Entertainment From The Editors

The Man, the Myth, the Phenomenon is No More – Playboy Founder, Hugh Hefner Dies at 91

The man behind the iconic Playboy magazine, the man who became the emblem of sexual revolution, the man who provided an escape route from social intolerance, is dead. Hugh Hefner died peacefully on Wednesday from natural causes at his home, the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles’ Holmby Hills neighborhood, near Beverly Hills.

A Wednesday press release by Playboy Enterprises announced his 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 confirmed. “He was 91 years old.”

Following the news of his death, Hefner’s former girlfriend and confidante, Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett, told E! News:

“He changed my life, she said. “He made me the person I am today. I couldn’t be more thankful for our friendship and our time together. I will miss him so much but he will be in my heart forever.”

Paying tribute to his father, Cooper Hefner, Hefner’s son and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises said:

“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights, and sexual freedom. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history. He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife Crystal, my sister Christie and my brothers David and Marston, and all of us at Playboy Enterprises.”

Hefner founded Playboy in 1953, in Chicago, partly funded by a $1,000-loan from his mother. He borrowed the rest of the investment by putting up his furniture as collateral.

The first Playboy magazine was published in 1953 and featured none other than the popular sex-symbol of the time, Marilyn Monroe – setting the trend of featuring big-league celebrities for years to come.

Some of the top celebrities to have graced the cover of the iconic Playboy magazine, over the years, including names like Sharon Stone, Carmen Electra, Cindy Crawford, Kim Basinger, Madonna, Pamela Anderson, Naomi Campbell, Drew Barrymore and Kim Kardashian.

Hugh Hefner with girlfriend, Barbi Benton
Hugh Hefner with girlfriend, Barbi Benton

Known for featuring nude and semi-nude models on its covers and centerfolds, Playboy thrived on challenging the traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality. The so-called sexual revolution, or sexual liberation, covered sensitive issues such as public nudity, pornography, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, legalization of abortion, alternative forms of sexuality and so on.

The magazine was loved and appreciated not only because of the beautiful women who graced its covers, but also for its articles and short stories from notable literary figures including Hunter S. Thompson, John Updike, Ian Fleming, Joseph Heller, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Atwood, Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur C Clarke and many more.

Playboy magazine dedicated a full page to color cartoons, providing a platform to known cartoonists such as Eldon Dedini, Harvey Kurtzman, Gahan Wilson, Rowland B. Wilson, Jack Cole, Jules Feiffer, Shel Silverstein, Erich Sokol, and Roy Raymonde, to showcase their talent.

Interviews with notable artists, architects, composers, film directors, journalists, novelists, playwrights, religious figures, politicians and the likes have been a regular feature on Playboy magazines, as well.

In 2016, Playboy magazine took the decision to stop featuring nudity, only to bring it back a year later in its March-April, 2017, issue.

Speaking about Playboy’s iconic logo – a silhouetted rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie – to Italian journalist Oriani Fallaci in 1967, Hefner said that “the rabbit, the bunny, in America has a sexual meaning; and I chose it because it’s a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping – sexy.”

He went to say that “a girl resembles a bunny. Joyful, joking. Consider the girl we made popular: the Playmate of the Month. She is never sophisticated, a girl you cannot really have. She is a young, healthy, simple girl – the girl next door . . . we are not interested in the mysterious, difficult woman, the femme fatale, who wears elegant underwear, with lace, and she is sad, and somehow mentally filthy,” adding that “the Playboy girl has no lace, no underwear, she is naked, well washed with soap and water, and she is happy.”

Hefner divorced his first wife of ten years, Mildred Williams, in 1959 following which he was publicly open about his intimate liaisons with numerous women. He fathered two children with Williams, daughter Christie and son David.

Hefner purchased the Playboy Mansion in 1971 and lived there until his death on Wednesday.

Hefner tied the knot with his second-wife Kimberley Conrad in 1989, separated from her a decade later, and officially divorced her in 2010. The couple had two children together, sons Marston Glenn and Cooper Bradford.

Over the course of five decades at the Playboy Mansion, Hefner is known to have lived with a number of young women simultaneously, including Girls Next Door stars Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson.

After a string of relationships and affairs, Hefner fell in love with Crystal Harris and married her in 2012 and stayed married to her until his death. However, Crystal 31, has no claim over Hefner’s property and possessions and inherits nothing after having signed an “ironclad prenup.”

Hugh Hefner’s final resting place will be right next to his very first playmate, Marilyn Monroe, at the at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Here’s what friends, fans, and well-wishers had to say about the greatest” Playboy” of all time.

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