Hugh Hefner, the iconic founder of Playboy magazine, has died aged 91, Playboy Enterprises has said.
Playboy Magazine was founded by Hefner more than 60 years ago as an upscale men’s magazine that featured nude images of famous women, as well as emerging models, actresses and singers.
“Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognisable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones,” Playboy confirmed in a statement. “He was 91 years old.”
Hefner, often referred to as “Hef,” passed away at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
Born on 9 April to strict Methodist parents in 1926, he served two years in the army during World War II before finding a job at Esquire as a copywriter.
By 1953 he had saved $8,000 with which to put the first issue of Playboy together. Published in December that year, the cover featured Marilyn Monroe, along with a nude picture of her as the centrefold which Hefner had purchased to add some “oomph”. The issue sold more than 50,000 copies.
The nude images of women would be placed alongside in-depth interviews with high profile actors, artists and politicians, with literary articles, fiction and non-fiction, sourced by the publication’s first literary editor Auguste Comte Spectorsky.
Writers such as Jack Kerouac, Vladimir Nabokov and Margaret Atwood saw some of their short fiction featured in its pages, and the magazine published important interviews with figures including Martin Luther King Jr. and Miles Davis.
Hefner made several cameos in film and TV, including Sex and the City, and The House Bunny starring Anna Faris as a former Playboy Bunny who suddenly finds herself homeless.
“Much of my life has been like an adolescent dream of an adult life,” Hefner told The Times in 1992. “If you were still a boy, in almost a Peter Pan kind of way, and could have just the perfect life that you wanted to have, that’s the life I invented for myself.”
In an another interview explaining the popularity of the magazine he said: “Even before I started writing the philosophy, there was a point of view in the magazine…Prior to that you couldn’t run nude pictures without some kind of rationale that they were art.
“I made them into, I put them into a context of a positive, or what I perceived as a positive attitude, on male-female relationships. I suggested that sex was not the enemy, that violence was the enemy, that nice girls like sex.”
Joanna Krupa, who posed for Playboy in 2005 and 2009, told Fox News when the 2009 issue came out: “There are several great reasons why female celebs line up to shoot Playboy: finally a woman gets paid more than a man for comparable work, she gets to set the rules, gets to be in a real team work with other women, as many key positions at Playboy are in fact held by women!
“She brings in her creative ideas, gets involved in the photo selection and ends up with something she co-created through and through.”
Playboy Enterprises expanded over the years to include television, film, resorts, nightclubs, products, charities and a number of websites. By 1971 it was selling 7 million copies a month.
Asked in 2013 how many women he had been with over the years, Hefner told Esquire: “How could I possibly know? Over a thousand, I’m sure. There were chunks of my life when I was married, and when I was married I never cheated. But I made up for it when I wasn’t married. You have to keep your hand in.”
In 2011 he told The Hollywood Reporter: “Could I be in a better place and happier than I am today? I don’t think so. In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a sweeter life.”
Hefner is survived by his wife Crystal Harris and his four children from previous relationships.