Thoughts on Hugh Hefner

Hefner made a fortune off of women’s bodies.

Now let me put this in perspective. If you’re old enough to remember the 50s and the ’60s, you may remember things like June Cleaver vacuuming her living room in heels and pearls (Leave it to Beaver). You may remember; how Gene Roddenberry freaked out the studio executives by casting Majel Barret as the first officer on the Enterprise in Star Trek’s pilot (Studio executives thought a strong woman would turn people off.)

Or how the women’s uniforms on Star Trek were the shortest on Television. When casting an alien woman, Roddenberry said an outfit didn’t have to actually fall off, if it looked like it might fall off at any moment.
Or how William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols had the first inter-racial kiss on American Network TV in 1968 (unless you want to count France Nuyen and Robert Culp on I Spy in 1966 (France Nuyen was (gasp) Asian)).

Hefner swam in those seas and had an attitude that was different than a lot of what went on in American Culture. He made a lot of money helping men see women as sex objects, but to be fair, that’s how a lot of American culture saw women at that time. Hefner also had Black performers at his integrated clubs and on his brief network show (Playboy after Dark) when this wasn’t a safe thing to do.
Hefner also promoted gay rights WAY before it was popular. Hefner was party to a lot of lawsuits that ended up with cable TV and Libraries and movie theaters and internet websites not having to worry about getting busted for pornography. The next time you watch Game of Thrones, it would not be untrue to say that Hefner broke some ground that let it exist and be shown in the U.S.

Hefner also had a sense or entitlement. He lived on viagra and had a series of women in their 20s who lived with him in installments. One assumes it paid well.
Hefner got a lot of attention to the first issue of Playboy by buying years old photographs of Marilyn Monroe. She’s posed for a calendar before she became a movie star. Marilyn never made a dime off of being in Playboy. She’d signed away the rights to those photos years before.
Betty Page had left her career as a model having made very little. Her likeness was used to advertise without Betty getting anything for it. When she was introduced to Hefner, he got her an agent and finally in her 60s, she got something from people using her likeness to make money.

After her death, the grave next to Marilyn Monroe went up for sale. Hefner bought it and decided that was a good place to wait out eternity. I’ve heard conflicting accounts as to whether he and Monroe had never met, but Hefner felt it was fine to have one last intrusion into Marilyn’s life.

He’s a complicated character even as he became a parody of himself at the end of his life.