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15 Things You Didn’t Know About Hugh Hefner’s Empire

Entertainment
15 Things You Didn’t Know About Hugh Hefner’s Empire

Whether you enjoy the magazine or not, whether you’re truly a fan of the articles or you just enjoy the centrefolds, there’s no question that Playboy is absolutely iconic. Back in its prime, Hugh Hefner was an icon, the Playboy clubs were the place to be, and the sexy girls next door featured in the magazine were every man’s dream. The brand got another spike in popularity in the 2000s when Hef’s three girlfriends at the time – who have gone on to have reality television spin-offs of their own – starred in The Girl Next Door. Through the years, though, it has remained a constant entity – and given how few magazines celebrate ten years in business, let alone over 50, that’s truly saying something.

It all started with a simple magazine that Hefner created while he was still in his 20s, with only a few years of experience under his belt and a small chunk of change. He believed in his product and hustled hard – and soon, began to reap the rewards.

So, you may recognize several celebrities or Playmates who have graced the pages of the famous publication, and you may know a few things about Hugh Hefner himself, but how much do you truly know about his empire? Here are 15 things you may not have known about Playboy.

15. The Rabbit Logo Was Thrown Together In Less Than An Hour

When you’re a new company, branding is crucial – it can be the deciding factor between a company that survives, and a company that flails after getting ignored on the shelves for too long. That’s why companies generally put a lot of time and effort (and often money, if they hire consultants or marketing experts) into determining any type of logo associated with their company. That is, unless you’re Hugh Hefner. A lot of the magazines at the time were using male figures as symbols, so Hefner figured an animal would set them apart a little bit – and, with the direction Playboy was taking, the rabbit was the best fit. And, from idea to final product, the art director at the time, Art Paul, pulled the iconic bunny together in a matter of minutes. Paul has joked about the process before, saying that “if I had any idea how important that little rabbit was going to be, I probably would have redrawn him a dozen times”

14. It Was Almost Named ‘Stag Party’

The story behind any publication’s name is usually an interesting one, and that’s certainly the case with Hefner’s empire. Hefner’s initial concept was to call his magazine Stag Party, and have the logo/mascot be, well, a stag. Something virile and strong. It made sense, but there was just one problem – there was another magazine out there called Stag, and though it was about the outdoors and had nothing to do with the type of content Hefner was hoping to publish, it was similar enough to spook them. Stag threatened Hefner with legal repercussions if he didn’t change the title, so after some brainstorming, Hefner decided on Playboy, a suggestion that had been made by his associate Eldon Sellers. Today, the name has become so iconic, and has so many cultural meanings, that it’s tough to imagine what it would have been like with the stag at the helm rather than the cheeky rabbit.

13. It Was Started With Less Than $10,000

Many people balk at the idea that they could open their own company because it seems like something that would require absolutely massive amounts of money. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Particularly since there’s so much more technology nowadays that there are certain ways to cut costs that weren’t possible in the 1950s. When Hugh Hefner decided to launch Playboy, he didn’t gather millions of dollars of venture funding – instead, he cobbled together $7,000 from 45 investors – meaning no one put up more than a couple hundred bucks – and, with the addition of $1,000 from his mother, he launched the magazine. It was just him, a typewriter, and a card table at the very beginning, but soon enough, he was at the helm of an empire. It just goes to prove that you don’t always have to wait for huge sums of money to come in. Sometimes, you can just take a leap and hope it works out.

12. Hefner Has An In-House Personal Archivist For His 3,000 Scrapbooks

There’s no question that Hugh Hefner has lived quite a life. After all, as a young 20-something with only a few years of experience, he started a magazine and has managed to transform that into an empire. It’s something that very few people do in their lives, and he’s even passed it along to the next generation by involving his children in the business. When you have a life that exciting and remarkable, you’d want to remember every moment of it, right? Well, that might be the reason that Hef has an in-house biographer. For those who don’t know, Hugh Hefner is a huge fan of scrapbooks designed to document his life, and he employs a full-time archivist to maintain and update the volumes about his life. Thinking Steve Martinez, Hef’s archivist, has an easy job? Well, there are nearly 3,000 scrapbooks at the Playboy mansion, so… he’s definitely working hard for those dollars.

11. Pamela Anderson Is The Most Frequent Cover Star

There are many individuals who have appeared in the pages of the magazine or on the cover multiple times, including some of Hef’s girlfriends, such as Barbi Benton and the women from The Girl Next Door. However, the woman who will forever hold the title of appearing the most on the cover of the magazine is the blonde bombshell Pamela Anderson. Over the years, Anderson has appeared on the cover a staggering 14 times, in various poses and various states of undress. Hefner even gave her the honour of being the cover of the final nude edition (before the organization decided to backpedal a bit and bring the nudes back). Getting the chance to grace the cover of a magazine that generally features 20-something women when you’re nearly 50? Only an icon could pull that off, and Pam is without question a Playboy icon.

10. It Was The First Men’s Magazine To Be Published In Braille

With his magazine and other facets of his empire, Hugh Hefner has done a lot when it comes to issues like race and gay rights, but there’s another group that Hef’s empire broke ground for. It turns out, Playboy is actually the first men’s magazine in the world to be published in Braille! You may assume a more serious publication would be the first to hold that distinction, but once again, Hef was the one innovating to reach an entirely new audience. Now, we can’t imagine how some aspects of the magazine would translate to Braille – namely, those centrefolds – but it’s an interesting distinction that they hold. The first Braille edition came out in 1970, so there’s some party trivia for next time you’re trying to stun a stranger with some random facts!

9. The First Issue Sold Over 50,000 Copies

Just as some people may assume that starting a magazine without hundreds of thousands of dollars would be impossible, many people assume that it takes a magazine a while to really get going. Unless it’s being launched by a major publishing company, an indie mag will take at least a year before they really grow their subscriber base, right? Well, not in Playboy’s case. As most fans of the magazine will know, the first ever issue featured the iconic Marilyn Monroe on the cover – which is sure to catch your eye when you spot it on the newsstand. However, when all was said and done, the first ever issue of the magazine sold a staggering 50,000 copies. We bet that Hef realized he was on to something big pretty quickly once he saw those magazines flying off the shelves!

8. The First Edition Was Produced In Hefner’s Kitchen

Hefner didn’t start the magazine with a ton of funding and a huge staff. It was a scrappy start-up whose staff consisted of, well, Hef, who had bet all the money he was able to raise on the venture. It took a lot of guts – and many people would have bailed before the first issue ever hit stands. As it was, Hefner didn’t pull together the first issue in some fancy office – he produced it in the kitchen of the Hyde Park property he was living in at the time. That’s right, that first infamous issue, the one that sold tens of thousands of copies and featured a sexy young Marilyn Monroe, was pulled together in someone’s kitchen. You probably feel a little silly for thinking your brilliant business idea could never come to fruition because you just don’t have adequate office space now, don’t you?

7. Hef Was Arrested On Obscenity Charges In The Early Days

It’s no secret that Playboy has challenged societal norms when it comes to things like sexual norms and attitudes towards sex. However, did you know that Hefner once got into a bit of a sticky situation with the law? The magazine was chugging along, picking up more fans every issue, and nearly ten years after the first issue was published, Hefner was arrested for publication and distribution of an obscene magazine. The issue that sparked the whole situation featured photographs of starlet Jayne Mansfield. And, this wasn’t just an issue that was quietly settled out of court by Hef’s team – he actually went to trial and stood in his own defense. The trial focused on the question of whether it was obscenity or art, and at the end of the day, the whole thing was declared a mistrial and he went back to running his empire.

6. There Are 29 International Editions

Playboy frequently features beauties who aren’t American, but even though the magazine started as a place to showcase all-American, girl next door beauty, it has transformed into an international empire – and that comes with international editions. After the original American magazine became a success, other countries wanted a slice of the Playboy pie and started up their own editions. Now, there are 29 international editions featuring articles and stunning ladies around the world. The original American version will always hold a special place in fans’ hearts by virtue of being the very first, but you’d better believe fans will be looking for unique international versions whenever they travel abroad. I mean, there are gorgeous women all around the world – why not take a peek?

5. Many Bunnies Stuffed Their Cups

Playboy bunnies – the gorgeous waitresses who worked at the Playboy clubs – were iconic. Who could forget those cheeky ears and vintage yet sexy costumes? Well, while the women who rocked them were all undeniably beautiful, it turns out they may have been a cup size or two smaller than their customers may have guessed. In Gloria Steinem’s undercover exposé on the bunny clubs, she included a cheeky list of what many bunnies used to fill out their costumes, which only came in D-cup sizes. The secret stuffing material includes everything from Kleenex to plastic dry cleaner’s bags, cotton, cut up Bunny tails, foam rubber, lamb’s wool, pad halves, and silk scarves. Crazy! Unfortunately, this little tidbit of knowledge may ruin photos you see of gorgeous bunnies back in the day. Sorry!

4. It Has Featured Some Literary Giants

You know the old saying that you just read Playboy for the articles? Well, while those who only know the magazine for its centrefolds may scoff at this, in reality, Hefner has managed to convince countless literary geniuses to pen pieces for his magazine. For example, back when the magazine was new on the scene, it published a serialized form of Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451, which went on to become a literary classic. It has also featured the words of writers including John Updike, Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut and Saul Bellow. That’s right, in addition to the centrefolds, Playboy has been graced with the works of Pulitzer Prize winning authors. Who would’ve guessed? So, next time you hear someone saying that they read the magazine for the articles, particularly if they’ve been a fan for a while, you know they might actually be telling the truth.

3. In The ‘70s, A Quarter Of College Men Bought The Magazine

Nowadays, it can be tough to judge the success of a publication based on particular demographics because there’s just so much content out there on the internet. There are countless magazines and websites devoted to certain demographics – college-aged men, for example – each catering to specific niches with specific styles or tones. Back in the ’70s, the market wasn’t quite so crowded, so when certain audiences saw a publication that peaked their interest, they really dialled in. When Playboy was at its peak, a young Hugh Hefner constantly surrounded by gorgeous bunnies and sending out a certain debonair persona, a quarter of all college men were buying the magazine. We can’t imagine what one single publication could capture such a huge chunk of that demographic today.

2. Playboy Hosted The First Desegregated Television Show

One of the things that Hefner’s magazine is best known for is obviously the gorgeous women that grace the cover and are featured as centrefolds every month. However, as many fans of the magazine know, they also have a history of activism, advocating everything from gay rights to desegregation. In addition to featuring gorgeous models of every race in the pages of his magazine, Hefner also took a ground-breaking stance with his show Playboy’s Penthouse. The show premiered in 1959, and was intended to introduce the charming magazine figure to a different audience. The format was casual, with each show featuring party-goers having fun together and live performances, and it became the first nationally televised show to portray people of all races having a good time together. It just goes to prove that, though many people may only associate Hefner’s empire with gorgeous models, he actually did a fair bit of good over the years.

1. Jazz Legend Miles Davis Was Their First Interview


Many publications have to wait a fair bit of time before they start getting access to huge A-List stars, particularly if they’re small indie magazines that aren’t affiliated with some type of huge publishing corporation. However, every now and then, the little guy gets a win. For their September 1962 issue, Hefner’s magazine snagged an interview with Miles Davis, a jazz legend. It would be a fantastic grab for any publication, but for a relatively new one, it’s absolutely astounding. Plus, Hef can still boast that the first ever interview that was published in the magazine was with Miles Davis, which is pretty amazing. Part of the reasoning may have been Hefner’s own preference – most fans of the magazine legend know that he’s a huge jazz fan – but either way, it’s a huge win for the magazine. And, it was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the mag publishing interviews with fascinating celebrities and public figures.

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