Early lifeHefner was born April 9, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, the elder of two sons born to Grace Caroline (née Swanson; 1895–1997) and Glenn Lucius Hefner (1896–1976), both teachers. Hefner's mother was of Swedish descent and his father had German and English ancestry. On his father's side, Hefner is a direct descendant of Plymouth governor William Bradford. He has described his family as "conservative, Midwest, Methodist." He went to Sayre Elementary School and Steinmetz High School, then served as a writer for a military newspaper in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946. He later graduated from the University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign with a B.A. in psychology with a double minor in creative writing and art in 1949, earning his degree in two and a half years. After graduation, he took a semester of graduate courses in sociology at Northwestern University but dropped out soon after.
Careercopywriter for Esquire, he left in January 1952, after being denied a $5 raise. In 1953, he mortgaged his furniture, generating a bank loan of $600 (or $800—he cannot recall which) and raised $8,000 from 45 investors— including $1,000 from his mother ("Not because she believed in the venture," he told E! in 2006. "But because she believed in her son") – to launch Playboy, which was initially going to be called Stag Party. The undated first issue, published in December 1953, featured Marilyn Monroe from her 1949 nude calendar shoot and sold over 50,000 copies. Hefner, who never met Monroe, bought the crypt next to hers at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. After it was rejected by Esquire magazine in 1955, Hefner agreed to publish in Playboy Charles Beaumont's science fiction short story, "The Crooked Man," about straight men being persecuted in a world where homosexuality was the norm. After receiving angry letters to the magazine, Hefner wrote a response to criticism where he said, "If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society then the reverse was wrong, too." Hefner is portrayed as a gay rights pioneer in the documentary film, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel.
Jayne Mansfield was released. A jury was unable to reach a verdict.
His former secretary, Bobbie Arnstein, was found dead in a Chicago hotel room after an overdose of drugs in January 1975. Hefner called a press conference to allege that she had been driven to suicide by narcotics agents and federal officers. Hefner further claimed the government was out to get him because of Playboy's philosophy and its advocacy of more liberal drug laws.
Hefner isin talks about making a film about his life. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television and has made several movie appearances as himself. In 2010, he received a "worst supporting actor" nomination for a Razzie award for his performance in Miss March.
Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel was released on July 30, 2010. This was reportedly the first time that Hefner granted full access to a documentary filmmaker.
In 1999, Hefner financed the Clara Bow-documentary, "Discovering the It-girl." "Nobody has what Clara had. She defined an era and made her mark on the nation," he stated.
Personal lifeHefner married Northwestern University student Mildred Williams (born 1927) in 1949. They had two children, Christie (born November 8, 1952) and David (born August 30, 1955). Before the wedding, Mildred confessed that she had had an affair while he was away in the Army. He called the admission "the most devastating moment of my life." A 2006 E! True Hollywood Story profile of Hefner revealed that Mildred allowed him to sleep with other women, out of guilt for her infidelity and in the hopes that it would preserve their marriage. They divorced in 1959.
|Kristina and Karissa Shannon|
Politics and philanthropyThe Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award was created by Christie Hefner "to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans."
He has donated and raised money for the Democratic Party.
In 1978, Hefner helped organize fund-raising efforts that led to the restoration of the Hollywood Sign. He hosted a gala fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion and personally contributed $27,000 (or 1/9 of the total restoration costs) by purchasing the letter Y in a ceremonial auction.
Hefner donated $100,000 to the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts to create a course called "Censorship in Cinema," and $2 million to endow a chair for the study of American film.
Both through his charitable foundation and individually, Hefner also contributes to charities outside the sphere of politics and publishing, throwing fundraiser events for Much Love Animal Rescue, as well as Generation Rescue, a controversial autism campaign organization supported by Jenny McCarthy.
On April 26, 2010, Hefner donated the last $900,000 sought by a conservation group for a land purchase needed to stop the development of the famed vista of the Hollywood Sign.