Hefner was born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago. Both of his parents were teachers and he said he was raised in what he called a “conservative” environment. After a stint in the Army, he graduated from the University of Illinois in 1949, the same year he married his college sweetheart, Millie Williams, with whom he had two children. He worked as a copywriter for Esquire but left over a pay dispute, setting the stage for his iconic creation.
Hefner fought many legal and moral battles over the years, from obscenity charges to claims from feminists like Gloria Steinem that he trafficked in objectifying women. One of his former girlfriends, Madison, wrote a tell-all memoir in 2015 detailing a stifling and squalid environment at the Playboy Mansion. But little of that mattered to legions of fans who saw Hefner’s success both in the boardroom and the bedroom as the ultimate American dream -- a view that Hefner himself shared.
“I am a kid in a candy store. I dreamed impossible dreams. And the dreams turned out beyond anything I could possibly imagine,” Hefner said in an interview with MSNBC. “You know, from my point of view, I’m the luckiest cat on the planet. And I know it.”
“If I lived in a world in which everything that I have tried to do was something that was already accepted and acceptable in all corners of society, I would feel that I had accomplished a good deal less,” Hefner told ET.
Hefner is survived by his wife, Crystal, and four grown children: Christie, who served as CEO of Playboy Enterprise for more than 20 years, David, Marston and Cooper, who currently serves as Chief Creative Officer at the company.
Information regarding memorial services will be given at a later date.