Hugh Hefner, who borrowed $8,000 to create Playboy magazine, has died. Hefner died in his home at the Playboy Mansion of natural causes on September 27. He was 91.
The first issue of Playboy was published in December of 1953. The first centerfold was Marilyn Monroe, and the picture used originally was taken for a calendar rather than for Playboy. The first issue sold out in weeks, with a cover price of 50¢.
Copies of the first issue (roughly 70,000 were printed) in mint to near mint condition is worth between $20,000 – $40,000 by collectors.
While most famous for Playboy, “Hef” dabbled in all forms of media. He hosted his own TV show, produced hundreds of Playboy-branded videos, and even co-produced a few feature films including Monty Python’s first movie, And Now for Something Completely Different in 1971.
Hefner became the unofficial spokesman for the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s. He was both praised and criticized by feminists of the era, some accusing Hefner of treating women as sex objects. Others said he liberated and empowered them.
News of Hefner’s death has caused some debate about his legacy.
Hefner was a staunch supporter of abortion, and more recently was an outspoken advocate of same-sex marriage. His dedication to such controversial issues (along with his distribution of pornography) made him an outcast in some religious circles.
Hefner always maintained that Playboy was about celebrating sexuality. “I think that women, in the best sense, and not in a negative sense, are objects of desire,” he told Larry King in 2010. “That is a celebration of one’s own sexuality and the fact that we are two sexes. And what Playboy tried to (do) is to elevate it to another kind of level that did celebrate that.”
Over the years, the legend of Hef only grew as he bedded hundreds of young women, married a few of his magazine’s “Playmates” and held-court with girlfriends less than a third his age.
Playboy Enterprises has fallen on hard times on a few occasions. Long gone is the private jet Hefner used decades earlier. In 2008, it was reported that Hefner had resorted to selling tickets to his famous parties at the Playboy Mansion. The magazine eliminated nude photos from its pages in 2016, but later went back to nudity and centerfolds, describing it as “a mistake.”
The Playboy Mansion (also known as the Playboy Mansion West) was Hefner’s former home for more than four decades. The 22,000-square-foot house in L.A. was where he hosted famously decadent parties that attracted celebrities.
The house sold for $100 million in August with the condition Hefner be allowed to live there the rest of his life.