Tonight we received sad news that Playboy founder and media magnate, Hugh Hefner, passed away. He was 91 years old.
American Icon and Playboy Founder, Hugh M. Hefner passed away today. He was 91. #RIPHef
Hefner founded the iconic magazine in 1953, introducing nudity to mainstream America at a time when conservative values dominated the land. Over the next six decades, “Playboy” grew to become a cultural institution and Hefner, with his trademark smoking jacket, became a self-made multi-millionaire, media darling and favorite of young boys and men all across the world.
Hefner was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 9, 1926. After graduating from high school in 1944, Hefner served in World War II for two years, eventually moving on to college where he received his BA in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 1949 after only two years, earning his degree in two and a half years.
After graduating he went to work at Esquire as a copywriter, eventually leaving after a dispute over not receiving a raise. He went on to mortgage his house and raise money from investors, including his Mother, to launch Playboy Magazine, the first issue debuting in December of 1953 with the legendary Marilyn Monroe on the cover.
Hefner was committed to being a game changer, entering the fight for civil rights when he hired comedian Dick Gregory in 1961 to work at the Playboy Club in Chicago, where he became the first Black comedian to perform at the club, a major stepping stone to a career which would last for five decades.
“When I started, a black comic couldnt work a white nightclub,” said Gregory in a 2016 interview. “You could sing, you could dance, but you couldnt stand flat-footed and talk then the system would know how brilliant black folks was. So Hugh Hefner, he came up to this black club, when Sammy Davis and all of them were there, and he saw me. And then one day Professor Irwin Corey decided that he wasnt going to work seven days, and they brought me in [as a replacement at the Playboy Club] because Hefner saw me. No other reason. And that started a whole new industry.”
Hefner was an artist and an activist, giving money to arts programs and various charities. He was a man who believed in equality, supporting the fight for the legalization of same-sex marriage and freedom of expression.
He passed away tonight at home in Los Angeles at the Playboy mansion.
RIP Mr. Hefner.