As friends and celebrities now remember Hugh Hefner, they are sharing stories of their visits to “the mansion” and perhaps their own exploits of illicit debauchery in the infamous grotto. And who has not seen the hedonistic grand marshal of them all on television, in music videos, and in movies? The image of the ever-suave “Hef,” only clad in his ubiquitous silk robe and smoking a pipe, wandering the grounds of the lavish Playboy mansion with a bevy of playmates is forever ingrained in American pop culture.
Very few associate the infamous Playboy magazine publisher as a romantic who was once devastated by the sexual betrayal of his first wife, Mildred Williams, that he called “the single most devastating experience of my life.” Who was Mille Williams, what did she do to break Hef’s heart, and how did this lead him to become the “serial ladies man” that everyone associates with the name Hugh Hefner?
Mildred “Millie” Williams and Hugh Hefner were childhood sweethearts after meeting at Northwestern. They always planned to marry, but after college, he spent two years in the army working as a reporter. Then, in 1949, the couple finally married.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, just a few days before marriage, Hef, who had saved himself for marriage, was “devastated” when he discovered that Millie had an affair when he was in the military. He reportedly felt destroyed that she was more experienced than him, and metaphorically, the other man was always in the bedroom with the couple.
Feeling guilty about her betrayal, Millie encouraged Hefner to have liaisons with other women. Despite this very shocking open marriage during a very conservative era in America, the couple did have two children, Christine and David.
Hugh and Mildred’s marriage only lasted a decade, yet during this period, Hefner began Playboy magazine. Soon, the world changed, and Hugh Hefner was part of the change. Between the invention of the pill and the openness of the 60s, Hef’s life became one big bachelor party.
Just a few years back, Hugh Hefner confessed to the Daily Mail that at 85, “I never really found my soulmate.” It seemed quite bittersweet that the man who knew and cavorted with some of the most beautiful women in modern history still didn’t find the love what he desired.
What do you think is the biggest contribution of Hugh Hefner? Do you think that Mildred Williams’ betrayal and suggestion that they have an open marriage had something to do with Playboy, the clubs, mansion and his infamous lifestyle? Are you surprised to find that Hef considered himself a romantic? Please share your opinions below.
[Featured Image by David Westing/Getty Images]