Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has passed away. Hef grew up dreaming of becoming a cartoonist, but found that his greater talents lay in his ability to envision a personal view and approach to living that, as it turned out, many men could relate to. The would-be cartoonist and his creation, Playboy, became a major influence in the 1950s and 1960s, entertaining a way of life based on pleasure, curiosity, and a male aesthetic. He rebelled against the stifling Puritan traditions in the culture, calling out their hypocrisies, and rejected the post-war American ideal based on family and a suburban lifestyle. Instead, he championed what he believed to be a liberating outlook rooted in natural instincts (from a male-fantasy point of view) and his magazine sported gorgeous gals, cutting-edge humor and fiction (he said James Bond and Playboy were a natural pair), hi-tech gadgets, and images of modern pads that electrified the imaginations of men weary of caving to the nine-to-five paradigm of the grey flannel suit-set. History professor Elizabeth Fraterrigo has written a study of the magazine’s influence: “In the 1950s and 1960s, Playboy promoted a decidedly masculine vision for the realms of home, work, and leisure in its textual and literal construction of their spatial corollaries- the bachelor pad, the white-collar office, and the realm of urban nightlife- which served as counterpoints to the cultural emphasis on the suburban-situated nuclear-family home. Through its magazine, television programs, and key-clubs, Playboy identified spaces where men could craft and nurture a masculine identity based on style, leisure, and consumption” (Elizabeth Fraterrigo/UNLV). He was a well-known movie fan and he shared his passion through film preservation and conservation and regular screenings of classic movies at his mansion. Hef was also a patron of the arts and champion of free speech and civil rights. He used the Playboy banner to host an annual jazz festival, as well as to spotlight innovative and revolutionary thinkers and entertainers on his television programs, Playboy's Penthouse and Playboy After Dark (I recommend the Lenny Bruce and Pete Seeger episodes). One of his most controversial debates was with William F. Buckley Jr. in 1966 (watch it on Youtube). His political work continued into his final years, proclaiming that the fight for gay marriage was the continuing fight for the sexual revolution against our past, puritanical times. Hef was married five times and had four children. He finally hung up his velvet robe and left today at the age of ninety-one. Mark Hammill posted today on Twitter: "1st met him months B4 Star Wars opened- Expected stereotyped swinger/wildman not the kind-thoughtful loyal friend he always was to ML and me." Rest in peace. Related posts: Interview: Playboy Deana and Swinging London.
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