Hugh Hefner (pictured at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles 2001) made an indelible impact on American culture. (Lori Shepler/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Remembering Hef from both sides of the sexual revolution

Love him or hate him, Hugh Hefner — the guy who built an empire on the idea that Americans should enjoy sex — made a huge impact.

The founder of Playboy, 91, who died Wednesday of natural causes at the Playboy Mansion in Southern California, is being remembered fondly by a diverse crew from Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy to Barbra Streisand and Rev. Jesse Jackson, who viewed him as a positive force in the sexual revolution and supporter of people who are oppressed.

Others, including Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the LGBT activist group GLAAD, called him a “misogynist” whose exploitative empire caused “irreparable damage to women’s rights.”

In the 1950s, his Playboy magazine gave upwardly mobile men the chance to ogle pictures of naked women called Playmates, chosen personally by Hefner for their large busts and girl-next-door wholesomeness. It also had interviews with luminaries from Albert Schweitzer to Malcolm X; stories by Ernest Hemingway and John Updike; and advice on how to prepare the perfect gimlet.

The world’s best-selling men’s magazine, it made the often pajama-clad Hef — who personified the Playboy ideal –a millionaire many times over.

“If you don’t swing, don’t ring,” read a doorplate at the original Playboy Mansion in Chicago, a 48-room abode where Hefner reveled with Playmates on a circular bed. Later, he moved to Playboy Mansion West, a six-acre compound above Beverly Hills.

He shared his fantasy with the introduction of Playboy Clubs, where anyone, for a modest fee, could be served food and drinks by “Bunnies” — well-endowed women costumed in rabbit ears, puffy tails and tight corsets.

Just what the Bunny stood for — sexual freedom or sexist oppression — became fodder for cultural wars of the 1960s and ‘70s. Gloria Steinem fired one of the first shots when she posed as a Bunny and wrote a scathing expose in 1963.

He married three times — to Mildred Williams, Kimberley Conrad and Crystal Harris — but his famous girlfriends also included Barbi Benton, Brande Roderick, Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson.

Hefner will be laid to rest in a Los Angeles crypt beside Marilyn Monroe, whose nude pictures helped launch him into history.

QUICK TAKES

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been diagnosed with breast cancer. … At 4 p.m. Oct. 1, Antenna Theater, headed by Chris Hardman, is presenting “The Love Plane Experience.” To celebrate the culmination of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, a plane flying over the Golden Gate Bridge will sky-write a super-sized heart.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Singer Halsey is 23. … Singer Phillip Phillips is 27. … Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant is 29. … Singer-bassist Les Claypool of Primus is 54. … Comedian Andrew “Dice” Clay is 60. … TV personality Bryant Gumbel is 69. … Singer Jerry Lee Lewis is 82.

Hugh HefnerPlayboy

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Mayor London Breed said the city would pause reopening plans in order to “make sure we continue our cautious and deliberate approach.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF slows down reopening after COVID-19 cases rise

Restaurants no longer permitted to increase indoor dining capacity to 50 percent

Toilet (Shutterstock)
Table salt and poop: Testing for COVID-19 in S.F. sewage

The City’s sewers could provide an early warning of fresh outbreaks

CCSF file photo
Workforce development fund to support training programs at City College

Supervisors back plans to use $500K toward economic recovery efforts through CCSF

Lakeshore Elementary School was closed in March shortly before SFUSD closed all schools due to coronavirus concerns. The district is now working to prepare all elementary schools to reopen by mid-January.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
School district preparing buildings for hybrid learning

SFUSD plans to use 72 elementary schools and 12 early education sites for first phase of reopening

Most Read