Entertainment

Hugh Hefner ‘defined' the ethos of his iconic Playboy brand

The magazine's creator has died aged 91.

Hugh Hefner, who has died aged 91, was the founder of one of the most iconic global brands in history.

In 1953 he created Playboy magazine, starting the publication from his kitchen table.

It went on to become the biggest-selling men’s magazine in the world, and continues to be published in more than 20 countries to this day.

Hefner himself went on to become a political activist and philanthropist, advocating political and sexual freedom.

Hugh Hefner Signing – Los Angeles
Hugh Hefner signs copies of the new Playboy calendar (PA)

Born on April 9 1926, Hefner was the son of two teachers who held firm political beliefs.

After working for a number of years in the magazine publishing industry – following a brief stint in the Army – Hefner became convinced that there was a market for an upscale men’s magazine.

He took out a loan – putting up his furniture as collateral – and borrowed money from family and friends to publish the very first issue of Playboy in December 1953.

He wrote that the magazine and its content would appeal to men aged 18 to 80.

The first edition featured a centrefold image of Marilyn Monroe, originally shot for her 1949 nude calendar – an image which came to symbolise the early days of the magazine.

Playboy returns to London
Hugh Hefner with Playboy Bunnies at the Chicago Club 1960 (PA/Playboy)

Hefner’s creation was an instant sensation, selling more than 50,000 copies.

Playboy soon became famed for its bow-tie-wearing bunny girls, which have included Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and supermodel Kate Moss over the years.

Hefner himself was thrust into the limelight and his extravagant lifestyle soon became synonymous with the Playboy brand.

Living in his two Playboy mansions, accompanied by an ever-changing cast of celebrities and girlfriends, Hefner once boasted he had bedded more than 1,000 women.

He married three times.

Playboy bunnies/Hefner
Hugh Hefner surrounded by Bunny Girls after a press conference (PA)

Hefner was also vocal about his progressive views, hosting a TV series, Playboy’s Penthouse, which paved the way as the first televised programme to feature mixed groups of African American and white performers and audience members together.

When the US Post Office refused to deliver Playboy to subscribers through the mail, he fought all the way to the Supreme Court, winning a landmark decision considered a victory for free speech, while he was also an advocate for same-sex marriage.

Son Cooper Hefner said he “defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand”, adding: “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 will be greatly missed by many.”

In 2015, Playboy announced it was to stop publishing pictures of naked women, saying easy access to such images online means they are “passe”.

Cory Jones, chief content officer at the time, told the New York Times the move away from total nudity was the right one.

“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passe at this juncture,” he said.

He added: “Don’t get me wrong. Twelve-year-old me is very disappointed in current me. But it’s the right thing to do.”

However, earlier this year, the ban on the nudity that made the magazine famous was lifted.

Playboy celebrated the reversal on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #NakedIsNormal.

Cooper Hefner wrote on Twitter: “Nudity was never the problem because nudity isn’t a problem. Today we’re taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are.”

Despite its ups and downs over the years, Playboy Enterprises says Hefner’s creation now reaches more people than ever before in its 64-year history.

Hefner is survived by his wife Crystal and his four children – Christie, David, Marston and Cooper.

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