Hugh Hefner, the one man we thought would live forever, died of natural causes in the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills at age 91.
Hefner is responsible for creating the Playboy brand, having started the magazine Playboy in 1953 in his kitchen with $600. The pages were well know because they featured scantily clad women, many of whom felt it was an honor to be chosen to cover the magazine, while others only felt shame in later years.
“I only read Playboy for the articles.”
The magazine was almost ironic in it’s offerings of articles that were truly worth reading, dispersed between the women in different states of undress. The hard hitting interviews in the magazine include President Jimmy Carter, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon, Steve Jobs, Ayn Rand, Fidel Castro and more. It also hosted articles by writing greats like Ian Fleming, John Updike and Vladimir Nabokov. Playboy was also known for it’s cartoonists including Erich Sokol, Shel Silverstein (The Giving Tree), Robert Brown, Jack Cole and Harvey Kurtzman (MAD magazine).
Hefner’s Playboy Club brought the inception of Playboy Bunnies. The girls, who included stars like Lauren Hutton, Carol Sharkey (Bon Jovi’s mom) and Patricia Quinn, wear strapless corset teddy, bunny ears, black pantyhose, a bow tie, a collar, cuffs and a fluffy cottontail. Their treatment was part of a Gloria Steinham expose in 1963 which was published in Show magazine after she took a turn in the Bunny Suit.
Then there was the Playboy Mansion,
Hefner’s longevity as a sex symbol was fueled by his numerous liaisons with hundreds of young women, his marriages to multiple Playmates (women who lived in the mansion) and his open acceptance of sex and sexuality.
“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,” he told Esquire in 2013.
While Hefner’s legacy isn’t as shiney as it once was, his work as a civil rights activist is largely ignored, even though it was the main reason President Carter did the interview with him.
There were no racial lines in Playboy. For his inaugural issue, Hefner spoke to Miles Davis. That interview set a precedent for the magazine and led to other interviews with Muhammad Ali and Sammy Davis Jr. during the tension ridden 1960s. In 1963 it was Playboy centerfold Alex Haley(Roots) who spoke to Malcolm X and eventually ghost-wrote The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Hugh Hefner was an almost inhuman mix of integrity, perversion, activism and suppression. His life on its whole was more than just pages in a magazine. He lived them to the fullest the best way he knew how – no matter what other people thought.
He is survived by wife Crystal Harris daughter Christie and sons, David, Marston and Cooper.