Hugh Marston Hefner was an American businessman, magazine publisher and playboy. He was the editor-in-chief of Playboy magazine, which he founded in 1953.
Born: 9 April 1926, Chichago, Illinois, USA
Died: 27 September 2017, Playboy Mansion, Beverly Hills, California
There are many roads to Mecca: HUGH HEFNER
Good thinking, Bad thinking and Hugh Hefner
Paying tribute, Constance Grady of The Vox wrote, Hugh Hefner, the creator of Playboy Magazine, died on Wednesday night in his California mansion. He was 91 years old.
Hefner leaves behind a complicated legacy. He was an advocate for civil rights for people of color and the LGBTQ community, and he fought for reproductive rights for women — but he also built a brand on the objectification of women’s bodies.
That brand was Playboy, which Hefner created in 1953 on $8,000 of borrowed money, with an early photograph of Marilyn Monroe that he’d picked up for $500 on the cover. The magazine rapidly exploded, and so did the brand Hefner built around it, down to the iconic bunny logo. (It was chosen, according to Hefner, because bunnies are “shy, vivacious, jumping” animals that have lots of sex. According to his biographer, it was because his beloved childhood dog used to sleep on a blanket printed with bunnies, and when the dog died, his parents burned the blanket.)
Hugh Hefner was clear about his belief system. For religion he said, “It is perfectly clear to me that religion is a myth. It’s something we have invented to explain the inexplicable.
David Talbot writes: “I buy Playboy for the interviews,” went the old joke. But sometimes I did. The magazine occasionally featured in-depth interviews with thinkers and agitators whom the mainstream press considered beyond the pale, like Malcolm X and New Orleans DA Jim Garrison, who was the first and last lawman to try to make a case against the CIA for the murder of President Kennedy. And Playboy hired some of the best journalists to do these interviews, like Robert Scheer.
Playboy excerpted “Burning Desires,” the book about sexual politics in the Reagan era that I co-wrote with Steve Chapple back in 1989 — in an unprecedented 6 issues in a row or something like that. Playboy had some smart and lively editors, like Barry Golson.
For my generation, Hefner’s Midwest libertinism already seemed corny. His wholesome breast fixation sort of suggested something Oedipal. When the women’s movement came after him, he was utterly perplexed. He dug women, why were they so mad at him? He wanted to be surrounded and smothered by their creamy goodness.
In any case, I won’t remember Hef for his bunnies and boobs — but for his real daring. Letting dangerous people talk about dangerous ideas in a way that Time, Life or Newsweek never would.
I’m not defending Hefner as some sort of sexual revolutionary, as the obits are claiming him to be. Like I said, he was corny and retro when it came to women. But because he prided himself on being a free thinker, he allowed his magazine to sometimes be a platform for truly radical ideas. I don’t think this was a “cover” for his naughty pictures. It was a genuine commitment of his — and the hotter interviews probably did help sell magazines too. At his height, he was a very shrewd publishing showman.
New York-based poet and socialist commentator Phil Rockstroh said, Hefner, as David notes, on the pages of Playboy, published the best writers of his age, interviewed leftist thinkers, championed civil rights, came out against the war on the people of Vietnam, and questioned fascistic US drug policy long before doing so was fashionable. Moreover, contemporary people forget this, he had the courage to addressed subjects such as human sexuality openly — subjects that had been banished from the public sphere by the US Calvinist/Puritan mindset — the Calvinist/Puritan imagination, that locates all the problems of earthly life in the human genitals i.e., the psychical legacy from which a large percent of the animus heaped upon the man, even before his corpse has cooled, finds its origin.
Barbara Elizabeth Stewart said, “The interviews were good, yes, and some of the articles. But his idea of sexual liberation was always willing young women — and if they weren’t willing, he — and his readers — saw them as repressed and uptight, at best. They were his soft, exciting toys. I think that was really worse than the more sexually rigid 50s. And yes, that’s why he totally couldn’t understand why those hot young feminists were really really not into him and his kind.
Gail Dines, anti-porn activist and writer said,”Hugh Hefner is dead! We are now going to be bombarded with eulogies about what a great man he was. Here is my ‘eulogy.’ He was the first major pimp who brought porn out of the backstreets onto main street. We will never be able to measure the damage he did by turning porn into a corporate commodity that legitimized and normalized the buying and selling of women’s bodies. He hated women, referred to them as dogs, and made porn ‘respectable’ by surrounding porn images with interviews and articles by well known literary figures. Long live anti-porn feminists!”
Gail further added, “I can’t think of any better way to capture just how intellectually bankrupt pro-porn “feminists” are than Shira Tarrant’s quote in an article on The Wrap. She says Hefner “had feminist elements, in some measure a voice for sexual liberation, and he was also misogynist. We as a culture need to be able to grapple with that nuance.” Will someone explain to me how one “grapples” with such idiocy? I am quoted in same article as saying Hefner “destroyed the feminist movement of the 1960s and ’70s in so many ways …., He took all the hard work of feminists and turned it into a billion-dollar empire.” Now in my non-nuanced thinking, either you are a misogynist or a feminist, no grey area here. Full disclosure: Tarrant in her review of Pornland in Ms.Magazine called my anti-porn views (not the views of pimps, johns, or pornographers) “dangerous.” My goal: To be dangerous, oh so very very dangerous to the porn industry.”
Mirela Monte, born in Romania and later moved to the United States had this to say, “Predatory Capitalism perpetuates misogyny. It designates women’s role as the weaker sex. Pornography works to augment that designation.
I was born and raised in a communist country and I’m so glad I had that upbringing! In the society I grew up in, women were doctors, lawyers, engineers.
We didn’t have pornography, or any denigration of women. More than half the doctors in Romania when I was growing up were women. Women were also in positions of power within the government.
Growing up in that society, I never felt there was any inequity between the sexes.
It was a HUGE difference when I moved here, in the States and even more so when I moved to the South. I am very sorry I raised my daughter in this country, under this system!
As for Hefner: he made a quick buck riding on women’s insecurities. The ugly feminists who support porn are merely a product of this patriarchal, misogynist system. They’ve been abused, held back and marginalized and they equate being used for sex with “sexual freedom”. I just feel sorry for them.”
Playboy offered a fantasy of a life of both high culture and frequent, unashamed sex. In its first issue, Hefner imagines an ideal evening:
We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.
So while Playboy was famous for its nude centerfolds, you really could read it for the articles: It featured writing by Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, James Baldwin, John Updike, and Joyce Carol Oates. Most prestigious of all was the Playboy Interview column, which was developed by the great African-American writer Alex Haley. In the pages of Playboy, Haley interviewed everyone from Jimmy Carter to Johnny Carson — and he kept Playboy talking about race. It was at Playboy that Haley began the interview series with Malcolm X that would eventually become The Autobiography of Malcolm X.