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Hugh Hefner's Biography

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Who was Hugh Hefner?

Hugh Marston Hefner was born on 9 April 1926 in Chicago.

His father was an accountant, and Hugh Hefner had a strict upbringing before going to Illinois University.

After postgraduate work in psychology, Hugh Hefner started work in publishing. When working on a magazine called Modern Man Hefner had noticed the jump in sales when the magazine featured revealing photos of attractive women. Hefner had worked in the circulation department of Esquire, but when they were moving from Chicago to New York they refused to agree the $5 a week raise that Hefner requested.

So, instead, Hugh Hefner quit and got together $600 of his own money and a few hundred dollars in loans and started Playboy from his kitchen. The magazine was named after a sports car then struggling to get into production.

Hefner told Victor Lownes, as reported in the latter's book, Playboy Extraordinary:

"On the first issue we put out we left the date off [December 1953] so that, if it didn't sell right away, it could stay on the news-stands until it did."

The issue featured the calendar picture of Marilyn Monroe in the centrefold, and another photo of her on the cover. The magazine had a 50,000 print-run and sold out immediately.

To afford the pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Hefner had bought them from a calendar company which owned the rights and paid them $75 each to reprint them in the magazine.

The first ever Playboy Playmate was Janet Pilgrim, who actually worked at the magazine.

In the early days, most people did not approve of Playboy and the FBI were continually looking into it. Hugh Hefner's marriage to Milly broke up and his work hard, play hard lifestyle intensified.

Playboy's success grew in 1959 and the early sixties when 'Hef' produced and hosted his own television shows, Playboy's Penthouse (later called Playboy after Dark).

These brought the slightly reclusive man firmly into the public domain. Hefner moved his base from Chicago to L.A. and used his personal DC-9, dubbed the 'Big Bunny' to jet between the Chicago Mansion and Los Angeles.

In 1985 Hugh Hefner suffered a stroke largely from stress. He soon married again, however they broke up in 1999. In his eighties, High Hefner spent a lot of his time with Holly, Bridget and Kendra. He told The Sunday Times Magazine, regarding Holly Madison:

"Our relationship has become more and more serious, so she's the one that sleeps with me ... It's as close as I've come to a soul mate, but I doubt I'll get married again."

However, Hefner and Madison broke up in 2008.

Although Hefner was still in charge of editorial at Playboy, with a crucial role in selecting the covers; his daughter, Christie, was in charge of the business side, which was skewed towards TV, the web and other products.

When Hugh Hefner reached 80 in 2006, he replied, when asked whether he had any regrets:

"Certainly it is a life well-lived and I wouldn't trade places with anybody. My life has been so rewarding and so satisfying, I would be hesitant to change anything."

In April 2010 Hugh Hefner made a $900,000 donation to save the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles from demolition.

On 26 December 2010, the BBC reported that Hugh Hefner had announced that he is to be married for the third time - this time to 24-year-old model Crystal Harris.

In January 2011, Hugh Hefner took his Playboy Enterprises private in a deal that valued the business at $210m.

Huhn Hefner died from natural causes, aged 91, on 27 September 2017.

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