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Playboy founder Hugh Hefner dead at 91

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner dead at 91
From CBC - September 27, 2017

Hugh Hefner, the Playboy magazine founder who transformed the publishing industry by bringing sex and female nudity into the mainstream, has died.

He was 91. Playboy Enterprises Inc. said onWednesday Hefner had peacefully diedfrom natural causes at his home.

While working at a children's magazine, Hefner put up $600 US to start Playboy, borrowing a few thousand from financial institutions and friends.

With a peak circulation of seven million and a strong brand identity, it became one of the most successful magazines ever.

Opposition from many quarters

When the company went public in 1971, his estimated worth was over $150 million.

Playboy magazine has survived into a seventh decade despite investigations and opposition from many quarters, including politicians, the FBI, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Post Office, religious leaders and feminists.

American Icon and Playboy Founder, Hugh M. Hefner passed away today. He was 91. #RIPHef pic.twitter.com/tCLa2iNXa4

@Playboy

So-called skin magazines had existed before, but Hefner said his approach was freshcentrefolds were students, secretaries and stewardesses, not models or those on the margins of society.

Elsewhere, the magazine contained real journalism and espoused an aspirational philosophy of self-fulfilment and liberation from religious-based strictures.

'Removing some of the guilt'

"It is very important to me that we have played some part in the changing of sexual attitudes and the removing of some of the guilt that has been so very hurtful in our society related to sex," he told CBC in a 1983 interview.

Critics said Playboy presented an inadequate representation of female beauty, with real people negatively impacted by the unrealistic attitudes about women and gratification its airbrushed images fostered. If not pornographyand opinions variedthe magazine at minimum contributed to the oversexualization of the culture, it was charged.

"What Playboy does not know about women could fill a book," feminist activist Gloria Steinem famously said.

Beginning in 1960, the brand was extended through a chain of Playboy Clubs, including one in Montreal. Casinos, hotels, a record label and a pay-TV channel would be among the company's ventures through the decades.

Circulation squeeze

The magazine has been battered by the advertising and circulation squeeze facing all print publications in recent years.

When a sale was rumoured in 2016, industry analyst Samir Husni argued, "The brand has no future because the reasons for its existence are no longer in place."

Hefner's impact was possibly lost on younger generations who encountered him as the caricature he often resembled late in life, extolling the virtues of Viagra while engaging in transactional relationships with 20-something playmates, as in the popular 2005 reality show The Girls Next Door.

At one time, he had been viewed as prominent cultural critic on issues of free speech and sexuality.

Canadian women in his life

Canadian women featured prominently in the magazine and in Hefner's life. About 20 have been playmates with four named Playmate of the Year: Dorothy Stratten, Shannon Tweed, Jayde Nicole and Kimberley Conrad, who was born in the U.S. but raised in Vancouver. Hefner dated Tweed, and in 1989 would marry Conrad, mother to his two youngest sons.

Those relationships came after the 1980 murder of Vancouver's Stratten by her ex-husband, which devastated Hefner and his staff.

Hefner was born April 9, 1926, in Chicago, to parents he described as emotionally distant. A child of the Depression, he sought with Playboy in "creating the party that I missed," he once admitted. His teen years had been fun but chaste; he did not lose his virginity until 22.

With a degree in psychology and years spent scrapbooking and drawing cartoons, Hefner scuffled along professionally after a stint in the Army. Married in 1949, daughter Christie arrived three years later, around the time Hefner made his entrepreneurial move.

Marilyn Monroe photo shoot

He obtained the rights to a nude Marilyn Monroe photo shoot for $200 for the inaugural December 1953 issue, which was an immediate sensation. The second edition marked the debut of Playboy's iconic bunny logo.

The company was grossing $20 million within a decade, a four-storey mansion in Chicago acting as its headquarters.

Newly divorced, Hefnerwould, for nearly three decades, unapologetically pursue pleasure in his free time.

'Reading Playboy for the articles'

Championed racial equality

'You have made woman objects'

A trying decade

Stigma decreased, but influence waned

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