Hugh Marston Hefner was born 9 April, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois. Of his upbringing, Hefner says "I was a very idealistic, very romantic kid in a very typically Midwestern Methodist repressed home. There was no show of affection of any kind, and I escaped to dreams and fantasies produced, by and large, by the music and the movies of the '30s."* Despite this, Grace Hefner (Hugh's mother), left a straightforward book on the subject of sex within young Hefner's reach, which likely had some influence on his life.
At 16, Hefner reinvented himself as "Hef," who many of us have come to know through the media by his charismatic style and attitude over the years. While still in high school, "Hef" often drew a comic strip about a character named... well, "Hef." The cartoon Hef's experiences were pretty much depictions of experiences the real Hef had. Some of the cartoons were even published in the school paper.
When Hef graduated high school in 1944, he joined the army and served as an clerk for two years miserably. Two years later he was discharged and enrolled in the University of Illinois, where he wrote an essay entitled "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male." Taking far more classes than required each semester, Hef graduated by 1949. After graduation, Hef worked as an assistant personnel manager for the Chicago Cartoon Company, as an advertising copywriter for the Carson, Pirie, Scott department store, and then as a promotion copywriter for Esquire. He married Millie Williams and eventually found his life within his job and marriage too constricting. Hef left Esquire to work on his own magazine, originally to be called Stag but renamed Playboy prior to publication. Hef borrowed money from his mother and loaned out his furniture to finance his publication, having come into possession of some unpublished nude photographs of the now-legendary Marilyn Monroe for use in the first issue. Hef designed the layout of the first issue himself. Hef says of his magazine's intent "Playboy isn't like the downscale, male-bonding, beer-swilling phenomena that is being promoted now by some men's magazines. My whole notion was the romantic connection between male and female."
The first issue was published in 1953 and ended up selling around 50,000 copies nationwide. The issue has no date on its cover, as Hef didn't know if he would have enough money to publish another. Aside from the obvious attention the magazine received due to the nude photos of Marilyn Monroe, Playboy also revolutionised ideas about what the life of a bachelor should be like. No longer was it looked as something simply before marriage but as an actual choice and lifestyle. Playboy focused on topics like men's fashion, cigars, drinks, etc: Key parts of what has become known as a playboy lifestyle today.
Thanks to the success of his magazine, Hef was able to have famous writers contribute to Playboy providing more entertainment beyond the pornography. Over the years, it's become rather well respected to have written in Playboy. One really can "just read it for the articles." Unlike many smut magazines which got their start after Playboy paved the way, such as Penthouse or Hustler, Playboy has had top-notch journalism, reviews, interviews, and only softcore pornography. Playboy has class in a way, just like Hef.
Hef purchased a 70-room mansion in Chicago in 1959, where he lived and worked until 1971 when he bought and moved to the famous Playboy Mansion located in Holmby Hills, California. The old Chicago mansion was donated to the Art Institute of Chicago and later converted into condominiums. The Playboy Mansion today is often visited by famous celebrities. There's a U2 song named after and about it that appears on the band's album Pop. A friend of mine's father use to work as the chef at the Mansion and, despite what many might think, he described it as a very classy place, without any absurd outdoor wild sex parties or whatever people might think goes on there.
Hef has had four children: Christie Ann Hefner (born in 1952 - Millie Williams, mother); David Paul Hefner (born in 1955 - Millie Williams, mother); Marston Glenn Hefner (born in 1990 - Kimberly Conrad, mother); and Cooper Bradford Hefner (born in 1991 - Kimberly Conrad, mother). Hef and Millie Williams were divorced in 1959. Hef and Kimberly Conrad were together from 1989 to 1998. Conrad currently lives next door to Hef's famous mansion with their two kids. Interviewers often describe Hef as being genuinely happy and charismatic.
- A species of rabbit, Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, was named in honour of Hef and the famous Playboy bunny logo.
- Hef was arrested in 1963 on obscenity charges by Chicago's police force. His trial resulted in a hung jury.
- In 1976, after relocating to southern California, Hef sold the Big Bunny: His privately owned DC-9 jet that contained a living room, a disco, movie viewing equipment, a bar, and sleeping quarters for up to 16 guests.
- The door of the Playboy Mansion has Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare inscribed upon it, which is a rough Latin version of "If you Don't Swing, Don't Ring."
*"Salon People | Hugh Hefner" http://www.salon.com/people/bc/1999/12/28/hefner/index1.html
Also used for research:
"AskMen.com - Hugh Hefner" http://www.askmen.com/men/feb00/12_hugh_hefner.html
"MANLYWEB.COM - Real Men - Hugh Hefner" http://www.manlyweb.com/realmen/hughhefner.html