Renowned publishing legend Hugh Hefner has died at the age of 91. Best known as the publisher of Playboy, Hefner was born in Chicago on April 9, 1926, to two school teachers. Hefner got his start as a writer for a U.S. Army newspaper between 1944 and 1946 before going on to graduate from the University of Illinois in 1949, majoring in psychology, which is a fitting area of study considering how he so expertly played to the male American psyche later in his career in the pages of Playboy magazine.
Playboy, which Hefner initially planned on calling Stag Party, was first published in 1953 with an issue that featured nude photos of Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe taken from a 1949 calendar. That issue sold 50,000 copies and set in motion one of the most storied careers in publishing history, skyrocketing Hefner to fame as one of the world’s most famous international playboys. Though Hugh Hefner never met Marilyn Monroe, in 1992 he purchased the crypt next to hers at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery for $75,000 according to the New York Times, and it is likely where he will be laid to rest in the coming days.
While Playboy has always been known as a magazine featuring photos of beautiful women in various stages of undress, Hefner made sure that its pages were filled with engaging articles on culture, politics, and other important issues. The list of Playboy Bunnies and celebrities who have posed for its photo shoots can be easily matched by the literary luminaries who have contributed essays and interviews for the magazine, including Hunter S. Thompson, Thomas Pynchon, and Gore Vidal, to name just a few. While Playboy may have drawn readers in with the promise of beautiful women, it always made sure to keep the pages turning with engaging and insightful reading material.
Though always well known as the publisher of Playboy, Hefner later in his life rose to even greater fame and visibility with the E! reality show The Girls Next Door, which featured Hefner’s life in his luxurious Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, the site of countless tales of Hollywood parties and celebrity party antics.
According to People, a representative for Playboy Enterprises released a statement about Hefner’s death.
“Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones,” the statement said.
To call Hugh Hefner a legend is a vast understatement. Throughout his career, Hefner fought for his own rights to publish controversial content, engaged in philanthropic activities, and provided a model of living one’s life to the fullest. While not everyone may count themselves as avid readers of Playboy, few are unaware of the mark Hugh Hefner has left on American society and the world.
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