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Hugh Hefner, visionary editor who founded Playboy mag, dies at 91

As a lot as any individual, Hugh Hefner became the arena directly to intercourse. As the visionary editor who created Playboy mag out of sheer will and his personal fevered desires, he presented nudity and sexuality to the cultural mainstream of America and the arena. For a long time, the ageless Mr. Hefner embodied the “Playboy lifestyle” because the pajama-clad sybarite who labored from his mattress, threw lavish events and inhabited the Playboy Mansion with an ever-changing bevy of well-toned younger beauties. He died Sept. 27 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles at age 91. His loss of life was once introduced by way of Playboy Enterprises Inc. however the motive was once no longer disclosed. From the primary factor of Playboy in 1953, which featured of a nude Marilyn Monroe lounging on a pink sheet, Mr. Hefner sought to overturn what he regarded as the puritanical ethical code of Middle America. His mag was once surprising at the time, nevertheless it temporarily discovered a big and receptive target audience and was once a primary drive in the back of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Mr. Hefner introduced nudity out from underneath the counter, however he was once greater than the emperor of a land and not using a garments. From the start, he had literary aspirations for Playboy, hiring most sensible writers to offer his mag cultural credibility. It changed into a operating shaggy dog story that the cognoscenti learn Playboy “for the articles” and demurely prevented their eyes from the pages depicting bare-breasted girls.

Publisher Hugh Hefner seems to be over evidence sheets for his mag Playboy, in Chicago, Ill., on June 20, 1961. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Few publications have so completely mirrored the tastes and ambitions in their creators as Mr. Hefner’s Playboy. “I’m living a grown-up version of a boy’s dream, turning life into a celebration,” he instructed Time mag in 1967. “It’s all over too quickly. Life should be more than a vale of tears.” The mag’s system of shiny nudes, critical writing and cartoons, coupled with how-to recommendation on stereos, intercourse, automobiles and garments, modified little over time and was once supposed to enchantment to city, upwardly cellular heterosexual males. But Playboy additionally had a shockingly prime readership amongst contributors of the clergy — who won a 25 p.c subscription cut price — and girls. “Hefner was, first and foremost, a brilliant businessman,” David Allyn, writer of “Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution, an Unfettered History,” instructed The Washington Post in an interview. “He created Playboy at a time when America was entering a period of profound economic and social optimism. His brand of sexual liberalism fit perfectly with postwar aspirations.” “Hef,” as he was once widely recognized, was once in control of editorial operations from the start and was once recognized to paintings at the mag for 40 hours and not using a spoil, pushed by way of the closing date buzz of amphetamines, Pepsi-Cola and his ever-present pipe. He employed a big group of workers of editors and artists who introduced literary sophistication and visible sprint to the pages of Playboy, however there was once by no means any doubt that the guiding imaginative and prescient in the back of Playboy was once Mr. Hefner’s, and his on my own. For a few years, the mag was once produced in his house the city of Chicago. Before he became 50, Mr. Hefner was once, as Esquire mag as soon as decreed, “the most famous magazine editor in the history of the world.”
He commissioned articles by way of one of the crucial international’s maximum celebrated writers — Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin and Joyce Carol Oates, to call a couple of. Among the works that first gave the impression in Playboy have been excerpts from Alex Haley’s “Roots,” Larry L. King’s “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” Cameron Crowe’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” John Irving’s “The World According to Garp” and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men.” The mag’s in-depth interviews with main figures from politics, sports activities and leisure — together with Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro and Steve Jobs — continuously made information. One of the magazines’s maximum newsworthy revelations got here in 1976, when presidential nominee Jimmy Carter admitted in a Playboy interview, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” Each month, Mr. Hefner wrote a piece of writing during which he sought to outline the “Playboy Philosophy.” In his view, sexual freedom was once a part of a bigger spirit of liberty, together with loose speech, at ease drug regulations and civil rights, together with same-sex marriage. Mr. Hefner’s umbrella group of Playboy Enterprises grew to incorporate tv displays, jazz gala’s, e-book publishing and a global chain of Playboy golf equipment, the place cocktail waitresses, referred to as bunnies, wore revealing satin outfits with fluffy white tails. In 1961, when independently owned Playboy golf equipment in Miami and New Orleans refused to confess African American contributors, Mr. Hefner purchased again the franchises and issued a sternly worded memorandum: “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. At the Playboy Mansion — first in Chicago and later in Los Angeles — Mr. Hefner held glittering events that attracted Hollywood celebrities and rankings of girls who eagerly shed their garments. Outside the entrance door, an indication learn, “Si non oscillas, noli tintinnare” — a Latin word loosely translated as “If you don’t swing, don’t ring.” Once-forbidden sexual imagery and concepts popularized within the pages of Playboy changed into not unusual in movie, tv and different media, because the tradition at huge got here to mirror the values Mr. Hefner espoused. “We will never recapture the importance of Playboy in the ’60s and ’70s,” he instructed The Washington Post in 2003, “because we changed the world. We live in a Playboy world now, for good or ill.” Although he took offense at any individual who referred to as him a pornographer, noting that Playboy seldom, if ever, depicted overt sexual acts, Mr. Hefner relished denunciations from spiritual teams and self-appointed protectors of morality. Still, he was once stuck off guard by way of the outrage of feminists who discovered his mag’s depictions of girls degrading. Feminist author Gloria Steinem in brief labored at a Playboy Club in New York City to assemble background for an undercover article she wrote in 1963. In a 1970 look at the “Dick Cavett Show,” writer Susan Brownmiller faced Mr. Hefner, announcing, “When Hugh Hefner comes out here with a cottontail attached to his rear end, then we’ll have equality.” Mr. Hefner remained silent. “Quite frankly,” he mentioned at the NPR interview program “Fresh Air” in 1999, “the women’s movement from my point of view was part of the larger sexual revolution that Playboy had played such a large part in.” Over time, some girls got here to view Playboy with larger acceptance, if no longer recognize. Feminist pupil Camille Paglia approvingly pronounced Mr. Hefner “one of the principal architects of the modern sexual revolution” in a 1999 documentary. When “Sex and the City,” a tv collection about 4 sexually adventurous girls in New York, premiered in 1998, the lead personality performed by way of Sarah Jessica Parker wore a necklace depicting the Playboy bunny. Strict youth Hugh Marston Hefner was once born April nine, 1926, in Chicago. His father was once an accountant, his mom a trainer, and he grew up in what he referred to as a conservative family of “rigid Protestant fundamentalist ethics.” “There was no drinking, no smoking, no swearing, no going to movies on Sunday,” he recalled in a 1962 interview with the Saturday Evening Post. “Worst of all was their attitude toward sex, which they considered a horrid thing never to be mentioned.” After serving within the Army all the way through World War II, Mr. Hefner graduated in 1949 from the University of Illinois, the place he majored in psychology. While running within the body of workers workplace of a field producer and as an promoting copywriter for a division retailer, he attempted with out luck to turn out to be a cartoonist. He later labored in promotions for Esquire mag and held different publishing jobs whilst growing the speculation for Playboy. With $600 of his personal financial savings and investments from family and friends — together with his folks — Mr. Hefner wrote many of the first factor of the mag himself. He bought the rights to the nude of Monroe, initially shot in 1949 for a calendar. (“I had nothing on but the radio,” Monroe as soon as quipped.) Mr. Hefner had deliberate to name his mag Stag Party, but if the publishers of every other males’s mag named Stag threatened to sue, a colleague got here up with an impressed afterthought: Playboy. The mag hit the newsstands in December 1953 and temporarily offered out its press run of greater than 50,000 copies. For Playboy’s 2d factor, an artwork director drew a cartoonlike bunny’s head with a bow tie. It changed into the iconic image of Playboy, continuously disguised inside the quilt picture at the mag. Beginning in 1955, every other of the mag’s defining options was once its centerfold, highlighting the “Playmate of the Month” in a shiny colour . Nude pictorials of actresses and different celebrities continuously gave the impression in Playboy, however the centerfold Playmates have been selected for what Mr. Hefner referred to as a “girl-next-door” high quality. Some of them, equivalent to Anna Nicole Smith, changed into well-known as intercourse symbols, however even she was once unknown when she first gave the impression in Playboy in 1992. The nude photos grabbed public consideration, however the substance and number of the mag’s different options — interviews, cartoons, critical journalism and fiction — set Playboy phase from different pores and skin magazines. Mr. Hefner rejected tawdry promoting to domesticate a extra refined, worldly symbol. “Playboy straddles the line between pornography and anti-pornography,” Allyn, the historian and writer, wrote in an e mail to The Post. “Conventional pornography . . . tends to relish in, and celebrate, vulgarity, whereas Playboy treats the vulgarity of conventional pornography with disdain.” Shortly earlier than Mr. Hefner married Mildred “Millie” Williams in 1949, she confessed to him that she had had an affair with every other guy. The marriage ceremony went forward, and the Hefners had two youngsters, however Mr. Hefner later mentioned the revelation shattered any illusions he held in regards to the distinctive feature of girls. “I was absolutely devastated,” he instructed the Los Angeles Times in 1994. “I’m sure that in some way, that experience set me up for the life that followed.” Embodying the Playboy symbol Even earlier than his divorce in 1959, Mr. Hefner sought to embrace the Playboy symbol of the carefree, urbane guy about the city. For some time, at least, his lifestyles was once synonymous with that of his mag and the budding Playboy empire. From 1959 to 1961, he had a syndicated tv display, “Playboy’s Penthouse,” with most sensible jazz stars entertaining at intimate gatherings in Mr. Hefner’s house. It was once one of the vital first tv displays during which black and white visitors interacted as social equals. Another display that includes Mr. Hefner, “Playboy After Dark,” aired for 2 seasons, starting in 1969. The mag reached the peak of its recognition within the early 1970s, with a stream of seven million. Mr. Hefner’s private fortune at the time was once estimated at greater than $200 million, and he traveled in a black jetliner with the bunny-head image painted at the tail. The Harvard Business School studied his system for luck. Before lengthy, despite the fact that, the Playboy franchise started to weaken. In 1974, Mr. Hefner’s longtime assistant, Bobbie Arnstein, was once convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and later dedicated suicide. Mr. Hefner was once no longer implicated in any wrongdoing, however he was once many times investigated by way of the FBI and Internal Revenue Service and was once named on President Richard M. Nixon’s “enemies list.” He additionally battled postal government and federal commissions that sought to limit the mag’s distribution. Other publications, equivalent to Penthouse and Hustler, lower into Playboy’s readership by way of publishing extra particular pictures, and a number of other of Playboy’s derivative companies misplaced cash. In 1980, 20-year-old Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten was once killed by way of her estranged husband in a murder-suicide. Mr. Hefner’s detractors held him not directly accountable, announcing Stratten were stuck up in Playboy’s hedonistic milieu. After a stroke in 1985, Mr. Hefner stopped smoking his acquainted pipe, and 3 years later he stepped apart as Playboy’s leader govt in desire of his daughter, Christie Hefner, even supposing he retained his identify as editor in leader of the mag till his loss of life. The mag remained headquartered in Chicago till the editorial operation was once shifted to New York in 2002 and later to Los Angeles. Christie Hefner resigned as leader govt in 2009 amid monetary struggles for Playboy Enterprises. Mr. Hefner led an effort to shop for again the corporate’s inventory, making it a privately held company by way of 2011. After his divorce from his first spouse, Mr. Hefner continuously mentioned he would by no means marry once more. He had an extended dating within the 1970s and 1980s with onetime Playmate Barbi Benton, however they didn’t marry. In 1989, when he was once 63, he married 26-year-old Playmate of the Year Kimberley Conrad. They had two sons, Marston Hefner and Cooper Hefner. The couple separated in 1998 and divorced in 2010. On New Year’s Eve 2012, Mr. Hefner married every other onetime Playmate, Crystal Harris. He was once 86 at the time; she was once 26. In addition to his spouse and sons, Mr. Hefner’s survivors come with two youngsters from his first marriage, Christie Hefner and David Hefner. An entire record of survivors was once no longer right away to be had. Well earlier than his marriage to a lady 60 years his junior, the growing older Hef had turn out to be one thing of a self-caricature, walking the grounds of the Playboy Mansion in silk pajamas, accompanied by way of a troupe of girls who by no means looked as if it would flip 30. He said snoozing with “more than a thousand” girls and continuously touted the efficacy of Viagra. From 2005 to 2011, the adventures of the younger girls who inhabited the Playboy Mansion have been chronicled in a cable fact display referred to as “The Girls Next Door.” Away from his mag and his every-day-is-a-party way of living, Mr. Hefner was once a beneficiant if unheralded philanthropist. In the 1970s, he led a fundraising effort to revive the famend Hollywood signal on a Los Angeles hillside. In 2010, he contributed $1 million to stop actual property building close to the signal. He additionally donated tens of millions to efforts to maintain vintage movies and endowed a chair for the learn about of cinema at the University of Southern California. Well into his 80s, Mr. Hefner endured to edit his mag and did his absolute best to care for his swagger because the unflappable, unstoppable and unrepentant king of the Playboy way of living. “I have not become jaded,” he instructed The Post in 2003. “I wake up every day well aware of my good fortune, loving the work I do, loving my life, realizing that life is a crapshoot and I’m on a roll second to none.”
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