Playboy founder Hugh Hefner dead at the age of 91

Hefner is survived by his wife and four children

Hugh Hefner dead at 91

ATLANTA (CNNMoney/WSYR-TV) - Hugh Hefner --  whose Playboy magazine popularized the term "centerfold," has died, according to a tweet from the company's official account late Wednesday. He was 91.

Hefner founded Playboy in 1953 with $600 of his own money and built the magazine into a multimillion-dollar empire including TV shows, a jazz festival and a string of Playboy Clubs featuring cocktail waitresses with bunny ears and cottontails.

Over the years, he was romantically linked with several of the magazine's "Playmates", some less than a third his age. 

Some critics dismissed him as a relic of a sexist era, especially in his later years, when Hefner spoke openly of parties at the Playboy Mansion. Others envied his lifestyle.

Hefner made it clear that part of his mission was to help the America of the 1950s and early 1960s loosen up a little about sex.

"I would like to be remembered as somebody who has changed the world in some positive way, in a social, sexual sense, and I'd be very happy with that," Hefner told CNN. "I'm a kid who dreamed the dreams and made them come true."

A 'male point of view'

Hefner was born April 9, 1926, in Chicago to Glenn Hefner, an accountant, and Grace Hefner, a teacher. Both parents were conservative Protestants from Nebraska.

"My folks were raised pure prohibitionist," Hefner told The Hollywood Reporter in 2011. "They were very good people, with high moral standards -- but very repressed. There was no hugging and kissing in my home."

In 1944, after graduating from high school, Hefner joined the U.S. Army as a writer for a military newspaper. Following World War II, he became a promotional copywriter at Esquire magazine, where he began toying with the idea of publishing a men's magazine.

"Esquire was always for older guys, but ... it was very much devoted to male bonding and outdoor adventure," Hefner told CNN. "And I wanted to read a magazine that was a little more sophisticated and was focused really on the romantic connection between the sexes from a male point of view."

After raising $10,000 from investors, Hefner published the debut issue of Playboy in December 1953.

The premiere issue had no date, in case it sold poorly and there wasn't a second issue. On its cover was actress Marilyn Monroe, who also appeared in a nude centerfold -- a photograph that had been originally used for a pin-up calendar.

Hefner contributed an introductory essay in which he envisioned the magazine's readers: "We like our apartment. We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d'oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex ..."

The company he created posted the announcement of Hefner's death on Twitter just after 11 p.m. Wednesday. 

It reads: American Icon and Playboy Founder, Hugh M. Hefner passed away today. He was 91. #RIPHef


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