The publisher, founder, editor-in-chief and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy, Hugh M Hefner has swayed the American nation from the past 5 decades with his publication that is still the best-selling men’s magazine.
Hugh Marston Hefner was born on 9th April 1926 in Chicago, Illinois. Hefner himself described his family as being very conservative, Midwest and Methodist. His early schooling was done in Sayre Elementary School and Steinmetz High School. He also wrote for a military newspaper from 1944 to 1946. He graduated in 1949 from University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
His first job was as a copywriter for Esquire which he left after being denied a raise of only five dollars. Hefner was determined to start his own publication that was far better than Esquire. After borrowing money from a bank, some investors and his mother, he generated 8000 dollars for launching his magazine. He chose the name ‘Playboy’ because it reflected the theme of the magazine and portrayed a sophisticated and elite lifestyle. The first issue of play was undated as Hefner was not sure whether he would be able to produce a second issue. The picture on the front page was of a nude Marilyn Monroe that Hefner had taken from one of her calendar shots. The magazine became an instant sensation selling more than 50,000 copies. The success of Playboy was also a result of the continuous repression from years of war and economic depression. The magazine served as a remedy for all these things. However many dismissed it due to its pornographic material and immoral publications. To counter such allegations, Hefner also introduced some thoughtful articles and a genteel presentation but never lost focus from the fact that it was the nude photos that sold the magazine.
A rabbit wearing a tux and a bow tie that appeared on the second issue became the famous playboy logo. The rabbit was chosen as a ‘humorous sexual connotation’. The ‘playboy philosophy’ became increasingly popular and by 1956 Playboy’s circulation surpassed its rival ‘Esquire’ selling a million copies per month. Much of Hefner’s time was used up by the magazine work and ultimately ruined his marriage that ended in divorce in 1959. The 60’s was a golden age for Hefner as he became the persona of the magazine with his silk smoking jacket and pipe. With a company of beautiful young girls and socializing with the elite, Hefner was living not only his dream but the dream of men all over the world. Hefner was more than happy to be identified as a charismatic icon and the representative of the sexual revolution.
He owns several ‘private key’ clubs which are high end establishments with hostesses dressed as bunnies in small outfits. His enterprise includes hotel resorts, modeling agencies and a record company. He also produced films and published several books. Hefner also hosted two TV shows called ‘Playboy’s Penthouse’ (1959-1960) and ‘Playboy After dark’ (1969-1970).
The patriarch of the Playboy Empire faced several controversies and scandals due to his sexually liberated lifestyle. He was also arrested for printing obscene writing and nude pictures of the actress Jayne Mansfield. However his charges were dropped as the jury could not come to a decision and Hefner came out unscathed. By 1972 the magazine circulation reached 7 million a month and his profits peaked to 12 million dollars.
In 1988, Hefner gave charge of the magazine to his daughter Christie making her the CEO of Playboy.