Hugh Hefner, the silk-robed Lothario who founded Playboy magazine and built a business empire around the debauchery of his lavish lifestyle, died on Wednesday. He was 91.
Hefner died of natural causes at his home surrounded by family on Wednesday night, Playboy said in a statement.
The Chicago native, who began his career as a copywriter at Esquire, created a media empire that embraced the risque and perennially pushed the envelope after publishing the first issues of Playboy in 1953.
The high-brow dirty magazine, founded in Hefner’s kitchen with just an $8,000 loan raised from 45 investors, quickly became a success, earning millions of subscribers and a permanent place in pop culture.
Hefner, once called the “prophet of pop hedonism” by Time magazine, peacefully passed away at his home, Playboy Enterprises said in a statement.
Hefner was sometimes characterised as an oversexed Peter Pan as he kept a harem of young blondes that numbered as many as seven at his legendary Playboy Mansion . This was chronicled in “The Girls Next Door,” a TV reality show that aired from 2005 through 2010. He said that thanks to the impotency-fighting drug Viagra he continued exercising his libido into his 80s.
“I’m never going to grow up,” Hefner said in a CNN interview when he was 82. “Staying young is what it is all about for me. Holding on to the boy and long ago I decided that age really didn’t matter and as long as the ladies feel the same way, that’s fine with me.”
Hefner settled down somewhat in 2012 at age 86 when he took Crystal Harris, who was 60 years younger, as his third wife.
He said his swinging lifestyle might have been a reaction to growing up in a repressed family where affection was rarely exhibited. His so-called stunted childhood led to a multi-million-dollar enterprise that centered on naked women but also espoused Hefner’s “Playboy philosophy ” based on romance, style and the casting off of mainstream mores.
That philosophy came to life at the legendary parties in his mansions – first in his native Chicago, then in Los Angeles’ exclusive Holmby Hills neighbor