It is definitely the end of an era. The Bureau Blog would like to pay homage to the man, the magazine and of course to the bunnies.
The name Hugh Hefner is synonymous with Playboy magazine, nude centrefolds and a truly decadent lifestyle, yet there are very few people who have influenced entire generations across the world in the way he did.
As a writer, editor and cartoonist he pioneered attitudes towards sex, sexuality, print media and marketing by establishing the first gentleman’s magazine in 1953. As one of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs he initially raised $8,000 from investors (including his Puritanical parents) to launch the magazine. The first edition showcased early nudes of Marilyn Monroe as the centrefold and sold 52,000 copies.
In prosperous yet repressive post-World War II America, Hef encouraged people to look away from the old way of doing things, towards a less oppressive and more accepting society. Playboy magazine was ground breaking. It changed attitudes towards both male and female sexual identity, and enabled men to openly admire the female form. The most revolutionary idea conveyed by the magazine was that sex was a natural thing.
Through his magazine, Hugh Hefner transformed the world as a pioneer of freedom, capitalism and a breaker of taboos. It comes as no surprise that although this fresh approach to business and pleasure was embraced by many, censors and conservative mainstream America frowned upon both the magazine and the man.
For those that did make it past the pictures, Playboy engaged reknown journalists and writers to write topical pieces that were considered extremely controversial at the time and published interviews with key people of the day. The magazine covered a broad range of topics including censorship, race relations and surprisingly so called “women’s issues”.
We’ve all laughed at the popular line, but many people really did read the magazine for the articles! Hugh Hefner remained extremely hands-on with his magazine over the decades, and for many years each edition included the Playboy Philosophy segment written by the man himself. Hef was essentially the first influential blogger and by sharing his ideas, he built an audience that was ripe for change.
As part of his publishing and entertainment empire, he also produced and starred in fully self-financed TV shows in the 1950s and 60s including the Playboy’s Penthouse and Playboy After Dark. With no studio executives to approve content or guest lists for the shows, Hef lived his ethos of equality for all and aired shows with socially relevant content of his own choosing on mainstream TV. While we wouldn’t bat an eyelid today, at the time many of his guests were considered extremely controversial and included A-list entertainers from around the world, African American performers, Jewish comedians and anti-Vietnam war protesters.
It’s not so well known today, but Hugh Hefner was also a committed activist and campaigner for the civil rights movement, opposing racial segregation still prevalent in many southern states of the US in the 1950s and 60s. He also campaigned for freedom of speech, race and religion, was an early supporter for legalising homosexuality and women’s rights such as legalising contraception and abortion. Hef was an intelligent and articulate man who used his position of influence to change the landscape of social-sexual values and was also responsible for overturning many repressive and punitive laws in the US.
In it’s early days, Playboy magazine was sold by subscription only and was sent out by post (see any parallels with online shopping and vapemail). Hugh Hefner fought a federal court case in Washington DC after United States Postal Service refused to provide his business with a postal licence, and won. In 1963 he also faced down obscenity charges which were thinly veiled cover for the establishment’s disapproval of his support for an outspoken Jewish comedian. These charges also went to court and were dropped.
Fast forward to today and we face very similar conservative attitudes towards electronic cigarettes and vaping. A growing section of the community is ready for change and has embraced vaping as a new way to stop smoking. Despite the groundswell within the vaping community and reputable research that supports vaping as being significantly safer than traditional smoking, our legislators want to continue to play it safe and only back other approved methods to stop smoking. The old way of doing things is once again being challenged by the new.
Imagine if someone as influential as Hugh Hefner campaigned to change attitudes to e cigarette laws in the US? Having broken down so many other taboos, getting behind the push to change vaping laws would have been a piece of cake with truly ground breaking effects felt all around the world. Perhaps in time that trademark pipe might have been replaced with an electronic cigarette..?
He died on 27 September 2017 at the age of 91 having lived the life he wanted to the end. RIP Hugh Hefner and thanks for all the articles... we’re sure that you’re watching on from your mansion in the clouds.