Hugh Hefner, American publisher and founder of Playboy, passed away at the age of 91. Playboy announced the news Wednesday evening, stating Hefner "peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones." He is most well known for launching the men's lifestyle magazine Playboy in 1953 and turning it into a widely recognized and successful global brand.
Born April 9, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, Hefner was raised by a conservative Methodist family before graduating high school and serving as a writer in the U.S. Army for a military newspaper. He graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with a major in psychology, double minor in creative writing and art in 1949. After working as a copywriter for Esquire, Hefner took out a loan and raised investor money - including $1,000 from his mother - to launch Playboy, with the first issue being published in December 1953.
Hefner became a key figure in the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, though he was both criticized for objectifying women and praised for allowing them a vehicle for their own empowerment. He was arrested in 1963 on charges of publishing and circulating obscene literature, but the jury was dismissed after it deadlocked on acquittal. In the 1970s, Hefner - through Playboy - purchased the Beverly Hills residence that became known as The Playboy Mansion, and it became Hefner's home.
Playboy honored Hefner on Twitter:
— Playboy (@Playboy) September 28, 2017
Hefner's son and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises Cooper Hefner said of his father:
"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 has produced many Playboy videos as well as a number of feature films, including Monty Python’s And Now for Something Completely Different and Roman Polanski's Macbeth. He also co-created The Girls Next Door reality series that followed Playboy Playmates including Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson. It ran for six seasons on E! from 2005-2010, but has launched spinoff series. Hefner appeared in a number of films and TV series as himself, including The House Bunny, Entourage, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sex and the City, and more.
The icon has also done a great deal of philanthropic work, and supported the legalization of gay marriage. The Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award was created to honor those that work to protect First Amendment rights. He has received a number of accolades, including being inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Society of Magazine Editors in 1998, and he holds a Guinness World Record for longest running editor of a magazine (he also holds the record for the largest scrapbook collection).
Hefner is survived by his wife Crystal and four grown children, Christie, David, Marston and Cooper.
Rest in Peace Hugh Hefner: April 9, 1926 - September 27, 2017