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Hugh Hefner: 5 reasons to love him and 5 reasons to hate him

| Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, 12:03 p.m.
In this Nov. 4, 2010, file photo, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for photos at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
In this Nov. 4, 2010, file photo, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for photos at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
In this May 14, 1999 file photo, Playboy founder and editor in chief Hugh Hefner receives kisses from Playboy playmates during the 52nd Cannes Film Festival in France.
In this May 14, 1999 file photo, Playboy founder and editor in chief Hugh Hefner receives kisses from Playboy playmates during the 52nd Cannes Film Festival in France.

Hugh Hefner, who died Sept. 27 at the age of 91, has long been a polarizing figure. He fought for First Amendment rights through his then-outrageous pin-up magazine Playboy, which many accused of objectifying women. Here are some of the reasons people either love him or hate him:


1. He directed the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards, established in 1979 to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans. Since the inception of the awards, more than 100 individuals including high school students, lawyers, librarians, journalists and educators have been honored.

2. Hefner fought against the racist Jim Crow laws in the South by integrating Playboy Clubs in Miami and New Orleans. And he invited black comedians, like Dick Gregory, to perform in his clubs when most entertainment venues were still segregated. Hefner also gave Gregory the funds to help locate the bodies of three slain Civil Rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. When Southern TV stations learned that jazz legends Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald were to be guests on the premiere episode to "Playboy's Penthouse," they threatened to drop the broadcast. Hefner refused to cave in to their demands.

3. You really could read Playboy for the articles. The magazine over the years published stories and nonfiction articles by such notable authors as Margaret Atwood, Truman Capote, Kurt Vonnegut, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alex Haley, who interviewed Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.

4. In 1980, Hefner championed the reconstruction of the iconic Hollywood sign and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his efforts.

5. Hefner holds two Guinness World Records: one for being the longest-serving editor-in-chief of a magazine, and the other for holding the world's largest collection of personal scrapbooks (2,643 volumes and counting in 2013).


1. He is blamed for making porn mainstream. In a 2015 article on, writer Rose Hackman said, "At the time when women were set up to take advantage of sexual liberation, and define their bodies on their own terms, Playboy's depictions of sexually willing and available 'girls next door' made female nudity synonymous with the fulfillment of male desires in a male-dominated, patriarchal society, rather than one that finally paid attention to women as agents of their own bodies. The creation of such a framework may be seen as having helped to lay the foundations for what has led to the rise of a mainstream, hyper-pornified culture that is more often than not degrading to women and divorced from notions of female consent."

2. Feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem was hired as a Playboy Bunny in the early 1960s and turned her brief employment into a 1963 article for Show magazine that described the clubs as pleasure havens for men only. The bunnies, Steinem wrote, tended to be poorly educated, overworked and underpaid. Steinem regarded the magazine and clubs not as erotic, but "pornographic."

3. In a tell-all book, "Down the Rabbit Hole," former girlfriend Holly Madison said Hef would "mansplain" movies they watched. Describing all conversations with Hef as "superficial," she said he refused to discuss books, politics or current events with her. Madison also said Hef would constantly create drama and infighting among his girlfriends by randomly changing long-held positions or Playboy Mansion household policies to favor one over the rest of them.

4. Hefner was accused repeatedly throughout his career of objectifying and degrading women. In 1970, two members of the Women's Liberation Movement confronted Hefner on "The Dick Cavett Show." Activist Susan Brownmiller called him her "enemy" and later corrected him when he referred to both women as "girls."

5. According to, Playboy Enterprises owns Spice Digital Networks, a set of channels that show hardcore pornographic films. Playboy-branded products also have been marketed heavily to young women and children. In Asia, its rabbit-themed products are shelved alongside Hello Kitty and Paul Frank merchandise.

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