Remembering Hugh Hefner’s Glory Days

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Whether you love or loathe the concept of women wearing nothing but a corset, fishnets, and a white fluffy tail, it’s hard to deny the seminal role that Playboy Enterprises and its accompanying Bunnies played in America’s sexual revolution. Founded by Hugh Hefner in Chicago seven years after the end of World War II, the company is most famed for its magazine with nude centerfolds and scantily-clad Playmates—the most renowned and first being Marilyn Monroewho covered the publication’s debut issue, which sold for just 50¢ in December 1953. Before a sleazy fall from grace in the late 80s, Playboy also hosted a weekly television show, opened nightclubs on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and threw lavish parties for Hollywood’s elite at Hefner’s notorious Playboy Mansion in California’s Holmby Hills.

It might be the last brand name you’d associate with bringing about historic cultural change, but in 1962, Playboy was the first magazine to publish a candid interview with jazz legend Miles Davis on overcoming heroin addiction (a then taboo subject made even more controversial by the fact that Davis is black and segregation and racism in America was still legal and rife back then). In 1964 Martin Luther King Junior sat down for an in-depth interview with a Playboy reporter to outline his hopes for the civil rights movement.

Even 20 years later, the publication was shedding light on the then-controversial issues. In 1982, Hefner published an interview with Bette Davis, who proudly spoke about her patronage of the gay community and her views regarding women’s reproductive rights. “I believe abortion is better than having 10,000,000 children you can’t support,” said the actress in a quote which is alarmingly still relevant today.

Here, in honor of Hefner’s recent passing, we take a visual journey back through Playboy‘s long last clubs in New York, Los Angeles, and London and check in with some of its Mansion’s more famous guests between the years of 1953 and 1982.

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