Hugh Hefner was born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois. Glenn Lucius Hefner and Grace Caroline Hefner had him as their first child. They were both Nebraska natives who worked as accountants and teachers.
Keith, his younger brother, is his only sibling. Hefner went to Steinmetz High School and Sayre Elementary School. Hugh worked as a military newspaper writer for the US Army from 1944 to 1946 after graduating from high school.
Hefner earned his bachelor’s degree in 1949 from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. In just two and a half years, he received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a double minor in Creative Writing and Art. He took one semester of graduate sociology coursework at Northwestern before dropping out.
Hefner worked as a copywriter for Esquire magazine in 1952. He asked for a $5 raise and was rejected, so he resigned from his job. The following year, he took out a $600 mortgage and raised $8,000 from investors, including $1,000 from his mother, to create Playboy, a gentleman’s magazine with the notorious centerfold (initially, he was going to call the magazine Stag Party.) The first edition came out in December 1953, almost exactly a year after he left Esquire. The initial cover and centerfold featured Marilyn Monroe, who was photographed for a nude calendar in 1949. Over 50,000 copies of the issue were sold for 50 cents each. The Crooked Man, a science fiction story by Charles Beaumont (which had been rejected by Esquire) was published in the first issue. The magazine was created in Hefner’s Hyde Park kitchen.
Hefner was the magazine’s chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, the publishing company that runs it. Hugh promoted a luxurious lifestyle in his magazine and on the television shows Playboy’s Penthouse (1959-1960) and Playboy After Dark (1969-1970), which he hosted.
After publishing a nude photo of Jane Mansfield in bed with a man in an issue of Playboy in June 1963, Hefner was jailed for disseminating obscene materials. The case went to trial, and the jury was deadlocked.
Hugh founded ethnically diverse “private key” clubs during the civil rights movement. Hefner dispatched Alex Haley (a black guy) to interview George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, in 1966.
Rockwell agreed to be questioned by Haley after confirming that he was not Jewish, and he reportedly placed a weapon on his desk throughout the interview. In 1979, the television series Roots: The Next Generations reenacted the historic interview, with James Earl Jones portraying Haley and Marlon Brando portraying Rockwell.
For his depiction of Rockwell, Brando received an Emmy Award. In 1963, Haley interviewed Malcolm X, and in 1966, he interviewed Martin Luther King Jr. Surprisingly, by 1968, all three interviewers had been assassinated.
Famous novelists such as Arthur C. Clarke, Ian Fleming, Chuck Palahniuk, Roald Dahl, Margaret Atwood, Shel Silverstein, and numerous others have continued to contribute short tales to the journal. Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 was released in 1953 and serialized in Playboy in 1954.
Although the magazine peaked in the 1970s and switched from a monthly to a quarterly format in 2019, it retains its popularity and distribution.
Mansion of Playboy
Hugh lived in the 21,000-square-foot Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, California, from 1974 until his death in 2017. Hugh’s elaborate parties, which were attended by celebrities and socialites, made the estate famous in the 1970s. There are 29 rooms in the home, as well as a wine cellar, a movie theater, three zoos, tennis and basketball courts, a waterfall, and various pools.
Surprisingly, most people believe Hugh owns the renowned Playboy mansion, although this is not the case. Hefner paid an annual fee to Playboy Enterprises to pay rent and other expenditures such as meals and parties. That rent was around $1 million in most years. Yes, that includes Hefner’s live-in girlfriends’ lodging and board as well.
Playboy Enterprises stated in January 2016 that the home was available for sale for $200 million. It’s a significant premium above a comparable house in the same neighborhood, which would be for $60–$80 million… but there’s only one Playboy Mansion in the world!
Daren Metropoulos purchased the property for $110 million in June 2016. Daren, who was 32 at the time of Hefner’s death, is the son of C. Dean Metropoulos, a millionaire businessman. His father is famed for bringing drooping companies like Hostess, Bumble Bee Tuna, Pabst, and Chef Boyardee back to life. The Playboy Mansion is undergoing substantial renovations as of April 2020.
In 1949, Hefner married Mildred Williams, his high school sweetheart. Mildred admitted to Hefner before their wedding that she had an affair while he was in the Army. He has stated that the admission was heartbreaking to him.
Mildred allegedly enabled him to sleep with other women because she was ashamed of her own adultery. In 1959, the two broke up. Christie and David were their two children. He reinvented himself as a “man about town” after the divorce, in keeping with the lifestyle he advertised in Playboy.
He claimed to be involved with eleven Playmates over the course of a year. Hefner changed his lifestyle after suffering a small stroke at the age of 58 in 1985 and married Kimberley Conrad, who was 36 years his junior. Marston and Cooper were their two sons.
They divorced in 2010, after being separated for more than a decade. Crystal Harris (now Hefner) was his third wife, and they were married from 2012 until his death.
Hugh Hefner voiced himself in Krusty Gets Canceled, a 1993 episode of The Simpsons. In a 2000 episode of Sex and the City, Hefner appeared as himself. He had cameo appearances on Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2005.
Robot Chicken, Family Guy, and Miss March have all made appearances on television. He has also appeared in a number of films as a guest star. Hugh developed and starred in The Girls Next Door, a reality show about his life and his many girlfriends who lived with him in the Playboy Mansion, from 2005 to 2010.
Hugh Hefner assessed his own net worth to be $43 million in 2009 paperwork filed as part of a divorce. Hefner’s net worth was over $200 million at the height of Playboy. Unfortunately, the company has struggled in recent years as magazine sales have dropped dramatically.
Between 2000 and 2010, the stock price of Playboy dropped by 80%. Hefner and private equity firm Icon Acquisition Holdings took the company private in 2011. The icon was later purchased out by Rizvi Traverse, a private equity group. Hefner held 35 percent of the Playboy brand and 100% of the real magazine at the time of his death.