And so it goes, we are born, we grow, we make our way in life, hopefully, leave a positive mark, then we go on to bigger and better things in eternity. Most of us spend the bulk of our lives within our communities, and when we do pass on, it seems as if the world hardly notices.
The announcement today that publishing mogul Hugh Hefner had died peacefully surrounded by family and friends left the world reminiscing about the ‘first’ time we read a Playboy magazine. For “Hef” (as his friends and family referred to him), the world is not just eulogizing the publishing magnate, they are celebrating his life today. It can be argued that “Hef” lived the life in reality that most can only dream of in their fantasies. Hefner lived a life of mansions, money, private jets, the best liquor, and some of the most beautiful young women in the world. It was Hugh Hefner who made wearing silk pajama’s to work a fashion statement that made most men jealous.
As many men today are remembering their teen years of idolizing Hefner’s prowess with the ladies, many women are thanking him publically for launching their careers to stardom. Dozens upon dozens of very high-profile starlets from the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s are today thanking Hefner for helping them to become models, actresses, recording stars, and even successful business people.
For myself on a personal level, my eyes first gazed upon the glossy pages of Playboy back around 1967 or 68. My father (at least I hope it was) had stashed one in the bathroom under a stack of towels. I was around 11, maybe 12-years-old and this was the first time I had ever laid eyes on a naked woman. I was so shocked that I stole the magazine and immediately hid it in my blue jeans and ran down to my best friends house to show him my big score. Several hours later, as I tried “sneaking” the illicit magazine back into the house, my father caught me with it. This would be the first of ten-thousand times I would hear these words, “Oh, son; I buy Playboy for the articles, they have great writers.” The tragedy of that scene was, I actually believed him, for a time anyway.
Not too long after my ‘first’ encounter with Hefner’s pride and joy, my friends and I were riding our bicycles around this dirt motocross type of track down the street from our homes. The track backed up to a trucking company. I don’t remember which one of us noticed the pile of magazines lying by the fence, but one of us did. JACKPOT!! There lying by the fence was a stack of Playboys. The four of us spent the next several hours “reading the articles” and learning as much as we could about “biology.”
I am sure there are thousands of stories about young men learning about sex, the design of the female anatomy and much more from Playboy. Back in the late 60’s and leading into the early 70’s was the beginning of Americas ‘bra burning’ era and the sexual revolution. Prior to Hugh Hefner, a magazine publisher could not even mail a men’s mag through the United States Postal service. It would be Hefner who would sue the USPS for the right to 2nd Class mail his bunny publication in a plain brown wrapper.
Prior to Playboy, there were no adult bookstores across America. It was taboo for people to discuss sex in any other format than that of their bedroom. We had no manufacturing companies that created those beautiful vibrating devices that we have today. America, for the most part, lived under the old Victorian social norms. To say these were prudish would be an understatement.
I’m not defending many of ‘Hef’s’ lifestyle conversions for our nation. To some degree, I believe that a few of these have done much more harm than good. This is probably the Christian belief coming out in me. But Hefner led the charge on free speech, led the charge on getting America talking openly about sexuality and introduced all of us to the beauty of the female body in a bikini.
As I said earlier, few of us ever an impact on society that affects as many as Hugh Hefner did. Hefner gave birth to many others who would try to duplicate Playboys success. While Hefner published his ladies in classic poses with hearts and fuzzy objects in the scenes, publishers like Larry Flynt gave birth to the term “smut” with his magazine Hustler. Hef never waivered, he kept his magazine classy, and yes, it did have great writers who would publish articles on excellent cuisine, great wines, movie reviews, incredibly humorous political jokes and human folly.
While the man Hugh Hefner might be gone, his easing of the discussion of the socially taboo subject of sex will live on. His challenging of the laws regarding the 1st Amendment and even the ability to mail something shall live on.
One thing is for certain regarding Hef; nobody ever got so much accomplished in their pajamas as Hugh Hefner.