Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, passed away on Wednesday evening at the age of 91 years old. Hefner was surrounded by his family at the time of his death. He died of natural causes.
Hugh Hefner, born Hugh Marston Hefner, was a native of Chicago, Illinois, and a former journalist for Esquire. A multi-millionaire, his net worth at the time of his death was over $43 million due to his success as the founder of Playboy.
“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,” his son and current Playboy Chief Creative Officer Cooper Hefner said in a statement.
Hugh Hefner started Playboy magazine 64 years ago in his home. He was an activist and philanthropist, as well as a World War II veteran.
Read the full statement on the death of founder Hugh Hefner from Playboy below:
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. He was 91 years old.
Starting from his kitchen table 64 years ago, Mr. Hefner’s uncompromising vision drove the creation of not just the iconic and groundbreaking magazine, but what has become one of the world’s most enduring and recognizable brands. In the process, Playboy became the largest-selling and most influential men’s magazine in the world, spawning a number of successful global businesses. To this day, the magazine is published in more than 20 countries around the world and products featuring the company’s trademarks drive more than $1 billion in sales annually.
“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,” said Cooper Hefner, Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises.
After serving in the Army, attending college and working for number of years in the magazine publishing industry, Mr. Hefner became convinced that there was a market for an upscale men’s magazine. By putting up his furniture as collateral for a loan and borrowing the rest from family and friends, Mr. Hefner published the very first issue of Playboy in December of 1953. The magazine was an instant sensation.
From the very start, Playboy was about more than just the beautiful women featured in its pages. Mr. Hefner took a progressive approach not only to sexuality and humor, but also to literature, politics and culture. Within its pages, Playboy published fiction by such writers as Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, John Updike, Ian Fleming, Joseph Heller, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Atwood, Jack Kerouac and Kurt Vonnegut.
The now standard-setting “Playboy Interview” debuted in 1962 when frequent contributor Alex Haley interviewed jazz legend Miles Davis. Mr. Haley’s Playboy interviews, which are still important reads for cultural historians, also included Malcolm X (1963), Martin Luther King (1965), and perhaps most famously, George Lincoln Rockwell (1966), the founder of the American Nazi Party.
As the host of a television series, “Playboy’s Penthouse,” Mr. Hefner paved the way as the first televised program to feature mixed groups of African American and white performers and audience members together. He also fought against the racist Jim Crow laws in the South by integrating Playboy Clubs in Miami and New Orleans.
When the U.S. Post Office refused to deliver Playboy to subscribers through the mail, he fought all the way to the Supreme Court, winning a landmark decision which was widely considered a victory for free speech. He fought the country’s archaic “sodomy laws,” firmly believing that the government had no place in American bedrooms. His work in this area has been recognized as influential by historians of the gay rights movement.
In 1980, Mr. Hefner championed the reconstruction of the Hollywood sign and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his efforts. In the shadow of the sign that he helped to preserve, Mr. Hefner stages the annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, an event which is in its 39th year.
This year, a 10-episode docudrama series on Mr. Hefner’s life, entitled American Playboy, appeared on Amazon.