Sex sells and no one sold it better than Hugh Hefner in the 20th century.
The founder of Playboy, and the publishing house built up around the pioneering men’s magazine, which combined sex and intellectual stimulation Hugh Hefner, has died, the iconic brand has confirmed.
Hugh Marston Hefner was born on April 9, 1926 in Chicago, Hefner introduced America to the world of Playboy in December 1953 and ever since, it has been one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
Hefner launched the magazine Playboy in 1953, the magazine reached a readership of seven million at its height in the 1970s and spawned raunchier rivals such as Hustler and Penthouse.
Today the magazine is sold in 20 countries around the world. Additionally, products bearing the company’s trademarks produce more than $1 billion in sales annually.
Playboy’s buxom models were the objects of millions of men’s fantasies as Hefner challenged what he derided as America’s “Puritanical” attitudes toward sex.
Playboy was known for publishing sexual content, but also featured articles on literature, politics and culture. Playboy published writers including Ray Bradbury, Joseph Heller, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Atwood, and Jack Kerouac.
For decades, Hefner remained the pipe-smoking, captain’s hat wearing, silk-pajama-clad centre of a non-stop party at the Playboy mansions in Chicago and later in Los Angeles.
He claimed to have had sex with more than 1000 women, many of them models who appeared in his magazine.
The first ever issue of Playboy featured a nude Marilyn Monroe on the cover.
A statement from Playboy said Hefner died “peacefully” and “from natural causes” at The Playboy Mansion. He was “surrounded by loved ones”.
A statement from Hefner’s son, Cooper, said his father “lived an exceptional and impactful life” and credited him for “advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom”.
In an interview with The Telegraph in 2009, he insisted his aim was simply to bring sex out of the shadows into a healthier place in society.
“Playboy was not a sex magazine, as far as I was concerned. Sex was simply part of the total package; I was trying to bring sex into the fold of a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
“When Penthouse and Hustler came along they confused what I was trying to do. Before they arrived, we were perceived as a sophisticated men’s magazine.”
Hefner’s Playboy fortune sits at an estimated $43 million.