With Playboy sale, Hefner bows to changing times


With his Playboy Enterprises Inc in talks to be sold for about $300 million, the 83 year-old Hefner will be giving up control over the iconic adult entertainment empire he founded that was instrumental in shaping society’s opinions on nudity, sex and free speech.

With $600, Hefner in 1953 published the first ‘Playboy’ magazine with a partially nude photo of Marilyn Monroe at its centre. The magazine became not only one of the most successful publications ever, but also a brand that led many Americans to think about sex in a more carefree way.
“Hef” turned ‘Playboy’ and its bunny head logo into a symbol for a lifestyle he embodied as bachelor extraordinaire, living in a mansion surrounded by wealth and beautiful women.

In 1972, ‘Playboy’ had a worldwide circulation of 7 million, but that has been in decline ever since, as the liberalisation of sexual attitudes Hefner promoted became more mainstream — and more competitive.

But even as it grew ever more popular, the magazine created rivals such as Penthouse and Hustler. In the 1980s, adult videos grew into a major business and by the late 1990s, the rise of the Internet and free pornography on the web became Playboy’s greatest rival for an audience. Hefner remains in the limelight today, showing up at media events with numerous girlfriends by his side. He enjoyed a role in reality television show ‘The Girls Next Door’ on cable network E! and his dating life and break-up with model Holly Madison made him a staple of celebrity magazines.
Hefner has said that growing up during the depression he always looked back wistfully to the 1920s age of flappers as an era of freedom he had missed.

He has described himself as having liberated America from its Puritan past and experts agree he did make sexual images and content more acceptable to Americans.

But ‘Playboy’ magazine also showed men how to enjoy stylish clothing, good liquor, sports cars and other luxuries, and became a standard bearer for that lifestyle — real or imagined. But as the magazine’s fortunes waned, some of the symbols of wealth that surrounded Hefner became harder for him to hang on to.
In the early 1980s, he had to give up a private jet plane with a bedroom, a miniature disco and a kitchen, said Steven Watts, author of ‘Mr Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream’.

Through the decades and despite the loss of business, Hefner continued to live the good life and made sure everyone knew it.

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