By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"It was really strange, it was really weird, and it was really quick, too," says Mauriello.
"You know, I think people say a band has to sell a million records to be successful, but this band did 150,000 albums and they built a great, great, great base. People everywhere know who this band is," says Benson.
"Who is this band?" asks a production assistant who has asked not to be identified. Across the way, over by the pool, near the lawn where crew men are constructing gigantic white dice for Zebrahead to stand on while they pretend to play their instruments, where Hefner has agreed to make a cameo, where two huge beach balls tied together bob along the surface of the swimming pool looking like two, well, you can imagine what they look like, a PA has a different take on everything. He seems a bit put off by the extravagance of the video shoot. "You get a band that's never been heard of—I mean, probably in small circles they're known—but they come to the Playboy Mansion, get very good-looking women on camera, Hefner makes a cameo, and the next thing you know, they're superstars," he says. "I mean, the guys are cool, and I have nothing against them, but I'm just saying: when it comes to new bands with videos, there's no harm, no foul in making a really cool-looking video, but it seems that the environment and the property is different than maybe what it should reflect."
The question is why would Hefner go for it? What's in it for him? "Well, he has a self-interest, in my opinion," says the PA. "He's got his girls in there, and it gives him a name and gives him more exposure, end of story—as well as he's an aging man and wants to go out with a bang."
As many theories as there are about Zebrahead, there are myriad more about Hefner, about what he looks like and what he acts like and whether he's really at the Mansion and what he's wearing and, well, you get the idea. As is fitting, he is the undeniable star, the elusive celebrity of his own mansion.
For much of the morning, there has been speculation about whether Hefner is here. Early in the day, Mauriello claims he saw him "peeking out of the window with his shirt off."
"Oh, my God, he's real," says Devine with a laugh as you both approach the area where the members of Zebrahead, still dressed in Hefneresque pajamas, are riding scooters in big graceful circles around the fountain. A ripple of twittering and nudging goes through the crowd, and you can feel the interest suddenly shift and congeal from whatever miscellany everyone might have been thinking about to what's happening right now, right this minute: Hugh Hefner (oh, my God!) is actually making an appearance. What's more, he's dressed just like Zebrahead, who are dressed just like him in black silk pajamas with a red silk robe. When Hefner is around, there's no longer anything special about the Zebrahead guys; they become just like everyone else, for the crowd becomes electrified into only two important categories: Hefner and Not Hefner. And the Not Hefners, which includes everyone who's not Hefner, are transfixed. The Not Hefners begin, one by one and then in groups, to approach him to shake his hand and ask to get pictures with him. He's a good sport about it, posing for innumerable shots, speaking in sound bites ("typical day at the Mansion") and, surprisingly, primping before each shot, nervously patting the back of his hair and his oddly taut, possibly nipped and tucked (but I'm not sure) cheeks and pursing his lips.
When the last group of picturemongers seems to have trickled away and people are less focused on talking to Hefner than on talking to one another about their experience of talking to Hefner, the geriatric sex symbol approaches one of the scooters laying on its side near the fountain. He lifts it up and gets on. Suddenly, all eyes are riveted back on the man who's teetering on the scooter, trying to balance without wobbling, puttering along at a fraction of the speed at which those Zebrahead kids were traveling. There is an odd tension in the air as everyone becomes quietly aware that Mr. Sex here is also a fragile 74-year-old man. A breath of relief is collectively taken when Hefner abandons the scooter. From there, he walks down the path to the tennis courts, and all eyes follow his silken back until he is no longer visible.
Over by the Mansion's tennis courts there is a plush, carpeted clubhouse with pool tables, video games and pinball machines, including a Playboy pinball machine that groans and moans. Zebrahead has turned the clubhouse into their "backstage" area, which really means it's crammed with duffel bags and garment bags and various other pieces of luggage that the guys have brought. "Hey, Ben?" Tabatabaee asks, walking through the sliding glass doors and out onto the modestly decorated patio where Osmundson is sitting. It seems Tabatabaee has a dilemma: