Hugh Hefner, iconic founder of Playboy, has diedBaltimore Post-Examiner

Hugh Hefner, iconic founder of Playboy, has died

Hugh Marston Hefner. The name is recognizable to anyone over the age of 12. The brand he created 64 years ago is as well-known as it was in December 1953, maybe even more so.

Before he started the magazine Hefner was in the Army and then worked in publishing after graduating from the University of Illinois. But then he had the idea there was a market for an upscale men’s magazine.

Hugh Hefner with first Playboy issue, 1953
Courtesy Playboy

Playboy Magazine was started on Hefner’s kitchen table, with a $600 loan with his furniture as collateral, and a $1,000 loan from his mother. The first issue hit the newsstands at a time when nudity was hidden from public view. But in December 1953 the world was introduced to Hefner’s magazine, something different that not only featured tastefully displayed nude women, but featured some of the best literature and news of the day. It featured Marilyn Monroe as the first “Sweetheart of the Month,” in the magazine’s centerfold (which would later become the Playmate of the Month) making it a sensation when the 50,000-plus issues were sold out. But it also had articles on jazz, football and the lifestyle that would come to epitomize the Playboy Philosophy.

Over the years the magazine would provide the very best in contemporary fiction and non-fiction, featuring writers such as Margaret Atwood, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur C. Clarke, Truman Capote and more. The Playboy Interview started a tradition that continues today, bringing in-depth looks into the lives of contemporary figures. The very first interview was with jazz legend Miles Davis, conducted by author Alex Haley, who also interviewed George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party and a virulent racist.

The magazine also featured interviews with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Carter — when he was running for president — and a host of other notable figures over the years. Men actually did read Playboy for the articles — after viewing the photos of the Playmates and other nude photography.

For over 20 years Playboy was not only the leader in men’s magazines, it was as popular as other publications like Time and Look.

The magazine and its founder were as progressive as they could be for the times and Hefner became a champion for the First Amendment — the freedom of the press. He was also known for his licentious lifestyle, which he lived for more of his life. His mansions in Chicago and Holmby Hills, CA, a very exclusive enclave of Los Angeles, became party palaces and the California mansion would become an L.A. institution, known for its extravagant parties.

Hugh and Crystal Hefner Wedding 2012
(Elayne Lodge)

This publication, the Baltimore Post-Examiner, has featured several articles about the man, his magazine and the fabled Playboy Mansion with its parties.

Over the years Playboy Enterprises, Inc. had several CEOs, including his daughter Christie (from his first marriage), but Hefner remained the chief creative officer until his death.

His son Cooper, from his second marriage, will now carry on the family business. The magazine has changed quite a bit in its 64 years. The decline in publishing, a conservative shift in the U.S. in the 1980s, plus the unlimited supply of porn on the internet, has challenged the magazine’s popularity and changed its focus, but it will still be Hugh Hefner’s publication. He will continue to be a cultural icon for years to come.

Hefner died at his home of natural causes Wednesday, September 27, 2017. he was 91 years old.

He is survived by his wife Crystal and his four children, Christie, David, Marston and Cooper.

Hugh Marston Hefner: April 9, 1926 — September 27, 2017.

Hugh Hefner (Elayne Lodge)

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Playboy Enterprise’s obituary.

Playboy in BPE:

Playboy for sale

Playboy models talk about Hefner and the Mansion parties

Playboy turns 60

Top photo courtesy of Playboy Enterprises, Inc.


About the author

Tim Forkes

Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality. Contact the author.

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