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Last week, this cozy domestic arrangement suddenly fell apart.

After weeks of frenzied speculation, on Monday Madison confirmed rumours that she had left Hefner for a younger and wealthier model, the celebrity magician Criss Angel, telling cameramen outside a Los Angeles nightclub: "Hef and I are no longer together." The revelation left Hefner deeply upset.

The second great creation, Hefner says, is his own life: a roller-coaster of fame, fortune and willing blondes played out against the backdrop of 10236 Charing Cross Road, the 1920s pile on the outskirts of Beverly Hills that he calls home, but which the rest of the world knows as the Playboy Mansion. And, although Hefner has never been one to blow his own trumpet, his enduring ability to perform in both the boardroom and the bedroom (even as he approaches his 83rd birthday!

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And, make no mistake, what's happened recently has really cut him up." ••• A broken heart is one thing. And in recent years, the foundations of Hefner's vast wealth have entered a period of increasingly rapid decline.Rumours about his firm's future have swirled around Wall Street for months."We tried to have a baby earlier this year and it didn't work out. "He may not believe in monogamy in the traditional sense of the term, but deep down, Hef is a romantic," Watts says."What he really likes more than sex is falling in love over and over again, in a sentimental way.Photo: Getty Images for FOX" title="TV Personalities Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson attends the FOX Reality Channel Really Awards on September 24, 2008 at the Avalon Hollywood club in Hollywood, California Photo: Getty Images for FOX" width="620" height="409" rel="nofollow"/TV Personalities Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson attends the FOX Reality Channel Really Awards on September 24, 2008 at the Avalon Hollywood club in Hollywood, California Photo: Getty Images for FOX From the day he first picked up a pipe, slipped into a velvet smoking jacket and decided to launch his own publishing empire, Hugh Hefner has proudly told anyone who'll listen that his career and self-worth revolve around two extraordinary creations.

The first is Playboy, the 55-year-old magazine that pioneered the social and consumer revolutions of the 1950s and 1960s, spawned a global multi-media brand, and to this day symbolises his hedonistic-yet-luxurious version of the American dream.All, however, boil down to a single problem: Hefner's aura of Gatsby-esque sophistication is ever more at odds with his advancing years, and a changing world.The instinctive connection with the zeitgeist that was the secret of his success, and which saw him turn Playboy into one of post-war America's greatest cultural powerhouses, has apparently started to disappear.It has made Playboy, a brand that once looked cheeky and cutting-edge, seem out of touch and increasingly seedy.••• So, as he enters old age at the Playboy Mansion, with its famous grotto, circular beds, "getting to know you" room, and walls that if they could speak would be able to fill an encyclopaedia of Hollywood misdemeanour, Hugh Marston Hefner is facing a sobering reality: his two great creations appear, after all these years, to be unravelling. The pouting face of Hefner's current troubles is Holly Madison, a former glamour model who is 28 years old, boasts measurements of 36D-23-36 (with the help of extensive surgery), and has for the past seven years lived at the Playboy Mansion as one of his official girlfriends.On the home front, Hefner was last week cuckolded by not one, but two girlfriends (one of them the supposed love of his life, someone he'd hoped would remain with him until his dying day) leaving him deeply depressed and feeling, in his own words, "like roadkill".