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Hugh Hefner Biography: Life and Career of the Playboy Founder

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born April 9th, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, Hugh Hefner became interested in writing and journalism as a teen. In the 1950s, he founded Playboy Magazine. Featuring sexy images of women, the publication was an instant hit. As the years progressed, more features were added to the magazine, and Hefner took full enjoyment of the many pleasures available to him thanks to Playboy's success. Despite criticism and controversy, he broke barriers with his ideas and projects and became the envy of many men due to his many girlfriends. In this video, we take a look at the life and career of Hugh Hefner.

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He’s the ultimate Playboy. Welcome to and today, we’re taking a look at the life and career of Hugh Hefner.

Interest in Journalism

Hugh Marston Hefner was born April 9th, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in a conservative family with Methodist parents, and became interested in journalism during high school. After writing for a military newspaper in the mid-‘40s, he furthered his studies at university and married his first wife, with whom he had two children.

Playboy Magazine

Hefner soon went to work for the men’s magazine, Esquire, as a copywriter. After a few years without a raise, he quit and scrounged money from investors to establish his own publication in Chicago. Produced from his home, the first issue of Playboy Magazine debuted on newsstands in December 1953. Thanks to a nude Marilyn Monroe centerfold, it sold over 50 thousand copies in just a few weeks.

Development of the Magazine

This success allowed Hefner to keep going. The second issue introduced the world to the now-famous Playboy logo of a bowtie-wearing rabbit. The male-targeted magazine soon became known for its sexy articles and even sexier images. But Hefner wanted the magazine to appeal to more sophisticated and well-read men, so more journalistic pieces and fictional stories were included.

Living the Playboy Lifestyle

Playboy soon began selling more copies than Esquire, and Hefner’s role as editor became his life. And, as the business grew, so did the number of relationships Hefner had with other women. This eventually led to the end of his marriage. Now a free man, Hefner embodied the lifestyle of the classy, intellectual male espoused in Playboy: he gallivanted about with attractive women and made many rich and famous friends.

Playboy Enterprises

Hefner’s rise to prominence coincided with the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Hefner exploited this by expanding the reach of Playboy Enterprises: the company branched out into movies, music, modeling, and literature. Most notable was the creation of Playboy nightclubs, where members were entertained and waited on by women in bunny suits. Hefner also hosted two television shows featuring Playboy Playmates during this decade.

Criticism and Controversy

Inevitably, it wasn’t all fun and games: in 1963, Hefner was apprehended for the sale of obscene literature. Luckily, no verdict was reached and he continued publishing the magazine. However, this was not the only time Playboy’s content was criticized: American religious groups often spoke out against the publication, and numerous Asian and Muslim nations began prohibiting its sale. Regardless, many film, television, music and sports celebrities have posed for Playboy throughout the years.

Playboy Mansion and Competition

During the early 1970s, Hef was riding high on his enterprise’s success and its millions in profit: he traveled the world in his own jet and split his time between residences in Chicago and Los Angeles, including the famed Playboy Mansion. Unfortunately, Playboy soon faced strong competition from rival men’s magazines. It tried to hold onto to readers by modifying features and varying interview subjects.


As the magazine underwent changes, so did Hefner’s interests: he relocated to Los Angeles and broadened his arts-related pursuits. A minor stroke in 1985 led to even more alterations: Hef reduced his partying at the Playboy Mansion and relinquished control of Playboy Enterprises to his daughter.

Second Marriage and Other Interests

In 1989, he married his second wife Kimberley Conrad, and with her had two children. However, the couple separated before the end of the ‘90s. That decade also saw Hef focus on charitable causes and work more with the Playboy Foundation.

“The Girls Next Door”

The new millennium brought new ladies into Hefner’s life as he simultaneously dated different women. Three of his most famous girlfriends, Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson, were prominently featured on the reality show “The Girls Next Door.” After their departure, the 80-year-old began dating a pair of teenage twins. He also became engaged to Playboy Playmate Crystal Harris, but the wedding was cancelled in 2011. Around this time, his net worth was revealed to be over $40 million.


Despite its decline in popularity in recent years, Playboy remains one of the most legendary brands on the planet. As founder of the magazine and of Playboy Enterprises, Hugh Hefner has gone from being an entrepreneur to the head of an empire, while also being the envy of many men along the way.

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