Hef deftly repositioned himself not as a crass exploiter of women but as a patron of the arts and a champion of feminist causes, sponsoring a series of television documentaries on landmark women such as Frances Marion, the most prominent screenwriter in silent movies. To assure that he did not become too respectable, Hef showed up at the documentary's premiere in Beverly Hills with a pair of 22-year-old bleached-blond twins, Sandy and Mandy Bentley. Hef told reporters that Sandy and Mandy had allowed him to "see life afresh through youthful eyes."
For nNrm, the road to Eden was far more arduous. He wandered for years, eking out a living as a college professor and part-time backgammon hustler. He had thrust himself into every venue he could think of to meet women: bars, discos, singles groups, personal ads, even folk dancing classes--but girls stared coldly back when he asked for their phone numbers, telling him he was too needy, too emotional, too cerebral.
Then, on a visit to Beverly Hills, he had a divine revelation. He was hovering on the edge of the dance floor in the Beverly Hills Pips discotheque and backgammon club, which was owned by Hefner and real estate broker Stan Herman. Writhing on the floor were the most amazinglicious women. And all of them were dancing with guys who were 20, 30, even 40 years older.
Then it hit him. Women love movies where the heroine falls for a penniless painter or writer. But what women really wanted, what they were really after, was not sensitivity, romance or a hard body. No, they were after one thing and one thing only: moolah. They wanted the men who drove up in Rolls Royces, Jaguars, Ferraris and Mercedeses, the men with stock portfolios thicker than the Los Angeles telephone directory.
This revelation did not disgust Norm; it came as a relief. Now he understood the rules; now he knew what he needed to do.
In 1990, Norm registered as a broker and investment advisor and began raising money for hedge funds. His superb grasp of numbers allowed him to take full advantage of the biggest economic boom in American history. By the mid-'90s he was managing more than $159 million and earning average annual returns of 29% and a personal income of more than $9 million a year. He bought a house on Shadow Hill Way off Coldwater Canyon Drive for $1.7 million, and at long last the great drought came to an end.
"After I started to go to strip clubs, my whole relationship with women changed," Norm says. "There is no better way to meet good girls." It was a stripper who inspired him to start Perfect 10. She had tried out for Playboy and been turned down. Norm knew why: She didn't have implants. They'd taken America by storm, and Playboy had begun using more and more silicone-enhanced models. Norm considered it an outrage, this pressuring of young women to deform themselves and put their health at risk for a fashion fad. His admiration for Hefner curdled. "Playboy has damaged many, many women by foisting upon them this vision of ideal beauty," he says.
He decided to turn his anger in a positive direction. The concept of Perfect 10 was born.
He hired photographers and editors, made deals with printers and distributors and recruited young women from top modeling agencies. How much did it cost him? That depends on what day you talk to Norm. He told Los Angeles magazine that he sank $1.8 million into the first issue, then later he told U.S. News & World Report that he had invested $2.8 million.
Today he claims to have invested more than $20 million in Perfect 10 since its inception. (Norm's claim that the magazine has a circulation of 100,000 seems suspect, considering it's difficult to find on many newsstands.) Whatever he's spending, it's a sweet little write-off, and one that provides many ancillary benefits. Such as having a former Playboy Playmate show up at his door to audition for a photo spread. The memory of it causes him to erupt in a high-pitched cackle.
Of course, the capstone was the Perfect 10 Mansion, which he built in 1997 on seven acres at the top of San Ysidro Drive in Beverly Park, one the world's most exclusive subdivisions. His neighbors include Vanna White, Magic Johnson, Roseanne Barr, Rod Stewart and Sylvester Stallone. The other homes are traditional European in style--Tuscan villas and French country manors. Norm chose something radically different: a 16,000-square-foot postmodern bone-white modular mansion with 25-foot ceilings and glass walls in rooms that look out on lawns, a pool, tennis courts, a heated waterfall and the surrounding hills. It's the antithesis of Hef's moldy old English castle.