Legend or Lothario? Hugh Hefner’s at Once Glamorous and Controversial Legacy

Hugh Hefner
Mandatory Credit: Photo by James Fortune/REX/Shutterstock (803112cx) Hugh Hefner and Playmates at the Playboy Club, Various
by James Fortune/REX/Shutterstock
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* Hugh Hefner: Liberator or mere Libertine?
* See the details of this controversial legend’s life and rise to fame
* From the icon to the empire, how Marilyn Monroe launched Hefner’s career

From being credited as a great patron of the arts who helped to usher in the sexual revolution, to being criticized for exploitative treatment of women including Marilyn Monroe (with whom he shared a birthday and now shares a gravesite), the late Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has left behind a legacy that is, if anything, more controversial than his life’s work.

Was he a pioneer of healthy liberalizing attitudes toward sex? A “responsible hedonist” whose brand of classy libertine art was actually wholesome and whose platform allowed him to advocate for civil rights and take a stand in the politics of race and gender? Or was he a controlling and manipulative Don Juan, who, like the Don Juan of the original Spanish legend and opera, finds his life of hedonism in the end empty and punishing?

1. Hefner: American Playboy

This docu-series examines Hefner’s life and touches on such topics as the surprising way that Hugh Hefner, then a young, unknown publishing entrepreneur, got his hands on nude photos of Marilyn Monroe that were taken before she was even called Marilyn Monroe. Turns out, years earlier, the aspiring actress had been in need of money for rent and had posed for a shoot for a then-common pinup “girlie calendar,” and was paid the grand total of $50.00–that’s the equivalent of less than $1000 in 2017 terms.

american playboy hugh hefner documentary Image courtesy of Amazon


2. Little Black Book

The famous “Little Black Book” contains a sprawling array of Hefner’s recollections and aphorisms, bits of advice he had received over the years and anecdotes from the life of the man who, for better or worse, came to stand in for a portion of the American fantasy life for decades.

Hef's Little Black Book Image courtesy of Amazon


3. Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion

Jennifer Saginor authored the true story of a little girl, the daughter of Heff’s personal physician,  who grew up in the Playboy Mansion. Drugs abounded, the line between fantasy and reality blurred, and a child tried desperately not to fall down the rabbit hole.

Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion Image courtesy of Amazon


 4. Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream

Steven Watts’ Hugh Hefner biography is billed as an inside story of this controversial American Icon. According to an LA Times review, what emerges is an oddly sober portrait of a man driven, like the fictional Jay Gatsby, by something as conventionally American as the Protestant Work Ethic. A tireless workaholic and later, an actual recluse, Hefner seems to have been full of contradiction no matter your perspective.

Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream Image courtesy of Amazon


5. The Complete Centerfolds

This collected edition features every nude Playboy centerfold from 1953 to February, 2016. It includes, of course, the iconic photos of Marilyn Monroe. The collected edition also includes writings by Elizabeth Wurtzel, Robert Stone, Daphne Merkin, Maureen Gibbon and others. Because, you know, you read Playboy for the articles, right?

playboy centerfolds collection Image courtesy of Amazon


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