Hugh Hefner, Iconic Founder of Playboy, has died at age 91
Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner dies at the Playboy Mansion at age 91.
“He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history,” son Cooper says.
Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, died Wednesday at his Beverly Hills-area home, the Playboy Mansion, at age 91.
“Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognisable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones,” Playboy confirmed in a statement. “He was 91 years old.”
Playboy Enterprises said he died of natural causes.
The magazine was founded more than 60 years ago and created a niche upscale men’s magazine, combining images of nude women with in-depth articles, interviews and fiction by writers and subjects including Norman Mailer, Alex Haley, Bertrand Russell and Jimmy Carter.
Hefner reportedly founded the magazine with $600 and $1,000 borrowed from his mother. The first centerfold, a feature of the monthly magazine, was of Marilyn Monroe late in 1953.
“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom,” Cooper Hefner, Playboy Enterprises’ chief creative officer, said in the statement.
“He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history,” the son added.
While the magazine managed to inspire and ride the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and ’70s, in recent years it has struggled in the face of tough competition from the availability of free pornography online.
For a brief period from mid-2016 through early 2017, the magazine experimented with avoiding nudity, before returning to its previous formula.
The statement said Playboy magazine was aimed at more than the market for images of nude women.
“Hefner took a progressive approach not only to sexuality and humor, but also to literature, politics and culture,” the statement said, calling the “Playboy Interview,” or an extensive discussion between a big-name person and an interviewer, a “standard setter.”
Hefner also led free-speech battles, fighting all the way to the Supreme Court after the Post Office refused to deliver his magazine, the statement noted.
Hefner the man and Playboy the brand were inseparable. Both advertised themselves as emblems of the sexual revolution, an escape from American priggishness and wider social intolerance. Both were derided over the years — as vulgar, as adolescent, as exploitative and finally as anachronistic. But Mr. Hefner was a stunning success from the moment he emerged in the early 1950s. His timing was perfect.
He was compared to Jay Gatsby, Citizen Kane and Walt Disney, but Mr. Hefner was his own production. He repeatedly likened his life to a romantic movie; it starred an ageless sophisticate in silk pajamas and smoking jacket hosting a never-ending party for famous and fascinating people.
The first issue of Playboy was published in 1953, when Mr. Hefner was 27, a new father married to, by his account, the first woman he had slept with.
He had only recently moved out of his parents’ house and left his job at Children’s Activities magazine. But in an editorial in Playboy’s inaugural issue, the young publisher purveyed another life:
“We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.”
This scene projected an era’s “premium boys’ style,” Todd Gitlin, a sociologist at Columbia University and the author of “The Sixties,” said in an interview. “It’s part of an ensemble with the James Bond movies, John F. Kennedy, swinging, the guy who is young, vigorous, indifferent to the bonds of social responsibility.”
Mr. Hefner was reviled, first by guardians of the 1950s social order — J. Edgar Hoover among them — and later by feminists. But Playboy’s circulation reached one million by 1960 and peaked at about seven million in the 1970s.
Long after other publishers made the nude “Playmate” centerfold look more sugary than daring, Playboy remained the most successful men’s magazine in the world. Mr. Hefner’s company branched into movie, cable and digital production, sold its own line of clothing and jewelry, and opened clubs, resorts and casinos.
The brand faded over the years, its flagship magazine’s circulation declining to less than a million.
Mr. Hefner remained editor in chief even after agreeing to the magazine’s startling (and, as it turned out, short-lived) decision in 2015 to stop publishing nude photographs. In 2016, he handed over creative control of Playboy to his son Cooper Hefner. Playboy Enterprises’ chief executive, Scott Flanders, acknowledged that the internet had overrun the magazine’s province.
Writers such as Jack Kerouac, Vladimir Nabokov and Margaret Atwood saw some of their short fiction featured in its pages, and the magazine published important interviews with figures including Martin Luther King Jr. and Miles Davis.
Hefner made several cameos in film and TV, including Sex and the City, and The House Bunny starring Anna Faris as a former Playboy Bunny who suddenly finds herself homeless.
“Much of my life has been like an adolescent dream of an adult life,” Hefner told The Times in 1992. “If you were still a boy, in almost a Peter Pan kind of way, and could have just the perfect life that you wanted to have, that’s the life I invented for myself.”
In an another interview explaining the popularity of the magazine he said: “Even before I started writing the philosophy, there was a point of view in the magazine…Prior to that you couldn’t run nude pictures without some kind of rationale that they were art.
“I made them into, I put them into a context of a positive, or what I perceived as a positive attitude, on male-female relationships. I suggested that sex was not the enemy, that violence was the enemy, that nice girls like sex.”
Joanna Krupa, who posed for Playboy in 2005 and 2009, told Fox News when the 2009 issue came out: “There are several great reasons why female celebs line up to shoot Playboy: finally a woman gets paid more than a man for comparable work, she gets to set the rules, gets to be in a real team work with other women, as many key positions at Playboy are in fact held by women!
“She brings in her creative ideas, gets involved in the photo selection and ends up with something she co-created through and through.”
Playboy Enterprises expanded over the years to include television, film, resorts, nightclubs, products, charities and a number of websites. By 1971 it was selling 7 million copies a month.
Asked in 2013 how many women he had been with over the years, Hefner told Esquire: “How could I possibly know? Over a thousand, I’m sure. There were chunks of my life when I was married, and when I was married I never cheated. But I made up for it when I wasn’t married. You have to keep your hand in.”
In 2011 he told The Hollywood Reporter: “Could I be in a better place and happier than I am today? I don’t think so. In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a sweeter life.”
Hefner is survived by his wife, Crystal, who was 25 when he married her at age 85; sons, Cooper, David and Marston; and his daughter, Christie, who became president of the company in 1982 and then CEO until 2009.
Hugh Hefner was notorious for popping Viagra like Skittles in order to maintain his very active sex life.
The pills, which have been linked in studies to sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), apparently left him almost completely deaf, however, with former twin lovers Karissa and Kristina Shannon telling The Sun last year that he had hearing aids and was completely deaf in one ear.
“You have to lean down and talk into his good ear for him to understand you,” Karissa said.
“We could sit right next to him and he wouldn’t have a clue what we said.”
But it seems this didn’t give Hefner pause or leave him with any regret, with Karissa adding: “He said he would rather have sex than have his hearing.”
Addressing a 2011 report on links between hearing loss and Viagra, the NHS writes: “SSHL is a rare, emergency condition caused by damage to the inner ear structures, which can lead to permanent hearing loss. The study found 47 cases of hearing loss associated with taking this class of drug. Two-thirds of these cases occurred within 24 hours of taking the drug.”
Hugh Marston Hefner was born on 9 April , 1926, to strict Methodist parents. The eldest of two brothers, he served two years in the Army during World War II before finding a job at Esquire as a copywriter.
By 1953 he had saved $8,000 – enough to put the first issue of Playboy together. It hit newsstands in December that year and included an old nude photo of Marilyn Monroe, which Hefner had purchased to add some “oomph” to the centrefold. The issue sold more than 50,000 copies.
Though best known for its erotic photography, Playboy magazine has a long history of publishing short stories by novelists including Vladimir Nabokov, Chuck Palahniuk, Haruki Murakami and Margaret Atwood. Hunter S. Thompson was among its journalists.
Tributes for Hugh Hefner Pour in After Death of Playboy Founder
Norman Lear, the famed television producer of Hefner’s generation, called him a man with a “keen sense of the future. We learned a lot from you Mr. Hefner.”
Former “Baywatch” star and Playmate Pamela Anderson was visibly upset in a video she posted to Instagram Thursday morning. In the clip, she wipes her eyes and says in a hushed voiced, “Goodbye, Hef.” In her caption she wrote, “I am me because of you. You taught me everything important about freedom and respect.”
Goodbye #Hef Mr Hefner I have so many thoughts, I have no brain n right now to edit I am me because of you You taught me everything important about freedom and respect. Outside of my family You were the most important person in my life. You gave me my life… People tell me all the time That I was your favorite… I’m in such deep shock. But you were old, your back hurt you so much. Last time I saw you You were using a walker. You didn’t want me to see. You couldn’t hear. You had a piece of paper in your pocket you showed me – with my name Pamela with a heart around it. Now, I’m falling apart. This feeling is so crazy. It’s raining in Paris now. I’m by the window. Everything anyone loves about me is because you understood me. Accepted me and encouraged me to be myself. Love like no one else. Live recklessly With unfiltered abandon. You said the magazine was about a girl like me. That I embody the spirit you fantasized about. I was the one. You said. I can hear you say – Be brave. There are no rules. Live your life I’m proud of you. There are no mistakes. And with men – Enjoy … (Your wonderful laugh) You have the world by the tail You are a good girl And you are so loved – You are not crazy. You are wild and free Stay strong, Stay vulnerable. … “It’s movie time” You loved my boys … You were always, always there for us. With your love Your crazy wisdom. I will miss your everything. Thank you for making the world a better place. A freeer and sexier place. You were a gentleman charming, elegant, chivalrous And so much fun. Goodbye Hef … Your Pamela 💋
Actress and former Playmate Jenny McCarthy said on Twitter “Thank you for being a revolutionary and changing so many people’s lives, especially mine. I hope I made you proud.” Model and actress and former Playmate Donna D’Errico said Hefner “ignited my career” and “I am forever indebted.”
“Star Wars'” actor Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, recalled meeting Hefner months before the movie opened and “expected stereotyped swinger/Wildman not the kind-thoughtful loyal friend he always was.”
Author and Rolling Stone journalist Neil Strauss recalled Hefner’s words about his childhood, and Hefner telling his mother “Mom, anything that you may have done that was less than ideal was a blessing. It motivated me to create the world that I have created and accomplish what I have accomplished.”
Nancy Sinatra, daughter of Frank Sinatra, called Hefner “One of the nicest men I’ve ever known.”
Adult film star Ron Jeremy said “today the world lost a legend” and credited Hefner with starting his own career. “For 22 yrs I got to wish him happy new year at his mansion. I’ll miss him,” Jeremy said on Twitter.
Actor Rob Lowe recalled a number of interesting conversations with the mogul and called Hefner “such an interesting man. True legend. What an end of an era!” Comedian and actor Richard Lewis said few did more for writers than Hefner.
Larry King called Hefner “a GIANT in publishing, journalism, free speech & civil rights.” King added in the condolences on Twitter: “He was a true original, and he was my friend. Rest well Hef.”
Cooper Hefner, chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, said Wednesday his father was “a leading voice … in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom.” Among the careers boosted by Hefner was that of Dick Gregory, the comedian and civil rights figure who got a major break when Hefner saw his act and hired him to perform at his nightclub in 1961.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said “Hugh Hefner was a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. We shall never forget him. May he Rest In Peace.”
Kim Kardashian West: “RIP to the legendary Hugh Hefner! I’m so honored to have been a part of the Playboy team! You will be greatly missed! Love you Hef! Xoxo.”
Dita von Teese: “Rest In Peace, dear Hef. I always considered my #playboy cover to be a defining moment in my career, and I’m so grateful to him for being present for so many of my early burlesque shows. I’ll never forget the night I came off stage and he offered me my first cover and pictorial. It was genuinely life-changing. I’ll always treasure my memories of seeing Hef and his bunnies in the audience at my shows, of movies at the mansion, and of our swing dance nights. It’s truly the end of an era.”
As The Washington Post’s Matt Schudel wrote: “From the first issue of Playboy in 1953, which featured a photograph of a nude Marilyn Monroe lounging on a red sheet, Mr. Hefner sought to overturn what he considered the puritanical moral code of Middle America. “His magazine was shocking at the time, but it quickly found a large and receptive audience and was a principal force behind the sexual revolution of the 1960s.”
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson noted that the magazine editor was a “strong supporter of the civil rights movement,” a part of Hefner’s legacy that others also wanted to highlight.
In 1961, Hefner bought back Playboy club franchises that refused to admit African American members.
“We are outspoken foes of segregation [and] we are actively involved in the fight to see the end of all racial inequalities in our time,” he wrote.
As an editor, Hefner commissioned articles by celebrated writers, including Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin and Joyce Carol Oates.
As Schudel wrote for The Post: “Mr. Hefner brought nudity out from under the counter, but he was more than the emperor of a land with no clothes. From the beginning, he had literary aspirations for Playboy, hiring top writers to give his magazine cultural credibility. It became a running joke that the cognoscenti read Playboy ‘for the articles’ and demurely averted their eyes from the pages depicting bare-breasted women.”
Musician Belinda Carlisle remembered a “sweet kind man,” while Gene Simmons of KISS praised the “entrepreneur and innovator” who built a media empire from $600 of his own savings and investments from friends and family.
To Paris Hilton, Hefner was a “legend” and friend with whom she shared incredible memories.
Former SNL cast member Taran Killam looked back at a Halloween party at the Playboy Mansion with the “best haunted maze,” while actor Patton Oswalt poked some fun.
An aging Hef had become something of a self-caricature, strolling the grounds of the Playboy Mansion in silk pajamas, accompanied by a troupe of women who never seemed to turn 30.
Hugh Hefner will be buried next to Marilyn Monroe
Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner will be buried in a cemetery plot here next to his first magazine cover girl Marilyn Monroe.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hefner reserved the plot at Westwood Memorial Park here next to the movie star icon decades after her death in 1962. He purchased it for $75,000 in 1992, dailymail.co.uk.
Hefner died on Tuesday at the age of 91 from natural causes, according to a statement released by Playboy Enterprises.
Hefner will join a number of Hollywood celebrities buried at the famous Los Angeles cemetery, including musician Roy Orbison, writer Truman Capote and iconic entertainer Dean Martin.
He was born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago to Glenn Hefner, an accountant, and Grace Hefner, a teacher. Both parents were conservative Protestants from Nebraska.
He was an editor, journalist, illustrator, producer and entrepreneur, but all of this got overshadowed with his step to transform the adult entertainment industry in the US with Playboy magazine, followed by the one-of-a-kind Playboy mansion and its “bunnies”.
Having pursued his education in psychology, Hefner came out with the first edition of Playboy magazine in 1953 with a nude shot of Monroe.
Apart from running the hugely popular magazine, Hefner — known for his signature silk smoking jacket and velvet slippers — also became both a social justice advocate and a target of the conservative movement while becoming an outspoken defender of civil rights, freedom of speech, gay rights and sexual freedom.
By washingtonpost.com, nytimes.com, cnbc.com, independent.co.uk, dailymail.co.ukGallery