Playboy Millionaire Hugh Hefner Dies at 91
Legendary Playboy Hugh Hefner died of natural causes on Wednesday, September 27 in Los, Angeles, California. Hefner died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 91.
The founder of Playboy Magazine was a lot more than pretty women and money. He was a voice for women’s rights, gay rights, and for equal rights for people of all races. He was truly a man who was ahead of his time and though some may misunderstand him due to his revolving door of relationships with women significantly younger than him, he was a key player in the sexual revolution of the 60’s.
In a 1992 interview with The New York Times, Hefner said he was most proud about changing the attitudes towards sex. He said “nice people can live together now. That I decontaminated the notion of premarital sex, that gives me great satisfaction.”
Hefner once said he was inspired to open up the conversation about taboo topics like sex and sexuality because of his parents.
“Part of the reason that I am who I am is my Puritan roots run deep,” Hefner said in an interview with the Associated Press in 2011. “My folks are Puritan. My folks are prohibitionists. There was no drinking in my home. No discussion of sex. And I think I saw the hurtful and hypocritical side of that from very early on.”
He brought the beauty of the female body to the forefront with Playboy and his star-studded parties were legendary. With a red smoking jacket and pipe hanging from his lips, Hefner often oozed charisma as he charmed his guests. That image and his persona have become iconic. Hefner once told The Hollywood Reporter, “In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a sweeter life.”
It was the multi-millionaire’s lifestyle that has many saying that he’s left heaven on earth. He is survived by his third wife, Crystal Harris, and four grown children from his previous two wives. Hefner’s daughter, Christie, 64, has been chief executive of Playboy Enterprises for more than 20 years. Christie’s younger brother David, 62, chooses to stay out of the limelight.
Hefner has two more sons, Cooper, 26, and Marston, 27, from his second wife. In recent times, his son Cooper Hefner has also taken over as chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises.
“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,” said Cooper in a statement after his father’s passing. “He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history.”
Hugh Hefner was the elder of two sons of conservative Methodist school teachers. Hefner grew up in Chicago where he attended the Chicago Art Institute and joined the army after high school as an infantry clerk. He later graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Illinois and went to work as a copywriter for Esquire magazine. His first wife was his high school sweetheart, whom he married in 1949. In 1953, Hefner raised $8,000 from friends and family to launch the first Playboy issue starring Marilyn Monroe’s 1949 nude calendar shoot. Though Playboy instantly became synonymous with the sexuality of a woman’s body, he still used his power to fight for women’s rights.
“Playboy fought for what became women’s issues, including birth control,” Hefner told Vanity Fair in 2010. “We were the amicus curiae, friend of the court, in Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to choose [abortion]. But the notion that women would not embrace their own sexuality is insane.”
Though he’s always had girlfriends, sometimes more than 3 at once, he was always faithful to his wives while married.
“There were chunks of my life when I was married,” he told Essquire magazine in an interview. “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.”
Hefner always stated clearly that he was open about his lifestyle and that any or all of the women involved in his life know about his openness. “I had a lot of girlfriends, but it’s not the same as cheating. I don’t cheat. I am very open about what I do, “ Hefner said. “I think that when you are in a relationship, you should be honest. The real immorality of infidelity is the lying.”
Hefner’s Playboy magazine and playboy lifestyle weren’t always about glossy images and a Rolodex of sexy women. Hefner provided a platform for literary heavyweights such as Nobel laureates Saul Bellow, Doris Lessing, and Nadine Gordimer. They’ve also featured pieces involving Arthur C. Clarke, Roald Dahl, Arthur Koestler, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Bernard Malamud, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ursula K. LeGuin. There’s also Ray Bradbury’s dystonian anti-McCarthyite masterpiece, “Fahrenheit 451,” which was first serialized in the magazine in 1954.
He’s even included in depth interviews pushing American politics and culture like an in-depth interview with Jazz musician Miles Davis, asking Vladmir Nabokov about his controversial novel “Lolita,” speaking to Timothy Leary about LSD, and having Jimmy Carter admit to lusting over women and more.
Hefner continued to live out his dreams, building an empire which his daughter later took over as he starred in reality shows, did cameos on everything from “The Simpsons” to “Robot Chicken.” He’s funded many organizations, documentaries and there is even a new 10-part series about the life of the legend himself.
He was more than just a playboy. Hugh Hefner was a legend in the true sense of the word. May he Rest in Peace.
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