There's so much to be said in the wake of Hugh Hefner's passing, both about Hef himself and the cultural impact (positive and otherwise) of his most famous magazine. But I'm not going to get into any of that here...
No, I think the best way to observe Hef's death is to watch (or at least acknowledge the existence of) this sublimely ridiculous network TV special from the Thanksgiving Weekend of 1979. I myself have no memory of its broadcast, though it certainly would have been right in my 13 year-old wheelhouse at the time. And good lord, look at that cast: Richard Dawson! The Village People! Chuck Mangione! Wayland Flowers and Madame!
And then, of course, there's added "bonuses" like Dawson's recurring bit with ill-fated Playmate Dorothy Stratten, and celebrity walk-ons like James Caan, Marjoe Gortner, Jim Brown, Ruth Buzzi, Robert Culp and Patty Hearst. Honestly, the only way they could have made this more quintessentially "1979" was to have Dave "The Cobra" Parker and the rest of the "We Are Family" Pirates snorting coke in the Playboy Mansion Grotto...
Speaking of "We Are Family," this TV special serves as not only a fascinating (as well as titillating and occasionally nauseating) time capsule from the, er, tail end of the 1970s — the commercials alone are worth the price of admission — but it also serves as something of a riposte to those pro- and anti-disco factions who would claim that July 1979's Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park was what "killed" disco music and culture.
Four months after that legendary/infamous event, disco was clearly still considered commercially potent enough for ABC to broadcast a roller disco special with the Village People as guest stars; at the same time, if this bloated, vapid and coked-up mess accurately reflects where disco culture was at (or at least how mainstream America was perceiving it) by late '79, it clearly would have croaked soon enough on its own, without any help from antagonistic (and opportunistic) rock DJs like Steve Dahl. I loved disco now, as I loved it then — but pop culture trends go in waves, and disco's wave had already crested by the time Disco Demolition kicked it in the skin-tight satin pants.
In any case, you can watch the whole mind-boggling thing here at the amazing Archive.Org site, or dig it in more bite-sized chunks via the following YouTube clips:
Rest in peace, Hef. No one can say you didn't enjoy your time on Earth.