Timeline: Hugh Hefner, 'Playboy' founder
A look at Hugh Hefner, the pipe-smoking icon who founded Playboy and died at the age of 91 surrounded by family.
Hugh Hefner, magazine publisher and founder of Playboy Enterprises, died Wednesday night in Los Angeles. He was 91. Here's a look back at his colorful life.
Hugh Marston Hefner is born to conservative Nebraska farmers and descendants of Puritan patriarchs William Bradford and John Winthrop, Grace and Glenn Hefner in Chicago.
Enters Steinmetz High School in Chicago with an IQ of 152. Was a shy student at first until he reinvented himself in the last two years of high school as “Hef.” While at Steinmetz Hef enjoyed cartooning, founded the school paper named “Star,” was a member of the Green Curtain Players and was on the yearbook staff. He focused on student causes as president of the student council and was voted most popular senior and class clown. His favorite class was journalism.
Works as an usher at the Rockne, a Chicago movie theater.
Joins the U.S. Army as an infantry clerk and draws cartoons for the Army newspaper.
Honorably discharged from the Army after serving for two years near the end of World War II. Went on to take summer art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago and enrolled at the University of Illinois in Champaign in the fall, where he would meet his first wife, Mildred Williams, as a student at Northwestern.
Graduates from University of Illinois after just 2 ½ years with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a double minor in art and creative writing. Takes a position as assistant personnel manager for the Chicago Cartoon Company.
Hires on as an advertising copywriter at Carson Pirie Scott department store.
After failing to sell his ideas for a cartoon strip, Hefner publishes That Toddlin’ Town, a book of satirical cartoons about Chicago. He lands a job at Esquire as a promotion copywriter. Later he was denied a $5 raise request when the publication moved its offices to New York and he decided to stay behind in pursuit of creating his own publication.
Collaborates with a fellow copywriter in an attempt to raise enough money to launch a new Chicago magazine and fails. Works for Publisher’s Development Corp. as a newsstand and promotions director and discovers a demand for a gentleman’s magazine. Daughter Christie Ann Hefner is born Nov. 8, 1952.
Raises $8,000 from 45 investors, including a $1,000 contribution from his mother, to launch Playboy magazine. Initially, decides on Stag Party as the title for his magazine but, due to a challenge from Stag Magazine considering this title trademark infringement, follows the advice of a friend to name the magazine Playboy. Playboy’s first edition produced in Hef’s kitchen and hits newsstands selling 54,175 copies with cover girl Marilyn Monroe setting the bar for future bunnies. Balances Playboy with a better-paying job as circulation manager of children’s Activities magazine.
Son David Paul Hefner is born on Aug. 30, 1955.
Playboy’s circulation surpasses that of Esquire by selling 700,000 copies per month.
Hef divorces his wife, Millie.Playboy sells over a million copies every month. In celebration, Hef holds the first Playboy Jazz Festival at the Chicago Stadium, a three-day extravaganza known as the “greatest single weekend in the history of jazz” at the time. The first American indoor jazz festival draws more than 68,000. Purchases Chicago Playboy Mansion and his first television show, Playboy’s Penthouse debuts.
First Playboy Club opens in downtown Chicago.
First "Playboy Interview" is published with Alex Haley interviewing Miles Davis.
Hef is arrested on obscenity charges after nude photos of Jayne Mansfield appear in Playboy’sJune issue. The photos allegedly offended Chicago Corporation Counsel John Melaniphy, who explained that the captions beneath the images that were too suggestive to be considered art and were therefore “obscene.” Due to the jury’s inability to reach a verdict, the charges are dropped.
Hugh M. Hefner Foundation is established with a mission to facilitate individual rights society, placing emphasis on civil rights and liberties, First Amendment rights, and rational sex and drug policies.
Hugh Hefner led an amazing life. Here are five fascinating facts about the original playboy.
Hef fights censorship and encourages human sexuality research by providing grants to non-profit organizations through the founding Playboy Foundation.
Hosts Playboy After Dark television series.
Playboy becomes the most influential men’s magazine worldwide in this decade, with circulation numbers at 7 million, surpassing those of other men’s magazines. Hef obtains a black McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 he names the Big Bunny airline jet in which he jets around the world.
Playboy Enterprises goes public, selling 7 million magazine copies every month. The company also successfully establishes 23 Playboy Clubs, resorts, hotels and casinos and boasts more than 900,000 members worldwide. Purchases the famed Playboy Mansion on a five-acre estate in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles.
Playboy earns a $12 million profit for the year.
Decides to make the Los Angeles mansion his permanent residence so that he may closely supervise production. Becomes a driving force in the restoration of the Hollywood sign, a monument he referred to as “Hollywood’s Eiffel Tower.”
Awarded the first Annual Hollywood Hall of Fame Award as Outstanding Citizen of the Year by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
Suffers a minor stroke, Hef considered a “stroke of luck,” that serves as a huge wake-up call resulting in less participation in mansion poolside parties and less pleasurable pursuits.
Names daughter, Christie, chair and chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises.
Marries longtime girlfriend and 1989 Playmate of the Year, Kimberly Conrad, resulting in a period where the Playboy Mansion West represents family life.
Spends much of the next decade devoting his time to philanthropic projects. Instills the Freedom of Expression Award given annually at the Sundance Film Festival into the Playboy Foundation. Endows the “Censorship in the Cinema” course at the University of Southern California. Son Marston Glenn Hefner is born on Hef’s birthday, April 9.
Son Cooper Bradford Hefner is born Sept. 4.
Hefner establishes the Playboy Jazz Film Festival, funded by Playboy. The festival was the first showcase on the West Coast for rare jazz films and was free to the public.
Receives the International Publishing Award from the International Press Directory in London.
Separates from wife, Kim. She and the two boys move onto an estate next to the mansion. Hefner is inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Society of Magazine Editors.
Hefner is inducted into the New York Friars Club as an honorary friar. Celebrates his 75th birthday with a lavish party at the mansion.
Receives the highest honor of the Magazine Publishers of America: the Henry Johnson Fisher Award. Inducted as an honorary member of the Harvard Lampoon.
Launches reality series The Girls Next Door, starring Kendra Wilkinson, Holly Madison, and Bridget Marquardt. The series airs in more than 150 countries worldwide. Celebrates Playboy’s 50th anniversary with live music, stand-up comedy, and interviews and is featured in a two-hour special on A&E. Attempts to expand with a Playboy version featuring South Asian women and Indian pop culture articles to India but it is rejected.
Hefner honored with a star on the Brendan Theater Walk of Fame. Celebrates his 80th birthday with a weekend full of festivities including a “Casablanca Night” movie screening, a pajama and lingerie party, and dinner buffet for about 1,000 guests at the Playboy Mansion. Embarks on a tour of eight cities in Europe to continue his celebration. Makes a $1 million donation to the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
Donates $2 million to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.
The three original "girls next door" move out of the mansion. Holly Madison, Hef’s main girlfriend of The Girls Next Door, leaves him. It is speculated that Madison left him due to his inability to commit and satisfy her wishes for a family.
Places the home of Kim and his two sons, also known as the Holmby Hills Mansion, on the market for nearly $28 million. After 11 years of separation, Hef files for divorce from Kim Conrad. Future girlfriend Crystal Harris moves into the mansion.
Hef’s divorce from Kim is finalized in March. Gets engaged to Crystal Harris, a former 2009 playmate of the month, in December.
Harris calls off the wedding and the two separate. Hef quickly moves on and introduces Anna Sophia Berglund and Sher Bechard as his newest girlfriends.
Hef writes a passionate plea in support of gay marriage. He states that a fight for gay marriage is "a fight for all our rights."
Hef hands over creative control of Playboy to his son, Cooper. He remains editor in chief. Cooper publishes the first non-nude issue of the magazine. A year later, after declining sales, the decision was reversed.
Hef also sells the iconic Playboy Mansion to the owner of Twinkies for a whopping $100 million. The only hitch? As part of the sale, Hef is allowed to remain in residence for the remainder of his life.
Hefner dies in Los Angeles surrounded by family at age 91.
Source: USA TODAY research