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Hugh Hefner created the adult entertainment magazine Playboy. Today, the Playboy brand includes an extensive publishing, TV and internet empire.
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Born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, Hugh Hefner transformed the adult entertainment industry with his ground breaking publication Playboy. From the first issue featuring Marilyn Monroe in 1953, Playboy has expanded into a multimillion-dollar enterprise consisting of publication, TV and web ventures, and mirroring the rebellious sensibilities of its founder.
"Could I be in a better place and happier than I am today? I don't think so."
"The interesting thing is how one guy, through living out his own fantasies, is living out the fantasies of so many other people."
"I think that retirement is the first step towards the grave."
Hugh Marston Hefner, born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, was the elder of two sons born to Grace and Glenn Hefner, strict Methodists with deep Midwestern roots. Hefner went to Sayre Elementary School and then to Steinmetz High School on the west side of Chicago where, reportedly, his IQ was 152. His teachers, however, described him as "unenthusiastic." While in high school, Hefner founded a school newspaper—an early sign of his journalistic talents.
Hefner served two years in the U.S. Army toward the end of World War II, and was discharged in 1946. He studied at the Chicago Art Institute for two years before enrolling at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in psychology. In 1949, while in college, he met his first wife, Mildred Williams. Hefner earned his bachelor's degree in 1950.
In the early 1950s, Hefner was leading a life typical of many of his peers. He was fresh out of college, young and ambitious, and in an entry-level job with a major corporation at the Chicago office of Esquire magazine. Esquire was a racy publication for men that had transformed itself into a refined periodical, featuring articles on everything from men's fashion to literary works by such writers as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It also featured illustrations from pinup artists such as George Petty and Alberto Vargas. Hefner worked for Esquire as a promotional copywriter until 1953, when he left the magazine because he was denied a $5 raise.
Out on his own Hefner was determined to start his own publication, one that was similar to Esquire but better. He raised $8,000 from 45 investors—including $1,000 from his mother—to launch Playboy magazine. Hefner had planned to name the magazine "Stag Party" but was forced to change the name to avoid a trademark infringement with the existing Stag magazine. A friend suggested the name "Playboy," after a defunct automobile company in Chicago. Hefner liked the name, as he thought it reflected high living and sophistication.
Hefner produced the first edition of Playboy out of his Hyde Park, Chicago, kitchen. It hit newsstands in December 1953, but did not carry a date because Hefner was unsure as to whether or not a second issue would be produced. To help ensure its success, Hefner had purchased a color photograph of actress Marilyn Monroe in the nude—which had been taken before her movie star career—and placed it in the centerfold of the magazine. The first issue quickly sold 50,000 copies, and became an instant sensation.
America in the 1950s was attempting to distance itself from nearly 30 years of war and economic depression.
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