Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine and star of E! reality series “The Girls Next Door,” died yesterday at his Los Angeles mansion. He was 91.
“Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones,” Playboy Enterprises, Inc. said in a statement last night.
Born Hugh Marston Hefner on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, he joined the Army after graduating high school in 1994 as an infantry clerk, and focused on writing and cartooning in military newspapers until getting his discharge in 1946. Once back in Chicago, Playboy began to take shape.
During a semester of graduate school at Northwestern University, Hefner focused on the issue of personal freedom, and wrote a paper on sex laws in America. At Northwestern, he met and married fellow student named Mildred Williams. They had two children, Christie and David, before divorcing in 1959.
After college, Heffner had a difficult time trying to sell his cartoons, and eventually landed a job as a Chicago department store copywriter. In 1951, he got a copywriting job at Esquire, and exited after two years determined to start a men’s magazine of his own.
In 1953, Hefner put together $8,000 and in December of that year, he published the first issue of Playboy, producing the magazine at the kitchen table of his apartment. That first issue featured a nude pinup shot of Marilyn Monroe, and the rest was history.
Hefner hosted two late night television series, “Playboy’s Penthouse from 1959 to 1960 and “Playboy After Dark” from 1969 to 1970, and was the focus of E! docuseries “The Girls Next Door” from 2005 to 2010.
Hefner is survived by his wife Crystal and four grown children: Christie, who served as CEO of Playboy Enterprise for more than 20 years; David, Marston and Cooper, the latter of whom currently serves as Chief Creative Officer at the company.