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Tempo - - News - (AP)

LOS AN­GE­LES – Play­boy founder Hugh M. Hefner, the pipe-smok­ing he­do­nist who revved up the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion in the 1950s and built a mul­ti­me­dia em­pire of clubs, man­sions, movies, and tele­vi­sion, sym­bol­ized by bow-tied women in bunny cos­tumes, has died at the age of 91.

Hefner died of nat­u­ral causes at his home sur­rounded by fam­ily on Wed­nes­day night, Play­boy said in a state­ment.

As much as any­one, Hefner helped slip sex out of the con­fines of plain brown wrap­pers and into main­stream con­ver­sa­tion.

In 1953, a time when states could legally ban con­tra­cep­tives, when the word “preg­nant” was not al­lowed on “I Love Lucy,” Hefner pub­lished the first is­sue of Play­boy, fea­tur­ing naked pho­tos of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe (taken years ear­lier) and an ed­i­to­rial prom­ise of “hu­mor, so­phis­ti­ca­tion, and spice.” The Great De­pres­sion and World War 2 were over and Amer­ica was ready to get un­dressed.

Play­boy soon be­came for­bid­den fruit for teenagers and a bi­ble for men with time and money, primed for the mag­a­zine’s pre­scribed evenings of dimmed lights, hard drinks, soft jazz, deep thoughts, and deeper de­sires. Within a year, cir­cu­la­tion neared 200,000. Within five years, it had topped one mil­lion.

By the 1970s, the mag­a­zine had more than seven mil­lion read­ers and had in­spired such raunchier im­i­ta­tions as Pen­t­house and Hustler. Com­pe­ti­tion and the In­ter­net re­duced cir­cu­la­tion to less than three mil­lion by the 21st cen­tury, and the num­ber of is­sues pub­lished an­nu­ally was cut from 12 to 11. In 2015, Play­boy ceased pub­lish­ing im­ages of naked women, cit­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of nu­dity on the In­ter­net.

But Hefner and Play­boy re­mained brand names world­wide.

(AFP)

FILE photo taken on June 2, 2006 shows Play­boy mag­a­zine founder Hugh Hefner (cen­ter) ar­riv­ing in a party with girl­friends Brid­get Mar­quardt (left) and Holly Madi­son (right) to cel­e­brate his 80th birth an­niver­sary at the Villa Miani in Rome, Italy.

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