At the ripe old age of 91, Hugh Hefner quietly passed away in his mansion. The publisher was a cultural icon who broke down barriers and created a multibillion dollar empire with his Playboy Magazine. He lived the dream of nearly every man in the world: girls, sex, parties and a mansion that reeked of opulence. Yet his groundbreaking publication had a dark detail that is as shocking as it is brazen.
The first issue of Playboy in 1953 featured actress and all time sex symbol Marilyn Monroe on the cover. It was an instant hit that sold 50,000 copies and according to Hugh Hefner himself, it made his career.
But the nude photos of Miss Marilyn was not the only shocker: it was the fact that she never actually posed for Playboy, never agreed to be featured in it and never met Hugh Hefner during her life.
In 1949 she was a struggling actress who like many others were desperate to have a Hollywood break. She posed nude for a photographer at the time and was paid a paltry sum of $50. The photos were then sold to Western Lithograph Company, which made calendars.
Only a year later, she got a break and featured in Asphalt Jungle, and ‘All About Eve’, movies that transformed her from broke actress to rising star.
By 1952 Hugh Hefner had ‘fallen in love’ with Monroe- on screen. When he found out that never before seen photos of her existed, he went all out and bought the photos for $500. It became the foundation on which Playboy was built.
Playboy and Marilyn Monroe experience instantaneous stardom, and although Hefner always referred to her as his ‘sweetheart’, she never got more compensation beyond the fifty dollars she was paid as a wannabe model. In her book Marilyn: Her Life in Her Own Words, she said: ‘I never even received a thank-you from all those who made millions off a nude Marilyn photograph. I even had to buy a copy of the magazine to see myself in it. I admitted it was me who posed for that nude calendar even when the Fox executives became nervous and believed this would cause the ruination of any films I would appear in and also the end of my movie career. Of course they were wrong. The fans, my public, cheered when I admitted it was me, and that calendar and that Playboy first-issue publicity helped my career.’
Hugh Hefner maintained a devotion to Marilyn Monroe through out his own life after the actress died in 1962. In 2011 he said in an interview that he never met her. ‘She was actually in my brother’s acting class in New York. But the reality is that I never met her. I talked to her once on the phone, but I never met her. She was gone, sadly, before I came.‘
The strangest part of Hef’s Marilyn Monroe was how he got himself buried right next to her. In 1992, he paid $75,000 for a burial plot next to Monroe’s at Westwood Village Memorial Park where he was laid to rest last weekend.
Whilst it is understandable that he may have felt a strong connection to the actress who died at 36 years old, some observers that his obsession bordered on the disturbing, especially that even in death, he wanted to be with a woman he took advantage of to create his empire.
In his words, ‘It has a completion notion to it…’