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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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For many, the magazine proved to be a welcome antidote to the sexual repression of the era. For those who initially dismissed the magazine as a pornographic publication, Playboy soon broadened its circulation with thoughtful articles and an urbane presentation.
The Playboy logo, depicting the stylized profile of a rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie, appeared in the second issue and remained the trademark icon of the Playboy industry. Hefner chose the rabbit for its "humorous sexual connotation" and because the image was "frisky and playful"—an image he fostered in the magazine's articles and cartoons. Hefner wanted to distinguish his magazine from most other men's periodicals, which catered to outdoorsmen and featured "he-man" fiction. Hefner decided his magazine would instead cater to the more cosmopolitan, intellectual male, while associating sex not with prostitution but rather with "the girl next door."
From early in the magazine's publication, Hefner promoted what became known as the "Playboy Philosophy." An evolving manifesto on politics and governance, the philosophy espoused Hefner's fundamental beliefs about the nature of man and woman and called for reasoned discourse on the truths of human sexuality. However, Hefner never lost sight of the fact that it was pictures of nude women that ultimately sold the magazine.
Work on the magazine consumed much of Hugh Hefner's life and his marriage. By 1956, Playboy's circulation had surpassed that of rival magazine Esquire, and was nearing 1 million copies a month by 1959. Hefner had also "walked the walk" by becoming involved in many extramarital affairs, which his wife tolerated for several years. They divorced in 1959 after having two children, Christie and David.
In the 1960s, Hugh Hefner became the persona of Playboy: the urbane sophisticate in the silk smoking jacket with pipe in hand. He adopted a wide range of intellectual pursuits, and socialized with the famous and wealthy, always in the company of many young, beautiful women. As the magazine's increased success came to the attention of the mainstream public, Hefner was happy to portray himself as the charismatic icon and spokesperson for the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
This was also Playboy's golden age as ever-increasing circulation allowed Hefner to build a vast enterprise of "private key" clubs. Hostesses, known as "bunnies" for their scanty bunny outfits, staffed these high-end establishments. Hefner's Playboy Enterprises also built hotel resorts, started modeling agencies, produced feature films, published books, and operated a record company. Also in the 1960s, Hefner hosted two short-run television series, Playboy's Penthouse (1959–60) and Playboy After Dark (1969–70). Both programs were weekly talk shows set in a bachelor pad full of Playboy "playmates," who would chat with Hefner and his special guests about various subjects.
But all that success didn't come without controversy.
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