One of the odd footnotes to American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story, a ten-part authorized documentary series dropping Friday on Amazon, is that the dramatic re-enactment portions were filmed on the other side of the world in Auckland, New Zealand. Starring Kiwi actor Matt Whelan as Hef.
That is certainly a more upstanding commingling of Hefner and New Zealand than what went down this month back in 2009. In a rather inspired April Fools’ joke, the tourism board for the town of Rotorua took out full-page ads in the country’s two main newspapers, announcing that Hugh Hefner had decided to transform the Tudor-style Bath House–the Rotorua Museum’s main structure–into his “Playboy Holiday Mansion.” The hook was a verified scientific link found between a strange, foul smell in the area and male sexual arousal.
In Auckland, not long after the Amazon series was shot, the earthquake of November 2016 caused severe damage to the Bath House. The museum was relocated temporarily and is, coincidentally, scheduled to re-open at the original location this month.
Moral of the story: Hefner, who will celebrate his 91st birthday Sunday at the under-new-ownership Mansion with a screening of Casablanca, has outlasted a cavalcade of hoaxes. A more recent April Fools’ gag was put forth in 2015 by his own operation and remains, to this day, one of Fishbowl’s favorites.
P.S. The information about the 2009 Rotorua gag is preserved by another museum, The Museum of Hoaxes, operated digitally since 1997 out of San Diego by Alex Boese. Fittingly, Boese was a guest on radio show Coast to Coast AM this past April 1, discussing some of the most famous of all bits of year-round hoodwink-ery.