The world was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Hugh Hefner on Wednesday, at age 91. Opinion of the Playboy founder and renowned sexual revolutionary has always been mixed. Some loved him, some hated him, and some thought he was just a dirty old man. But no-one can deny that he was a larger-than-life figure who brought something to this world that nobody else could. Here, we go into the incredible story of this media mogul and the tragic circumstances surrounding his death...
Born In Chicago
It's been a long and star-studded life for the founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner. There's never been anyone quite like the man, and we doubt there ever will be. Born in Chicago on April 9, 1926, he was 91 when he passed - a ripe old age for someone who lived their life so fully. In those 91 years, he went from being a virtual unknown to a multi-millionaire and the icon of several generations.
Twitter Account Confirmed
At his advanced age, and thanks to the occasional internet troll, we've seen plenty of Hugh Hefner death hoaxes over the years. But sadly, this time his passing was real. The Playboy twitter account confirmed the fact on Wednesday night, when it said that "American Icon and Playboy Founder, Hugh M. Hefner passed away today. He was 91. #RIPHef."
Passed Away From Natural Causes
Although the news to many fans was devastating, there were no mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. Unlike the tragic events surrounding so many celebrity deaths these days, who have been ripped from the Earth in their prime, it was simply time for Hugh Hefner to go. People magazine announced that he "passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones."
Words From Cooper
One of Hugh Hefner's four children, Cooper, had this to say about his father. "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 looks to be following in his father's footsteps, as the creative director off Playboy.
"He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history," the heartbroken Cooper went on to say. No statement could be closer to the truth. Even half a millennium from now, nobody will ever forget Playboy, the lifestyle that it represented, or the image of Hugh Hefner and his iconic Playboy Bunnies.
Missed By Many
Conservatives and prudes might never have liked the man, who was bringing sexual liberation to the masses and teaching us all how to have fun. But for millions more across the globe, he was a figure that will be impossible to replace. "He will be greatly missed by many," Cooper said, "including his wife Crystal, my sister Christie and my brothers David and Marston, and all of us at Playboy Enterprises."
We all remember his legacy, but how much do we actually know about his early life? Surprisingly, he grew up in an incredibly strict and stifling environment as a young boy, as the first child in a Methodist family during the Prohibition era. When the Second World War broke out, he was keen to join the fighting and served for three years. In that time, he not only served his country but got his start in media, drawing cartoons for Army newspapers.
Mother Gave Him a Loan
Surrounded by pin-ups and sex-starved soldiers during the war, Hugh Hefner was quick to see the potential of a gentleman's magazine that walked the line between tasteful and lewd. After a short writing career, and with a $1,000 loan from his mother, he published his first issue of Playboy in 1953. She gave him the loan despite her strict background, "not because she believed in the venture but because she believed in her son."
The very first issue was destined to be a success from the very start. Taking photos of Marilyn Monroe from a 1949 nude calendar shoot, he put her on the front cover to make a huge entrance into the publishing world, selling over 50,000 copies of his first issue. By the second year of publication, he already had seven million subscribers - an incredible number for those days.
This was the beginning of the rest of his life. Hugh Hefner was making enormous sums of money, and at one point he was worth $200 million dollars. The controversy surrounding Playboy - the US Postal Service refused to deliver it at one point, and he was arrested for "obscene literature" - onle fanned the flames of his empire, and he looked unstoppable.
With his mega riches, Hugh Hefner bought the legendary Playboy Mansion back in 1971. At the time, it cost him $1.1 million, which would be about $6 million in today's money. The house is almost 22,000 square feet and the home of epic parties ever since he bought it. It's hard to think of a location that's created more stories than Hefner's eternal frat house.
One of the many landmarks in his house of glorious sin was the grotto, a secluded and often steamy section of his swimming pool that featured in numerous celebrity parties held at the Mansion. But that wasn't the only feature of the house: he also had a waterfall and a secret wine cellar behind a Prohibition-era door. And bedrooms. So many bedrooms.
Of course, as soon as you come up with a good original idea, numerous imitators are going to follow. Playboy magazine was no different, facing competition over the years from Hustler and Penthouse and later, lad's magazines like FHM and Zoo. Not to mention the biggest threat of them all: the internet, and how it changed the media landscape forever.
Free Speech Battles
Although a sex god and eternal good-time guy, Hugh Hefner was always a journalist and publisher at his heart. He was deeply concerned about the restriction of free speech in America, and fought numerous battles in court and on television, protecting the public's constitution-given right. Without his efforts, the world could have been a much more totalitarian place.
Returning to Previous Formula
In later years, Hugh Hefner seemed to retire from the public eye to attend to his Bunnies and host parties. But he still had a hand in his magazine, directing them last year away from nudity to cater for a more feminist-leaning audience. The experiment didn't work, however, and recently reverted to their winning formula.
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