Hugh Marston Hefner (born April 9, 1926) is an American adult magazine publisher, businessman, and a well-known playboy. Hefner is a Chicago, Illinois native and a former journalist for Esquire. Hefner is also a World War II veteran. He is best known for being the founder and chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises. A self-made millionaire, he is now worth over $43 million. Hefner is also a political activist and philanthropist active in several causes and public issues.
Hugh Hefner was born April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, the older of two sons (himself and brother Keith) of Grace Caroline (nÃ©e Swanson; 1895â"1997) and Glenn Lucius Hefner (1896â"1976), both teachers. Hefner's mother was of Swedish descent, and his father had German and English ancestry. Through his father's line, Hefner has stated that he is a direct descendant of Plymouth governor William Bradford. He has described his family as "conservative, Midwestern, [and] Methodist". He went to Sayre Elementary School and Steinmetz High School, then during World War II, served as a writer for a military newspaper in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946. He later graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with a B.A. in psychology with a double minor in creative writing and art in 1949, earning his degree in two and a half years. After graduation, he took a semester of graduate courses in sociology at Northwestern University but dropped out soon after.
Working as a copywriter for Esquire, he left in January 1952 after being denied a $5 raise. In 1953, he mortgaged his furniture, generating a bank loan of $600, and raised $8,000 from 45 investors, including $1,000 from his mother ("Not because she believed in the venture," he told E! in 2006, "but because she believed in her son."), to launch Playboy, which was initially going to be called Stag Party. The undated first issue, published in December 1953, featured Marilyn Monroe from her 1949 nude calendar shoot and sold over 50,000 copies. (Hefner, who never met Monroe, bought the crypt next to hers at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.)
After it was rejected by Esquire magazine in 1955, Hefner agreed to publish in Playboy the Charles Beaumont science fiction short story "The Crooked Man", about straight men being persecuted in a world where homosexuality was the norm. After receiving angry letters to the magazine, Hefner wrote a response to criticism where he said, "If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society then the reverse was wrong, too." In 1961, Hefner watched Dick Gregory perform at the Herman Roberts Show Bar in Chicago. Based on that performance, Hefner hired Gregory to work at the Chicago Playboy Club; Gregory attributes the subsequent launch of his career to that night.
On June 4, 1963, Hefner was arrested for selling obscene literature after an issue of Playboy featuring nude shots of Jayne Mansfield was released. A jury was unable to reach a verdict.
In 1999, Hefner financed the Clara Bow documentary, Discovering the It Girl. "Nobody has what Clara had. She defined an era and made her mark on the nation," he stated.
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television and has made several movie appearances as himself. In 2009, he received a "worst supporting actor" nomination for a Razzie award for his performance in Miss March.
A documentary by Brigitte Berman, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, was released on July 30, 2010. He had previously granted full access to documentary filmmaker and television producer Kevin Burns for the A&E Biography special Hugh Hefner: American Playboy in 1996. Hefner and Burns later collaborated on numerous other television projects, most notably on The Girls Next Door, a reality series that ran for six seasons (2005â"2009) and 90 episodes.
Hefner married Northwestern University student Mildred Williams (born 1926) in 1949. They had two children, Christie Hefner (born 1952) and David (born 1955). Before the wedding, Mildred confessed that she had had an affair while he was away in the Army. He called the admission "the most devastating moment of my life." A 2006 E! True Hollywood Story profile of Hefner revealed that Mildred allowed him to sleep with other women, out of guilt for her infidelity and in the hopes that it would preserve their marriage. It didn't; they were divorced in 1959.
Hefner remade himself as a bon viveur and man about town, a lifestyle he promoted in his magazine and two TV shows he hosted, Playboy's Penthouse (1959â"1960) and Playboy After Dark (1969â"1970). He admitted to being "'involved' with maybe eleven out of twelve months' worth of Playmates" during some of these years. Donna Michelle, Marilyn Cole, Lillian MÃ¼ller, Shannon Tweed, Barbi Benton, Karen Christy, Sondra Theodore, and Carrie LeighÂ â" who filed a $35 million palimony suit against himÂ â" were a few of his many lovers. In 1971, he acknowledged that he experimented in bisexuality. He moved from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Hefner had a minor stroke in 1985 at the age of 59. After re-evaluating his lifestyle, he made several changes. The wild, all-night parties were toned down significantly and in 1988, daughter Christie began to run the Playboy empire. The following year, he married Playmate of the Year Kimberley Conrad. The couple had two sons, Marston Glenn (born 1990) and Cooper Bradford (born 1991). The E! True Hollywood Story profile noted that the notorious Playboy Mansion had been transformed into a family-friendly homestead. After he and Conrad separated in 1998 she moved into a house next door to the mansion.
Hefner then began to move an ever-changing coterie of young women into the mansion, including twins Sandy and Mandy Bentley, and even dating up to seven girls at once, among them, Brande Roderick, Izabella St. James, Tina Marie Jordan, Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson. The reality television series The Girls Next Door depicted the lives of Madison, Wilkinson and Marquardt at the Playboy Mansion. In October 2008, all three girls made the choice to leave the mansion. Hefner was quick to rebound and soon began dating his new "Number One" girlfriend, Crystal Harris, along with 20-year-old identical twin models Kristina and Karissa Shannon. The relationship with the twins ended in January 2010. After an 11-year separation, Hefner filed for divorce from Conrad stating irreconcilable differences. Hefner has said that he only remained married to her for the sake of his children, and his youngest child had just turned 18. The divorce was finalized in March 2010. On December 24, 2010, Hefner presented an engagement ring to Crystal Harris, publicly announcing the proposal the following day. Hefner and Harris had planned to marry June 18, 2011. Harris called off the wedding just 5 days before they were due to be wed. Harris and Hefner reconciled and were married on December 31, 2012. Hefner was 86 and Harris 26.
In 2012, Hefner announced that his youngest son, Cooper, would likely succeed him as the public face of Playboy.
Politics and philanthropy
The Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award was created by Christie Hefner "to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans."
He has donated and raised money for the Democratic Party. However, he has more recently referred to himself as an independent due to disillusionment with both the Democratic and Republican parties.
In 1978, Hefner helped organize fund-raising efforts that led to the restoration of the Hollywood Sign. He hosted a gala fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion and personally contributed $27,000 (or 1/9 of the total restoration costs) by purchasing the letter Y in a ceremonial auction.
Hefner donated $100,000 to the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts to create a course called "Censorship in Cinema," and $2Â million to endow a chair for the study of American film.
Both through his charitable foundation and individually, Hefner also contributes to charities outside the sphere of politics and publishing, throwing fundraiser events for Much Love Animal Rescue as well as Generation Rescue, a controversial anti-vaccinationist campaign organization supported by Jenny McCarthy.
On November 18, 2010, Children of the Night founder and president Dr. Lois Lee presented Hefner with the organization's first-ever Founder's Hero of the Heart Award in appreciation for his unwavering dedication, commitment and generosity.
On April 26, 2010, Hefner donated the last $900,000 sought by a conservation group for a land purchase needed to stop the development of the famed vista of the Hollywood Sign.
Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, an endangered subspecies of Marsh rabbit, is named after him in honor of financial support that he provided.
Hefner supported legalizing same-sex marriage and he stated that a fight for gay marriage was "a fight for all our rights. Without it, we will turn back the sexual revolution and return to an earlier, puritanical time."
- Watts, Steven (2008). Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-69059-7.
- Miller, Russell (1985). Bunny: The Real Story of Playboy. London: Corgi. ISBN 0-03-063748-1.
- St. James, Izabella (2006). Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion. Philadelphia: Running Press. ISBN 0-7624-2739-6
- Hefner, Veronika and Jurij Toplak (2009). Hefner, Hugh. In: Vile, John R., Hudson, David L., and Schultz, David Andrew (Eds.). Encyclopedia of the First Amendment. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, p.Â 564.
- Hugh M. Hefner Foundation
- Hugh Hefner on Playboy.com
- Hugh Hefner at the Internet Movie Database
- Hugh Hefner: The Ultimate Lifestyle Entrepreneur (About.com Entrepreneurs)
- "Hugh Hefner". Salon.com. December 28, 1999.
- Hugh Hefner interview from 1966