He's both a man who built a brand recognized around the world and a purveyor of dirty photos, but there's no denying that Hugh Hefner, who died yesterday at the age of 91, started a successful company that made a mark on the world.
Hefner, born on April 9, 1926, had worked at a cardboard-box manufacturer, a department store, Esquire magazine and then Children's Activities magazine before he launched Playboy in 1953, mostly as a vehicle for his slightly dirty cartoons, reports The New York Times. He financed that first issue with $600 of his own money and borrowed several thousands more, including $1,000 from his mother. That first issue's main feature was a nude calender photo of Marilyn Monroe that Hefner bought the rights to for $500. (He will be buried in a Los Angeles mausoleum drawer next to Monroe's that he had purchased.)
Playboy was an instant success when it hit newsstands, with all 51,000 copies sold out. After five years, the company was bringing in annual profits of $4 million. By 1960, the magazine's circulation reached 1 million and by the ‘70s it was at about 7 million.
Over the course of decades, the Playboy empire would spread out into clubs, TV shows, movies and merchandise. The Playboy Mansion would gain worldwide fame as a place where celebrities went to party.
Alongside the magazine's characteristic nude photos, the magazine has featured interviews with high-profile individuals such as Jimmy Carter and Malcolm X. It also has published the work of influential writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates. There's a reason people claim they "only read it for the articles."
Of course, Hefner was a source of much controversy, mostly because of the magazine's role in objectifying women. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem went undercover in the '60s at one of Playboy's clubs and uncovered long hours, painful uniforms and vulgar customers. Holly Madison, a former girlfriend of Hefner's featured on the TV show The Girls Next Door, said he was emotionally manipulative.
Hefner always disputed these assertions, saying his philosophy was that consenting adults should be allowed to do what they want. His views -- including on contraception, abortion and marijuana -- were ahead of the time and society eventually adapted to many of them. Hefner had been a supporter of civil rights as well, and regularly featured African-American guests on his TV shows during a time that was frowned upon.
He relinquished control of the company to his daughter Christie in 1982, but stayed on as the magazine's editor in chief until last year, when his son Cooper took over.
To recognize the controversial yet undisputably successful life of Hugh Hefner, here are 10 of his most inspiring quotes.