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Hugh Hefner: What Playboy’s ‘legend’ left behind



Some say Hugh Hefner went on to a better place on Sept. 27. People joked, how much better could heaven possibly be, anyway? In truth, for some people, Hugh Hefner’s life was nothing short of an extraordinary dream. A millionaire, surrounded by beautiful women and a celebrity status – there is not much room to improve from that. And make no mistake, that is exactly what Hefner would have wanted to hear.

Hefner, who died at 91 in his Playboy mansion, according to Fox News, could be  considered an icon in American sexual culture and many parts of the world. It all started with a simple concept that was emphasized through in every Playboy issue: the idea of the modern man.

In the 1950s, women were still very much portrayed as the stay-at-home moms and anything that stepped out of that ideal was bound to get a lot of attention. Ironically, there is one person who owned the ‘50s better than anyone else. Someone who did not fit into society’s standards of what women should be and who would become an icon for years to come: Marilyn Monroe.

When the first Playboy issue came out, society’s idea of a successful man was that of the family man. It seems strange, but one cannot really talk about Hugh Hefner without mentioning Marilyn Monroe. There seems to be a circle that begins and ends with Monroe in Hefner’s life. Some might not know, but the first issue of Playboy featured Monroe on its cover. Not only that, but Hefner had actually bought some nude pictures Monroe had taken a couple of years back and published them without her permission. Now, 55 years later, Hefner lays beside Monroe in the crypt he chose many years ago to be his final resting place. The two never met in person.

The twisted relationship he shared with Monroe is a good example of his other relationships throughout his life. In the years leading to his death, he was regarded as a pioneer who stood up for women’s rights and freedom of speech. In public, Hefner did campaign for such issues.

However, his personal life was stained with first-hand anecdotes about his cruelty and aggressive machismo. Some of the latest that have surfaced include his former valet and his ex-girlfriend Holly Madison. Tales of Hefner’s cruelty towards his so-called “bunnies,” the mansion’s staff, and the accusations of rape plague the entrepreneur’s memory. However, all of these accusations seem to be quickly disregarded when people mourn his death and picture in their minds the jocular old man with a grin in his face and a whiskey in his hand.

Some of the most serious accusations include him dropping women at the ER after their breast implants exploded. Others tell about how Hefner wouldn’t even learn his Valet’s name and would just call him ‘Valet’. Yet the day he died, the Internet was plagued with memes about how Hefner was a “legend”. This is understandable, since Hefner’s whole marketing strategy was to make himself, or rather his lifestyle, seem like to something a young man should to strive for. His self-imposed swagger tinted a lot of his behaviors. Some argue that thanks to his part in the sexual liberation movement, he should be considered a feminist figure. In my opinion, he objectified women and sold them to the public under the pretense of freedom of press.

It would be incorrect to say that Hefner’s death does not deserve to populate the media. After all, he did create an empire. Not only that, but one could argue he introduced the “eternal bachelor” appeal that so many men seem to be after nowadays. He also managed to fight for freedom of speech and sexual liberation–all of this while producing a magazine that objectified and discriminated women. Whether that is something to be celebrated or not, is on the eye of the beholder. In my eyes, he might not be in a better place but, depending on how you see it, the world might just be a better place without him.

Alexandra Tirado can be reached at

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