropped the ball in a very big way by not doing stories on the first day and second day saying this is a major ruling that overturned a voter -- a major voter vote.

Now, usually when voters are overruled by judges, a big story saying the judge ignored the voters. It's always a big accompanying story. There have been very few stories like this.

So, I do think the media got caught up in their own elation, their happiness for their friends, their happiness for what they believe in, and dropped that story. I was a little shocked. I think it is an example of media bias, despite my own feelings -- KURTZ: Despite your own personal feelings. Right.

STEWART: They need to cover those stories. They can't look like they're totally in the camp of the judge on this. They have to actually cover the news.

KURTZ: There are two sides to it, particularly on a subject as emotional as this.

You wrote a column some time ago about Prop 8, Steve Lopez, in which you wrote about a woman who was opposed to Proposition 8 whose restaurant had been boycotted. And you said that you have personally been called a moron, a liar, and a sellout.

Why were you blamed for writing that piece?

LOPEZ: Well, this is a woman who runs a restaurant that employs a lot of gay people. And there were boycotts. There were police in the streets because there were demonstrations.

And I thought, you know, her politics are her politics. Do you want to go after every person economically, hit them in their wallet because of their political views? I didn't think it was quite fair.

KURTZ: Roger Cossack, do you agree with Jill Stewart that this is a subject in which it's very difficult for journalists to put their personal feelings aside?

COSSACK: Well, I do agree with that, but I do -- Jill, I have to disagree with you. I thought the coverage of this story did underline the fact that this was a decision that overturned what the voters did. And I do agree with you that that is a big story, but I think that in writing this story, you understand that Proposition 8 was a proposition that was voted upon by the voters of California, and now a judge has held that to be unconstitutional. That's how it got to the court.

And yes, the story is that a judge overturns the will of the people. And as I said earlier, I think that's what the Supreme Court's going to talk about. But I think as far as this is concerned, I think we all know what happened here, and I think that's part of the outrage by those who -- by some of those who lost.

KURTZ: All right. Let me jump in here. I want to move now to the outgoing governor of California.

I remember the excitement and what a national story it was when Arnold Schwarzenegger ran in that recall election back in 2003. Let's take a little -- a brief look at some of the coverage from that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arnold Schwarzenegger has just announced that he is going to run for governor of the state of California.

KATIE COURIC, NBC: Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking to terminate the competition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arnold Schwarzenegger filed papers to run for governor.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: It is "Total Recall" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.


KURTZ: And Jill Stewart, he was really treated as much as a movie star as a politician. But now he is leaving office as a rather unpopular, soon to be former governor.

STEWART: Yes, as unpopular as Gray Davis was when he was recalled.

KURTZ: So did the press turn on him --

STEWART: As big a deficit as --

KURTZ: What happened? Did the press turn on him?

STEWART: Well, I think Arnold made several mistakes. The biggest one was that he forgot he was a Republican elected to clean up the state government and started acting like the guy he replaced. Very, very much so, I have to say.

And the place is as big a mess as when he got there. It's got as many problems as when he got there. There's just as little discipline as when he got there.

He really didn't fix very much, except I've got to give him workers' compensation. He reformed it. He fixed that bomb.

KURTZ: All right.

Steve, you wrote a while back that, "Sacramento was a one-act circus crippled by political division and led by a governor whose orange tones are once again a little too close to Bozo's."

So are you more down on Arnold or the system?


LOPEZ: I've got to tell you, there's a lesson here that we all need to keep in mind.

STEWART: What is it?

LOPEZ: The lesson is that Arnold, despite his popularity and the way he swept into office, didn't tell us anything, really, about what he might do in any kind of detail. It was all of the usual generalities -- going to blow up the boxes, going to cut up the credit card, going to start from scratch, going to get money out of politics, all of those things that you hear at every campaign that are meaningless. He of course contradicted himself on all those things. But beyond that, there's no detail.

And we're seeing the same thing now with Meg Whitman and with Jerry Brown. Here we are, several months into this campaign. We've got a $20 billion deficit, and not a clue from either of them what to do about it.

KURTZ: And since you mentioned Meg Whitman, I want to play two back-to-back clips. One is of Sharron Angle, who's running in Nevada against Harry Reid. And she had an interview on Fox News. And then Meg Whitman called a news conference, and you'll see what happened.


SHARRON ANGLE (R), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: We needed to have the press be our friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. Hold on a second. To be your friend?

ANGLE: Well, truly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds naive.

ANGLE: Well, no. We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way they report the news the way we want it to be reported.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So why are you not going to take questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, guys. Thank you very much, guys. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meg, you criticized Jerry Brown. He was mayor of this town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there anything you want to say on what he did to build it up or down, or not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, guys. Thank you. Thank you, guys.


KURTZ: So much for the news conference.

Jill Stewart, the former head of eBay hasn't exactly embraced the press in this campaign, has she?

STEWART: You know, I can't understand what they're doing. They started out with a lot of discipline, with a very simple -- two simplistic messages, Steve was pointing out. Then it seems to be falling apart now because I think she's got two -- she's too rich in a way.

She's got too many good consultants, too many brilliant people, too many messages, too much honing, too much nuancing. And now she's getting herself into big trouble with the media. It's looking worse and worse each day -- this week at least.

KURTZ: Right. Well, Jerry Brown hasn't been actually running a very active campaign either with media appearances.

Roger Cossack, a brief thought from you on some of these Republican candidates who want the press to be their friend, meaning ask the questions they want to ask.

COSSACK: You know, Howard, you know, as well of all your guests, the press should not be anybody's friend. The press should do the best job they possibly can of flushing out the facts or not the facts, whether or not they're telling us what we should know or what we shouldn't no. And so the notion that you're going to somehow cozy up to the press and they'll ask you the right questions should never be tolerated.

KURTZ: Well, I don't think the press is going to go for that, but we would like some more access to some of these candidates.

Roger Cossack, Steve Lopez, Jill Stewart, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

When we come back, she winds up in the middle of one tabloid melodrama after another -- her latest is the Mel Gibson mess -- and uses television to defend her clients. A conversation with Gloria Allred.

And later, we'll take you to the Playboy Mansion, where Hugh Hefner is trying to save his magazine.


KURTZ: Gloria Allred doesn't represent every woman in every high-profile case involving the rich and famous, but sometimes it seems that way. She's been an attorney here in Los Angeles for more than three decades, and she's no stranger to the television cameras. In fact, her use of the media seems to be a key component in the way she defends her clients, who've been embroiled in controversies ranging all the way back to the O.J. Simpson murder case to the Tiger Woods sex scandal.

And Gloria Allred joins me now.


"The New York Times" recently said that you are either a feminist-avenging crusader or a deluxe ambulance chaser catching a ride on the latest tabloid scandal.

Which of those descriptions do you prefer?

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: Well, I'm really not concerned about the description, Howard. I've been practicing law for 35 years. We've done more women's rights cases in our law firm than any other private law firm in the United States. We've won hundreds of millions of dollars for victims of injustice whose rights have been deprived, and we're looking forward to continuing that record of success.

KURTZ: And you don't care what the press says about you?

ALLRED: No. What I'm concerned about is the issues, and I'm concerned about empowerment of women and minorities. I'm concerned about creating a climate of opinion in which -- which is favorable to the rights of women and minorities and which helps them to know what their rights are, and that they have the power to win change in their life and to win justice.

KURTZ: So I kept having to scribble new notes as I found out about more cases you've been involved with. I mean, just the other day there were reports that you represented the woman -- a woman who is accusing the now former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Mark Hurd, of harassment. He just stepped down as the head of that corporation.

You won't identify the woman involved.

ALLRED: That's correct.


ALLRED: That's not what we're planning to do at this time.


TMZ reported just yesterday that you are representing Violet Kowal. She's been described as either a Polish fitness instructor or a Polish porn star who was in a three-month affair with Mel Gibson. And she accuses him of being verbally abusive.

Why does a woman like that surface now, after RadarOnline ran those audiotapes of the other Gibson mistress, Oksana Grigorieva, in which Gibson says all kinds of horrible things?

ALLRED: Well, she actually has given interviews in the past, but just has recently retained me to represent her. And there will be more about what she's planning to do in the future.

KURTZ: Why do somebody like that, or a former Tiger Woods mistress, or a British woman who also alleges she was victimized by Roman Polanski when she was 16, or the ex-girlfriend of Charlie Sheen, or the ex-girlfriend of Shaquille O'Neal, why do they come to you? What is it that you are delivering for them?

ALLRED: Well, I think that what we deliver is legal advice, information about what their options are, what the benefits and risks of each option is. And if we both decide to go forward to exercise one of their legal options, then they know what they're getting into and they know that we're going to protect them and assert their rights and vindicate their rights, and be out there for them for whatever is necessary and whenever it is necessary to do that.

KURTZ: Well, "be out there" is a key phrase, because, after all, just the fact that you sign on to a case brings it a lot of attention.

How important is that television camera when you are representing people in these high-profile legal disputes?

ALLRED: Well, I do think it is important in some cases. In some cases you will never know who my clients are.

KURTZ: Right. You have a lot of case that don't --


ALLRED: You will never know what the result of the cases were.

But in some cases my clients have been attacked, they've been attacked unfairly. There's misinformation about them out there. It is harmful to their reputations. And it is important for them to be able to have their voice and to be able to assert what it is they are trying to achieve and why.

And so women have been forced to suffer in silence for hundreds of years. And now we're breaking that silence and we're trying to equalize the power, because often the rich and the powerful and the famous, they have their whole entourages. They have their highly-paid legal mouthpieces. They have their press people, they have their agents, they have their promoters to spin it to their side. And sometimes to put out facts that are not facts.

KURTZ: Is it your job to spin it to the other side?

ALLRED: Well, to equalize the power and to say here is our side of it, and here is what we have that supports what we're saying, and then at least get that out there in the marketplace of ideas and the court of public opinion.

KURTZ: There is a perception, perhaps unfair, that some of these porn stars and jilted celebrity girlfriends are gold diggers, and they're using you to get publicity to score a big payday.

ALLRED: Well, you know, I don't characterize any women or men as "gold diggers." Often, people need to be compensated for the injustice that they have had to suffer. After all, who should bear the cost, Howard, of injustice? Should it be the wrongdoer or should it be the victim?

KURTZ: It depends on where the wrongdoing actually took place.

ALLRED: Yes. Sometimes we believe that there is wrong and that the cost of the wrong should not be borne by the victim, it should be borne by the wrongdoer. And that is what we're all about, is making sure that the victim, who is often innocent in these cases, is compensated or at least receives some justice in some other form. KURTZ: Well, you represented, for example, Rachel Uchitel, who denied having an affair with Tiger Woods. There was a lot of publicity about that. You scheduled a news conference. You cancelled it.

There was a lot of speculation that she must have gotten a very big payday. And that's something you're no longer talk about?

ALLRED: That's correct.

KURTZ: So you say in some form sometimes that's something you're not going to publicly discuss.

Here's another case. The actor David Boreanaz, he says that he admitted to having an extramarital affair after you contacted his lawyer and asked for a six-figure settlement, and he was quoted as saying, "I felt as though as though I was being blackmailed."

ALLRED: Well, that's kind of a typical line of famous actors and sometimes of their attorneys. It's such a cliche, that I wonder, can't the attorneys sometimes come up with a new line?

KURTZ: Are you saying it's not true?

ALLRED: All I can say is that I have recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of one of my clients, Christina Hagen (ph), alleging sexual harassment by Mr. Boreanaz. And in addition, we have filed a claim on behalf of another woman with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in California, also alleging sexual harassment by Mr. Boreanaz. And we have asked that that be investigated, and the department has opened an investigation into Mr. Boreanaz.

KURTZ: OK. I've got 20 seconds though. But is the implied threat of publicity a weapon in these cases when you're talking about famous people, celebrities and so forth?

ALLRED: Well, we never threaten anything.

KURTZ: Well, I said implied.

ALLRED: All we do is we assert our clients' legal claims, and that's what we do. And I will say that we've won multimillion-dollar verdicts in many, many cases.

KURTZ: You have.

ALLRED: So I think that most lawyers take us pretty seriously.

KURTZ: The record will show that.

Gloria Allred, thanks very much for stopping by this morning.

ALLRED: Thank you, Howard.

KURTZ: And coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, we'll take you to the Playboy Mansion for a talk with Hugh Hefner, a man who changed society with his "Playboy" empire. Now that seems adrift in a sex-saturated world. We'll ask him about his efforts to buy the money-losing company. I'll be over at the mansion.

And later, the L.A. blogger who thinks it's a good idea to start a neighborhood newspaper.



KURTZ: Hugh Hefner has built one of the world's most recognizable brands based on sex, skin, and fantasy. That image in many ways symbolized by the Playboy Mansion.

The 84-year-old founder of the men's magazine still holds court here, and he's the star of a new documentary film about his life.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hugh Hefner was a very clever fellow, and I think also a very dangerous fellow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The day that you are willing to come out here with a cottontail attached to your rear end --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hugh Hefner is a pornographer, always was.

HUGH HEFNER, "PLAYBOY": Well, it's pretty sensational. She's so well endowed.

Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten.

Dorothy, you want to come out here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I create fantasies. Hef creates fantasies.

GENE SIMMONS, MUSICIAN: If you go to a museum and you see a Rubenesque painting of a beautiful naked woman, well, that's art. But if it's the same piece of art is in "Playboy," it's pornography.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm confused. How can he be working for the devil and God at the same time?



KURTZ: But all is not well in the land of the bunnies. Like many in the magazine world, "Playboy" has been struggling with financial losses, and Hefner recently offered to buy the company and take it private.

So it seemed like an ideal time to head into the mansion and talk to the man who changed publishing on society and is now trying to stay relevant.



KURTZ: Hugh Hefner, welcome.

HEFNER: My pleasure. Welcome.

KURTZ: "Playboy" was very controversial when you started it in 1953. You were, after all, showing naked pictures of women in the Eisenhower years. But now it almost seems middle of the road.

What happened?

HEFNER: The sexual revolution, which "Playboy" played some part in.

KURTZ: You have been blamed over the years for turning women into sex objects and also for creating unrealistic standards of beauty with the airbrushed photos.

HEFNER: Well, in terms of the notion of sexual object, I don't think I created women as a sexual object. I think if they weren't objects of desire, there wouldn't be another generation. I mean, thank goodness there are two sexes.

KURTZ: But you have celebrated them as sexual objects.

HEFNER: I have celebrated the romantic connection between the sexes, and that's part of what "Playboy" is all about. It's a lifestyle magazine.

KURTZ: Do ordinary women feel they couldn't measure up to these wonderful pictures in your magazine?

HEFNER: I suppose people could say that about athletics in terms of "Sports Illustrated." I mean, or beautiful models in fashion magazines. That's certainly a possibility.

One of the things that set "Playboy" apart, of course, is instead of just the glamour girls from Hollywood or New York, we sought out beauty everywhere. The whole notion of the girl next door came from "Playboy."

KURTZ: Now, you are the star in this new movie, the title of which describes you not just as a playboy, but as an activist and a rebel. Are you trying to ensure that your legacy is not just of somebody who made a lot of money selling sex, but recognizes the other parts of your career?

HEFNER: Well, you have to understand that doing the documentary was not my doing.

KURTZ: But you certainly participated. HEFNER: I participated, and was pleased that she wanted to do it. Brigitte Berman is an acquaintance and friend from a few years ago. I met her when she first won the Academy Award for a documentary on Artie Shaw. And I'm a big jazz fan. That was the connection.

Along the way she said -- after she got to know me, she said, "You know, the documentary I'd really like to do is one about you." And I said, "Well, it's been done before." She said -- well, her notion was to look at the other half of my life that other people are less aware of. And it sounded like a good idea.

KURTZ: We are now awash in sex. I don't have to tell you. You know, hardcore porn on the Internet, celebrities making sex tapes every other week. I've lost track of who the latest one is.

Has all of that combined in a way to make "Playboy" a little passe?

HEFNER: Of course. I think that the revolution we started obviously caught up to us and went on from there with some excesses that -- you know, not all of which I approve. But that's the way of things. And I don't think you can ever go back to those very early years where "Playboy" played such a part in changing everything.

But the bigger problem that I think "Playboy" faces, quite frankly, is a problem that print faces, that magazines in general face, and that newspapers face, et cetera. And we're dealing with that in a unique way because the magazine initially carried the brand. Now the brand carries the magazine. In other words, the "Playboy" brand itself is hotter than it at any other time, and that's amazing.

KURTZ: And yet, I mean, here's the latest issue. You've got the woman from "Mad Men" posing for your magazine. But the -- I mean, all magazines are in trouble to varying degrees. You grew up creating this brand on paper.


KURTZ: And now -- in the 1970s you had a circulation of seven million. Now it's about a million and a half.


KURTZ: So in a way, this is now the weakest link of the "Playboy" empire?

HEFNER: I wouldn't call it the weakest link, quite the contrary. It's actually at the heart and soul of who we are.

We simply reach our audience in a different way. In other words, the audience is larger now than it ever was.

We have one of the most popular brands on the mainland of China, where the magazine is not yet permitted. In other words, we're in men's fashions and women's lingerie, and we're expanding -- we have -- the bunny is back. We have a Playboy Club at the Palms Hotel, in the casino in Las Vegas. But we will be rolling out three or four more Playboy Club casinos in the next year in Macau, in London, in Mexico, and in South Beach.

KURTZ: So you're very much going global.

You mentioned excesses in the revolution that you played a roll in. Has the media's embrace of sex -- I mean, you can go on "The Huffington Post" now, and with two clicks you can find topless photos of the latest starlet.

Has it carried the revolution too far? Has it drained all the mystery out of it?

HEFNER: Well, I think that, you know, the truth of the matter is the very nature of change and progress, so-called. You know, you get something and you lose something. In other words, the Internet was an incredible blessing in terms of communication, but in the process people are less informed in other ways.

I think that young people have a less sense of who they were or who we were than they did when I was growing up. I think that reading is different on the Internet than it is from books and newspapers. And you don't retain as much.

KURTZ: So you see it very much as a mixed blessing?

HEFNER: Absolutely.

KURTZ: Instantaneous information, pictures, anything you want.

HEFNER: I think that's true with almost all progress. In other words, the arrival of motion pictures, the arrival of the motor car, all of these things that gave us benefits also intruded on privacy.

KURTZ: It's no secret that Playboy, the company, has had some financial difficulties. I guess you lost about $1.5 million in the most recent quarter. And you have now offered to buy the company and take it private.

Why did you decide to make that offer?

HEFNER: Well, I'm at a point in my life where I'd like to be secure in terms of the future of the brand and the company and the magazine. And I think that can be best done as a private company, where it can bring in appropriate partners and financial support that will assure the future and also permit us to expand. And the brand is so hot, I want to take advantage of that opportunity.

KURTZ: You've been sort of dismissive of another bidder that has emerged, that is '"Penthouse," which says it's going to offer even more than you.

Why dismissive of that?

HEFNER: Well, it confuses the issue, because I'm not selling my stock, in other words, to "Penthouse" or anybody else. I'm trying to purchase the outstanding stock and bring the company private. KURTZ: So either the company will remain as it is, or your offer will be accepted and it will no longer be a public company?

HEFNER: That's correct.


KURTZ: In a moment, more of my conversation with Hugh Hefner, whether he still feels pressure to be a symbol of virility, and a brief tour of the mansion.


KURTZ: We go back now to the Playboy Mansion for more of my conversation with Hugh Hefner, and we begin with a walk down a hall filled with photographs, some of which we had to edit out for obvious reasons.


KURTZ: Marilyn Monroe.

HEFNER: Marilyn Monroe.

KURTZ: How did you get her to be on the cover of the first issue of "Playboy"?

HEFNER: Well, in that time frame it wasn't necessary. In other words, the picture was a pickup, and so was the centerfold. At the end of her career, she posed willingly for us.

I go this house in 1971.

KURTZ: When you got the house, did you envision that it would become such an iconic place to have parties and kind of the symbol of the "Playboy" brand.

HEFNER: Yes, because the first Playboy Mansion was in Chicago. I got that in 1960, and it had become iconic. So, you know, this one became even more famous and is a combination of indoor and outdoors and much more suited to my life.

Everybody from Edward G. Robinson to Groucho Marx to Doris Day --

KURTZ: They've all been here.

HEFNER: They've all been here -- Groucho. Cosby, a long-time friend -- Tony Curtis, Jack Nicholson.

KURTZ: So, did you become friends with a lot of these people or are they just --

HEFNER: They are friends.

KURTZ: They are friends.

HEFNER: Yes, sure. Donald Trump.

KURTZ: And a lot of women.

HEFNER: My goodness gracious. I never noticed that.


HEFNER: DiCaprio, my son Cooper. I have two boys from the second marriage, Cooper, Marston. Both about to turn 20.

Mike Tyson.

KURTZ: And that looks like a former president that I recognize.

HEFNER: That's who it is.

KURTZ: Bill Clinton.


KURTZ: And here's Hillary.

HEFNER: Yes, with my sons.


KURTZ: And more now of the interview with Hugh Hefner.


KURTZ: Talk a little bit about the history. You had been in business with "Playboy" for 12 years, 1965 when you had the first black playmate.

Was that a controversial decision at the time?

HEFNER: For some sure. I think that one of the things that's unique about the new documentary is it reflects the part that we played in not simply the sexual revolution, but also the changes in racial equality. Not to do with the magazine, but through the club, Playboy Clubs, and to the television show, "Playboy's Penthouse."

KURTZ: You didn't want any segregation in these "Playboy" properties?

HEFNER: That's correct.

Well what was unique about the television show, of course, was that the conceit of it was that it was a party in my apartment. And that was a mixture of a socializing of the races, just as it did my life. And because of that, I knew before the fact we weren't going to get distribution in the South.

KURTZ: The movie always says you had battled over the years for distribution of condoms and for legalization of marijuana. So you took some political stands in your time. HEFNER: Yes. Yes. We also (INAUDIBLE) Friend of the Court in Roe versus Wade that gave women the right to choose.

KURTZ: People -- I've heard this joke since I was a kid. People would say about "Playboy", "I read it for the articles."

HEFNER: And some people do.

KURTZ: Did that joke ever bother you?

HEFNER: Quite the contrary. I invented it.

KURTZ: OK. You're the source.

But, in fact, some of those who have written for "Playboy" over the years, Woody Allen, Steve Martin, John Updike, William Styron, John Cheever, Vladimir Nabokov, you've published some good fiction and non-fiction over the years.

HEFNER: You can't name a major writer of the 20th century that hadn't appeared in "Playboy."

KURTZ: Now, the bunny is the symbol. We have it right here.


KURTZ: But you really became the personal embodiment of "Playboy," the "Playboy" lifestyle, and all of that. Is that part of why -- I mean, do you still feel that at 84 years old, that you have to show the world that you're having a good time?

HEFNER: No, I don't feel that obligation.


HEFNER: I feel some obligation to do these interviews.


HEFNER: But beyond that, no, I live pretty much -- what you see is the real deal. I mean, the life is essentially who I am. And I've never felt any particular obligation to live up to some kind of preconceived notion.

I don't think before the fact that the definition of a playboy was somebody sitting around in his pajamas. In other words, I changed the definition.

KURTZ: But did you surround yourself with beautiful women because you enjoyed it or because it was good for marketing?

HEFNER: Yes. Try to guess which.


KURTZ: Well, it could be a little bit of both. (LAUGHTER)

HEFNER: It had very little to do with marketing.

KURTZ: The original name for the magazine was going to be "Stag Party"?


KURTZ: I think that was a good decision not to go in that direction.

HEFNER: I think so.

KURTZ: Somebody who has reviewed the new movie in "TIME" magazine, Richard Corliss, said this about you -- not that flattering -- "Many guys today would not be tempted to change places with an 84 year-old who publishes a money-losing magazine that he is battling to regain financial control of, who depends on Viagra to satisfy his platoon of bulbous-breasted women young enough to be his great- granddaughters."

Does that kind of criticism bother you?

HEFNER: Well I would say that, you know, what's the alternative? Not being 84 years old?

You know, it's like there are pluses and minuses to getting older. I have lived life richly and take tremendous satisfaction in terms of what I've managed to accomplish, the difference I've made in the planet, and had a lot of fun doing it. It doesn't get better than this, and I know it.

KURTZ: Aside from your "lifestyle" and the women that you have entertained over the years, what is a couple of things you've done that you're most proud of?

HEFNER: I think the major thing that I take the greatest pride in is playing some of a real part in changing the social sexual values of my time. And I think my place is secure in that.

KURTZ: Was that a conscious crusade on your part, or did you just kind of develop when you started publishing this magazine?

HEFNER: It evolved over a period of time. Certainly the commitment in terms of my life was there earlier.

I actually wrote a paper while I was in college comparing the Kinsey Reports, sexual behavior in the male, to the laws in the then- 48 states and made the point that if the laws were effectively applied, most adult men would be serving some prison time. We helped to change those laws.

Back in the 1950s, nice, middle class, moral kids could not live together before they got married. To have a baby out of wedlock was criminal. We changed that and the attitudes towards sexuality. And I take a tremendous pride in that.

KURTZ: But you didn't really change the laws, you changed the whole social compact. And not everybody thinks that turned out so great. I mean, as you say, revolutions have unintended consequences.

HEFNER: Well, I think it's perfectly obvious that some people would rather be living back there. But they don't remember what it was like. They don't know the hurt and hypocrisy of it all.

KURTZ: And yet, you, yourself, say that have been excesses in the way sex is treated in society.

HEFNER: Of course there are, sure. Do I approve of everything on the Internet? Of course not.

KURTZ: What don't you approve of?

HEFNER: Well, I think that you can get some clue from "Playboy." I'm not a big fan of the most explicit kinds of pornography.

KURTZ: Some people would be surprised to hear that.

HEFNER: Well, some people don't really pay much attention.

KURTZ: Right.

HEFNER: They don't really know what I'm really all about.

KURTZ: Right.

HEFNER: I'm a romantic, and I always have been. And I think, as a matter of fact -- and someone observed not long ago, and I think, as a matter of fact, it may be in the documentary, that my rosebud is really love.

In other words, I was raised in a home in which there was not a lot of hugging and kissing. My folks were very repressed.

They were raised farm people from Nebraska. They didn't get a lot of hugging and kissing, and my brother and I were raised in that kind of home. And I think that in a very real way I have filled that hole from childhood with love. KURTZ: But have you been promoting love or promiscuity?

HEFNER: Well, romantic love is sometimes promiscuous, sometimes not. I also, when I was married, was committed. I was married for eight years and faithful to the marriage.

KURTZ: So, these are some things that people may not realize about Hugh Hefner.

HEFNER: There are a lot of things.

KURTZ: There are indeed.

HEFNER: And the documentary may help. KURTZ: All right. Thanks very much for inviting us into the mansion.

HEFNER: My pleasure. Thank you.


KURTZ: After the break, hyperlocal journalism is all the rage. We'll meet a blogger who has staked out downtown L.A. as his turf.


KURTZ: One of the latest buzzwords in the online media world is "hyperlocal," meaning covering just about everything in, say, a small town. Now, Los Angeles hardly fits that description, but it does have neighborhoods. And blogger Eric Richardson has pitched his virtual tent in one of them.

His Blog Downtown covers news, entertainment and culture in what passes for the city center. And now he's gone the old-fashioned route and started a newspaper.

Eric Richardson joins me now.

So, downtown L.A. 4eminds me of Gertrude Stein's famous observation about Oakland: "There's no 'there' there."

Is it enough of a community to sustain its own blog?

ERIC RICHARDSON, BLOGGER: You know, it really is. And it's seen a remarkable transformation over the last 10 years.

If you pick up a copy of the "L.A. Times" today, the "Image" section is devoted to the rebirth of downtown's fashion scene, downtown's bars, downtown's sort of life and architecture. And it really is a place that, it's a small town in the middle of a really big city.

KURTZ: It's a metropolis, yes.

But in the Web site, you basically seem to be a one-man band. I mean, you're writing about everything from real estate development, to a water main that broke the other day, to a guide to gourmet food stores.

RICHARDSON: Yes, not a one-man band, but definitely a small team. We've been able to cover a lot, and we have to be very general. And it really, again, is that same thing that you would see in a typical small town situation.

KURTZ: You started the blog how long ago?

RICHARDSON: January of 2005, so five and a half years.

KURTZ: OK. And now you've gone to paper. You just handed this to me as it came off, the "Blog Downtown Weekly." I thought everything was going digital these days. You seem to be going backwards. Why start a newspaper?

RICHARDSON: You know, it's amazing, the power that you can get out of just having something sitting in a shop, somebody walks in, they're grabbing their coffee, they don't know what they're looking for, and you catch their eye and they pick it up. And that's something that we're never going to be able to reach online. And so for us, the ability to reach people who don't know they're looking for us is something that print can do that we can't do any other way.

KURTZ: Well, I love print. You write in your publisher's letter, "There's something uniquely powerful about a newspaper that's sitting at the cafe just waiting to catch your eye." I guess you just kind of told me that. And "This is an effort to reach people who might not find you online."


KURTZ: But now you have costs. You have to publish this, you have to distribute it.

RICHARDSON: Oh, exactly.

KURTZ: That sounds like a pretty tall order these days.

RICHARDSON: You know, at the same time, it's amazing, the value that people place on the print medium in terms of our advertisers. As we go out to businesses around downtown, they love that same idea. They want to be in the cafe. And so the value that we're able to offer them is really an upgrade over what we're able to do.

KURTZ: But the "L.A. Times" and the "L.A. Daily News" and "L.A. Weekly" and :Los Angeles Magazine," they're all chasing these same advertisers.

RICHARDSON: Absolutely, but it's different markets. We're telling people, hey, we're about downtown Los Angeles. We're about these square blocks, we're about these 40,000 people.

That's going to be our coverage, that's going to be our market. And so it's a different picture.

We're not competing at the end of the day against the "L.A. Times" and the weekly and the publications that are targeting L.A. as a whole. We're doing something much more targeted and something that I believe connects much more to people's day-to-day life.

KURTZ: I've got 15 seconds. Are you able to make money with this print product?

RICHARDSON: Well, we sure hope so. That was my biggest fear as we started to put this plan together. But really, I believe the numbers work, and I believe this is going to be something that will be a success.

KURTZ: And you'll have a chance to prove it.

Eric Richardson, thanks very much for sitting down with us.

Still to come, we're on the front lines with the paparazzi as Lindsay Lohan is released from jail. This is wild.


KURTZ: Before we go, Sidney Harman, the wealthy businessman who founded an audio chain bought "Newsweek" this week from The Washington Post Company for $1, plus the assumption of millions in liabilities. The husband of California Congresswoman Jane Harman must find a replacement for editor Jon Meacham, who's stepping down. But more important, he needs a plan to revive the magazine.

Harman better get started. He turned 92 this week.

And in the debut of Bravo's "Real Housewives of D.C." this week, Michaele Salahi, the one-time White House party crasher, says that when people first meet her, they think she has no substance.

Funny. That's what I thought of the whole insipid program in which the so-called housewives couldn't seem less real.

And the week's most important story, of course, Lindsay Lohan being released from jail after her brief sentence. Our producer Natalie Absell (ph) spent some time with the paparazzi on that tension-packed day.


STEPHANIE ABRAMS, CBS2 REPORTER: The paparazzi are waiting right here for Lindsay Lohan to make her appearance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey! Lindsay Lohan won (ph)!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) jail on July 25th (ph) for a 90-day sentence.

RICHARD PERRY, X17ONLINE VIDEOGRAPHER: We're waiting for the most exciting movie star of today's world, Lindsay Lohan, to come out from her prison sentence. And we're hoping to maybe get a small interview with her on the way out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For us, this is like the Super Bowl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I see an Escalade pull up, my heart is going to start beating fast.

MARC HAUSMAN, X17ONLINE VIDEOGRAPHER: Maybe there is something to this rumor that she's coming out tonight. I don't know. Maybe everyone just heard the same rumor, but I kind of have that feeling that it might go down tonight.

When everybody knows for sure this is the time and this is the place that she's coming out, and we have definite information, you'll definitely feel an electricity in the air.

It's just after midnight, and she should be coming out any time now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. Is Lindsay Lohan in there?


KURTZ: That turned out to be a decoy car, and Lohan escaped from the fanatic photogs, at least for a day.

We'll bring you a full report next week on one of these Hollywood outfits X17online.

Well, that's it for this special Los Angeles edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Join us again next Sunday, back in Washington, for another critical look at the media.

"STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.