I can’t believe that the legendary Hugh Hefner is dead: he lived a full life and was 91 years old, 5 months and 18 days of awesome. Most know of Hef as the founder of the Playboy magazine empire which spurred the cultural and sexual revolution of the 60s as he became a living legend. Well, till now. Many people don’t know if Hugh M. Hefner is alive or dead…while others just finding out the news are wondering how Hugh Hefner died (natural causes.) Officially, Hef ‘peacefully passed away from natural causes’. And he died exactly where I would also choose to die, at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, California.
I feel a little disjointed as I write this as I only just found out myself and haven’t been able to process his passing. I honestly hope that his death involved him having sex with three 20 year old blondes — as I think technically that would count as natural causes.
Hef is a personal hero of mine — omg. I could have sworn I wrote a long blog post here on my hero Hef but sadly I think that must still be one of the 800 ‘draft’ articles I have yet to finalize and publish. I did find some references to Hef in other posts such as Hef helping out Bettie Page but the core article, the one I researched for quite some time…not yet published. :/ I will have to post that soon as a tribute.
The reason Hugh Hefner was my hero is he created his own life. He looked around at the terrible sexual repression of the 50s and said, ‘no, not good enough.’ Keep in mind that in the 1950s it was illegal to say the word ‘pregnant’ on TV and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were the first married couple to be show in bed on TV — fully clothed and in separate twin beds! So Hef said to himself, the sexual morals of this country are shit goddamnit, women are so pretty people should be allowed to look at them.
I did a wee bit of searching on articles on Hef’s death and many of them seem to ask the question if he was still relevant or ‘wasn’t he just an old pervert who exploited and objectified women?’ These people don’t truly get Hef. First off, Hef was a major feminist and published many feminist articles in his magazine — giving them widespread appeal for the very first time. He was a huge supporter of women’s reproductive rights, of gay rights, of interracial couples, civil rights and all sorts of progressive ideas.
Hef personally edited Playboy magazine much of the time in the early years and selected many of the most culturally influential writers to publish in his ‘dirty little rag’ including (but this is in no way an exhaustive list — and some of their titles so you can remember the author better): Jack Kerouac (On the Road), Ian Flemming (James Bond), Arthur C. Clark (2001:A Space Oddessy), Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas), Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse 5), John Updike (Rabbit, Run), John Irving (The World According to Garp, Cider House Rules), James Baldwin (Go Tell It on the Mountain), Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaids Tale), Joseph Heller (Catch 22)…and on and on. These authors penned content exclusively for Playboy.
Hugh Hefner was always classy –and shaped his life so that he could be surrounded by the most beautiful women that he could imagine. I am not saying that his beauty standard is any sort of absolute — but you gotta hand it to the guy: he surrounded himself with the women that were perfect and beautiful in his eyes.
In fact, he made his life so impressive that he never had to leave his home. His entire business model was: throw amazing parties filled with incredibly hot women — so celebrities will attend — and then send out your reporters to interview the celebrities at your parties! It is so simple — and it worked.
Now full disclosure — I am not a biased source at all — my ex-wife was a Playboy model and I have been invited to the Playboy mansion more than once — and I really really liked the guy. Also, he was kind of an introverted geek in his own way. He loved to play games, he loved pinball, was unbeatable at backgammon, and he was a quirky old dude that loved black and white movies.
I saw in Hef a tremendous creator: he lived the life he crafted for himself. He shaped the world with his ideas and opened up the completely sexually repressed North American culture to the beauty of great sex.
The day after his passing, people dare to ask if he is still relevant, as if his radical transformation of culture throughout his life wasn’t nearly enough, I think of my own Grandfather who died this year at age 92…who was deeply racist, sexist, grumpy and so stifled that it is hard to imagine he was the same generation as the Great Hugh M. Hefner.