Hugh Hefner is dead at 91.
I remember the first time I saw a Playboy magazine. I was 11 years old tagging along on a fishing trip to Lake of the Woods with my Dad and his friends. One of them brought a Playboy. They were drinking and playing poker on one of the nights we spent at the Trail’s End Resort and I snuck a peek at the magazine. Diane Webber was the Playmate of the Month. Diane was 25 years old at the time of the photoshoot. (She died a few years ago in Santa Monica. After a few roles in movies and doing Middle Eastern dancing and instruction, Diane worked as a law librarian for Santa Monica Law Firm.) Her pictures were very innocent by today’s standards, Diane was certainly a beautiful woman and for the first time in my life I began to imagine the possibilities.
In the 50’s the covers of men’s magazines and detective magazines all seemed to be devoted to bondage shots, rape fantasy and other misogynistic themes. I remember looking at those covers at the Bike Shop’s news stand while buying comic books when I was a little kid. Widman’s Candy’s news stand carried them too. I didn’t like those covers at all. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine changed that, the Playmates were natural, girl next door types for the most part, cute, clean and All American sexy, like women you’d see on the street or in school. As strange as it may seem now, that was a big, big change.
When I was a young kid, those Playmates seemed out of reach and distant, more like my Mom’s friends than girls I knew. When I was a junior in high school that all changed with Christa Speck’s appearance as a Playmate and later as Playmate of the Year. Christa was 18, only two years older than I was. Men my age all remember Christa. (Christa later married TV Producer Marty Kroft) She was one of us.
I worked with a guy who had a long relationship with a former Playmate of the Month. She was a nice, smart, gorgeous woman. They broke up, he was an idiot and she wasn't.
I did read the articles, some of the monthly interviews were great reading. The reporting, the fiction, the music commentary and of course, the joke page were usually all good reads.
Hefner made it okay for all of us to be more open about our sexual nature. He dealt in fantasy for the most part but, he opened the conversation that it’s okay for women to be open about enjoying sexual relations. He opened men’s minds to understand that you have to give to receive and that it’s okay for women to ask a man for what they want in in an intimate relationship. He was outspoken on AIDS and Gay Marriage. He integrated Playboy early on by featuring black Playmates and Asian Playmates
I have no idea what Heffner was like in his personal relationships. I thought he was crazy not to marry Barbie Benton, I thought it was sleazy to devote damn near an entire issue to photoshoots of his fiancée, Kimberly Conrad. On the other hand, he bought the house next door to the mansion and gave it to her after their divorce, so he could be close to his children.
Hefner handed the reins of the corporation to his daughter Christie who has been the CEO for years.
The Hugh Hefner story, like the man, is complicated. The last 20 years or so he was strange in so many ways. Google Holly Madison. Read excerpts from her book for some insight.
Somebody once said, “The only reason Playboy has the articles is so guys can get them in the house.” Probably true, but the articles were almost always as good as the pictures. And the pictures were always good.