There’s no doubt about it – Hugh Hefner has been a huge influence on the publishing industry. He wasn’t even thirty years old when he founded Playboy magazine, and he’s since turned it into an empire. Though many associate the publication with the infamous centerfolds and playmates, the fact is that Hefner also did a fantastic job acquiring great content throughout Playboy’s history – Truman Capote, Henry Miller, John Updike, and Kurt Vonnegut are just a few writers whose words were featured between Playboy’s pages.
With the huge amount of content online, and the various publications geared towards the male readership, it might not come as a surprise that Playboy is no longer as ground-breaking and revolutionary nowadays as it was back in its prime. However, the fact remains that Hefner created something at a young age, has overseen it for over half a century, and it’s still going today. That’s one amazing legacy. There are several magazines that have been in existence for longer than Hef’s publication, but most of them have had countless individuals at the helm over the years rather than a single figure.
So, who is the man behind the magazine? Well, while he’s now associated with the Hollywood area, as the Playboy Mansion has been located there for several decades, back when the magazine was just a twinkle in his eye he was a humble Chicago boy trying to make it in the publishing world. Most people know a few things about Hef, but here are 10 things you might not have known.
10 He started Playboy with $8,000, all raised himself
A magazine is a huge thing to fund today, and while the competition may have been less back in the 1950s due to the absence of digital content, it still wasn’t easy. It would likely have been extremely difficult to acquire funding for something like what he was envisioning, particularly since Hef was fairly young. So, what’s a Chicago boy to do? Well, gather up a group of 45 investors – including his mother, who contributed a cool $1,000 – and get them to pitch in various amounts. Hefner raised $8,000 and was able to start the publication. The very first issue sold over 50,000 copies, so we have a feeling all those investors were feeling pretty good about their instincts in the young dreamer.
9 He owns the crypt next to Marilyn Monroe
It’s no secret that Hef loves old Hollywood, and has a huge fondness for movie stars of the past. One of his ultimate favorites is blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe, who, incidentally, was Playboy’s first centrefold. What you might not know is that in 1992, Hefner actually bought the crypt next to the movie star at Los Angeles’ Westwood Memorial Park. He paid a staggering $75,000 for the privilege of being buried next to the starlet once he passes. That’s right – he’s secured a way to make sure that he’s with a beautiful woman, even after he’s passed away.
8 He holds a Guinness World Record
And no, before your mind turns to something dirty, it has nothing to do with women or sex. When he first started the publication, Hefner was holding the reigns as founder and editor-in-chief. After all, it was his vision, he wanted to control how it was presented to the public. While the company has expanded over the years and taken on countless other staff, Hefner has maintained that editor-in-chief title through it all. That means he’s been at his current position for over 60 years, and holds the distinction of being the longest serving editor-in-chief of a magazine publication.
7 He grew up with a bunny-covered blanket
Ever wonder where the iconic Playboy bunny logo comes from? Well, the story might be a little more heart-warming than you would think. When Hefner was just a child, one of his prized possessions was a blue and white blanket that was covered with a bunny rabbit motif. That’s right – as many children do, Hef had a security blanket. Eventually, when his childhood dog fell ill and was laid to rest on the blanket, it was burned. He might not have the physical reminder anymore, but incorporating the animal into his business empire has meant that he probably thinks of that childhood treasure nearly every day.
6 He married (and divorced) his college sweetheart
Back when Hefner was a handsome college student in Illinois, he met a woman by the name of Mildred Williams, and eventually made her his wife. That’s right – in his 20s, when a lot of men nowadays remain staunch bachelors, Hef was a married man. The young couple moved in with Hefner’s parents when they were newlyweds, staying in his modest childhood home as they started their lives together. They divorced about a decade later, and he hasn’t exactly been Mr. Commitment since, but once upon a time he did things a little more traditionally. Who would’ve thought?
5 The University of Illinois is his alma mater
Before Hef entered the work force and began making his mark on the publishing industry, he was on the path to higher learning. Hefner stayed pretty close to his roots, only going as far as Champaign, Illinois to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a double minor in creative writing and art – pretty much the perfect combination for a successful editor, as he got some great insight into how people think, and what content would make a publication good quality. After his graduation (in an impressive two and a half years), Hef continued his studies by taking a semester of sociology graduate courses at Chicago’s Northwestern University before realizing the classroom wasn’t the place for him.
4 His parents were strict Methodists
When an individual is as free and open about things like sex as Hefner is, it might be easy to assume that attitude comes from a particular type of child raising on the part of his parents – however, his parents were pretty much the opposite of what you would imagine. They were strict Methodists, and Hefner once commented that “in many ways it was my parents who, unintentionally, developed the iconoclastic rebellion in me.” At the end of the day, they obviously supported him, as his mother was one of the many who helped fund the first issue of Playboy, but we can’t help but wonder if Hef was ever totally honest about the content of his publication with his devout parents.
3 He has a species of rabbit named after him
Thanks to the brand’s logo and through things like Playboy Bunnies in their iconic costumes, the bunny has become inextricably linked with Playboy. From aspiring Playmates getting tattoos of the two-eared creature to bunnies stamped across Playboy merchandise, bunnies are a huge part of Hefner’s world. Regardless, it still may come as a surprise that Hef actually has a real species of rabbit named after him – the Sylvilagus palustris hefneri. And no, that species doesn’t have platinum blonde hair or a full bust. They’re simply an endangered species of marsh rabbit with a brown coat and adorably small ears.
2 He was originally on the publishing staff at Child Life magazine
Everyone knows about Hefner’s involvement with Playboy, and many know that he initially started polishing his skills at men’s magazine Esquire. In fact, it was Esquire’s refusal to give him the raise he desired that led him to quit and eventually pursue his own publication. However, Hef has been involved in the publishing world ever since his high school newspaper days, and once upon a time, he was on the publishing staff at Child Life magazine. That’s right – the man responsible for a sexual revolution and a publication known for its nude centerfolds formerly worked at a magazine whose target audience was children. Hey, you can’t say he’s not journalistically diverse.
1 He served in the army
Unless you are roughly Hef’s age and grew up alongside Playboy magazine, chances are that you don’t think of the young 30-year old publishing prodigy when you think of Hugh Hefner – the older gentleman with the army of blondes is probably the figure that comes to mind. However, he wasn’t always a man in his 80s – back in the 1940s, after he had graduated high school in Chicago, Hefner did what many men at the time did and served in the army. It wasn’t a lifelong career for him – he only served two years – but it’s a memorable part of his history nonetheless. While we’re sure he was skilled at whatever he did, it’s tough to picture the Playboy reporting for duty.