LOS ANGELES – Hugh Hefner, media mogul, philanthropist and founder and publisher of Playboy Magazine has died. He was 91.
He was best known as the editor-in-chief of the iconic magazine, which he founded in 1953, as well as chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises which operates the magazine. A vocal advocate of sexual liberation and freedom of expression, Hefner was a political activist and philanthropist of many causes and public issues.
He was born the son of Grace Caroline (1895–1997) and Glenn Lucius Hefner (1896–1976), who were teachers. His parents were from Nebraska. He had a younger brother, Keith (1929–2016). Through his father's side, Hefner had said that he was a direct descendant of Plymouth governor William Bradford.
He would later join the U.S. Army where he served from 1944 to 1946 as a writer for a military newspaper. Hefner graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign with a bachelor of Arts in psychology and a double minor in creative writing and art.
January 1952, Hefner left his copywriting job at Esquire after he was denied a $5 raise. In 1953, he took out a mortgage loan of $600, and raised $8,000 from 45 investors, including $1,000 from his mother to launch Playboy, which was originally going to be called Stag Party. The first issue, published in December 1953, featured Marilyn Monroe from her 1949 nude calendar shoot and sold over 50,000 copies. Hefner, who never met Monroe, bought a crypt next to hers at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in 1992 for $75,000.
The magazine would become a forum for serious and compelling interviews with a wide variety of subjects such as President Jimmy Carter who confessed, “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” Others included, Groucho Marx, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre and Malcolm X. Playboy even published fiction by such authors as Ray Bradbury from whom Playboy bought his “Fahrenheit 451” for just $400, as well as Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, James Baldwin, John Updike and many others.
Ultimately, Playboy would establish a slew of Playboy Clubs around the world, including a number of gambling casinos which featured its famous Playboy Bunnies.
By the 1980s and 1990s, Playboy had pulled back and concentrated on its core publishing and branding business, licensing the Playboy name to apparel and product manufacturers that made everything from furniture with the Playboy to pillows and sex products.
In 1989, when he was 63, Hefner married 26-year-old Playmate of the Year Kimberley Conrad with whom they had two sons, Marston Hefner and Cooper Hefner. They separated in 1998 and divorced in 2010.
Despite his stated desire to never marry again, on New Year’s Eve 2012, he married Playboy Playmate, Crystal Harris when he was 86 and she was 26.