Playboy founder Hugh Hefner passed away of natural causes on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at the famed Los Angeles Playboy mansion, reported the New York Times.
Hefner, 91, left behind his wife Crystal, and children Cooper, David, Marston, and Christie.
The iconic bunny-eared brand started out in 1953 with a small loan after Hefner’s stint in journalism. The first issue of Playboy featured a then-strawberry blonde and virtually unknown Marilyn Monroe in the centerfold, known as the ‘Red Velvet’ photoshoot, with the magazine going on to become infamous for its seductive centerfolds.
It remains one of the largest magazines in the US and around the world, with at least 20 licensed international editions.
Born in Chicago, Hefner served in the military before becoming the ‘ultimate’ playboy; popularizing the centerfold in 1955, which was essentially a two-page spread with a risqué photo of their cover model.
As the magazine took off in the 50s, Hefner shed a marriage to his former classmate Mildred Williams and embraced “the sybaritic life depicted on those glossy pages,” according to this report.
In 1962, the magazine introduced the “Playboy Interview,” which was lauded for its ‘great’ writing, and Hefner also hosted television shows related to the brand, including Playboy’s Penthouse in 1959 and Playboy After Dark in 1969.
Hefner advocated to break the barriers related to women owning their sexuality, even having the Playboy Foundation fund abortion rights; but ironically, he was making money off of women’s bodies for the satisfaction of men, the magazine’s main market.
“Women were the major beneficiary of the sexual revolution,” Hefner said in Esquire in 2007.
“Unfortunately, within feminism, there has been a puritan, prohibitionist element that is antisexual,” he has said.
Hefner married three times, and while he was growing into his age, his wives were most often tall twentysomething blondes, and in the 70s, he left Chicago for Los Angeles to start the nearly mythical Playboy Mansion where he lived and worked with his ‘collection’ of girlfriends.
The girlfriends were often aspiring models or actresses, and in the early 2000s even had their own E! reality TV series called The Girls Next Door, where the careers of Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson.
Hefner married Crystal Harris, also a Gil Next Door, in 2012.
But an illustrious career is not without its controversy, as allegations of sexual abuse and other mistreatment abounded Hefner from the girls who managed to break away from his ‘hold’ at the Playboy Mansion.
Madison, in a 2015 interview called her stay at the Playboy Mansion “hell.”
Sex with Hefner was a requirement, and she said Hefner often offered the girls Quaalude, a drug in the ‘70s given the moniker ‘thigh openers.’
And some of those women had taken Hefner’s Quaaludes. “They weren’t commonly available then — I don’t even know exactly how he was getting them,” Madison said. “I know most girls my age were not doing them, and didn’t know what they made you feel like. And I’m sure a lot of those girls didn’t know what they were at all.”
Madison revealed more details in her book, Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny of Hefner’s emotional control over most of the girls, by playing into their fears about their limited professional possibilities and contacts in Los Angeles, which ofcourse he had plenty of, and even fostering rivalries and infighting among the girls by playing favorites.
While Hefner’s persona is polarized, his family in a statement said they will cherish his legacy and that he would be ‘greatly missed.’
“My father lived an exception[al]and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leader voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. 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,” his son, and Playboy Enterprises’ chief creative officer, Cooper Hefner, said in a statement.