Hugh Hefner Passes at 91

FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2010, file photo, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for photos at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. The Playboy Mansion is up for sale but longtime resident Hefner wants to stay put. Playboy Enterprise announced the West Los Angeles estate, the backdrop of many film shoots and wild parties, was listed on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, for $200 million. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

FILE – In this Nov. 4, 2010, file photo, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for photos at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. The Playboy Mansion is up for sale but longtime resident Hefner wants to stay put. Playboy Enterprise announced the West Los Angeles estate, the backdrop of many film shoots and wild parties, was listed on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, for $200 million. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Hefner was born on April 9, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, and went on to become a millionaire after founding the influential men’s magazine in 1953. On Wednesday night the official Playboy Twitter account announced: ‘American Icon and Playboy Founder, Hugh M. Hefner passed away today. He was 91. #RIPHef’.

 

Hefner’s death was confirmed to People in a statement that said he ‘passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones.’ Hefner’s son, Cooper Hefner, who is also the chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, said: ‘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 was born Hugh Marston Hefner in 1926 and grew up in a strict Methodist family. Despite his family’s conservatism, his mother gave him a $1,000 loan to publish Playboy – ‘Not because she believed in the venture but because she believed in her son.’ The magazine hit with a splash, selling 50,000 copies of its first issue – which featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover – and went on to have seven million subscribers by its second year.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Hefner desegregated comedy clubs buy hiring Dick Gregory to perform at the Playboy Club in Chicago. Gregory credits Hefner with giving him his own big break in show business. The comedian had been playing small, predominantly Black clubs until Hefner hired him to perform at the Chicago Playboy Club in 1961, and kept bringing him back even when Gregory’s material became increasingly political.