Following a difficult year of celebrity deaths, yet another individual responsible for shaping our popular culture has passed away: founding Playboy editor Hugh Hefner. On Wednesday, September 26th, Playboy Enterprises announced that its controversial and revolutionary creator died of natural causes at the age of 91 in the Playboy Mansion.
Hefner's son, Cooper Hefner, released this statement, commending his father for his achievements:
"My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy."
The company also took to Twitter to share the news, posting a black-and-white picture of Hefner, alongside one of his signature quotes:
The news came out shortly after the Amazon premiere of American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story, an original documentary detailing Hefner's life.
As explained by his son, #HughHefner may have been best known for creating Playboy magazine, but that empire also had a long-lasting impact in society. Back in the 1950s, when the first issue of Playboy was published, there was enormous stigma attached to sex (and especially the entertainment industry exploring it). Even though the magazine proved to be quite popular — and published many of the greatest writers of the twentieth century — Hefner was highly criticized by numerous religious groups as well as some prominent feminists (his publication was even banned in some states).
Gloria Steinem, for example, accused Hefner of exploiting women’s sexuality, not just celebrating it. Steinem even went undercover in one of Playboy's clubs at one point, and got into the nitty gritty of what it took to work as one of Hefner's bunnies. The information she received during those days was then published in her 1963 book, A Bunny's Tale.
Criticism, however, didn't matter to him. A good example of that is a statement from 1963, with which he explained the dangers of seeing sex as a controversial or shameful topic: "By associating sex with sin, we have produced a society so guilt-ridden that it is almost impossible to view the subject objectively."
People slowly started to see sex in a different light. Things changed so much thanks to his efforts that, in a way, Hefner could be considered at least partly responsible for how open modern TV shows and movies are when it comes to discussing and depicting characters' sexuality. Aside from that, Hefner was also a strong advocate for gay rights, decades before it was deemed acceptable.
Celebrities React To Hefner's Death
Shortly after the announcement, hundreds of people took to social media to remember Hefner, posting their condolences and also paying tribute to his legacy and achievements — including numerous celebrities:
It's quite breathtaking to realize just how many people were inspired by Hefner and his work. He is survived by his wife, Crystal Harris, and his children Christie, David, Cooper and Marston.