Hugh Hefner, Father of the Playboy Empire, Dies at 91

Hugh Hefner, American founder of the international adult magazine Playboy, has died at the age of 91

Hugh Hefner the man and Playboy brand were inseparable from the day one. Both advertised themselves as emblems of the sexual revolution, an escape from American priggishness and wider social intolerance.

Hugh Hefner at the 36th AFI Life Achievement Award tribute to Warren Beatty via

Hefner began publishing the Playboy magazine in his kitchen back in 1953 when he was just 27 years old. It became the largest-selling men’s magazine in the world, shifting over seven million copies a month at its peak.

It all started with the first edition that featured a set of nude photographs of Marilyn Monroe that Hefner had bought for just $200.

That was the moment this trailblazing publication made nudity respectable in mainstream publications, despite emerging at a time when US states could legally ban contraceptives.

This also made him a multi-millionaire, spawning a business empire that included both casinos and nightclubs.

His timing was perfect. Playboy’s circulation reached one million by 1960 and peaked at about seven million in the 1970s.

I dreamed impossible dreams, and the dreams turned out beyond anything I could possibly imagine. I’m the luckiest cat on the planet.

Its huge sales were certainly driven by glossy color pictures of nude “playmates“, but it also developed a reputation for fine writing from Norman Mailer, Kingsley Amis, Kurt Vonnegut and interviews of Martin Luther King Jr, John Lennon and Fidel Castro.

The discussion of the fight for racial equality is the longest interview King ever granted any publication. You can read the whole interview on the Playboy archive.

Playboy and nudity

The brand faded over the years, and by 2015 the magazine’s circulation had dropped to about 800,000. In the 1980s, competition from publications carrying more explicit photos saw Playboy’s circulation decline, and Hefner himself suffered a stroke in 1985.

His daughter Christie took over Playboy Enterprises four years later, and Hefner retreated to his famous mansion, living with a bevy of women until his last breath.

Hefner at the Mansion via

The Mansion is famous for the Playboy parties hold over the years, some movie scenes and for the TV show “Girl Next Door: The Search for a Playboy Centerfold”.

The 1970s saw a number of celebrities use the Mansion for decadence, but not everyone wanted to be seen coming and going. In late March 2015,, reported that Polaroids and blueprints were discovered detailing an underground network of tunnels running from the property to the homes of famous guests like Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and James Caan.

All this proved to be a hoax, as Hef used this for April Fool’s Joke. 

Still, the house holds a lot of memories, and this could be the reason that Hugh Hefner sold the Mansion to Daren Metropoulos for $100 million, with the caveat that Hefner can lease it for $1 million a month.

Hugh Hefner ran the magazine and then the business empire largely from his bedroom, working on a round bed that revolved and vibrated. At first he was reclusive and frenetic, powered past dawn by amphetamines and Pepsi-Cola.

In later years, even after giving up Dexedrine, he was still frenetic, and still fiercely attentive to his magazine.

Friends described him as a charming guy, but shy and intensely loyal. At the same time, Mr. Hefner adored celebrity, his and others’.

The Ultimate Playboy

Hugh was married 3 times, and except his first wife all were famous Playmates. His second wife was Kimberley Conrad, the 1989 Playmate of the Year. With her he had two sons: Marston Glenn, born in 1990, and Cooper Bradford, born in 1991.

One thing that Hugh Hefner was known for, was his list of many girlfriends that surrounded him. He was the only man in the public eye in America, who could get away with having more than one girlfriend at once. Actually he declared that he’s had sex with well over 1,000 women.

Hugh and Crystal via

He died married with his third wife Crystal Harris. When they married he was 86 and she was 26.

While she was reportedly never added to his will, Crystal will be looked after financially, but the bulk of his fortune will be split between his four children and a variety of charities.

He will be buried next to Monroe’s at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in California, which he planned to be his final resting place.

Today, the world lost a legend.

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