A proud cru­sader to the end

The Southland Times - - OBITUARIES -

Hugh Hefner vividly re­mem­bered the mo­ment in Chicago when he con­ceived an idea that would usher in a sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion.

‘‘I stood on the Michi­gan Av­enue Bridge and looked out at the lake and thought, ‘Is this all there is to my life?’ I was work­ing as a cir­cu­la­tion man­ager for a chil­dren’s magazine and im­me­di­ately I be­gan mak­ing plans for this men’s magazine.’’

He was 27, un­hap­pily mar­ried and strug­gling to pay his bills.

He mar­ried Mil­lie Wil­liams, a high school friend from Chicago, in 1949.

Be­fore the wed­ding she con­fessed that she had had an af­fair while he had been away in the army.

The ad­mis­sion, he said, was ‘‘the most dev­as­tat­ing mo­ment of my life’’ and a psy­chol­o­gist might have con­strued that it was in part re­spon­si­ble for his later promis­cu­ity.

Out of guilt at her own in­fi­delity, she agreed that he could have sex with other women.

He later told an in­ter­viewer: ‘‘We had three un­happy years and two chil­dren, and the walls around me grew higher.’’

His first daugh­ter, Christie Hefner, was born in 1952.

She be­gan work­ing for her fa­ther af­ter col­lege and by 1988 had risen to chair­woman and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Play­boy En­ter­prises.

She held the posts for 21 years. His son, David, was born in 1955. His par­ents sep­a­rated soon af­ter.

What hap­pened to David re­mains a mys­tery.

Ru­mours sug­gest that he suf­fered to­tal am­ne­sia af­ter an ac­ci­dent; oth­ers that he owns a com­puter con­sult­ing firm.

Hugh Hefner did not marry again un­til he was 63.

His sec­ond wife was Kim­ber­ley Con­rad, the 1989 play­mate of the year.

They had two sons, Marston Glenn, who was sen­tenced to a 52-week do­mes­tic vi­o­lence pro­gramme in 2012 af­ter al­legedly beat­ing his Play­mate girl­friend, and Cooper Brad­ford, who was groomed by his fa­ther to take over the Play­boy em­pire.

When Hefner and Con­rad sep­a­rated in 1998 she moved into a house next door to the man­sion with the chil­dren.

He mar­ried his third wife, Crys­tal Har­ris, an­other play­mate of the year, in 2012. At 26 she was 60 years his ju­nior. Their courtship was rocky. Hefner had an­nounced the wed­ding 18 months ear­lier by putting Har­ris on the cover of Play­boy with a head­line declar­ing, ‘‘In­tro­duc­ing Amer­ica’s Princess, Mrs Crys­tal Hefner’’.

When she broke off the en­gage­ment five days be­fore the cer­e­mony, just as the magazine was due to hit the news­stands, a sticker read­ing ‘‘Run­away Bride’’ was hastily ap­pended to the cover.

Hefner re­mained edi­tor-in-chief into his nineties, hav­ing sold the Play­boy Man­sion for US$100 mil­lion with the pro­viso that he would con­tinue to live there un­til his death.

Hugh Marston Hefner was born in Chicago in 1926 to Glenn and Grace Hefner, who were aus­tere Methodists who had moved east from Ne­braska’s farm coun­try.

Hefner and his younger brother, Keith, were over­seen more closely by their po­tent mother than by their fa­ther, who worked late nights as an ac­coun­tant for an alu­minium com­pany.

‘‘My mother and fa­ther gave us in­tel­lec­tual free­dom,’’ Hefner said.

‘‘But they im­posed rigid Protes­tant fun­da­men­tal­ist ethics on us. There was no drink­ing, no smok­ing, no swear­ing, no go­ing to the movies on Sun­day.

‘‘Worst of all was their at­ti­tude to­ward sex, which they con­sid­ered a hor­rid thing, never to be men­tioned.’’

Sub­se­quently his par­ents worked for Play­boy and be­came mil­lion­aires them­selves.

With char­ac­ter­is­tic im­mod­esty, Hefner noted that he did not think that they ‘‘ever fully ap­pre­ci­ated the pos­i­tive im­pact that Play­boy and my life have had on so­ci­ety’’.

As an ado­les­cent Hefner was gauche and gawky, em­bar­rassed by ‘‘just putting my arm around a girl’’.

He col­lected but­ter­flies, wrote, drew, and cre­ated car­toon comic strips.

To­wards the end of the Sec­ond World War he served as a com­pany clerk in the US army, but was not posted over­seas.

Af­ter his dis­charge he en­rolled at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois, grad­u­at­ing in psy­chol­ogy, cre­ative writ­ing and art.

Close friends de­scribed him as a loner and a worka­holic.

His other habits were sur­pris­ingly ab­stemious: for most of his adult life he ate one meal a day, sel­dom drank and avoided caf­feine.

In later years he cut a dod­dery fig­ure, sur­rounded by his dogs, whom he al­lowed to defe­cate on his bed­room car­pet.

Yet he re­mained a proud cru­sader to the end.

‘‘The real problems I had, back in the Six­ties and Seven­ties, had less to do with naked women than the fact I was try­ing to change the world,’’ he told one in­ter­viewer when well into his eight­ies.

For bet­ter or for worse, few would ar­gue that, in his way, he did.

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