Hugh M. Hefner, (1926-2017)

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Hugh M. Hefner, (April 9, 1926 - September 27, 2017)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hugh Hefner, founder, editor and publisher of Playboy magazine, passed away on Wednesday, September 27, at the age of 91. Hugh Hefner in 1966

Hefner lived the dream life of a media mogul, complete with beautiful women, private jets, his own clubs and casinos, a brand name recognizable in countries around the world. His lifestyle was one of epicurean excess done with a certain urbane sophistication. In a word, Hugh Hefner was the embodiment of "cool."

Mere words on a website cannot begin to convey how important was the life of Hugh M. Hefner. He was bigger than life. He shaped the lives of people - young and old, male or female - through his own writings and the publication of one of the world's greatest magazines.

Many have chosen to deride Hefner for the invention of the Playboy Playmate of the Month, and, certainly, his provocative portrayal of some of the most beautiful women in the world was not appealing to everybody, but, by demystifying the female body through the tasteful use of photography, he ushered in an age of moral liberation the likes of which no single man or single magazine had ever attained.

Hefner was a publishing genius who never missed the opportunity to innovate, invigorate his readers, and aggravate the status quo. By just about any measure, Hugh Hefner was a great man and a credit to America.

He will be missed.

One of the better articles on his life and passing is that by William La Jeunesse at

Here at Downtown Magazine, praise for Hefner was never-ending and probably will always be so. In tribute to the great man, we proudly republish a popular article from our March 2000 newsletter, appearing below.

Collecting Playboy: Let Me Count the Ways
(from the archives, March 2000)

As the Cadillac of men's magazines, Playboy continues to attract collectors from a diverse cross-section of interests. While many still regard Playboy as smut, pornography or unworthy of the kind of respect afforded mainstream publications, it should be noted that Playboy became mainstream about four decades ago, when the public morals in America caught up to the private passions of individuals.
All arguments to the negative aside, Playboy magazine has provided American men - and women - quality entertainment since 1953 in a variety of forums, and has maintained its position as the number one collectible men's magazine for many years.

-- article continues below --

The reasons for Playboy's dominance in the collectible marketplace mirror its popularity on the newsstand, with focus and diversity high on the list of desirable elements. Hugh Hefner, the lynch pin of all Playboy success, propagated the Playboy Philosophy from the very start: that a young man's life was supposed to be fun, pleasure-filled and populated with lovely, playful young ladies. Not bad for openers, and not very far from reality either. The average guy back in the fifties and sixties generally had a decent job, car, apartment and plenty of choices on the dating scene. Single women - known fondly as girls back then - were, for the most part, free-spirited, fun-loving and willing to date. Both sexes, as always, were more than willing to experiment sexually.

The argument purporting that Playboy delivered on a monthly basis what was essentially a fantasy owes primarily to the wails of feminists and muttered cries of guys who weren't getting any. Certainly, the Playmates were beyond the norm in terms of beauty, but there's many a fetching lass who never graced the pages of any magazine and never will. Beauty, if it be in the eyes of the beholder, surely was not tarnished by the photo editors of Playboy magazine. More than anything, Playboy gave young men a preview of the real world. Yes, this is what real women look like, more or less...

And it is these lovely ladies who folded out before our eyes as youths that became the focus of the magazine and the reason Playboy became a collector's item from the start.

It was not radically different from the start. Essentially, Hefner combined the best elements of the upscale magazines, Esquire - for whom he worked for about one year - in particular, and the girly rags, into what we now know as Playboy. (Interestingly, it was going to be called Stag Party, until, only a few weeks prior to publication, an attorney representing the hunting and fishing magazine, Stag, asked Hefner to desist.)

It was those ladies in the magazine, in various stages of undress, that men could not throw into the wastebasket along with the newspapers and sports rags. Mickey Mantle surely would hit the trash heap long before Miss October, and thus, Playboy magazines began to pile up around households, in closets and under beds across America. Yes, many issues get thrown out by irate mothers, upset spouses and jealous girlfriends, but the legend of the centerfold lived on and flourished.

As time passed, other reasons to collect Playboy magazine began to emerge, the obvious appeal of the alluring Vargas Girls chief among them. Antonio Varga, who worked for Esquire and Playboy at various times from the 40s to the 70s, was recruited by Hefner in 1959 and produced monthly Vargas Girls until the mid seventies. Fast on his heels was painter LeRoy Neiman, who became a regular contributor to Playboy in the late fifties and whose renderings of everything from ballet to Grand Prix racing appeared in the pages of Playboy from the fifties to the present. Neiman's work is fast approaching legendary proportions. His originals and early prints are fetching impressive numbers at sales and auctions.

Playboy became a staple of American culture not long after its inception in 1953. By the mid 60s to the mid 70s, Playboy clubs dotted the urban landscape, and the magazine had hit its circulation highs (September 1972 was the best -selling issue of all time with a count of 7,012,000 copies sold). Penthouse, which was to become Hefner's nemesis for a while, though to a degree a copycat publication, managed to prompt circulation peaks by the mid to late seventies. This pushed the Playboy mystique even further into the psyche of American culture. Only the best are copied, and by that flattered. While Penthouse and others tried to compete, Playboy's sizable lead and loyal following was never truly assailed. The closest Penthouse ever came to Playboy was in 1974, when Penthouse sold 4 million copies to Playboy's 6 million. To the utter relief of men worldwide, both publications survived.

Add to man's everlasting fascination over the female body the various stars of stage and screen that have exposed themselves to the Playboy lens and/or the scrutiny of their editorial writers and interviewers and you have yet another reason to collect copies of this magazine. From Marilyn Monroe to WWF star Sable, Playboy has made a concerted effort over the years to address and undress the sexiest stars.

Finally, and often overlooked (for obvious reasons), are the writers Playboy has featured and the interview subjects over the years. With names like Kerouac, Updike, Haley, Toffler, Wodehouse, Clarke filing in the spaces between the ads and the girls, who could have asked for more. Playboy gave us interviews with icons from the worlds of sports, politics, media and public affairs.

So, when somebody asks you why you collect Playboy magazine, you can breezily answer, "not just for the pictures."


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