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Hugh Hefner, American icon and Playboy founder, has passed at 91

Hugh Hefner, the American legend responsible for launching the adult magazine Playboy in 1953, passed away yesterday in Los Angeles at 91. Sources say he passed away peacefully from “natural causes” in his sleep at his famous Playboy Mansion while surrounded by friends and family.

Cooper Hefner, Hefner’s son and chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, put out a statement saying, "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."

Famously known for starting, arguably, the most famous magazine in history, Hefner was also a champion of the First Amendment and fighting against censorship, with his publication leading the sexual revolution of the 60’s. On the more iconic side, “Hef” was known for wearing a burgundy smoking jacket, brandishing a pipe and often being surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women, and became synonymous for living a luxurious, decadent lifestyle craved men the world over.  He lived out his lush existence inside the walls of the Playboy Mansion, a sweeping abode used to host countless parties – usually filled with gorgeous women in bunny outfits.

Some could say it all started at age 6, when Hef spent his days marveling at the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells and more and would get in trouble at school for drawing cartoons and writing poems. He also distributed his own newspaper at age 9 for his neighbors, and at 18 he joined the Army and wrote and drew cartoons for military newspapers.

He eventually began working as a copy editor for Esquire, working for $60 a week. He quit the job after not getting a $5 raise he requested, and after experiencing a career slump, raised $8,000 ($1,000 from his mother; $7,000 from other investors) to launch the first issue of Playboy. Napping a picture of Marilyn Monroe from a nude calendar, the starlet (though not famous at the time) graced the front page, and the magazine would go on to sell 50,000 copies. Thus, an empire was forged.

Having been awe-struck by the work of Alfred Kinsey in “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” Hefner had always had a vastly more open disposition towards sex – and talking about it – than was considered normal at the time. Through his magazine, he encouraged sexual liberation, and the magazine’s instant popularity in the 50’s paved the way for a sexual awakening throughout the 60’s and 70’s. He was both lauded and despised by the feminist community, who accused him of pedaling smut and objecting women, while others praised him for inspiring sexual freedom.

A target for conservative and religious figures, Hefner would spend part of his life fighting against censorship, and even fought back in court when he was sued for publishing nudes of Hollywood star and buxom bombshell, Jayne Mansfield (the case resulted in a hung jury). Today, the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment award exists for those “who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans.”

As the magazine truly got going, the publication became known as much for its stirring articles and interviews as it was naked ladies, with famous interviews being had with everyone from Stanley Kubrick to Dr. Martin Luther King. Illustrious writers like Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut graced the pages of Playboy, giving every man caught with an issue reason to claim the fascinating writing was the real reason why they had it in the first place.

Hefner also found his way into the media circuit too, putting out shows and programs like PLAYBOY PENTHOUSE (1959-60) and PLAYBOY AFTER DARK (1969-70). He also produced several films, including Kubrick’s MACBETH, and would go on to make appearances in numerous films and TV shows like THE HOUSE BUNNY, THE SIMPSONS, FAMILY GUY, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM and ENTOURAGE.

In later years, Playboy fell on hard times trying to compete with free images and videos on the internet, and in 2016 the decision was made to stop showing nude women in the magazine, as an attempt to standout. But the move lasted less than a year, being canceled in early 2017. Hef’s iconic Playboy Mansion recently sold for $100 million, under the condition that he be allowed to live inside for the rest of his life.

Surrounded by beautiful centerfolds, carrying on relationships with them and living in a mansion dedicated to life, love and ultimate freedom, Hefner’s existence was symbolic of the male fantasy. More importantly, he was the absolute symbol and embodiment of the American dream. Starting from humble beginnings, he had a passion and drive and picked himself up from his bootstraps to create an empire, spending the rest of his live reaping the rewards and using his name and wealth to fight for the rights of others. Without him the world would be a far less interesting place than it is now, and for all we know we could still be living in the sexually repressed, constantly censored society Hef sought to liberate. We owe him our thanks, and not just for a few revealing pics and being our shepherd into manhood, and he will be missed dearly.

Source: Twitter

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