So, you should understand why a quick skim of this article had me clicking over to Amazon to buy this 3 DVD's worth of "Playboy After Dark," which was a TV show that started in 1968. There are also some episodes of "Playboy's Penthouse," from 1959 -- not quite the 60s, but laying the groundwork, and hence, more interesting to the 60s person than the 1968 show. Hugh Hefner was ridiculously behind the times to a young person in 1968, but he represented the way of the future in 1959. You're wondering if I was allowed to watch "Playboy's Penthouse" in 1959, when I was 8 years old. Let's just say my father was a great fan of Playboy Magazine who had every issue going back to 1953 and always proudly displayed the newest issue on the (kidney-shaped) coffee table (sometimes along with Swank and Escapade!). (I'm really afraid Roger Kimball might read this post and have a convulsion.)
Anyway, back to the article:
As [Cy] Coleman’s smoothly addictive theme plays over the opening credits, elevator doors part and a subjective camera roams the party, stopping when the pipe-smoking Mr. Hefner turns to introduce himself. Not the most natural of hosts, his sometimes awkward presence nonetheless has its charms: if the editor and publisher of Playboy can appear uncomfortable, there was hope for every nebbishy reader, a fantasy that fueled much of his magazine’s success.I love this kind of thing.
‘‘Playboy’s Penthouse,” produced in Chicago over two seasons, also helped break down racial barriers on television. Black performers don’t just entertain and walk off. They socialize. Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr. join the party, chatting, laughing and sipping their drinks. Cole, who does not sing, seems pleased to relax with the likes of [Lenny] Bruce and the novelist Rona Jaffe. Conversations have a natural feel, and Mr. Hefner never rushes anyone.
Bruce is the life of the party, riffing on TV censorship, integration and the definition of a “sick” comedian. And he’s funny, relating how executives from another show wouldn’t let him tell a story about why a tattoo on his arm might prevent burial in a Jewish cemetery. (Mr. Bruce, who died in 1966, need not have worried. He is buried in a Jewish cemetery in California.)
‘‘Playboy After Dark” arrived in syndication in 1968. Taped in color in Los Angeles, the show has production values that are slicker than “Playboy’s Penthouse.” But what was elegant and slightly cool about the earlier series here seems forced. Joe Cocker and Canned Heat share the bill — weirdly — with Billy Eckstine and Vic Damone. Instead of Bruce and company, there is Rex Reed discussing “Myra Breckinridge,” the legendarily awful film in which he co-starred. Under his dinner jacket Mr. Hefner wears a shirt so puffy it could have inspired a famous episode of “Seinfeld.”