In Depth

Five things you didn’t know about Hugh Hefner

Behind his louche bachelor image, the Playboy founder was a mass of contradictions

Hugh Hefner; Playboy

For more than 60 years, Hugh Hefner was an unmistakable figure in the cultural landscape, famous for his silk nightwear, his endless parade of leggy “companions” and his hedonistic lifestyle at the Playboy Mansion.

But here are five things you may not know about Hefner, who died yesterday at the age of 91:

His upbringing was far from swinging

Hefner did not have the background you might expect for an unabashedly pleasure-seeking lothario.

Born in 1926, he grew up in a strict Methodist household in Chicago to a schoolteacher mother and an accountant father. “They were very good people, with high moral standards - but very repressed,” Hefner told The Hollywood Reporter in 2011. “There was no hugging and kissing in my home.”

Upon becoming a reporter for his college paper, Hefner “began to develop a philosophy that linked freedom of speech and the press with individual rights and a rejection of what he called ‘our legacy of puritan repression’,” says the Chicago Tribune.

He has a rabbit named after him

It’s perhaps not so surprising to learn that there is a species of rabbit named after Hugh Hefner, but what is surprising is that its name is not merely a jokey reference to Hefner’s legendary appetite in the boudoir.

In the 1980s, the Playboy empire’s charitable wing, the Playboy Foundation, helped fund a study into a little-known species of rabbit found only on the Florida Keys, CNN reports.

As a thank you to their benefactor, scientists christened the species “Sylvilagus palustris hefneri”. However, they are commonly referred to by a much snappier nickname: “playboy bunnies”.

He was strict behind the scenes

Although Hefner himself projected an image of life at the Playboy Mansion as one of carefree fun, some of his ever-changing roster of “girlfriends” claim real life at the ultimate bachelor pad was very different.

According to former playmate Holly Madison, author of an unflattering tell-all book about life in the Playboy Mansion, Hefner “would take photos of his girlfriends and him every night before they went out, then have them delivered to each girlfriend's door the next morning”.

Madison writes that this ritual "amplified the massive pressure to always look perfect and cause the girlfriends to spend hours critiquing their appearances," according to Cosmopolitan.

He was a passionate advocate of same-sex marriage

Since Playboy first went on the market in 1953, Hefner’s mission was to help American culture shed its puritanical hang-ups and embrace the spectrum of human sexuality - and, in his later years, he extended that philosophy to gay marriage.

In September 2012, Hefner wrote an editorial for the magazine entitled “Sexual Freedom”, in which he criticised the conservative legislators attempting to block same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

“Their goal is to dehumanize everyone's sexuality and reduce us to using sex for the sole purpose of perpetuating our species. To that end, they will criminalize your entire sex life,” he warned, calling the battle for gay marriage “a fight for all our rights”.

He was a romantic until the end

Old-fashioned romance doesn’t exactly fit the Playboy brand. But despite his lifelong work to take the stigma out of casual sex, Hefner always believed in true love.

In 2011, he told The Hollywood Reporter of his regret that, in spite of three marriages and countless liaisons, he had never found “the ultimate soul mate”.

"My love map is very much designed and written by Hollywood,” he said. His favourite film was romantic tearjerker Casablanca.

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