High in America
The True Story Behind NORML and the Politics of Marijuana
As 1974 began, Hugh Hefner was living what was, even by his own
extravagant standards, a most enjoyable life.
In the 1960s Hefner had pushed himself hard to build and expand
his publishing empire. He had not then learned to delegate authority,
to trust others, and for a time he had used amphetamines to drive
himself through the round-the-clock sessions in which he wrote
his "Playboy Philosophy" series and chaired the marathon
editorial meetings that had helped make him the rich and powerful
publisher he was. But by the 1970s Hefner's life had started to
change. He was learning to delegate authority. He was spending
less and less time in Chicago, where his magazine was located,
and more time at his new mansion in Los Angeles, where he could
bask in the California sun and let the world come to him when
he had need of it. Hefner was, moreover, deeply involved in the
most intense romance of his life, with a vivacious, bright-eyed
young woman named Barbi Benton, who had captivated him as had
few of the thousands of women who had passed through his life.
Finally, most amazingly, Hefner had discovered something that
had enriched, indeed revolutionized, his already prodigious sex
Hefner had grown up accepting the reefer-madness mythology. He
thought of marijuana as something jazz musicians used, a drug
like heroin that drove men to crime and violence. When Hefner
began to build his own private world in the mid-1950s, he felt
no need for drugs in it. Sex was Hefner's obsessionsex and
his magazine. Even his drinking was moderate. He would sip a Scotch
but he never got drunk, for Hefner hated to lose control.
Although Hefner had helped create the sexual revolution of the
sixties, he missed that decade's drug revolution entirely. If
anything, he was disdainful of drugs and people who abused them.
(He did not think of amphetamines as drugs; they were an energizer,
like coffee, that had helped him do his work.) As the seventies
began, Hefner took only an occasional hit of marijuana, and did
not allow marijuana use in his mansions, except by his closest
friends in semiprivate situations. Still, as the decade progressed,
there was more marijuana around, more talk of it; more joints
were being circulated, and in time Hefner made a quite startling
discovery: Smoking marijuana greatly enhanced his sexual pleasure.
It was, for Hefner, a stunning turn of events, and not without
its ironies. He had for fifteen years been both America's leading
sexual philosopher and its leading sexual practitioner. He had
slept with hundreds, even thousands of beautiful young women,
in a sexual odyssey unequaled in the Western world. But now, as
he began to combine marijuana with lovemaking, he learned how
much he had been missing. "I didn't know what making love
was all about for all those years," he said in a three-hour
interview in his Los Angeles mansion in the spring of 1980. "Smoking
helped put me in touch with the realm of the senses. I discovered
a whole other dimension to sex. I discovered the difference between
fucking and making love."
Hefner's discovery was, to be sure, one that millions of other
people had already made; in this instance Hefner was a follower,
not a leader, in the nation's sexual exploration. Smokers had
found that at best marijuana produced a state of receptivity,
even of childlike wonder, that enabled them to experience anew,
often with stunning intensity, things that they had come to take
for granted. The experiences that could be so dramatically enhanced
might include a meal, a movie, a child, a song, a sunset, and
in particular they included physical contact. Certainly, one reason
for marijuana's popularity, despite official disapproval and repression,
was the fact that millions of people thought it made their sex
lives even more enjoyable. That was the case with Hugh Hefner.
Hefner had grown up, like most American men, thinking of sexual
success in terms of performance: Success was how many women you
took to bed, how long you kept your erection, how many orgasms
you managed. Now he began to see that performance was virtually
the opposite of what real lovemaking was all about. Erections
were not the point, you could have wonderful sex with or without
an erection. Real lovemaking was a sensual sharing of erotic pleasure
with someone you cared about. Marijuana, he found, helped him
tune out distractionsdeadlines, corporate disputesand focus
all his energies and passions on his pleasure and his partner's.
As Hefner had earlier overcome his repressions about the sexual
act itself, he now began to overcome his resistance to sensitivity,
to sharing, to giving of himself. It was, for him, a time of discovery,
of opening up his life. Sometimes Hefner wondered what America
would have been like if hundreds of years ago, in the Colonial
days, we had adopted marijuana, not alcohol, as our drug of choice.
It puzzled and saddened him to think that America's two favorite
drugsalcohol and tobaccowere killers, and yet we put people
in jail for using a drug that he found not only harmless but liberating.
As 1974 began, the forty-six-year-old Hefner believed himself
truly a man who had everything. Indeed, if there was any small
irritation in Hefner's life, it was that so many people refused
to believe how happy he was. People who wrote about him, Hefner
had discovered, almost always wanted to believe there was a dark
side to his life, that he was lonely or unhappy or frustrated,
that there had to be trouble in his paradise. Time after time,
to Hefner's growing annoyance, interviewers demanded of him, "But
are you really happy?" To some extent, Hefner thought,
the question was rooted in the envy of men who needed to rationalize
the frustrations of their own mundane, monogamous lives. But he
thought that in a larger sense the question reflected America's
lingering puritanism, which would have it that all his wealth
and fame and sexual indulgence could not give him happiness, which
indeed insisted that pleasure was sin and sin must inevitably
be punished. People thought that if you danced, you had to pay
the piper, but Hefner knew better. He lived precisely as he wanted
to live, and he considered himself a truly happy man. He thought
the only enemy he had was time, mortality, and sometimes he half
believed that somehow even time might stand still for him.
He was wrong, of course. Hefner had enemies he didn't even know
about, political enemies, powerful men who hated him and what
he stood for and who wanted nothing more than to drag him from
his flowered paradise and lock him in prison. Before 1974 was
ended, Hefner would know fear, would spend sleepless nights, would
face the possibility that his world could come crashing down around
him. Ironically, the instrument his enemies would use to try to
destroy him was a woman who would have died for him, Bobbie Arnstein.
In 1971 Keith Stroup and Bobbie Arnstein had become lovers; by
1974 they were friends. Stroup had in time realized that Bobbie
was far less interested in sex than in friendship, in finding
people who would flatter her, laugh with her, argue with her,
be kind to her, and above all who would not use her, as so many
people tried to, because of her status with Hefner. She had gone
to work as a receptionist at Playboy soon after she graduated
from a Chicago high school. She became one of Hefner's secretaries,
and in time became his executive assistant, which meant she was
one of two people who could grant access to the reclusive publisher.
Hefner relied on her professionally, to screen out people and
problems he did not wish to be bothered with, and he enjoyed her
personally. She had a tough, challenging mind, and they had long
dialogues on every possible subject. When Hefner was depressed,
it was often Bobbie he would tell his troubles to. Hefner's girl
friends came and went, but Bobbie had remained important in his
life for a decade.
To Stroup, Bobbie's friendship was crucial as he struggled to
get more money for NORML from the Playboy Foundation. With Bobbie's
help he was able to establish a personal relationship with Hefner
that enabled him, when there were problems, to bypass the foundation
and take his case directly to the top. As Stroup saw it, Hefner
was a very busy man who needed to be reminded from time to time
just who Keith Stroup was and just what NORML was. But you didn't
make appointments with Hefner. You hung out at the mansion and
you talked to Hefner when Hefner felt like talking. Thanks to
Bobbie, Stroup had access to the mansionhe could simply stay
with her when he was in Chicagoand, moreover, she could tell
him when to approach Hef and when to leave him alone.
She gave him help, and she needed help, too. He was also coming
to understand what her friends at Playboy had long known,
that she was a woman with serious psychological problems. Her
friends thought her problems came in part from the death of her
father when she was a child, and in part from the fact that she
was a twin, who like many twins had identity problems and somehow
never got all the attention and affection she craved. One of her
close women friends says, "Bobbie was one of the funniest,
brightest people I ever knew. There was a robustness and a tenderness
about her. But she was a desperate person, too. She had no sense
of herself, no ego strength. She needed constant approval. She
tried to act tough but she wasn't. There was something of a chameleon
about her, something essentially parasitic. And in time it all
focused on Hefner. He was daddy, the authority figure, the person
she had to please."
For his part, Hefner was pained by the great gap between the talented,
attractive person Bobbie was and the person she thought she wasfor
she was torn by insecurity, by a sense of inadequacy. She worried
constantly about her looks, although most men found her highly
attractive. She would spend hours getting ready for a party, and
then leave it after ten minutes. She devoted herself to Hefner
she wanted to be available to him around the clockand was
never able to achieve a satisfactory personal life of her own.
One way or another, her romances always seemed to end badly.
In 1963 Bobbie had fallen in love with a young man named Tom Lownes,
the younger brother of a senior Playboy executive. While
they were driving to Florida, with her at the wheel, there was
an accident. She suffered a broken arm; he was killed instantly.
She returned to the mansion to recuperate, and she was deeply
depressed. She felt guilty about Lownes's death, she began to
drink heavily, and she gained a great deal of weight. Eventually
she went to a health resort, lost the weight, and stopped the
excessive drinking, but by the time Stroup met her, in 1971, she
was well into the uppers-downers cycleamphetamines to get up
in the morning and get through the day, barbiturates to come down
at night. The uppers didn't interfere with her workthey helped
her do her workbut Stroup thought they were starting to take
a toll on her. She was often depressed, insecure, erratic. Stroup
came to see her in two quite different lights, almost as two people.
On the one hand, she was one of the most exciting people he'd
ever known. They liked to do drugs togethermarijuana, sometimes
cocaine or MDAbut he thought of her as someone who was high
not on drugs but on ideas, laughter, life. She had a quick, bizarre
sense of humorshe was a great fan of Lenny Bruceand she
loved to debate politics, philosophy, morality, anything. She
was challenging and invigorating; he almost always left her feeling
And yet Bobbie was clearly someone living at the edge. He saw,
behind her exuberance, a hopelessness, a sense of despair, that
her dark humor and her drug use only partly concealed. She had
been in and out of analysis for years (she made bitter jokes about
what fools psychiatrists were). She rarely left the mansion anymore,
and some of her friends feared that she was losing touch with
reality, that the sweet, pampered madness of the mansion had become
her reality. Outside, in the real world, her jangled nerves could
barely survive a rude cabdriver or an indifferent shopgirl. She
had moved out of the mansion once, after the accident that killed
Tom Lownes, and lived a few months in an apartment she never bothered
to furnish; then she returned to her real home, the mansion, the
She increasingly spoke of suicide. She would call her women friends
in the middle of the night and say she was going to kill herself.
At least one of her friends took these calls as self-pity, a cry
for attention, and told her to stop calling, that she wouldn't
play the game. This, then, was Bobbie Arnstein in 1972bright,
hardworking, insecure, isolated, often depressed, potentially
suicidalwhen the outside world, the real world, began to intrude
on her fantasy life in ways more terrible than she could have
Her troubles started, inevitably, with a man. As she entered her
thirties, Bobbie had begun to date younger men. One of them was
a handsome twenty-four-year-old drug dealer named Ron Scharf,
and in September of 1971 she had flown to Coral Gables, Florida,
with Scharf and a friend of his named Ira Sapstein. They visited
a thirty-five-year-old drug dealer named George Matthews, and
Scharf bought a half-pound of cocaine from Matthews. Later the
three of them flew back to Chicago together. Whether or not Bobbie
knew about the cocaine purchase, and whether she or Sapstein carried
the cocaine back from Florida, were questions that were later
It developed that Scharf's telephone was being tapped as part
of a federal drug investigation. Some of the taped calls were
between him and Bobbie, and often they talked about drugs.
Early in 1972 there were rumors that Scharf was about to be indicted
and that Bobbie might be indicted along with him. She called Stroup
in panic, and he flew to Chicago to see if he could help her.
It turned out that she was not indicted, although Scharf, Sapstein,
and Matthews were, for conspiracy, in the cocaine sale. But for
some reason the case was not prosecuted.
Instead, the investigation continued. Bobbie was repeatedly called
in for questioning. Sometimes the prosecutors played her the taped
conversations in which she and Scharf discussed drugs. The implication
was clear: She still faced possible prosecution. She and her lawyers
began to hear reports that the prosecutors were divided, with
some wanting to indict her and others insisting they had no case
In the fall of 1973, amid this pressure and uncertainty, Bobbie
tried to kill herself with an overdose of sleeping pills. A friend
found her unconscious in her apartment in the Chicago mansion,
and she was rushed to a hospital and her life saved. She later
told Stroup, with bitter amusement, that there was no experience
quite like waking up, thinking you were dead, only to find yourself
strapped to a bed and surrounded by people who thought you were
After her suicide attempt, Bobbie was sent to a private psychiatric
hospital. She called Stroup in hysterics. She was locked up with
crazy people, she said. There was one man who kept pissing on
the floor right next to her. He had to get her out of there, before
she did go crazy. Stroup flew to Chicago and found that she had
not been legally committed to the hospital. He therefore told
Bobbie's doctor he wanted her freed.
"She shouldn't leave yet," the doctor protested. "You'll
have to take the responsibility for what might happen."
"Wait a minute," Stroup replied. "You're the doctor.
If you don't think she should leave, you have her committed. That's
your responsibility. I'm her lawyer, and if she's not committed,
then I want her out of here."
He took her back to the mansion, where he sensed that many people
would have preferred that she stay in confinement longer.
"Listen, Bobbie," he told her, "if you kill yourself
now, I'm really fucked."
She laughed and told him not to worry, that she wouldn't do a
thing like that to him.
Then she was indicted.
At noon on March 23, 1974, two years after the first indictments
in Scharf's case, Bobbie stepped briefly outside the mansion,
on her way from one of its wings to the other. She was wearing
a pantsuit and sunglasses and carrying some papers. A man stepped
into her path and asked if she was Roberta Arnstein. When she
said she was, he said he was a federal agent and she was under
arrest. He produced handcuffs and snapped them onto her wrists.
"But I haven't had lunch yet," she protesteda choice
example of her deadpan humor, her friends thought. Newspaper photographers,
alerted by the prosecutors, snapped pictures of her arrest; it
was the first indication of the media extravaganza the government
would make of her case.
Earlier that morning, before her arrest, new indictments had been
handed down in the cocaine-conspiracy case, indictments that reflected
a major change in the government's case. At the time of his arrest,
Matthews had given a long statement to the authorities. It implicated
Scharf and Sapstein in the cocaine deal and mentioned Arnstein
only in passing. But now, after he had been convicted and sentenced
to fifteen years in prison, Matthews changed his story to say
he had seen Bobbie put the cocaine in her purse.
The new indictments were brought by a Justice Department anti-crime
strike force, working in cooperation with the Drug Enforcement
Agency and the U.S. attorney for the Chicago district, James Thompson,
a Republican who had made his name prosecuting Democratic politicians
and who would in time be elected governor of Illinois and be talked
about as a future presidential candidate.
It was clear, throughout the case, that the government saw the
prosecution of Arnstein as a first step toward making a major
drug case against Hugh Hefner. The Nixon administration's law-and-order
crusade was at its peak then. Narcotics agents were kicking down
doors, often the wrong doors, on their no-knock raids, and undercover
agents were sending hundreds of people to prison with testimony
that would later be proved to be perjury. There seemed to be no
restraints on what the government could do in its anti-drug crusade,
and there cannot have been many more inviting targets for ambitious
prosecutors or publicity-hungry politicians than the publisher
of Playboy. Hefner was a champion of the "new morality,"
and as such he was hated and feared by millions of Americans who
still clung to the verities of the old morality. To make it worse,
he was a middle-aged man who flaunted his sexual adventures with
an endless stream of young women. Small wonder, then, that the
zealots of the Nixon administration would put Hefner on their
enemies list and would try to make a drug case against the publisher
that at the least would make him sweat and at best might bring
down his empire. It was Bobbie Arnstein's misfortune to become
an unwitting actor in this high-stakes political drama.
That first afternoon, after her arrest, she was freed on bond,
and she called Stroup for help. He hurried to Chicago to advise
her and to help her select her lawyer. They eventually settled
on a first-rate criminal-defense lawyer named Tom Sullivan. Stroup
agreed to serve as unpaid co-counsel, primarily to mediate between
Bobbie and Sullivan, who was an excellent lawyer but also a very
straight middle-aged Catholic who did not relate with ease to
his very hip, nervous, demanding client.
From the first, the prosecutors made it clear to Bobbie and
to her lawyers that it was really Hefner they wanted, not her.
Their questions to her were invariably directed at alleged drug
use by Hefner and by others at his mansion. They were obsessed
with the idea that he passed around bowls of cocaine at his parties.
Tell us about Hefner, they said again and again, and you have
nothing to worry about. Perhaps the prosecutors did believe Hefner
used and dispensed cocaine, but the fact was that, so far as Hefner's
closest friends knew, he used no drugs except occasional alcohol
and marijuana. He disapproved of cocaine and hallucinogenic drugs,
and people who used them in his mansions did so behind his back.
As the trial drew near, Bobbie's lawyers had one great problem:
how to rebut George Matthews' testimony that he saw Bobbie put
the cocaine in her purse.
Ron Scharf, her codefendant, was not going to testify, lest
he be cross-examined about the drug deals he had discussed in
the taped phone calls. He told Bobbie's lawyers that if Bobbie
could get a separate trial, he would swear that she knew nothing
about the drug deal, but the judge denied Sullivan's motion for
a separate trial.
Ira Sapstein, who had been named in the first indictments but
not indicted the second time, was nowhere to be found.
There remained the possibility of Bobbie's testifying in her
own behalf. She wanted to. Matthews was lying, she said, and she
wanted to say so. But Stroup and Sullivan were agreed that she
must not take the stand. For one thing, she would not be a witness
with whom a working-class Chicago jury was likely to feel much
sympathy. An even bigger problem was the tapes on which she and
Scharf had discussed drugs. If she took the stand, she could be
cross-examined about everything on the tapes. Stroup's fear was
that under cross-examination she would either perjure herself
or be forced to admit criminal acts, and that she might suffer
a breakdown in the process.
The trial began on October 27 and lasted three days. Stroup
and Bobbie would ride to the trial each day in a chauffeured Mercedes,
listening to Beatles tapes and perhaps sharing a joint on the
way. They always got out of the Mercedes a block away from the
courthouse, however, lest the jury see Bobbie in her limousine.
It was her only concession to convention. She rejected Stroup's
suggestion that she "dress down" for the jury's benefit;
instead she arrived at court each day in some expensive new outfit,
perhaps featuring a flashy leather vest or knee-length boots.
Worse, Bobbie and Ron Scharf would sometimes pass notes back and
forth at the defense table, and one day Stroup noticed that one
of the folded-up notes contained some drugs. Stroup was furious
at Bobbie, but she only laughed.
The prosecution's star witness was George Matthews, the Florida
drug dealer who now swore he had seen Bobbie put the cocaine in
her purse. He was brought to the stand in handcuffs, for he was
then serving the fifteen-year sentence on his own drug conviction.
With Bobbie not testifying, Sullivan had little defense to
offer except to try to discredit Matthews and to call character
witnesses, including Playboy's editor, Arthur Kretchmer.
It wasn't enough. The jury found both Bobbie and Scharf guilty.
On November 26 the judge sentenced Scharf to a six-year prison
term and Bobbie to a provisional fifteen-year term. She was to
undergo ninety days of psychiatric testing and then be resentenced.
It seemed unlikely that the judge would let stand the fifteen-year
sentence. But Bobbie could not be sure of that. It was as if the
judge were helping the prosecutors put one more form of pressure
Within days of her sentencing, subpoenas had gone out to past
and present Playboy employees in a federal-grand-jury investigation
of drug use in Hefner's mansion. A federal prosecutor told reporters,
"Hefner's in a hell of a lot of trouble." Hefner agreed.
He was in more trouble than he had ever dreamed possible. He had
seen Bobbie convicted with what he believed to be perjured testimony,
and he had to face the possibility that he, too, could be convicted.
He had already seen how much harm the government could do to him
even prior to any charges. They were brilliant at playing the
media, at leaking stories about the investigation even before
they had proved anything. The Playboy world was kept unsettled
by rumors that there would be raids on the mansion, or that narcotics
agents would try to plant drugs there. Two outside members of
his board of directors resigned over the controversy, a major
bank threatened to cut off Playboy's credit, and advertisers quit
his magazine. The government could wear you down, make you suspect
your friends, make you question everyone's motives. The government's
best shot at Hefner still seemed to be Bobbie, if she, desperate
to save herself from prison, would testify that she had supplied
him with cocaine or other hard drugs. That seemed wildly improbable,
but, in this situation, nothing was impossible.
Bobbie was, in fact, in a terrible condition as she awaited the
outcome of her legal appeals. Her uncertainty and despair left
her barely coherent at times. She was torn by guilt, by a sense
that she, by her association with Scharf, had made it possible
for the government to threaten Hefner and his empire. Stroup,
who spoke with her daily, thought the government was putting truly
inhuman pressure on her to turn against Hefner. He thought the
prosecutors knew she was a fragile, disturbed woman who would
do almost anything to escape prison. And they were right about
that. Bobbie was desperately afraid of prison. She wasn't going
there for fifteen minutes, much less fifteen years.
What the prosecutors did not seem to understand was that Bobbie
would never harm Hefner. It was simply inconceivable, a nonalternative.
For Bobbie, there was another alternative: suicide. All Bobbie's
friends understood that. Stroup thought the prosecutors understood
it, too, and that they coldly gambled that Bobbie would turn against
Hefner before she would kill herself.
She had, after all, tried to kill herself even before the trial.
She had read The Bell Jar and The Savage God and
other books about suicide. She liked to debate the subject, and
as her trial neared, the discussions became more frequent and
less academic. She asked Stroup whether, if she were convicted,
he could guarantee her thirty days before she was imprisoned.
He said he could.
After her conviction they continued to discuss suicide. For a
while he made all the standard arguments against it, but she was
unpersuaded. "Keith doesn't accept suicide as a legitimate
alternative," she would say. In the end she persuaded him
that her life was her own, to terminate when she wished.
Still, given the many legal appeals open to them, Stroup thought
Bobbie was a long way from killing herself. He believed, as he
stressed to her, that they had a good chance of overturning her
conviction, perhaps because the judge had refused to sever her
trial from Scharf's.
Then, in early December, the government played an unexpected card.
U.S. Attorney James Thompson called Bobbie to his office and told
her he had information from two sources that there was a contract
out on her life, that someone was offering to pay to have her
killed. He refused to give names or specifics, but warned that
if he were in her position, he'd trust neither friend nor foe.
The implication seemed clear enough to her: Hefner, or people
close to him, would have her killed rather than face the possibility
that she might testify against him.
Bobbie called Stroup in hysterics. He flew to Chicago, demanded
a second meeting with the prosecutors, and furiously accused them
of making up the contract story to put further pressure on Bobbie.
Although she did not take seriously the idea that Hefner would
harm her, Bobbie was further unsettled by the prosecutor's death-threat
story. She began to have nightmares in which killers broke down
her door. On December 16 she had Stroup draw up her will.
Throughout the trial Bobbie had remained on salary, and Hefner
had paid her legal fees. He had also called her from time to time
from Los Angeles to encourage her. He was in fact under pressure
from his corporate advisers to put some distance between himself
and Bobbie, and eventually he did take one step in that direction.
It had been agreed that Bobbie would move to Los Angeles. She
could work for Hefner in the mansion there, and her friends hoped
the move would improve her state of mind. The compromise was that
she wouldn't live in the mansion. Instead she would share a house
with her friend Shirley Hillman and commute to work. Thus, the
Playboy empire would be spared the embarrassment of constant newspaper
stories saying that a convicted cocaine conspirator was living
in Hefner's mansion, as well as the risk that she would again
bring drugs into the mansion.
She was to fly to Los Angeles on Saturday, January 11. Instead
she stayed in Chicago, called Stroup for a chat in the afternoon,
had dinner with Shirley Hillman, went to a late movie, returned
to the mansion at 1:30 A.M., then walked five blocks to the Hotel
Maryland, where Lenny Bruce used to stay when he was in Chicago.
She checked into a room on the seventeenth floor, then took enough
sleeping pills and tranquilizers to kill herself several times.
While she waited to die, she wrote a letter that she addressed
to Stroup and Hillman.
It was important to her that her suicide cause minimal embarrassment
to Hefner. That was why she had left the mansion to die. And in
her letter, in addition to protesting her innocence on the cocaine
charge, she insisted that Hefner was "a staunchly upright,
rigorously moral manI know him well and he had never been involved
in the criminal activity which is being attributed to him now."
A cleaning woman found her body the next day, and the news of
her death caused a great sensation. Hefner flew to Chicago for
her funeral, and then he called a news conference at which he
said, among other things, "It is difficult to describe the
inquisitional atmosphere of the Bobbie Arnstein trial and related
Playboy probe. In the infamous witchcraft trials of the Middle
Ages, the inquisitors tortured the victims until they not only
confessed to being witches but accused their own families and
friends of sorcery as well. In similar fashion, narcotics agents
frequently use our severe drug laws in an arbitrary and capricious
manner to elicit the desired testimony for a trial.
"Testimony thus acquired is at best highly suspect, since
the witness has good reason to provide whatever the prosecutor
wants of him. This is the sort of testimony that was used to convict
Bobbie Arnstein; this is the technique that was used in an attempt
to force Bobbie Arnstein to falsely incriminate me."
William Safire, the Nixon speechwriter and then New York Times
columnist, picked up Hefner's "inquisition" charge
in his column: "If she had told the prosecutors what they
wanted to hearobviously by involving a prime publicity targetshe
would have been treated leniently.... Bobbie Arnstein committed
suicide under the new torture."
Tom Fitzpatrick wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times about how
Bobbie would be remembered in the Playboy mansion: "They'll
remember that it was Bobbie who worried whether the butlers got
overtime pay in their checks. They'll remember it was Bobbie who
fought to get raises for secretaries whom everyone else overlooked.
"Yes, and they'll remember Bobbie in a new outfit with her
hair freshly done. They'll remember her laughing both at herself
and with everyone around her.
"She was a classy lady who never hurt anybody but herself,
and who was crushed by a system that wasn't really out to get
her, just her boss."
To Stroup, to Hefner and others in his world, and to many informed
outsiders, like William Safire, the Arnstein case was a classic
example of the government's power to use the drug laws selectively
for political purposes. The prosecutors of course insisted that
theirs was a solid case, and in fact they did obtain a jury conviction
against Arnstein, but Stroup and others were absolutely convinced
that the government's key witness, a convicted felon, had perjured
himself in the hope of receiving favorable treatment, and in fact
he did serve less than a year of his original fifteen-year sentence.
Had Arnstein been stronger, she might in time have won her case
on appeal. As it was, many people will remember her as the victim
of a classic Nixon-era witch hunt.
In a way, Stroup thought Bobbie had had the last laugh. The prosecutors
had set out to use her to get Hefner, and they had failed. She
had quit the game at a time and in a manner of her own choosing.
And they hadn't got Hefner, either. Some months later the Justice
Department announced it had closed the investigation into his
world, for lack of evidence.