Hugh Hefner, Playboy Magazine mogul, dies at 91 - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Hugh Hefner, Playboy Magazine mogul, dies at 91

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Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for photos at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles on Nov. 4, 2010. Jae C. Hong / AP Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for photos at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles on Nov. 4, 2010. Jae C. Hong / AP

by ERIK ORTIZ

LOS ANGELES — Hugh Hefner, who built Playboy into a multimillion-dollar adult magazine empire tied to a lothario lifestyle of lavish parties and beautiful women, died Wednesday, Playboy Enterprises Inc. said. He was 91.

Hefner, affectionately referred to as "Hef," had been out of the limelight in recent months, and was reportedly absent from his annual Midsummer Night's Dream bash at the Playboy Mansion in August.

His tinseled soirees in his exclusive Los Angeles pad became the stuff of legend, filled with celebrity friends and scantily clad models. Hefner often worked the room in a red smoking jacket and a pipe hanging from his mouth.

"In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a sweeter life," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2011.

"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," said Cooper Hefner, chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises.

"He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history," the younger Hefner said. "He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife, Crystal, my sister, Christie, and my brothers David and Marston and all of us at Playboy Enterprises."

Hugh M. Hefner was born in Chicago, the son of two city schoolteachers. He joined the Army as an infantry clerk after high school and went on to become a copywriter for Esquire magazine.

In 1953, he raised $8,000 from friends and family — including his own mother — to launch Playboy, featuring photos of Marilyn Monroe from a 1949 nude calendar shoot. (Hefner once said he owed his career to the screen siren and reserved a crypt adjacent to Monroe's at the Westwood Village Memorial Park mausoleum, according to Vanity Fair.)

Turning Los Angeles into his home base, he touted Playboy as a place for women — his so-called Playmates — to bear it all and proclaimed it was ahead of its time, even before America's sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Critics and noted feminists didn't buy it, although Hefner never backed down.

"Playboy fought for what became women’s issues, including birth control," Hefner told Vanity Fair in 2010. "We were the amicus curiae, friend of the court, in Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to choose. But the notion that women would not embrace their own sexuality is insane."

He may have been the epitome of bachelorhood, but wedding bells rang three times for Hefner, most recently in 2012 with Crystal Harris — six decades his junior. The pair met around the time he was filming the E! reality show, "The Girls Next Door," about his trio of blonde girlfriends.

Hefner, who told Esquire in 2013 that he bedded "over a thousand" women, said he was happy to have found a partner again "at this stage in life."

"There were chunks of my life when I was married," he said. "And when I was married I never cheated. But I made up for it when I wasn’t married. You have to keep your hand in."

Hefner gave up the reigns of running Playboy Enterprises in 1982 to his daughter. The glossy made headlines in March when it released its first issue with no nudity — a stark change in direction from its founding, when it would eventually become the world's top-selling men's magazine.

In his retirement, Hefner continued making cameos as himself in movies and twice helped to save the iconic Hollywood sign. Amazon this year announced a forthcoming 13-episode docuseries, "American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story" — further proof that his legacy will outlive the pages of his magazine.

"I've lived out dreams and fantasies and played some part in changing the world," Hefner once told Vanity Fair. "It's pretty sweet."

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