The New York Times Book Review wasn't kidding when it suggested that the hype behind the movie version of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love," starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, had propelled the book back to the top of the best-seller list. You couldn't turn on the television this weekend without some female media icon cooing over the delights of this pop-cultural event. If it wasn't Gail Simmons presiding over a mini-infomercial for the movie during a break in Bravo's "Top Chef," it was Diane Sawyer harnessing her oodles of empathy to praise Gilbert as the ABC News person of the week for living a simple life in rural New Jersey and donating some of her new wealth to struggling artists. Even ABC's lead-in story to this tale of a woman who found herself and her ideal man was a report about which color the female of the species  finds most attractive on the male. (The answer: red). In other words, old "woman's page" material. It made you long for a time when food experts could stick to stuff you could cut with a knife and news anchors could stick to, well, news.

Far more intriguing to me was Howard Kurtz's interview with Hugh Hefner on CNN's "Reliable Sources," which pivoted on the current release of "Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel." This documentary about the founder of Playboy has opened to acclaim in several major cities but does not yet even have a release date in Baltimore. Hefner says that Brigitte Berman, the Canadian documentary-maker who won an Oscar in 1987 for her jazz documentary, "Artie Shaw: Time is All You've Got," focuses on aspects of his life and career that have heretofore been slighted. They include his advocacy for women's rights and racial equality and, on the personal front, his eight-year marriage.

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Hefner was the one who came up with the line, "I read it for the articles," noting that Playboy published nearly every great American writer of the 20th century, including John Updike and John Cheever. As a producer himself, Hefner put his name on films like Roman Polanski's "Macbeth" and Peter Boganovich's "Saint Jack." And Mark Boal wrote the piece that became the script for "The Hurt Locker" for -- where else? -- Playboy, one of the last bastions of long-form nonfiction storytelling.

Hefner contends that the Playboy brand is bigger than ever, though the magazine's circulation has plummeted. What does that brand mean to you today? Do you read the magazine for the articles, or at all? Did it ever influence your ideas about sexuality? And is Hefner (seen in a 2010 portrait, below) still a magnetic enough figure to make you want to plunk down nine bucks for this documentary? (To me, it looks like a must-see.)

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