The Mask of the Yellow Death: Robert M. Price

Hoyt Hefti’s ninetieth birthday was coming right up, and the founder of Layboy Enterprises and framer of the Layboy Philosophy was not planning to let the occasion go by unnoticed. He liked parties and held them constantly, filling the Layboy Mansion with curvaceous Laymates from recent years, as well as all the sports and cinema celebrities he could invite. The Big Nine-O would be special, far more exciting and extravagant than his other bacchanals. The occasion surely merited it, but that was not all. For Hef’s fortunes had begun to fade, his gleam to tarnish, in recent decades. For one thing, the competition was fierce. At first he had to deal with rival sex magazines, more of them every year, and most of these did not bother with his own Layboy’s “tasteful” and “artistic” approach. His competitors tended to be down and dirty, going straight for the sex, the cruder the better. After all, what was the whole point of such a magazine? The interviews in Layboy were interminably long, the “party jokes” moronically stupid, the kitschy merchandise too expensive. No, the whole point was sex, and Layboy’s pages didn’t have enough of it to satisfy your average masturbator, whatever his age.

But it wasn’t just raunchy rivals Townhouse and Rustler that gave Hef’s accountants headaches. There were attacks from the Left, crusades against pornography mounted by feminists and lesbians (weren’t they the same thing?) who puritanically denounced skin mags as vehicles for the oppression of women, yada yada yada. Layboy had thrown them a bone back in the 1970s by including “fact sheets” on the living party dolls displayed on his glossy pages. While stroking one’s member one could educate oneself in the fascinating matters of each model’s turnoffs, turn-ons, favorite sports and movies, etc. See? Layboy cared about the whole person and would never think of reducing her to a mere sex object. But it didn’t do much to satisfy his shrill critics.

So one might say the Layboy empire was falling on harder and harder times. The Layboy Clubs and ski lodges had closed down years ago, except for a few in Japan, where they savored the camp chic of the 1960s. But it was equally true of Hoyt Hefti himself, for he was, after all, growing increasingly wizened and infirm. Though surrounded by a bevy of nubile sex models, most of them blonde and nearly indistinguishable from each other, Hef gloried in the rays of their smiles and well-oiled breasts like an ancient potentate with a well-populated harem ostensibly evidencing his superhuman virility. But old Hef, to the considerable relief of his own harem, was these days more of an impotentate. His girls, some of whom had their own TV “reality” shows, were pure eye candy, arm candy. His dentures would not allow him to actually taste the candy. At most, his liver-spotted, claw like hands would occasionally reach out to fondle a luscious-looking boob, its buxom owner shuddering as she tried to think only of the salary (“allowance”) she would receive.

But old Hef’s brain was still pretty sharp and shrewd. And what he had planned for his birthday gala stood to meet both his needs.

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  1. Pingback: In the Court of the Yellow King | Celaeno Press

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