Hugh Hefner, 73, sat ringside, flanked by two of his
twentysomething girlfriends. "Did you see that knockout?" he
A loaded question, considering the man making the inquiry and the
location. Boxers, bunnies and B-listers bantered last Friday at
the Playboy Mansion as Hefner played host to an evening of
televised prize fighting. ESPN2 carried the bouts, marking the
first time that a sports--if not sporting--event had been aired
from the bucolic Holmby Hills, Calif., estate. None of the
half-dozen bouts were title fights, but then, belts never have
been a popular fashion item at Hef's house.
There were knockouts aplenty, though, of both the fistic and the
feminine varieties. In the main event, cruiserweight Vassiliy
Jirov knocked Esteban Pizarro cold with a second-round roundhouse
to the jaw. Superheavyweight Eric Esch--you know him as
Butterbean--somehow used his 135-pound weight advantage to score a
second-round TKO over heavyweight Bill Johnson.
But who was eyeing the fights? Hef's trio of playmates--Brande,
Mandy and Sandy (the latter two are twins)--looked dandy. Bunnies
pranced, canoodled and cavorted, among them women like Paulette
Myers, a veteran of five Playboy special edition issues. "You may
have seen me in the Wet 'n' Wild mag," said Myers. "I haven't
been in the regular magazine yet. Hef says I'm still too skinny."
The by-invitation-only crowd was a panoply of dubious
celebrity-dom: Darva Conger, Vern Troyer (Mini-Me), O.J.
attorney Robert Shapiro, Dick Van Patten and even the guy who
used to play Mr. Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show. "Go to her
body, Franchesca! Go to her body!" actor Judd Nelson gamely
implored distaff boxer Franchesca Alcantar from his second-row
seat. "She's leaning in! Move to her body!" One can imagine
Hefner's battle-fatigued neighbors hearing Nelson's cries from a
distance and saying to themselves, Another night at the mansion.
It may seem odd that Hefner, the feudal lord of this Viagrarian
society, would allow boxing to infringe on his haven of bliss,
where flamingos and peacocks roam the grounds unfettered. (Hef
keeps real bunnies as well but, ironically, they're caged.) True,
there's the kinship of people who conduct their business in silk
sleepwear, but what else does the original swinger have in common
with these swingers?
"Boxing is my favorite sport, always has been," said Hefner. "We
used to host matches back in Chicago [at the now-defunct Playboy
Mansion]. When I was a boy, my dad took me to a Louis-Schmeling
fight. I was hooked after that."
Hefner hedged, however, at the prospect of a return engagement.
As the evening wore on, Mandy and Sandy had vacated their choice
seats and returned to the manor house. "They find it a little,
um, brutal," Hef said. "There's also the question of whether we
can attract enough talent."
As he said this, Mia St. John, Playboy's November cover girl, was
pummeling Alcantar, a former Miss Hawaiian Tropic, in the ring.
St. John had entered the bout 16-0 while Alcantar had a 2-2
record. "Franchesca looks a little outclassed," said an onlooker.
"She's only here because she looks good."
THREE COLOR PHOTOS: PETER READ MILLER (3) Never wanting for action, Hefner and pals saw Jirov (near left) and St. John pound out wins.
"He said he wasn't going to tolerate this [rap] music and it was
his duty to change the clubhouse. I could see I was going nowhere
fast. I was dealing with someone who hit one or two home runs in
a World Series and now thinks he's Willie Mays."
Rangers shortstop ROYCE CLAYTON writing on athletedirect.com
about his attempt to reason with Texas outfielder Chad Curtis.
Three days later the two had to be restrained by teammates after
nearly coming to blows over the issue.