Hugh Hefner

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Hugh Hefner at Glamourcon # 50 in Long Beach , California (2010)

Hugh Marston Hefner (born April 9, 1926 in Chicago , Illinois - † September 27, 2017 in Los Angeles , California ), called " Hef ", was an American publisher . He was the founder and editor-in-chief of the American men's magazine Playboy .


Hugh Marston Hefner was born as the first son of the auditor Glenn Lucius Hefner and his wife Grace Caroline Swanson in Chicago in the US state of Illinois in 1926. He had a younger brother named Keith (1929-2016) and was of German and Swedish descent.

After attending school, he served as a company clerk in the US Army from 1944 to 1946 . Then Hefner completed a psychology degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , which he graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor of Arts . This included anatomy courses in the art institute and creative writing. From 1951, Hefner wrote as a copywriter for Esquire magazine . The following year he joined Public Development Corporation, Co. Inc. as an advertising manager . In 1953 he moved to a children's magazine as sales manager.


Hefner wanted to be independent and start his own company. In the spring of 1953 he decided to put his idea of ​​a new men's magazine into practice, and in the fall of 1953 he designed the first articles and illustrations. In order to be able to raise enough start-up capital, he asked his father for money, but he was not convinced of the idea. His mother, who had her own savings, then loaned him $ 1,000. According to Hefner's statement, she did not believe in the idea, but in her son.

Since there was little empathy and physical contact as well as a mysophobia in his family , Hugh began to form fantasies from his longings at an early age, which he was now able to implement in the magazine.

On the front page was a revealing photo of Marilyn Monroe , who had just become famous at the time , which Hefner had bought for $ 500 from a small publisher of erotic calendars.

50,000 copies were printed. There was no date on the cover, not even the year, because Hugh Hefner didn't know if there would ever be a second edition. The first issue at 50 cents each sold very quickly; five years later, Playboy had a million buyers. For many, this was an attack on the family and church institutions.

Another idea from Hefner was the centerfold , the fold -out image in the middle of the booklet , as a pin-up photo for the locker. The center fold led directly to the Playmate of the Month , which in the first issue was still called Sweetheart of the Month and was another photo of Marilyn Monroe, who became the most famous pin-up in the world.

Reactions to the publications

Hefner's image of women as a sex object was a source of ignition. Playboy's rapid success provoked violent reactions from all ends of the cultural and political spectrum in the troubled United States of the sexual revolution. Feminists ran a storm against what they saw as the degradation and belittlement of women with rabbit ears. On the right, the Conservatives protested against what they considered to be immoral obscenities.

1970s and 1980s

Hugh Hefner (1979)

During the economic recession (1973), competition from other men's magazines in particular caused Playboy sales problems, particularly Penthouse and Larry Flynt's Hustler . Sales collapsed by almost half, and the Playboy clubs and resorts made losses. In order to increase the circulation, the pictures (June 1973 magazine) now showed women completely undressed. The depiction of pubic hair was also no longer a taboo. Overall, the intellectual magazine became more and more a “sex postille” for high demands. In 1975 two editions featured lesbian love and masturbation . As a result, many advertisers withdrew their orders.

In order to raise the magazine to a better level again, newspaper manager Derick Daniels was hired as a board member in 1976 . Daniels realized that the most important thing was to focus on the core area. As a result, many hotels, clubs and holiday resorts were sold or closed. He fired many employees, but did not spare management either. As a result, the magazine regained quality and with the opening of the London casino, the group now had a new source of money.

In the 1970s, because of the playboy's advocacy of liberal drug laws, Hefner was increasingly targeted by law enforcement officers who had been trying to prosecute Hefner for drug possession since the 1950s. When his former secretary, Bobbie Arnstein, committed suicide in a Chicago hotel room in 1975, Hefner, who was hard hit, accused drug traffickers at a press conference. They tried to pressure his secretary to testify against him. Another blow was the 1980 playmate murder, Dorothy Stratten .

In the 1980s, Playboy came under fire from the Ronald Reagan administration and its Meese Commission. Named after Justice Minister Edwin Meese , it wanted to initiate a moral turn around pornography suspected to be linked to violence, and suggested measures to make Playboy and similar magazines more difficult to access. Playboy was constantly attacked in the public hearings leading up to the 1986 Meese Report . In a Playboy article (January 1986 issue) this campaign was referred to as "Sexual McCarthyism ". Another turning point was the AIDS epidemic that began in the early 1980s and which Playboy addressed at an early stage.

In 1985 Hefner suffered a minor stroke from which he recovered. He took this as an opportunity to change his lifestyle and also stepped down on Playboy , where his daughter Christie took over the helm in 1988. He also decided to remarry.

The playboy today

The Playboy was renovated in the 1980s by Hefner's daughter, Christie Hefner . Today, Playboy Enterprises sees itself as an international entertainment group and, in addition to the magazine, operates five international online ventures in Germany , Korea , the Netherlands , Taiwan and Brazil , the two television channels Playboy TV and Spice-TV, and also the video and DVD divisions. Finally, the licensing department takes care of the “ branding ” and worldwide marketing of the famous Bunny logo.


Hefner has been honored with several prizes, including being nominated for the Public Hall of Fame in 1989 . The publishing director was also honored in 1997 with the International Publisher Award , which is presented by the International Press Association in London. As a member of the New York Friars Club , he received the Henry Johnson Fisher Award in 2002 .

Film appearances

In addition to his work as a publishing manager, Hefner worked in the 1980s on several Hollywood films such as Mel Brooks - Die Verrückte Geschichte der Welt (1981), The Comeback Trail (1982) and Beverly Hills Cop II (1987). In episode 110, he played Jim again and again alongside James Belushi .

Hugh Hefner also appeared on The Prince of Bel-Air (it was filmed in his garden). Hugh Hefner appeared on the big screen in the 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat . In the US animated series The Simpsons , he also had appearances in the episode Krusty, the TV star and an episode of the series Sex and the City (3.14), which was filmed on the entire property. In the series Shark with James Woods , he had a guest appearance in the second season in 2008 in the episode One Hit Wonder , in which he once again played himself and a friend of Sebastian Stark (James Woods). His most recent appearances, each playing himself, were in House Bunny and Miss March (2009).

He also embodies himself in the music videos of the band Weezer for their song Beverly Hills (2005) and in Nelly's and Justin Timberlake's song Work It (2003), which were filmed on his estate.


Hugh Hefner was a jazz fan and not only published jazz polls in Playboy , but also organized the first jazz festival in Chicago and Los Angeles in 1959. From 1979 it became the regular, very successful Playboy Jazz Festival in the Hollywood Bowl .


On June 25, 1949, Hefner married his fellow student Mildred Williams, whom he had met at Northwestern University in Evanston , Illinois . They have two children together, Christie Ann (* 1952) and a son. The marriage ended in divorce in 1959. On July 1, 1989, Hefner married Kimberley Conrad (* 1962). She was "Playmate of the Year 1989" and "Playmate for a Lifetime" . This marriage also resulted in two children. The two separated in 1998. Two other children emerged from illegitimate relationships.

Hugh Hefner with his two ex-girlfriends Kendra and Bridget at his birthday party in Munich (2006)

Until March 2005, Hefner lived with seven women between the ages of 18 and 28. Then he announced that he would only live with three women, Bridget Marquardt , Kendra Wilkinson and his main friend Holly Madison . These are the leading actresses in the television series The Girls of the Playboy Mansion , which was filmed on Hefner's estate. In October 2008, Kendra Wilkinson and Holly Madison announced they had separated from Hefner and moved out of the Playboy Mansion . In January 2009, Bridget Marquardt finally moved out. After that, Crystal Harris and the twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon Hefner became new friends. On January 13, 2010 , Hefner tweeted that he had separated from the twins. They wanted to finish their studies and he wants to support them.

Hugh Hefner filed for divorce from his still-wife, Kimberly Conrad, after 11 years of separation and 20 years of marriage in September 2009. On Boxing Day 2010, he announced his engagement to model Crystal Harris , who was 60 years his junior, via Twitter , but it was canceled on June 15, 2011 - four days before the actual wedding. Hefner and Harris became a couple again in 2012 and finally got married on December 31, 2012.


  • Hugh Hefner's public sex life contributed significantly to the Playboy myth .
  • Hugh Hefner bought the grave next to Marilyn Monroe for his final resting place .
  • For fifty years, Hefner himself selected the photo for the middle of the magazine that probably made the most of the success of Playboy (center fold or pin-up ).
  • The new men's magazine should actually be called “Stag-Party” ( Stag-Party = bachelor party ). But the American Stag magazine threatened to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement: Stag-Party became Playboy.
  • Art Paul , the first art director of Playboy, created the famous rabbit head, which has adorned Playboy since the second edition (1953) and is still used in its original form today.
  • Hefner was one of the sponsors of the famous Hollywood sign (he bought the "Y"), whose restoration after decay he initiated in 1978 with a fundraising campaign.
  • In 2010, Hugh Hefner saved the famous Hollywood sign , this time with a donation of $ 900,000. With this California had the necessary total of 12.5 million dollars together to buy back the property and save it from demolition by the owner.
  • In 1984 Florida discovered marsh rabbit subspecies Sylvilagus palustris hefneri named after Hefner.
  • Hefner stood in front of the camera for a commercial for the Dutch beer brand Bavaria . The film was shot on his property.


  • André Schäfer and Ingmar Trost: Let's Play, Boy. Arte documentary, 90 minutes, France 2008.
  • Brigitte Berman : Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel. Canada 2009 and Hugh Hefner's After Dark: Speaking Out in America. Canada 2018.
  • German version: Hugh Hefner: Playboy, activist and rebel. 2012
  • A biopic from director Brett Ratner starring Jared Leto is currently in development.


  • Gretchen Edgren: The Playmate Book - all Playmates from six decades. Taschen, Cologne u. a. 2005, ISBN 3-8228-3977-9 .
  • James K. Beggan and Scott T. Allsion: Tough Women in the Unlikeliest of Places: The Unexpected Toughness of the Playboy Playmate. In: Journal of Popular Culture. Volume 38, No. 5, August 2005.
  • Beatriz Preciado: Pornotopia - Architecture, Sexuality and Multimedia in "Playboy" . Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin, 2012, ISBN 978-3-8031-5182-7 .

Web links

Commons : Hugh Hefner  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Publisher Hugh Hefner is dead on, September 28, 2017
  2. In the construction of the rabbit hunter on from April 9, 2011
  3. Hauptkapp, Dirk: Playboy inventor turns 90, In: Hamburger Abendblatt, 9/10. April 2016, p. 40
  4. The Life of Playboy Hugh Hefner on, accessed April 16, 2016
  5. Hauptkapp, Dirk: Playboy inventor turns 90, In: Hamburger Abendblatt, 9/10. April 2016, p. 40
  6. Seven Cotner The life and times of male to alpha , Reviews of Hefner Biography of Steven Watts Wiley Mr. Playboy Hugh Hefner and the American Dream , LA Times October 2, 2008
  7. Susan Gunelius: Building Brand Value the Playboy Way , Palgrave Macmillan 2009, p 105th
  8. ^ To the Meese Commission Philip Nobile, Eric Nadler United States of America vs. Sex: How the Meese Commission lied about Pornography , New York 1986
  9. Holly to Hugh: Hef Off on tmz. com (english)
  10. Hugh Hefner presents his three new Girls of the Playboy Mansion ( Memento from October 10, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) on
  11. US playmates Karissa and Kristina Shannon ( Memento from October 30, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) on
  12. Playmate does not play with: Hugh Hefner has to call off the wedding on, from June 15, 2011
  13. Hugh Hefner marries his Runaway Bride on
  14. Hugh Hefner buys a grave next to Marilyn Monroe on
  15. 5 Things You Didn't Know: Playboy , on (English)
  16. The most famous lettering in the world on
  17. ↑ Huge donation from Hugh Hefner: Playboy founder saves the Hollywood sign , on
  18. Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature , on (English)
  19. Video on YouTube ( Memento from June 8, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  20. Jared Leto plays Hugh Hefner in the biopic about the Playboy mogul . In: . October 4, 2017 ( [accessed October 4, 2017]).