Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Founder of Playboy Magazine
Currently Known For:
April 9, 1926
Founder of Playboy Magazine
Long before the internet, adult entertainment primarily came from magazines. Of course, the most well-known one of them all is Playboy, which was founded by the late Hugh Hefner. Hefner became synonymous with the Playboy lifestyle, building an empire along the way. Almost everyone both young and old, even if they’ve never perused through one of his publications, knows who Hefner was, especially with the younger crowd thanks to his appearances on reality television later in his life.
Hefner certainly didn’t walk in his family’s footsteps, being born on April 9, 1926 in Chicago where his mother worked in teaching while his father was in accounting. In fact, Hefner’s family wanted him to focus his career on religion. Hefner was more interested in writing, but his career had to be put on hold during World War II after turning 18 years old. Once he returned from serving, Hefner headed down to the University of Illinois where he was an excellent student, and almost finished his master’s degree at the prestigious Northwestern University before shifting his full focus to writing.
In the early 1950s, Hefner had been working for Esquire magazine, but wasn’t receiving a lot of money for doing so. When he asked to have a small bump in his pay, the magazine told him no. Always the adventurous one, Hefner decided to quit the magazine, took out loans and collected money from investors to start his own magazine. At first, he had the idea for what was then called Stag Party, but became known as Playboy when it first launched.
Playboy was meant to be something very different than the other publications of the time. “Men’s magazines in the period immediately after World War II were almost all outdoor-oriented,” Hefner said. “They were connected to some extent in the male bonding that came out of a war....And what I tried to create was a magazine for the indoor guy, but focused specifically on the single life; in other words, the period of bachelorhood before you settle down. And that magazine, or that concept for a magazine, was the revelation.”
Hefner entered the publishing world for the first time at the end of 1953 when Playboy officially launched. The magazine proved to be a massive success, and almost overnight, Hefner was on the map and selling thousands of copies per day. The brand was established, and Playboy became not only an adult entertainment magazine, but also featured some very in-depth articles and other award-winning musings. It’s a joke to many when someone says that they read Playboy “for the writing,” but for a lot of people that was actually true.
At the time of Playboy’s beginning, Hefner had been married to Mildred Williams. The couple divorced in 1959, and Hefner was married twice after that. The first was to Kimberley Conrad (from 1989 to 2010) and then Crystal Harris with their wedding in 2012. As you probably know, Hefner had plenty of more relationships outside of that. In the 1970s, he established the massive Playboy Mansion where Hefner had lived, constantly throwing some very memorable parties that had A-list guests constantly stopping by.
Hefner and his mansion didn’t typically allow people to film the events that were happening, but he did eventually open the doors for reality television. Hefner and three of the women that lived there were featured on the series “The Girls Next Door” that became a big hit for the E! Network starting in 2005. By then, Playboy had expanded into an enterprise with many different forms of media, and remains a huge name in publishing and entertainment.
Like any provocative publication, Hefner was always a focal point of criticism from conservative types during his career. Hefner never minded the criticism, though, saying that his magazine was not just smut-filled pages. “It was a lifestyle magazine for urban guys,” he said. While there are varying opinions on Playboy overall, there’s little doubt that it hasn’t been a huge piece of Americana for more than 60 years now. “Part of the concept behind the magazine was breaking barriers,” Hefner said. “And it wasn’t just a sexual thing. It was racial and doing the things that were right. And in the process, that set Playboy apart.”
After living such a unique and extraordinary life, it sadly had to come to an end at some point. In September 2017, Hefner had contracted E. coli, and complications from the infection caused him to develop sepsis. On September 27, he passed away at 91 years old, leaving behind a very long legacy. Fittingly, Hefner felt he owed a lot to Marilyn Monroe as she was featured in the first Playboy magazine, which is why he spent tens of thousands for a spot next to her grave at a cemetery in Los Angeles back in 1992. Now, Hefner is laid to rest in that same spot.
Many celebrities paid their respects to Hefner following his death, including former housemate Kendra Wilkinson. “Hef changed my life,” she said. “He made me the person I am today. I couldn’t be more thankful for our friendship and our time together. I will miss him so much but he will be in my heart forever.” Many had chimed in using the word “legend” to describe Hefner, which very few would ever doubt. He did things his own way, because as he famously put it, “Life is too short to be living somebody else’s dream.”