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At age 79, Hefner keeps things real

'Playboy' founder explains his new reality show and balancing 3 girlfriends
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Hugh Hefner is on top of the world at the age of 79. The original "Playboy's" name is still synonymous with sex.  His latest venture is a reality show on the E! network, which will take viewers inside the walls of the infamous Playboy Mansion. 

While Hefner has the most famous face on the show, three blond bombshells named Holly, Bridget and Kendra are hard to miss.  But these are no ordinary "Girls Next Door," as the show is named.  They also happen to be Hefner's girlfriends. 

The three women, along with Hefner, sat down with MSNBC's Rita Cosby for an interview on Tuesday's 'Live and Direct.'

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

RITA COSBY:  I see some enormous smiles on all of your faces, yours in particular. 


COSBY:  Are you having the time of your life? 

HEFNER:  Yes, I would say so, yes.  The girls have a lot to do with it.  It's a very special time for me, both personally and professionally.  The brand is hot.  I'm looking back on a life well spent.  And we're having a lot of fun. 

COSBY:  Why did you decide this reality show?  I would imagine, over the years, you've had so many offers.  But what piqued your interest on this one? 

HEFNER:  Well, I think the notion of doing a reality show at the Playboy Mansion appealed to everybody except me.  So we had a lot of offers over the last two or three years.  And the real reason is the concept of the show itself.  It is through the eyes of the girls.  And that takes the pressure off of daddy. 

COSBY:  So you can relax? 

HEFNER:  Yes. 

COSBY:  Let them do all the work? 

HEFNER:  Yes. ... So to speak. 

COSBY:  Why are you doing it?  Why is it fun for you? 

HOLLY MADISON, HUGH HEFNER'S GIRLFRIEND:  I was a little bit hesitant about it at first.  I thought that maybe the producers would try and cause drama between us, and I wasn't really ready to have that in exchange for a show, but it turned out great. 
We're having a lot of fun with it.  We don't take it too seriously. 
We just like to watch it and laugh, and we have a really fun time doing it. 

COSBY:  How much of it is staged?  And how much of it is real reality? 


COSBY:  Even the fights and the tit-for-tats? 

WILKINSON:  What fights? 

COSBY:  They can't show everything you do, right? 

HEFNER:  Yes, no, not everything.  I could not have imagined it was going to be as much fun as it is.  So the high point of every week is looking at the new show. 

COSBY:  How wild is life at the Playboy Mansion? 

HEFNER:  Well, what you see is pretty much what you get.  I mean, my life is, as I've said before, an open book with illustrations.  On many levels, I know, you know, I'm a very lucky guy.  It's a fantasy life. 

I'm a kid who grew up in a very typical Midwestern Methodist home without a lot of hugs and kisses.  And I think that I escaped into dreams early on that came out of the movies and the music of my childhood.  And I think my life itself is an expression of those fantasies. 
And I think the fact that I share them with a lot of other people is why "Playboy" has been so successful. 

COSBY:  ... Why have you been able to stay so successful through the years? 

HEFNER:  I think, with the magazine, it has to do with the fact that we've taken the high road.  It's a magazine of quality.  People refer to it as a sex magazine.  I've never thought of it as that.  I think it's really a lifestyle magazine, with a romantic connection between the sexes.  And that has made it through the years very, very popular. 

COSBY:  Are we an oversexed society or are we undersexed, in your opinion? 

HEFNER:  I think we are both.  I think there are excesses in terms of sexuality and, very obviously, America remains very Puritan, as well.  That's what America is really all about. 

COSBY:  On the Richter scale, where are we now, in terms of sexuality? 

HEFNER:  We are certainly a long ways from where we were when I started the magazine in 1950s. 

COSBY:  Are we able to push the envelope more than we ever were? 

HEFNER:  Yes.  But I also say that -- you know, I think that it is also a matter of, you know, two steps forward, two steps back. 

COSBY:  You were married at one point.  You're single now, have three beautiful girlfriends, which we see here.  Which phase of your life do you like better?  Do you like being single or do you like being married? 

HEFNER:  Well, I think it's different for different people.  There are many roads to Mecca.  In my case, there's no comparison.  In other words, the happiest time in my life is right now.  And the happiest time of my life has been when I've been single. 

COSBY:  Are you dating really all three of these women? 

HEFNER:  Oh, yes. 

COSBY:  Did you fall in love with this man instantly? 


COSBY:  Did you know you were going to have to share? 

MADISON:  Yes, and that was the part I was most reluctant about. There were seven girls at the time.  And I was like, "I don't know."  But I thought, you know, this is a guy I have a crush on.  And, you know, he leads an amazing lifestyle.  And I think I'm just going to give it a try, and it worked out really well. 

COSBY:  No jealously between all of you gals? 

MADISON:  Not now.  This group is heaven compared to what we had before, so...

COSBY:  There were a lot of cat fighting before? 

MADISON:  Yes, it was a lot of girls who, you know, just all wanted to be in the group and didn't necessarily get along.  So to have this group now, people are always asking me, "Well, how can you date a guy who dates other girls?"  And you're like, "You don't understand.  This group is so great."  You know, we're just having a lot of fun right now. 

COSBY:  No jealously, no trying to undermine each other?  Not at all? 

HEFNER:  No.  Not at all.

COSBY:  Wow.  That's amazing. 

MADISON:  We all love this lifestyle and this relationship.  And we all care about Hef, so we want to try and make it work. 

COSBY:  ... What's ahead for you (Hefner)?  Is there something else that's still sort of yet undone? 

HEFNER:  Well, this is a very, very exciting time for me, both personally and professionally.  There's so many things going on. 

COSBY:  You look like you're a kid in the candy store.  You look so happy.

HEFNER:  I am a kid in the candy store.  I dreamed impossible dreams.  And the dreams turned out beyond anything I could possibly imagine.  You know, from my point of view, I'm the luckiest cat on the planet.  And I know it. 

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.