Hugh Hefner has reportedly died at his home at the age of 91. Hefner was the founder and publisher of Playboy magazine, an iconic publication that made the careers of many women and gave us the pictures of America’s first sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe.
Hefner was born on April 9, 1926, and at the age of 27 with a $1K loan from his mother, founded Playboy magazine in 1953. The very first issue of Playboy put the magazine and Hefner’s name in the national spotlight when it featured 1950s bombshell Marilyn Monroe as its first cover girl model where she appeared topless. The first issue of that magazine sold 50K copies and by the end of the second year of publication, Playboy had over 7M subscribers.
Soon the branding of the magazine became more than just pictures of nude women. Hefner decided to create a lifestyle magazine that appeals to the finer things of life and the true appreciation of a woman. There was never a time in Hefner’s publication that would today be regarded as degradation of woman. Hefner included fashion, premium liquor ads, and insightful articles that were written by a myriad of authors, including Alex Haley, the author of the novel Roots. He launched the career of literally dozens of models that became known as playmates. Among these women were Marilyn Monroe, Pam Grier, Jenny McCarthy, Anna Nicole Smith, Pamela Anderson, Azealia Banks and many others.
Perhaps one of the most famous acquisitions that Hefner made was the Playboy mansion, which became iconic as a party spot for celebrities and millionaires. Pictures of Hefner at the mansion always featured him clad in his scarlet smoking jacket and often wearing pajamas. He exuded a life of hedonism, luxury and success. The brand also spawned dozens of what were known as Playboy clubs in major cities. These clubs featured hostesses dressed in bikinis and called Playboy bunnies with their signature bunny tail on their rear end. Hefner, also at these clubs, challenged segregation by featuring Black entertainers in Chicago, New York, and other cities.
As Hefner grew older his love of beautiful women did not wane. He surrounded himself with live-in lovers at his Playboy mansion, some of whom he never had sex with but just wanted their company. The Playboy mansion soon became available for rent at special events sponsored by major companies who just wanted to be affiliated with Hefner and the Playboy brand. His impact on sex in America was monumental and surprisingly candid. None of the photo shoots featured in Playboy degraded women like other competitors such as Hustler magazine, Penthouse, and other imitators. It can be truly said that America has lost a pop culture icon.