The other day, Hugh Hefner, founder and publisher of Playboy magazine died at age 91. Hefner created a million dollar empire, becoming a pop icon in the process.
Not being in the millennial generation, Hugh Hefner was a symbol of hedonism, erotica, and freedom. During my childhood, I discovered my father’s slash of Playboy. Perhaps it was the taboo element of the magazine, but I loved the thrill of looking through those magazine. Of course I was caught, thus the magazines quickly disappeared.
As I became an adult, I continued to be fascinated by Hugh Hefner, and other personalities similar to him, such as Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. In my early twenties, I also learned about ‘alternative’ porn such as the lesbian magazine On Our Backs. Chance meeting with the authors of Sleazoid Express back in the ’90s turned my interest to vintage exploitation and Times Square filth. Learned even more with the book Tales of Times Square.
However, never forget reality. Erotica and porn is a complex dark world. You’re dealing with various human beings who are chewed up and spit out once their purpose is served. Was Hugh Hefner really a symbol of American hedonism and free speech, or was he just nothing more than a sleazy opportunist who didn’t respect women?
The truth was Hugh Hefner was both. Not so much of a hedonist, but rather a controversial symbol of the American Dream.
Along the years Playboy published content from writers, illustrators and cartoonists. Dan DeCarlo was known for his pin-ups. Yes, that same Dan Decarlo who created Josie and The Pussycats for Archie Comics. Harvey Kurtzman was another cartoonist. Writer Ray Bradbury had his classic novel Fahrenheit 451 serialized in Playboy from March to May 1954.
On the other hand, he did publish photos without consent. The very first issue of Playboy was launched thanks to non-consented photos of Marilyn Monroe. The story goes that Monroe being broke posed for a nudie calendar. Using an alias, she only got paid $50 for the photo session. The photographer later sold these same photos to Hefner for $500. The rest is history.
Later on, Playboy continued the trend of publishing photos without the person’s consent. Celebrities such as Madonna, and Vanessa Williams had their nude likeness exposed in without their consent. Vanna White was a personal friend of Hefner, but her nude photos were published regardless of her approval.
More of Hefner’s disregard of women were uncovered following the days after Hefner’s death. Time Magazine, New York Times, Salon, and other mainstream news sources didn’t exactly publish obituaries in a nice light. They weren’t exactly wrong either. Hefner built his entire empire based on exploiting women – although in the end, he wasn’t worth as much.
Yet it was Playboy magazine that many artists (such as myself) who used those same photographs as reference material while learning to draw.
Another irony. It was a 1985 Boy George interview published in Playboy that helped my friend “come out” to his mother about his attraction to men. This same friend also forgave me cause he lent me the interview and I lost it…oops.
Today in the post-millennial internet age, Playboy is quite tame compared to the free online porn readily accessible. Also, people will always look at naughty photos. People are visual creatures. Regardless of gender, sexuality, etc., people will always objectify each other. Objectification is psychological. It may not be correct behavior, but it’s a fact. In the end it’s up to us to responsible for our own behavior. Even if it’s easier said than done.
Recently I had a conversation with someone about seeing things black and white, as opposed to looking from a grey perspective. Playboy is a perfect example of why things are not always so black or white. Playboy was a huge splat of grey.
May Hugh party in his Playboy mansion in the afterlife. Although buying a plot next to Marilyn Monroe was straight-up old man creepy.
Here’s the Psycho Bunny sketch of the week.
Tumblr: World Ov Witchipoo
DeviantArt: Michele Witchipoo