Hugh Hefner, publishing legend and iconic founder of Playboy magazine, has passed away at the age of 91. Hefner died of natural causes at his Playboy Mansion home, surrounded by his loved ones. Hefner had not been seen in public for quite some time as rumors of declining health began to spring up over a year ago. The robed Romeo truly lived a fairy tale life, one that KISS' Gene Simmons summed up perfectly in the 2009 documentary, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel when he said, "Show me any guy of any age anywhere in the world. . . that wouldn't give his left nut to be Hugh Hefner at 20, at 50, at 80."
Hefner borrowed $8,000 dollars (including $1,000 from his mother) in 1953 to create Playboy while he was working for Esquire as a copy editor. The world-famous magazine that placed naked women and intelligent interviews right next to each other, and changed the world. While most famous for Playboy, the businessman dabbled in all forms of media, including hosting his own TV shows, beginning with Playboy's Penthouse in the late 1950s and early '60s all the way to the 2000s with The Girls Next Door. The early show was shot in his hometown of Chicago and later syndicated and featured Hefner in a tuxedo and smoking a pipe surrounded by Playboy Playmates and interviewing such celebrities as Bob Newhart, Don Adams and Sammy Davis Jr.
The very first issue of Playboy came out in December of 1953 and featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover. Hefner was unsure of how many magazines that he would be able to sell, so he only printed 54,000 and sold them for 50 cents out of his kitchen office. The magazine exploded and soon played a large part in sparking the sexual revolution. The iconic Playboy Bunny logo, which featured a silhouette of a rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie, was created by Playboy art director, Art Paul, and made its first appearance at the end of the second issue. Hefner said he liked the logo because it was "humorous" as well as "frisky and playful."
Hugh Hefner was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 9th, 1926 and he was the first child born into his family. His parents were both teachers and were originally from Nebraska. He attended Sayre Elementary School and later Steinmetz High School. Hefner got into writing when he served as a military writer for a military newspaper during World War II, from 1944 to 1946 and later graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor of arts in psychology with a double minor in creative writing and art.
Hugh Hefner was also heavily involved in politics and philanthropy and has donated or raised money for the Democratic party over the years, but later referred to himself as an Independent after he grew disillusioned with the Democratic and Republican parties. Even though he identified as Independent, he came out in support of President Barack Obama during his re-election in 2012. Hugh Hefner also spoke out in defense of the First Amendment as well as fighting against censorship and fully supported equal rights for all. He championed in Playboy's pages such cutting-edge authors as Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, Ray Bradbury, and Kurt Vonnegut, and featured the most iconic and influential voices of their times.
He may have been the epitome of bachelorhood, but Hugh Hefner was married three times, most recently in 2012 with Crystal Harris, six decades younger than him. The pair met around the time he was filming the E! reality show, The Girls Next Door, about his trio of blonde girlfriends. In his retirement, Hefner continued making cameos as himself in movies and twice helped to save the iconic Hollywood sign. Amazon this year announced a forthcoming 13-episode docuseries, American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story, further proof that his legacy will outlive the pages of his magazine. Hefner's son, Cooper Hefner, wrote a statement about his father's death and highlighted some of Hugh Hefner's accomplishments. He had this to say.
"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. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history. He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife, Crystal, my sister, Christie, and my brothers David and Marston and all of us at Playboy Enterprises."
A Hugh Hefner biopic has been in the works since April of this year. Brett Ratner and his company RatPac Entertainment have acquired the rights to Hugh Hefner's life story, which will be a co-production between RatPac and Playboy/Alta Loma Entertainment. Hugh Hefner had this to say about the biopic coming together.
"In recent years there has been plenty of interest and much conversation about doing a feature film based on my life. I have always believed that when the timing was truly right, the perfect creative partners would come together for this project. I believe we've found those partners in Brett Ratner and RatPac Entertainment. I'm very much looking forward to this collaboration."
More recently, James Franco played Hugh Hefner in the Linda Lovelace biopic that came out in 2012. At this time, no actor has been cast to play Hugh in the new movie. Hugh Hefner was a true American legend and lived the life that many can only dream of. If Gene Simmons worships at your feet, you know you did something right. RIP, Hugh Hefner. TMZ was the first to announced that Hugh Hefner.