Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, has died aged 91.
Hefner was born on April 9, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, and went on to become a millionaire after founding the influential men’s magazine in 1953.
On Wednesday night the official Playboy Twitter account announced: ‘American Icon and Playboy Founder, Hugh M. Hefner passed away today. He was 91. #RIPHef’.
Hefner’s death was confirmed in a statement from Playboy Enterprises that said he ‘passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones.’
Hefner’s son, Cooper Hefner, who is also the chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, said: ‘My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom.
‘He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history.
‘He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife Crystal, my sister Christie and my brothers David and Marston, and all of us at Playboy Enterprises.’
Hugh Hefner (pictured in 2010), founder of pioneering men’s magazine Playboy, has died aged 91 in the Playboy Mansion
Hefner died surrounded by his family, according to a press release, and leaves behind his four children and his third wife, Crystal Hefner (pictured in 2013), aged 31
Hefner made his fortune after the first issue of Playboy (left) starred a topless Marilyn Monroe. In 2002 he took part in the show Girl Next Door: The Search for a Playboy Centerfold (right)
Hefner is survived by four children including son Cooper (left in 2014), who is the chief creative officer of Playboy, and daughter Christie Hefner (right), who was president of the company from 1982-2008
In his element: Hefner is surrounded by playmates at the Playboy Mansion in August 2003
On Wednesday night, as news of Hefner’s death began to circulate, mourners began to gather at the gates of his Playboy Mansion to pay their last respects.
Hefner will be buried in an LA cemetery next to Marilyn Monroe – Playboy’s first-ever cover star – in a plot that Hefner bought in 1992 for $75,000.
In the final years of his life, Hefner – who had begun to suffer back problems – began to fade from view, not wanting to be seen using a walker to move around, or be seen fiddling with his hearing aid.
‘It’s tough to watch him struggle, but I’m just happy it’s physical and not mental,’ Cooper told The Hollywood Reporter in August.
The only photos of Hefner known to have been taken anywhere in 2017 were three photos shared by him and his younger brother Marston on social media in July and August.
They showed the family playing backgammon together, and dining out.
‘He will kill me if I print or if you say anything about him retiring,’ Cooper had previously said, ‘But I think he is really enjoying his life as a 90-year-old at the mansion.’
Cooper now runs the business; his brother Marston, once the heir apparent, has had a low profile since a 2012 alleged domestic violence incident.
Mason Marie of San Pedro, California gathers with fans of Hugh Hefner at the gate of the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, California
A pair of Hefner’s fans pay their respects at the Playboy Mansion’s gate on Wednesday, the night of Hefner’s death
In August Marston Hefner posted this photo of him and his father playing backgammon; these are the only known images of Hefner taken in 2017
Marston Hefner also posted the left-hand photo, which has his brother Cooper in the center. Cooper, who now runs the business posted the image on the right. He said his dad retired from public view in recent years due to his ailing health
Hefner is seen in this February 17, 1999 snap inside the Playboy Mansion. Cooper said that his dad – for so long an image of virility – was embarrassed to have to rely on a walker due to his bad back
Hefner will be buried next to Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe (plaque seen left) at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Hefner (seen right with the first issue of Playboy, starring Monroe) paid $75,000 for the plot in 1992
Hefner’s widow, Crystal, 31, was the third of his wives, having married him in 2012. He had previously been married to Mildred Williams from 1949-1959, with whom he had two children, and Kimberley Conrad – 1989’s 27-year-old Playmate of the Year – from 1989-2010.
LIFE ACCORDING TO HUGH HEFNER
‘It’s good to be selfish. But not so self-centered that you never listen to other people.’
‘If you let society and your peers define who you are, you’re the less for it.’
‘Life is too short to be living somebody else’s dream.’
‘Loneliness doesn’t have much to do with where you are.’
‘If you don’t have a sense of humor about life and yourself, then you are old.’
Cooper, Hefner and Conrad’s elder son, said that he and brother Marston grew up with a framed photo of his mom’s nude centerfold in the home.
‘Yeah, that was weird,’ he admitted. ‘It was like the elephant in the room.’
Hefner also had a bevvy of ‘girlfriends’ who lived with him – usually several at a time – at his famed Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
Despite declaring that he had slept with more than a thousand women, Hefner spent much of his life ‘looking for love in all the wrong places,’ as he tearfully told The New York Times in 1992.
Hefner married Crystal – and took up a life of monogamy – in 2012 after briefly calling off the engagement.’Maybe I should be single,’ he said a few months later.
‘But I do know that I need an ongoing romantic relationship. In other words, I am essentially a very romantic person, and all I really was looking for, quite frankly, with the notion of marriage was continuity and something to let the girl know that I really cared.’
The year before their marriage, he had mused: ‘I never really found my soulmate.’
First wives: Hefner is seen left with first wife Mildred Williams. They were married from 1949–1959 and had two children. He’s seen right with second wife, Kimberley Conrad – a former Playmate – with whom he also had two children
Ladies’ man: Hugh Hefner is seen with Kimberly Conrad who he was married to from 1989–2010 and their child Marston Hefner. He married Conrad the same year she became Playmate of the Year. Their son, Cooper, now runs Playboy
Third wife: Crystal Hefner and Hugh Hefner attend the annual Halloween Party, hosted by Playboy and Hugh Hefner, at the Playboy Mansion on October 24, 2015
Surrounded by bunnies: Pictured from left Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson, Hugh Hefner and Bridget Marquardt – with whom he appeared in reality TV show The Girls Next Door
As news of Hefner’s death spread online, celebrities gathered to pay tribute.
‘RIP to the legendary Hugh Hefner! I’m so honored to have been a part of the Playboy team! You will be greatly missed! Love you Hef! Xoxo,’ Kim Kardashian West tweeted.
She then added: Paris [Hilton] & I are reminiscing about the Playboy parties at the mansion & how much we love Hef. She’s texts me the perfect Hef emojis,’ followed by eight Playboy Bunny emojis and an old man emoji.
Hilton herself posted a photo of herself in the famous Playboy Bunny outfit, along with Hefner, on Instagram.
Larry King – Hefner’s junior at 81 – tweeted: ‘Hugh Hefner was a GIANT in publishing, journalism, free speech & civil rights. He was a true original, and he was my friend. Rest well Hef.’
And Heidi Montag, who posed for Playboy in 2009, wrote: ‘RIP @hughhefner thank you for making me part of the Playboy family. Sending lots of love and prayers to @crystalhefner.’
Kim Kardashian West was among those who paid tribute to Hefner in the wake of his death. She appeared in Playboy in December 2007, after her sex tape was released
Kardashian West – then plain old Kim Kardashian – appeared on the cover of the December 2007 edition. She was 27 years old at the time
Heidi Montag, who appeared in Playboy in 2009, also tweeted her gratitude to Hefner, and sent her love to his widow, Crystal Hefner
Broadcasting legend Larry King – at 83, just a few years Hefner’s junior – called him a ‘GIANT in publishing, journalism, free speech & civil rights’
Paris Hilton posted this photo on Instagram of the two of them together following news of Hef’s death
One person who had not commented on Hefner’s passing as of 1:30am EST Thursday was President Donald Trump, who appeared on the magazine’s cover in 1990 – much to Hefner’s chargrin.
‘We don’t respect the guy,’ Cooper Hefner told the Hollywood Reporter in August. ‘There’s a personal embarrassment because Trump is somebody who has been on our cover.’
Trump was rather prouder of the March cover – which shows him in a tux alongside Playmate Brandi Brandt – having it on display in his New York office.
That caused a small ruckus in June 2016 when the Reverend Jerry Falwell tweeted a picture of himself and his wife with Trump in front of a wall featuring the cover.
Hefner (both pictured in 2003 with Henfer’s then-Playmate and primary partner Holly Madison, and now-First Lady Melania Kraus) had little respect for Donald Trump – despite featuring him on a cover
Trump appeared on this, the March 1990 cover of the magazine, along with then-Playmate Brandi Brandt. He keeps a copy of this cover on the wall of his New York office
Hugh Hefner and Holly Madison attend the 2007 Playmate of the Year party at the Playboy Mansion on May 3, 2007 in Los Angeles
Anna Berglund, Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris arrive at the Kandyland V Benefit At The Playboy Mansion on June 26, 2010 in Los Angeles
Hefner was born Hugh Marston Hefner in 1926 and grew up in a strict Methodist family.
Despite his family’s conservatism, his mother gave him a $1,000 loan to publish Playboy – ‘Not because she believed in the venture,’ he would later say, ‘but because she believed in her son.’
The magazine hit with a splash, selling 50,000 copies of its first issue – which featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover – and went on to have seven million subscribers by its second year.
Hefner, seen here with some of his famous Playboy Bunnies in an archive photo, died surrounded by his friends and family, a statement said
As its star rose, so too did Hefner – and he went on to amass a huge personal wealth that peaked at $200 million.
In 1971, Hefner spent $1.1 million (the equivalent of $6 million today) to buy up what would become known as the Playboy Mansion, a 21,987-square-foot LA building.
With a waterfall, swimming pool, secluded grotto and even a wine cellar hidden behind a Prohibition-era secret door, the mansion became the place for Hollywood celebrities to be seen at Hefner’s famous Playboy parties.
He also became a vocal proponent of equal rights for gay people and black Americans; among those interviewed for Playboy was Malcolm X.
But as time wore on Playboy began to face stiffer competition, first from softcore pornography magazines such as Penthouse in 1969, then later from harder fare such as Larry Flynt’s Hustler, which debuted in 1974.
As Playboy left the 1970s and the number of magazines focusing on models and their mammaries grew, its sales began to decline.
It also suffered with the rise of the internet, which made access to nude images – both glamorous and grim – easy for everyone.
In June 2009 the magazine cut its number of publications per year to just 11, while Hefner sold his English Manor house, located next to the Playboy Mansion, the same year for $18 million – $10 million under the asking price.
The Playboy Mansion had also begun to reflect Hefner’s downturn in fortune.
In 2006, Hefner’s ex-girlfriend, Izabella St James, then 31, released a book titled Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion, in which she lamented the state of the one-palatial home.
St James, who entered the home in 2002 as one of Hefner’s seven ‘girlfriends,’ described ‘mismatched, random pieces of furniture… as if someone had gone to a charity shop and bought the basics for each room.’
She claimed things got worse when Holly Madison became Hefner’s ‘Girlfriend No. 1’ – meaning that she could move into his room, along with her dogs.
Life with his girlfriend: From left Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson arrive at the premiere of ‘The House Bunny’ in Los Angeles on August 20, 2008
Hugh Hefner and his third wife Crystal Harris at an ‘An American In Paris’ Premiere
Hugh Hefner displays a giant birthday cake to celebrate his 75th birthday as seven playmates look on in Cannes May 12, 2001
Hefner bought the infamous Beverly Hills Playboy Mansion in the 1970s and began throwing his notorious raucous parties. He is pictured outside it in 1975
Hefner’s famous Playboy Mansion (pictured in 2003) was a haven for celebrities in the 1970s thanks to its outlandish parties – but by the 2000s, decay had reportedly set in
‘They weren’t house-trained and would just do their business on the bedroom carpet,’ she wrote.
‘Late at night, or in the early hours of the morning – if any of us visited Hef’s bedroom – we’d almost always end up standing in dog mess.
‘Everything in the Mansion felt old and stale, and Archie the house dog would regularly relieve himself on the hallway curtains, adding a powerful whiff of urine to the general scent of decay.’
The mansion was sold last year for $100 million – half its asking price – to businessman Daren Metropoulos, who had previously bought Hefner’s neighboring English Manor in 2009. He plans to to turn them into a single property.
Cooper Hefner made the decision in 2015 to drop frontal nudity from Playboy in order to pitch it more as a Vanity Fair-style luxury lifestyle magazine.
The first nudity-free issue was released in March 2016; Hefner reportedly fought the removal of cartoons from the magazine more than the nudity.
However, in February 2017 the decision was reversed, and the nudity – along with the jokes sections among other elements dropped in the redesign – was restored.
Sealed with a kiss: Pamela Anderson presents Hef with a cake on his birthday
The birthday boy: Pamela Anderson stripped off to help Hef celebrate his birthday. This image has been blurred by the station
Back in the day: Hugh Hefner with a former girlfriend, Barbara Brenton (left), and smoking a pipe on June 30, 1966 (right)