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HUGH M. HEFNER (as himself), the Editor-in-Chief and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy, is a man who has profoundly influenced society in the last 50 years, during which his publication has been the world's best-selling men's lifestyle magazine.

Hefner was born in Chicago on April 9, 1926, the elder son of conservative Protestant parents, Glenn and Grace Hefner, and a direct descendent of distinguished Massachusetts Puritan patriarchs William Bradford and John Winthrop. He attended Sayre Elementary School and Steinmetz High on the West Side of Chicago, where he was no more than an average student, despite a genius IQ (152), distinguishing himself instead with his extracurricular activities: founding a school paper, writing, cartooning and serving as president of the student council where he championed student causes.

Following graduation from high school in January 1944, Hef (a nickname preferred since adolescence) joined the Army, serving as an infantry clerk and drawing cartoons for various Army newspapers. After his discharge from service in 1946, he spent the summer taking art classes (anatomy, of course) at the Art Institute of Chicago, enrolling that fall at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana. Hefner earned his bachelor's degree in two and one-half years by doubling up on classes while drawing cartoons for the Daily Illini and editing the campus humor magazine Shaft, where he introduced a new feature called Coed of the Month.

He subsequently took a semester of graduate courses in sociology at Northwestern University where, pursuing his interest in individual freedom, he wrote a term paper examining U.S. sex laws in light of the then-astonishing Kinsey Institute research on human sexuality.

Following college, Hef tried his hand at cartooning and, failing to sell any of his ideas for a cartoon strip, published a book of satirical cartoons about Chicago titled That Toddlin' Town. Hefner worked as an assistant personnel manager for the Chicago Cartoon Company for $45 a week in 1949, and as an advertising copywriter for the Carson, Pirie, Scott department store for just $40 a week in 1950. His future seemed uncertain when he landed a promising job as a promotion copywriter at Esquire at $60 a week in January 1951. When Esquire moved its offices to New York, his request for a five-dollar raise was denied and he decided to stay behind and start a magazine of his own.

Hefner and a fellow copywriter from Esquire tried to raise enough capital to launch a Chicago magazine and failed. While working as the newsstand promotion director of Publisher Development Corporation in 1952, he became convinced there was a market for a sophisticated men's magazine that would reflect the views of the post-war generation and he was the man to start it.

To support his family, he took a better-paying job as circulation manager of Children's Activities magazine in January 1953, but by that spring and summer the dream of starting his own magazine had become an obsession. He found a printer willing to print the first issue and a distributor to distribute it. He got friends and family to invest in the venture, raising just $8,000, including $600 of his own money borrowed from a bank using his apartment furniture as collateral.

The first issue of Playboy magazine, which featured the now-famous calendar photo of Marilyn Monroe, was produced on a kitchen table in his South Side apartment. On the newsstands in December 1953, it carried no cover date because Hefner was not sure when or if he would be able to produce another. But the first issue sold more than 50,000 copies, enough to pay for the paper and printing costs and to finance another issue.

Thereafter, Hefner never doubted that the magazine would be a success. He plowed profits back into the publication and hired a young, enthusiastic editorial, art, promotion and advertising staff to assist him. Playboy grew at a phenomenal rate. By the end of the decade, the magazine was selling more than a million copies a month and eventually the magazine became the largest-selling, most influential men's magazine in the world.

In 1971, he established a second residence in Los Angeles with the acquisition of a five-and- one-half acre estate in Holmby Hills known thereafter as Playboy Mansion West, where he was able to more closely supervise Playboy Enterprises' increasing interests in television and film production.

In 1975, Hefner decided to make Los Angeles his permanent home, reflecting the extent to which Hollywood movies had influenced his dreams and aspirations as a boy. In 1980, Hefner championed the reconstruction of the Hollywood sign, then in serious disrepair, and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his efforts. The Hollywood sign restoration was only one of Hefner and Playboy's major projects as a part of the Hollywood creative community. The Company produced such features as Roman Polanski's MACBETH, distributed by Columbia Pictures, which was voted Best Picture of the Year in 1971 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures; Monty Python's first film, AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT; and THE NAKED APE, with Universal Studios.

Playboy also produced such popular television movies as "Third Girl From The Left,” with Kim Novak and Tony Curtis; "The Death of Ocean View Park;” "The Cop and the Kid;” and "A Whale For The Killing.”

Hefner's most recent venture on the small screen is "The Girls Next Door” on E! Entertainment.


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