Some people just seem like they are going to live forever and Hugh Hefner was one of those people. Despite the fact that he was 91 years old, it was still shocking to learn of his passing.
He’s best known, of course, as the founder of Playboy magazine and as a legendary ladies man. Reports have said that he “peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home” and was surrounded by loved ones.
“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom,” Hefner’s son Cooper said in a statement. “He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history. He will be greatly missed by many.”
It all began back in 1952 when he was a copy editor for Esquire. He dreamed of starting his own magazine and, over time, found the financing to launch Playboy.
Incredibly, Marilyn Monroe was the cover girl for the very first issue released in December 1953. Over the years, his empire grew to include many forms of media and became one of the most recognized brands in the world.
Known for his love of smoking jackets and pipes, Hefner was often surrounded by beautiful women. He was even arrested in 1963 for publishing nude photos of Jayne Mansfield.
By the mid-70s, the idea had caught on and hardcore publications such as Penthouse started including explicit sexuality on their pages. As the Playboy numbers began to fall, Hefner made the decision to include full-frontal nude centerfolds in his magazines which helped boost sales.
After suffering from a small stroke weeks before his 59th birthday, Hefner decided to slow things down and by 1982, his daughter Christie had taken over Playboy Enterprises (she was replaced by Scott Flanders in 2009 before her brother, Cooper, became the face of the company in 2012).
Hefner married Mildred Williams in 1949 and had two children, Christie and David, before divorcing 10 years later.
He was single again for a long time until he married Playmate of the Year, Kimberley Conrad (who was 36 years his junior) in 1989. Together, they share two sons, Marston and Cooper. They officially divorced in 2010 but had been separated since 1998.
While they were separated, Hefner dated many women and his relationship with three Playmates (Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson) at the same time was featured on the reality series The Girls Next Door.
They all left him in 2008 and he dated a few women until proposing to Crystal Harris (who was 60 years his junior) in 2010. Just five days before their June 2011 wedding, Harris called it off and, while things got ugly during a custody battle over their dog, they eventually did get married in 2012.
Interestingly, Hefner chose Pamela Anderson to be his last nude cover model for the January/February 2016 issue but his decision to be more modest didn’t last long. Earlier this year Playboy chose to take its “identity back” by once again showcasing naked women.
In 2004, Hefner told Larry King, “I’d like to be remembered as someone who played some part in changing our hurtful and hypocritical views on sex ― and had a lot of fun doing it.”
Hefner is survived by his wife, Crystal, and his children Cooper, Christie, Marston and David.