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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has been called many things over the years, but a modern-day Willy Wonka may not be one of them. That is about to change.
This Friday, tucked within the pages of some 200,000 Playboy magazines on U.S. newsstands will be 10 "Golden Tickets" to the Midsummer Night's Dream Party thrown by the pajama-clad playboy known to millions of readers as "Hef."
The party, filled with Hollywood stars and Playboy models often wearing little but body paint, is one of the most sought-after invitations each year to Los Angeles' Playboy Mansion.
Generally, Hef picks the guest list. But for their December issue promotion, Playboy is opening the gates to 10 lucky winners who rip open the adult magazine not for the centerfold, or even to read an article, but for a ticket to male nirvana.
"This is the first time we've literally swung the doors open" to the public, Playboy editorial director Jimmy Jellinek told Reuters. "The average reader will go home with stories they can't tell their wives and girlfriends but will last forever."
Jellinek said he dreamed up the promotion one day when he was thinking about Wonka, the eccentric candy maker of Roald Dahl's children's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
Wonka, of course, hides five golden tickets in the wrappers of chocolate bars, and kids around the world search for them in order to win a trip to his mysterious candy factory.
"Hef thinks of this as a golden dreams ticket," Jellinek said.
Not only will the winners get into the mansion, Playboy is flying them to Los Angeles, putting them up at the posh Petit Ermitage hotel and paying for dinner at upscale restaurant, Simon LA.
Like many other publications, Playboy's newsstand sales have suffered in recent years from competition on the Internet, but having a Hollywood star grace the cover or putting on a promotion like the Golden Ticket can entice buyers.
A recent issue with actress Tara Reid sold over 200,000 copies and November 2009's cover of Marge Simpson was snapped up by nearly 225,000 U.S. readers.
Jellinek is hoping for "pandemonium" at the newsstand this Friday. "We expect people to be fighting in the streets for these copies," he said.
But he quickly added that being at the Playboy Manson for the Midsummer Night's Dream party is completely different.
"It really harkens back to another time when gentlemen were gentlemen, and you had to be invited to get in," he said, "plus, it's sexy as hell."
Editing by Dan Whitcomb