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Hugh Marston Hefner, influential and controversial, admired and vilified, and seemingly forever young, died peacefully at home Sept. The Chicago-born publisher of Playboy magazine and the Bunny-emblazoned empire that it spawned was 91. I couldn't have articulated the feeling that way then, but I remember sensing it. I hate it."That was my introduction to Playboy and, by extension, its founder Hugh Hefner, who died Wednesday at 91 in his mansion near Beverly Hills.
One day when I was in seventh grade, my friend Lynn leaned over to my desk and whispered that she had found some magazines with pictures of naked girls in her father's desk. The photo also made me feel ugly, which, in my 12-year-old brain, was about as bad."If Lynn's dad likes this, how bad can it be? Hefner, as one chuckling headline put it, was "the original playboy." Later, in his dotage, as he roamed his mansion in silk pajamas, attended by an ever-changing entourage of young blond women, he was cast as the swashbuckling elder statesman of the sexual revolution, still livin' the dream, the guy who made good sex available to one and all.
The thought of Lynn's dad, or anyone's dad, sitting in their home and staring at naked women made me feel like prey.
I'd never seen a naked woman except my mother, who looked nothing like this woman. I may have been intrigued, but what I remember was feeling threatened.
After school, we sneaked into her dad's private study and she opened a drawer, pulled out a stack of magazines and opened one. There she was, the playmate, the centerfold, a blond woman with honeyed skin, looking straight at us, naked.
In the hagiography of Hefner, he's a crusader who freed both men and women from the chains of shame, enabling us to wear what we wanted, have sex with anyone we wanted and do it while listenin' to jazz, man.
Through the years, I've tried to buy the notion of Hefner as a hero of free speech, self-expression and sexual fulfillment.
(Rick Kogan)On Thursday, former Playboy bunnies and playmates filled the media with testimonies to how he helped their careers.His daughter, Christie, who ran the Playboy enterprise for a while, has always seemed interesting and savvy.One of my good friends worked for Playboy in the 1980s.As a gay man before being gay was remotely acceptable, he was inspired by the Playboy ethos.I never did convince him it didn't feel that way to a lot of women.
In fact, I've heard far more men than women say they were liberated by the Playboy philosophy.