Saturday 18 August 2018

Playboy founder and 'cultural pioneer' Hugh Hefner dies aged 91

Son says Hefner 'defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand'

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner (C) arrives with friends for an ESPY Awards pre-party at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California in. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo
Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner (C) arrives with friends for an ESPY Awards pre-party at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California in. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who helped usher in the 1960s sexual revolution with his groundbreaking men's magazine and built a business empire around his libertine lifestyle, has died at the age of 91.

The magazine posted a photo in black and white of its creator, accompanied by one of his quotes that read: "Life it too short to be living somebody else's dream."

Describing him as an "American icon", they tweeted: "Hugh M. Hefner passed away today. He was 91. #RIPHef"

In a further statement Playboy Enterprises said Hefner "peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones".

Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner (C) is joined by former girlfriend Barbi Benton (L), and current girlfriend, Holly Madison, during an ESPY Awards pre-party at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo
Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner (C) is joined by former girlfriend Barbi Benton (L), and current girlfriend, Holly Madison, during an ESPY Awards pre-party at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo

His son Cooper Hefner, the chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, said in a statement that his father "defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand".

He added: "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 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."

Singer and actress Nancy Sinatra paid tribute to him as "one of the nicest men I've ever known", adding: "Godspeed, Hugh Hefner."

Actor Rob Lowe tweeted: "I had a number of great conversations and with Hugh Hefner. Was such an interesting man. True legend. What an end of an era!"

Hefner was sometimes characterised as an oversexed Peter Pan as he kept a harem of young blondes that numbered as many as seven at his legendary Playboy Mansion. This was chronicled in "The Girls Next Door," a TV reality show that aired from 2005 through 2010. He said that thanks to the impotency-fighting drug Viagra he continued exercising his libido into his 80s.

Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner (C) is joined by former girlfriend Barbi Benton (L), and current girlfriend, Holly Madison, during an ESPY Awards pre-party at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California in this July 12, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo
Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner (C) is joined by former girlfriend Barbi Benton (L), and current girlfriend, Holly Madison, during an ESPY Awards pre-party at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California in this July 12, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo
Founder of Playboy magazine Hugh Hefner (L) poses with a Playmate wearing skin-art of the Grammy Award at the 44th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 27, 2002. REUTERS/File Photo
Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner arrives with girlfriend Kendra Wilkinson (L) and Bridget Marquardt for his 80th birthday party in Munich's famous club P1 May 31, 2006. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo
Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner and girlfriends Anna Sophia Berglund (L) and Shera Bechard arrive at the Society of Singers annual dinner in Beverly Hills, California September 19, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo
Hugh Hefner, 81, founder of Playboy magazine and the Playboy Jazz Festival, poses at a news conference which was held to announce the artists performing at the 30th Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, California in this February 27, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo
Hugh Hefner and his fiancee, Playboy Playmate Crystal Harris, arrive at the opening night gala of the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival featuring a screening of a restoration of 'An American In Paris' in Hollywood, California April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo
Hugh Hefner (C), Playboy magazine founder, and Playboy Playmates and girlfriends arrive at the American Film Institute's 'AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Sir Sean Connery' taping in Hollywood June 8, 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo
Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner kisses girlfriend Kendra Wilkinson after their arrival for his 80th birthday party in Munich's famous club P1 May 31, 2006. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo
Hugh Hefner, founder, editor-in-chief and creative officer of Playboy, speaks as he is honored with the Hollywood Distinguished Service Award in Memory of Johnny Grant by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in Hollywood, California June 7, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Redmond/File Photo
Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner smiles at the news conference for the upcoming Playboy Jazz Festival, at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, California February 10, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner smiles as he addresses questions at the panel for E! networks television show "The Girls Next Door" at the Television Critic's Association Summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills July 17, 2005. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
Hugh Hefner (C) Playboy founder and Editor-in-Chief, displays a giant birthday cake to celebrate his 75th birthday as seven playmates look on in Cannes May 12, 2001. REUTERS/File Photo
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner (L), with his girlfriends Bridget Marquardt (C) and Kendra Wilkinson, reacts as he listens to a reporter's question at the panel for E! networks' television show "The Girls Next Door" at the Television Critic's Association Summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills July 17, 2005. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files
"Playboy" magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses with his six girlfriends (L-R) Sheila Levell, Izabella St. James, Zoe Gregory, Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Cristal Camden on the red carpet after seeing the international gala premiere of Cirque du Soleil's new show "Zumanity" at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada in this September 20, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Ethan Miller/Files
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner feeds a piece of cake to Cathi O'Malley as Kimberly Stanfield (L) and Katie Lohmann (2ndL) look on during Hefner's 75th birthday party at Studio 54 inside the MGM Grand hotel-casino in Las Vegas in this March 2, 2001 file photo. REUTERS/File Photo
layboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner (C) arrives with friends for an ESPY Awards pre-party at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California in this July 12, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo
In this May 14, 1999 file photo, Playboy founder and editor in chief Hugh Hefner receives kisses from Playboy playmates during the 52nd Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France. Hefner has died at age 91. The magazine released a statement saying Hefner died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes on Wednesday night, Sept. 27, 2017, surrounded by family. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours, File)
In this April 5, 2007 file photo, Hugh Hefner poses for a photo at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. Playboy magazine founder and sexual revolution symbol Hefner has died at age 91. The magazine released a statement saying Hefner died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes on Wednesday night, Sept. 27, 2017, surrounded by family. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
In this Aug. 20, 2008 file photo, Holly Madison, from left, Hugh Hefner, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson arrive at the premiere of "The House Bunny" in Los Angeles. Playboy founder Hefner, the pipe-smoking hedonist who revved up the sexual revolution in the 1950s and built a multimedia empire of clubs, mansions, movies and television, symbolized by bow-tied women in bunny costumes, has died at age 91. Hefner died of natural causes at his home surrounded by family Wednesday night, Sept. 27, 2017, Playboy said in a statement. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)
In this April 7, 2006 file photo, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is photographed at the Playboy Mansion in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles. Hefner has died at age 91. The magazine released a statement saying Hefner died at his home of natural causes Wednesday night, Sept. 27, 2017, surrounded by family. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)
In this June 20, 1961 file photo, Playboy magazine publisher Hugh Hefner poses with "bunny-girl" hostess Bonnie J. Halpin at Hefner's nightclub in Chicago. Playboy founder and sexual revolution symbol Hugh Hefner has died at age 91. The magazine released a statement saying Hefner died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes on Wednesday night, Sept. 27, 2017, surrounded by family. (AP Photo/Ed Kitch, File)
Hugh Hefner (AP Photo/Kristian Dowling, File)
In this March 1970 file photo, Hugh Hefner, left, and girlfriend Barbi Benton, center, are served by Playboy Club Bunny Cheri upon their arrival at La Guardia aboard the Big Bunny, Heffner's jet, in New York. Playboy magazine founder and sexual revolution symbol Hefner has died at age 91. The magazine released a statement saying Hefner died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes on Wednesday night, Sept. 27, 2017, surrounded by family .(AP Photo, File)
In this May 7, 1977, file photo, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner talks about his coming late night TV show, Playboys Playmate Party, Los Angeles. Hefner has died at age 91. The magazine released a statement saying Hefner died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes on Wednesday night, Sept. 27, 2017, surrounded by family. (AP Photo/George Brich, File)
In this file photo made April 7, 2006, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is photographed at the Playboy Mansion in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles. Playboy magazine founder and sexual revolution symbol Hugh Hefner has died at age 91. The magazine released a statement saying Hefner died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes on Wednesday night, Sept. 27, 2017, surrounded by family. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)

"I'm never going to grow up," Hefner said in a CNN interview when he was 82. "Staying young is what it is all about for me. Holding on to the boy and long ago I decided that age really didn't matter and as long as the ladies ... feel the same way, that's fine with me."

Hefner settled down somewhat in 2012 at age 86 when he took Crystal Harris, who was 60 years younger, as his third wife.

He said his swinging lifestyle might have been a reaction to growing up in a repressed family where affection was rarely exhibited. His so-called stunted childhood led to a multi-million-dollar enterprise that centered on naked women but also espoused Hefner's "Playboy philosophy" based on romance, style and the casting off of mainstream mores.

That philosophy came to life at the legendary parties in his mansions - first in his native Chicago, then in Los Angeles' exclusive Holmby Hills neighborhood - where legions of male celebrities swarmed to mingle with beautiful young women.

Long before the Internet made nudity ubiquitous, Hefner faced obscenity charges in 1963 for publishing and circulating photos of disrobed celebrities and aspiring stars but he was acquitted.

Hefner created Playboy as the first stylish glossy men's magazine and in addition to nude fold-outs, it had intellectual appeal with top writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin and Alex Haley for men who liked to say they did not buy the magazine just for the pictures.

In-depth interviews with historic figures such as Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and John Lennon also were featured regularly.

"I've never thought of Playboy quite frankly as a sex magazine," Hefner told CNN in 2002. "I always thought of it as a lifestyle magazine in which sex was one important ingredient."

Hefner proved to be a genius at branding. The magazine's rabbit silhouette became one of the best known logos in the world and the "bunny" waitresses in his Playboy nightclubs were instantly recognizable in their low-cut bathing suit-style uniforms with bow ties, puffy cotton tails and pert rabbit ears.

Hef, as he began calling himself in high school, also was a living logo for Playboy, presiding over his realm in silk pajamas and a smoking jacket while puffing on a pipe.

"What I created came out of my own adolescent dreams of fantasies," he told CNN. "I was trying to redefine what it meant to be a young, urban unattached male."

After writing copy for Esquire magazine, Hefner married and worked in the circulation department of Children's Activities magazine when he began plotting what would become Playboy magazine.

The first issue came out in December 1953 - featuring nude photos of actress Marilyn Monroe - and was a hit. As the magazine took off, it was attacked from the right because of the nudity and from the left by feminists who said it reduced women to sex objects.

Hefner once declared sex to be "the primary motivating factor in the course of human history" and, using that as a business model Playboy flourished during the sexual revolution and into the 1970s with monthly circulation hitting 7 million.

He ran into trouble in the 1980s with competition from Penthouse and Hustler - magazines that had much more explicit photos - and Playboy's social impact faded considerably by the 21st century. The Playboy Clubs closed in 1991 but would be partially revived.

After suffering a minor stroke in 1985, Hefner made daughter Christie chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises and she gave the business a makeover before stepping down in 2009. Hefner's son, Cooper, who was nearly 40 years younger than Christie, assumed a major role in the company in 2014.

"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," Cooper said in a statement, according to posts on social media.

Playboy magazine, starting with its March 2016 issue, did away with full frontal nudity in a rebranding that would have been unimaginable in the publication's heyday.

Playboy resumed nudity a year later as Hefner's son Cooper announced a new philosophy for the company.

In August 2016, one of Hefner's neighbors, a private equity investor, announced he had bought the Playboy mansion for $100 million with the understanding Hefner could stay there until he died.

Before Playboy, Hefner married Millie Williams in 1949 and they divorced in 1959, starting a period in which he became the ultimate bachelor. The many women who shared his round, motorized, vibrating bed included models who posed in his magazine and in 1989 he married one of them, Playmate of the Year Kimberly Conrad.

They had two sons but Hefner's experiment with traditional domesticity ended in divorce after 10 years. Conrad moved into a home next to Hefner so he could stay close to their sons.

In 2008 after one of his girlfriends, Holly Madison, broke up with Hefner, he said he had hoped to spend the rest of his life with her. Shortly afterward he added 19-year-old twins to his group before turning to marriage again with Harris.

Additional Reporting PA and Reuters

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