Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Hefner, Hugh Marston from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1926–2017, American publisher and businessman, b. Chicago. Raised according to strict Methodist principles, Hefner reacted by launching (1953) Playboy, a magazine for men that features photographs of nude women, advice on hedonistic living, stories and articles by well-known writers, and high-quality interviews. The magazine was successful internationally in the 1960s and 70s, and it spawned related businesses, such as nightclubs, hotels, and casinos. By 1986, however, most of these divisions had failed. He stepped down as chief executive of Playboy Enterprises in 1988.

  • See Fraterrigo, E. , Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America (2009).

Summary Article: Hefner, Hugh (Marston)
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US publisher, founder of Playboy magazine in 1953. With its centrefolds of nude women, and columns of opinion, fashion, and advice on sex, Playboy helped shape the social attitudes of the post-war generation. In the early 1960s, the huge success of Hefner's magazine led to the creation of a national chain of Playboy clubs and mansions. Its success declined in the 1980s owing to the rise of competing men's magazines and feminist protest.

Hefner produced the first issue of Playboy, featuring the famous calendar photograph of Marilyn Monroe, in 1953. It had no cover date because Hefner did not know if he could finance another edition; however, it sold 50,000 copies. By the 1960s, Playboy was selling 1 million copies a month. In 1959, Hefner presented a syndicated television show called Playboy's Penthouse and opened the first of a national chain of Playboy clubs, with ‘bunny-girl’ hostesses, and leisure resorts, in Chicago, Illinois. In the early 1970s Hefner expanded into television and films. In 1985 Hefner had a stroke and control of the company passed to his daughter, Christie (1952– ), although he remained the magazine's editor-in-chief, playing a key role in determining the path of Playboy Enterprises and directing other areas of the corporation.

Hefner was born in Chicago. In 1944 he joined the US Army serving as an infantry clerk and a cartoonist for US Army newspapers. He attended the University of Illinois, during which time he edited the campus magazine and produced cartoons for the Daily Illinois.

In 1949 Hefner started working for the Chicago Carton Company, and then as an advertising copywriter for the Carson, Pirie, Scott department store before joining Esquire magazine as a promotion copywriter in 1951. When the company relocated to New York City he chose to stay behind and start his own magazine. Convinced that there was a market for a men's magazine, he raised $8,000 with investments from family and friends and produced the first issue of Playboy on his apartment's kitchen table.

Hefner also had a longstanding association with Hollywood and cinema, having supported a number of film courses at UCLAS and USC, and serving as a guest lecturer for the latter.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article Hefner, Hugh
Capstone Encyclopaedia of Business

Born in Chicago, Illinois, on 9 April 1926, Hugh Hefner attended Sayre Elementary School and Steinmetz High on the West Side of...

Full text Article Hefner, Hugh (1926–)
100 Entertainers Who Changed America: An Encyclopedia of Pop Culture Luminaries

There are few people whose rise to fame is as contradictory as Hugh Hefner's, nor are many able to boast the acquisition of great wealth and fortune

Full text Article Hefner, Hugh Marston
Encyclopedia of the History of American Management

(1926–) Hugh Hefner was born in Chicago on 9 April 1926, the son of Glenn and Grace Hefner. Graduating from high school in 1944 he joined the...

See more from Credo