Hefner's Genius: Realizing America Was Ready for Him

He was the first publisher to truly capitalize on changing social norms
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2017 6:21 AM CDT
Updated Sep 28, 2017 6:46 AM CDT
Hefner's Genius: Realizing America Was Ready for Him
Hugh Hefner in 2011.   (AP Photo/Kristian Dowling, File)

A sampling of the coverage and tributes to Hugh Hefner in the wake of the death of the 91-year-old founder of Playboy:

  • Perfect timing: "Hefner the man and Playboy the brand were inseparable. Both advertised themselves as emblems of the sexual revolution, an escape from American priggishness and wider social intolerance," per the New York Times. "Both were derided over the years—as vulgar, as adolescent, as exploitative, and finally as anachronistic. But Mr. Hefner was a stunning success from his emergence in the early 1950s. His timing was perfect."
  • Gay rights: Hefner ran a futuristic short story in his magazine in 1955 in which heterosexuality was illegal and homosexuality the norm, notes the Washington Post. The piece had been rejected elsewhere, and even some of Hefner's own readers were scandalized. His response? "If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society, then the reverse was wrong, too."

  • 1967 cover story: Time revisits its own cover story on Hefner and his magazine in 1967. "America was undoubtedly ready for it anyway, but Hefner seized the moment. He was the first publisher to see that the sky would not fall and mothers would not march if he published bare bosoms; he realized that the old taboos were going, that, so to speak, the empress need wear no clothes."
  • Wise investment: People hits the highs and lows of his life. Among the tidbits: A young Hefner launched his magazine in 1953 after pulling together $8,000 from 45 investors, including his mom.
  • Visit to the Playboy Mansion: Rob Lowe recalls what it was like to visit in the 1980s as a young movie star in a first-person piece at Esquire. ("Awesome, obviously.") At USA Today, journalist Marco della Cava encountered a more subdued Hefner in the 1990s. "My memories remain that of a rather quiet man who was curious about others and the world around him. Maybe a man more akin to Hugh Marston Hefner, than to Hef."
  • Pioneering TV: Billboard notes that Hefner had groundbreaking TV shows, too, beginning with Playboy's Penthouse in the late 1950s. "The show boosted his personal and professional reputation and promoted what eventually became known as the 'Playboy Philosophy,' a lifestyle that included politically liberal sensibilities, nonconformity and, of course, sophisticated parties with expensive accouterments and the ever-present possibility for recreational sex."
  • His style: A piece at the Hollywood Reporter praises Hefner as a fashion icon for men. With his silks and robes, he was the original "pajamas dresser."
(More Hugh Hefner stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.