Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 10:52 AM

Hugh Hefner, Self-Professed Playboy and Cultural Revolutionary, Is Dead

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

With Playboy, Hugh Hefner pioneered publishing pornographic pictures of pretty women. But I gather I might have been the only boy, during the early 1970s, who found this magazine far more intellectually than physically stimulating. Indeed, this famous trope had true meaning for me:

I read Playboy for the articles.

For example, I can thank Playboy for knowing who Alex Haley was long before I read his Autobiography of Malcolm X or watched his TV miniseries “Roots”. I came across a very “used” copy of the January 1965 issue, which featured not only Haley’s lengthy interview with Martin Luther King Jr. but also articles by Vladimir Nabakov, P.G. Woodhouse, Harold Pinter, and Jack Kerouac, to name just a few. The stimulation these articles provided was Tantric. What little spurts the centerfold provided couldn’t compare.

Not to mention Hefner inviting blacks to discuss current issues, socialize, and dance with whites on his “Playboy’s Penthouse” and “Playboy After Dark” TV shows. For this was almost as revolutionary as blacks taking it upon themselves to integrate lunch counters and other places of public accommodations throughout the South.

Of course, anyone who bothered to read the editorial in Hefner’s inaugural issue (in December 1953) would have expected this sophisticated, multifaceted, and interracial sensory experience:

We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.

Is there any wonder, then, that any man with half a brain would be as inclined to read an article as smoke a cigarette – afterwards?

That’s what Playboy meant to me. Unfortunately, Hefner soon began trying to convince the world that he was more interesting than any centerfold, article, or interview that appeared in his magazine.

He just turned me off. But he convinced many.

Hefner the man and Playboy the brand were inseparable. …

He was compared to Jay Gatsby, Citizen Kane and Walt Disney, but Mr. Hefner was his own production. He repeatedly likened his life to a romantic movie; it starred an ageless sophisticate in silk pajamas and smoking jacket, hosting a never-ending party for famous and fascinating people.

(New York Times, September 27, 2017)

Dos Equis, eat your heart out…? I don’t think so. After all, nothing is more pathetic than a senile old man trying to convince the world that he’s still a virile young stud. Surely I’m not the only one who found his public boasting about Viagra-fueled orgies more pitiable than enviable.

But nothing demonstrated the laughingstock he became quite like the spectacle he made of his attempts to marry another centerfold. I commented in “Playboy Hef Dumped Like an Ordinary Chump,” June 17, 2011.


I’m sure there was a time — 40 to 50 years ago — when every guy wanted to be Hugh Hefner. Not because he peddled soft porn for a living, but because so many beautiful women were reportedly lining up to have sex with him to appear in Playboy.

Incidentally, I have always felt that he has nothing to apologize for. I respect a liberated woman’s choice to prostitute herself for career-enhancing publicity or free room and board at the Playboy Mansion. And, yes, like this generally accepted form of prostitution, I believe all other forms should be decriminalized.

Today, though, I suspect most men see Hefner as a rather pathetic figure – making a spectacle of himself by trying to live at 84 the playboy lifestyle he lived at 40. After all, most 40-year-old men don’t have the energy and brains to fully satisfy just one sexually liberated woman. The notion that 84-year-old Hefner can satisfy three, even pumped up on Viagra, is patently absurd.

Meanwhile, he only compounded the public spectacle he was making of his private life when he announced in January his intent to marry a 24-year-old named Crystal Harris. Because it was so self-evident that a marriage between these two would amount to nothing but the unholy union of his dotage and her greed.

Now, just when I thought he could not look any more pathetic, comes word that she left him, in effect, at the altar. She dumped him on Wednesday just days before the lavish nuptials they had planned for tomorrow. And, like the jilted bride who had already donned her gown, Hef had already commissioned a commemorative issue of Playboy, featuring Harris on the cover with the headline ‘America’s Princess Introducing Mrs. Crystal Hefner’.

In a flaccid attempt to save face, he ordered his publishers to slap a sticker with the words “Runaway Bride” over her private parts on all issues that were not already released for promotional purposes: making lemonade out of lemons? …

There’s no escaping the irony or comeuppance that Hefner – who was purportedly living every man’s dream – has been dumped … like an ordinary chump. And it serves him right.


Except that, despite the public spectacle they made of their courtship, Hefner and Harris ended up marrying a year later. Apparently, instead of his marriage proposal, she wanted him to make her a financial offer she couldn’t refuse

To be fair, though, Playboy is still providing just cause to read it for the articles. In this respect, it rivals magazines like The Nation as a forum for discussing social issues and championing progressive causes.

Unfortunately, its centerfolds jumped the shark years ago. That’s when they became indistinguishable from surgically enhanced, airbrushed, and/or photoshopped mannequins posing (especially online) as the new paragons of female beauty.

Hefner died on Wednesday in California at home in bed, naturally. He was 91.

Farewell, Hef.

Related commentaries:
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