For the sake of decency, I will say 10, though it could have been earlier. Yes, I was about 10-years-old when I first flipped through the pages of a Playboy magazine. Like I did every other Saturday afternoon, I walked into the cellar to retrieve my enamel chore bucket, and there it was, rolled and dog-eared partially hidden beneath stale rags, and lemon Pledge. How did it get there? Where did it come from? Who put it there? Who left pages, upon pages of bespectacled secretaries and splayed nurses, all of them resplendently nude with limbs akimbo, in my chore bucket?
Now that I think about it, it wasn’t even Playboy, but another shameless periodical, with a blunt masthead catering to the base. It still counts as Playboy though, even when it’s not. The pros and cons of being a pioneer perhaps.
As far as pioneers go, there weren’t many who were as relatable as Hugh Hefner, it would seem. One simply has to take a gander at some of the tweets or lend an ear to some of the things that have been said about him since his passing last month.
“You were a gentleman charming, elegant, chivalrous And so much fun.” – Pam Anderson
“I have always held great admiration for Hugh; he had a remarkable presence about him. My thoughts & prayers go out to his family & our friends.” – Hustler founder Larry Flynt.
Everyone from Rob Lowe to Kim Kardashian, political figures, to the common man condoled pleasantries and some critiques to America’s best-known libertine. As news of his death circled the globe, I watched as CNN read tweets from celebrities I expected to chime in. Then I heard the following used to describe him.
“A strong supporter of the civil rights movement.”
Hugh Hefner – Civil Rights? I can’t say that I have ever heard the man and the movement in the same sentence before. What’s even more astonishing is, it was Jesse Jackson saying this. Hugh Hefner never bothered me really; it’s hard to be bothered by a panderer of beautiful women, sex, and excess. Jesse Jackson, on the other hand, does. He bothers me as much as listening to someone talking with a baked potato in their mouth does. That’s a bigger bother than mosquitoes buzzing about my ear in my sleep.
To hear Jackson commend him as such reminded me of all the things I didn’t like about Jesse Jackson. Immediately I thought about Jackson attending a party at the Playboy mansion at Hefner’s behest. Jackson probably had a grand time, not to mention, Hugh probably puts a small donation for the Rainbow Coalition or whatever it is that Jackson touts into his party bag, thus he felt it compulsory to honor him at his passing.
But then I heard it again, the thing about Hef being a supporter of civil rights. It might have been NPR first, then later on the BBC, but I couldn’t just sit back without verifying this bit of detail that is sure to make me more endeared to man.
As it turns out, he was. I never knew that Nat King Cole hung out at the Playboy Mansion, or that Miles Davis did interviews for the magazine. One of those interviews featured a mutton-chopped Jesse Jackson, bombastic afro and all, speaking candidly about “the struggle” at a time when many mainstream magazines strayed away from the topic.
Dick Gregory was a regular, so was Muhammed Ali, even Malcolm X had his say. So is that what it takes to be a supporter of civil rights? Yes, I would say. Offering someone, anyone, a chair to sit and vent about the injustices present in the world, would be considered civil. Offering them a platform from which to do it is up there with civil rights advocacy. And that’s precisely what Hefner did when he wasn’t getting under the skin of those darn feminist groups. So I wish to thank Jesse Jackson for helping me see some other good in Playboy. Well done and rest- in- peace, Hef.
[Featured Image by Charles Gallay/Getty Images]