“Much of my life has been like an adolescent dream of an adult life. If you were still a boy, in almost a Peter Pan kind of way, and could have just the perfect life that you wanted to have, that’s the life I invented for myself.”
It was 64 years ago that Hugh Hefner founded Playboy magazine, bringing bare bosoms to the American mainstream and calling it “the antidote to puritanism.” The Times again:
A big chunk of Hefner’s meager budget for the first issue was consumed by the pictorial: He paid a Chicago calendar maker $500 for photographs of Marilyn Monroe with “nothing but the radio on.” That first issue, in December 1953, also featured a cartoon by Hefner, party jokes, black-and-white pictures of nude sunbathers in California, articles on football and the Dorsey brothers, and fiction by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Ambrose Bierce, which cost Hefner nothing because they had passed into public domain.
That line about Monroe should really be phrased “nothing on but the radio,” but let it pass.
Whatever else Playboy was or wasn’t, it was successful; at its peak circulation it sold seven million copies a month. It remained a power in publishing until the 1990s, when the arrival of the internet ended its dominant position in the world of nakedness.
Whether Hefner truly believed his line about Peter Pan or not, he always managed to look like he had put one over on the world. In that spirit, he will be entombed in a crypt next to Marilyn Monroe, having reportedly bought the crypt 25 years ago for $75,000. As he also told the LA Times in 2009 in a right-on-brand comment, “Spending eternity next to Marilyn is too sweet to pass up.”
See our full biography of Hugh Hefner »