Saturday, February 1, 2020


Hugh Marston Hefner was born in Chicago on April 9, 1926.  He grew up in a conservative, midwestern family, and his mother encouraged him to become a missionary.  Write your own joke.

After high school, Hefner joined the Army and served as a writer for a military newspaper, his first taste of journalism.  He later continued his education at the University of Illinois.  Although he majored in psychology, he minored in creative writing and art, studies that would undoubtedly help him later in life.

By 1952, Hefner was working at Esquire, but he quit when he was refused a $5 raise.  The following year, he took out a mortgage loan of $600 and raised $8,000 from 45 investors to go into business for himself, launching the first magazine for men, Playboy.

He published the first issue in December 1953.  It famously featured Marilyn Monroe from a nude calendar shoot she had done four years earlier.  By 1953, her star had risen considerably, and the issue sold more than 50,000 copies, putting Playboy on the map.

Once the magazine took off, Hefner promoted it through a number of related enterprises, especially television.  The 1960s and 70s featured two series hosted by Hefner himself, Playboy's Penthouse and Playboy After Dark.  Click on the titles to see a complete episode of each series.

In the 60s he also created the first "private-key" club in his hometown of Chicago, with other locations soon to follow.  In 1975, he moved his operation west, headquartering at the now-famous Playboy mansion.

By the 1980s, the hard lifestyle caught up with Hefner, and he suffered a minor stroke at age 59.  He re-evaluated his life, and decided to turn control of his empire over to daughter Christie in 1988.

The following year, he married his second wife and former Playmate of the Year, Kimberly Conrad.  The marriage produced two sons, but ultimately ended in 2010.  Apparently they remained friends, judging by this tongue-in-cheek interview she gave in 2011.

Following his divorce (and most say long before it), Hefner famously dated a number of serious "number one" girlfriends, including Holly Madison, who helped Hefner create the very successful reality series The Girls Next Door.  While Hefner claimed he would never marry again, what he really meant was that he would never marry her.  Instead, he married another playmate, Crystal Harris, aka The Runaway Bride, in 2012.  The couple remained married through Hefner's final years, before he ultimately passed on September 27, 2017, a victim of e. coli.  The more you know.

Years earlier, Hefner purchased the burial crypt next to his first cover girl Marilyn Monroe, at Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial Village.

In this shot of Marilyn Monroe's crypt, taken in 2016, Hefner's future crypt appears
behind the standing bouquet.

Rest in peace, Hef.

  • Despite featuring her in Playboy's premiere issue and buying the burial crypt next to her, Hefner never actually met Marilyn Monroe.

  • One of the 45 investors was Hefner's mother Grace.  Reportedly she did so not believing in the project, but because "she believed in her son."

  • Following publication of the June 1963 issue, which featured Jayne Mansfield, Hefner was arrested for promoting obscene literature, as the pictorial included one photo with a very lucky man.  The case went to trial, but ultimately resulted in a hung jury.  No, that's not a pun.

  •  In 1993, Hefner voiced himself in an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Krusty Gets Kancelled."  Watch a clip here.

  •  ABC's Good Morning America reported on Hef's passing in this segment.

  •  This author's first letter to the editor was published in the June 1998 issue.

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