Hugh Marston Hefner (born April 9, 1926) is an American magazine publisher, founder and chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises.
Hefner was born in Chicago, Illinois, the elder of two sons born to Grace Caroline (née Swanson; 1895–1997) and Glenn Lucius Hefner (1896–1976), both teachers. Hefner's mother was of Swedish descent and his father had German and English ancestry; on his father's side, Hefner is a direct descendant of Plymouth governor William Bradford. He has described his family as "conservative, Midwest, Methodist". He went to Sayre Elementary School and Steinmetz High School, then served as a writer for a military newspaper in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946. He later graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.A. in psychology with a double minor in creative writing and art in 1949, earning his degree in two and a half years. After graduation, he took a semester of graduate courses in sociology and women and gender studies at Northwestern University but dropped out soon after.
Working as a copywriter for Esquire, he left in January 1952 after being denied a $5 raise. In 1953, he mortgaged his furniture, generating a bank loan of $600 (or $800—he cannot recall which) and raised $8,000 from 45 investors— including $1,000 from his mother ("Not because she believed in the venture," he told E! in 2006. "But because she believed in her son") – to launch Playboy, which was initially going to be called Stag Party. The undated first issue, published in December 1953, featured Marilyn Monroe from her 1949 nude calendar shoot. Hefner, who never met Monroe, bought the crypt next to hers at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.
Hefner married Northwestern University student Mildred Williams in 1949. They had two children, Christie (born November 8, 1952) and David (born August 30, 1955). Before the wedding, Mildred confessed that she had had an affair while he was away in the Army; he called the admission "the most devastating moment of my life." A 2006 E! True Hollywood Story profile of Hefner revealed that Mildred allowed him to sleep with other women, out of guilt for her infidelity and in the hopes that it would preserve their marriage. They divorced in 1959.
Hefner remade himself as a bon vivant and man about town, a lifestyle he promoted in his magazine and two TV shows he hosted, Playboy's Penthouse (1959–1960) and Playboy After Dark (1969–1970). He admitted to being "'involved' with maybe eleven out of twelve months' worth of Playmates" during some of these years. Donna Michelle, Marilyn Cole, Lillian Müller, Shannon
Tweed, Brande Roderick, Barbi Benton, Karen Christy, Sondra Theodore, and Carrie Leigh—who filed a $35 million palimony suit against him—were a few of his many lovers. In 1971, he acknowledged that he experimented in bisexuality and moved from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Hefner had a minor stroke in 1985 at age 59. After re-evaluating his lifestyle, he made several changes. The wild, all-night parties were toned down significantly and in 1988, daughter Christie began to run the Playboy empire. The following year, he married Playmate of the Year Kimberley Conrad. The couple had two sons, Marston Glenn (born April 9, 1990) and Cooper Bradford (born September 4, 1991). The E! True Hollywood Story profile noted that the notorious Playboy Mansion had been transformed into a family-friendly homestead. After he and Conrad separated in 1998, Conrad moved into a house next door to the mansion. According to an update on Hefner's twitter account on April 25, 2010, Conrad and her mother are moving to Reno in a new home to be closer to family.
Hefner then began to move an ever-changing coterie of young women into the Mansion, even dating up to seven girls at once; among them, Brande Roderick, Izabella St. James, Tina Marie Jordan, Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, Rachael O'Neill, and Kendra Wilkinson. The reality television series The Girls Next Door depicted the lives of Madison, Wilkinson and Marquardt at the Playboy Mansion. In October 2008, all three girls made the choice to leave the mansion. Hefner was quick to rebound and soon began dating his new "Number One" girlfriend, Crystal Harris, along with 20-year-old identical twin models Kristina and Karissa Shannon. The relationship with the twins ended in January 2010. After an 11-year separation, Hefner filed for divorce from Conrad stating irreconcilable differences. Hefner has said that he only remained married to her for the sake of his children, and his youngest child had just turned 18. The divorce was finalized in March 2010.
Hefner is in talks about making a film about his life. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television and has made several movie appearances as himself. In 2010, he received a "worst supporting actor" nomination for a Razzie award for his performance in Miss March.
On June 4, 1963, he was arrested for selling obscene literature after an issue of Playboy featuring nude shots of Jayne Mansfield was released. A jury was unable to reach a verdict.
His former secretary, Bobbie Arnstein, was found dead in a Chicago hotel room after an overdose of drugs in January 1975. Hefner called a press conference to allege that she had been driven to suicide by narcotics agents and federal officers. Hefner further claimed the government was out to get him because of Playboy's philosophy and its advocacy of more liberal drug laws.
Politics and philanthropy
The Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award was created by Christie Hefner "to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans."
After it was rejected by Esquire magazine in 1955, Hefner agreed to publish in Playboy Charles Beaumont's science fiction short story, "The Crooked Man," about straight men being persecuted in a world where homosexuality was the norm. After receiving angry letters to the magazine, Hefner wrote a response to criticism where he said, "If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society then the reverse was wrong, too." Hefner is portrayed as a gay rights pioneer in the documentary film, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel.
In 1978 Hefner helped organize fund-raising efforts that led to the restoration of the Hollywood Sign, Hefner hosted a gala fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion and personally contributed $27,000 (or 1/9th of the total restoration costs) by 'purchasing' the letter Y in a ceremonial 'auction'.
Hefner donated $100,000 to the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts to create a course called "Censorship in Cinema", and $2 million to endow a chair for the study of American film.
Both through his charitable foundation and individually, Hefner also contributes to charities outside the sphere of politics and publishing, throwing fundraiser events for Much Love Animal Rescue, as well as Generation Rescue, a controversial autism campaign organization supported by Jenny McCarthy.
A new documentary by Brigitte Berman, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel was released on July 30, 2010. This was reportedly the first time that Hefner granted full access to a documentary filmmaker.