Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who helped usher in the 1960s sexual revolution with his groundbreaking men’s magazine and built a business empire around his libertine lifestyle, died on Wednesday at the age of 91, Playboy Enterprises said.
Hefner, once called the “prophet of pop hedonism” by Time magazine, peacefully passed away at his home, Playboy Enterprises said in a statement.
‘I’ve slept with thousands of women’
Hefner was sometimes characterised as an oversexed Peter Pan as there were young women that numbered as many as seven at his legendary Playboy Mansion. This was chronicled in “The Girls Next Door,” a reality TV show that aired from 2005 through 2010. He said that thanks to Viagra, he continued exercising his libido into his 80s.
Hefner told Esquire in 2007 that he has “slept with thousands of women and they all still like me.”
“I’m never going to grow up,” Hefner said in a CNN interview when he was 82. “Staying young is what it is all about for me. Holding on to the boy and long ago I decided that age really didn’t matter and as long as the ladies … feel the same way, that’s fine with me.”
FILE – In this June 20, 1961 file photo, Playboy magazine publisher Hugh Hefner poses with “bunny-girl” hostess Bonnie J Halpin at Hefner’s nightclub in Chicago.
(AP File Photo)
How it began
Hefner worked at Esquire as a copywriter but left the job when he was denied a $5 raise. He then borrowed $600 from a bank, another $8,000 from friends and relatives to publish the first issue of Playboy in 1953. His mother loaned him $1,000.
Hefner took a job as the circulation manager of a children’s magazine and at night worked on Playboy. “It was quite literally a one-man band,” he said.
Playboy was first called Stag Party but Hefner got a cease and desist letter from Stag magazine, which said it was an infringement on their title.
The name Playboy — also a sports car at the time — was settled after considering ‘Gentlemen’ and ‘Sir’ as alternate titles.
Things you probably didn’t know:
- ‘The Playboy’ had an IQ of 152
- Hefner has appeared in Entourage, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Last Comic Standing and The Simpsons. He even hosted the Saturday Night Live once in 1977.
- His favourite movie: Casablanca
- His favourite meal: Fried chicken
- His favourite nightcap: Jack Daniel’s and Pepsi.
- Hefner owns more than 200 sets of silk pyjamas
Playboy: Not just a sex magazine
Hefner created Playboy as the first stylish glossy men’s magazine and in addition to nude fold-outs, it had intellectual appeal with top writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin and Alex Haley for men who liked to say they did not buy the magazine just for the pictures.
In-depth interviews with historic figures such as Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and John Lennon also were featured regularly. Published in 1955, ‘The Crooked Man’ was one of Playboy’s controversial stories in which homosexuality was the norm.
“I’ve never thought of Playboy quite frankly as a sex magazine,” Hefner told CNN in 2002. “I always thought of it as a lifestyle magazine in which sex was one important ingredient.”
Playmates of the Month
The first ‘Playmates of the Month’ were pictures bought from a calendar company. Once the magazine started shooting, Hefner said he wanted to find young women who weren’t necessarily models. “I wanted to make the statement that beauty was everywhere. So the very notion of the Playmate of the Month was that she was the girl next door.”
Donald Trump, Bruno Mars, Seth Rogen and Steve Martin are some of the men featured in the Playboy magazine.
Hugh Hefner poses at a news conference, which was held to announce the artists performing at the 30th Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, in this February 27, 2008 photo.
(Reuters File Photo)
The Playboy Mansion
Hefner bought the Chicago Mansion in 1960 to have a place to escape from work. But from the early 60s, he “was working out of the house”.
A plaque in front of the mansion reads, “If You Don’t Swing, Don’t Ring.” It had an underwater bar that was accessible by a pole.
Hefner’s friends got together for dinner and a movie on every Monday night, called ‘Manly Night’.
The ‘Big Bunny’ private plane
Hefner’s private jet, called the Big Bunny, was a customised stretch version of the DC-9. It could fly anywhere across the world.
The Big Bunny was worth more than $5 million, it had a disco, custom lighting and was painted black. Hefner called his stewardesses “Jet Bunnies,” said a Business Insider report.
An actor once asked Hefner’s Big Bunny plane to carry Vietnam war orphans. The ‘bunnies’ cared for the infants who were being taken to homes across the US, said Playboy magazine.
(With agency inputs)