Playboy's Hugh Hefner: Empire of Skin by Darwin Porter, Danforth Prince Hugh Hefner, the Playboy of the Western World, was a visionary publisher, an empire-builder, an avatar of pleasure, and a pajama-clad pipe-smoker with a pre-coital grin. In 1953, he published his first edition of Playboy, with Marilyn Monroe on the cover and her nude calendar inside. He obtained the rights for $500 with money borrowed from his puritanical Nebraska-born mother. Rebelling against his strict upbringing, he lost his virginity at the age of 22. “I made up for my late start. In three years, I reached Don Juan’s legendary benchmark of 1,003 conquests.” Playboy, punctuated with nudes and studded with articles by major literary figures, rapidly increased its circulation, reaching its zenith at eight million readers. In addition to his role as a “tasteful pornographer,” Hef became a cultural warrior, fighting government censorship all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Post Office refused to deliver his magazine to its subscribers. As the years and his notoriety progressed, he became an advocate of abortion, LGBT equality, and the legalization of pot. Eventually, he engaged in “pubic wars” with Bob Guccione, founder of Penthouse, which cut into Hef’s sales. Lauded by millions of avid readers, he was denounced by feminists for exploiting women, and defined as “the father of sex addiction,” “a huckster,” “a lecherous low-brow feeder of our vices,” “a misogynist,” and, near the end of his life, “a symbol of priapic senility.” During his heyday, some of the biggest male stars in Hollywood, including Warren Beatty, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mick Jagger, and Jack Nicholson, came to frolic behind Hef’s guarded walls, stripping nude in the hot tube grotto before sampling the rotating beds upstairs. A voice of doom, Malcolm X, directly warned him that “the day of the white man will soon be finished.” Even a future U.S. president came to call. “Donald Trump had an appreciation of Bunny tail,” Hef said. Hefner’s last Viagra-fueled marriage was to a beautiful blonde, Crystal Harris, 60 years his junior. “There’s nothing wrong in a man marrying a girl who could be his great-granddaughter,” he was famously quoted as saying. This ground-breaking biography, the latest in Blood Moon’s string of outrageously unvarnished myth-busters, is the first published since Hefner’s death at the age of 91 in 2017. It is a provocative saga, rich in tantalizing, often shocking detail—definitely not for the sanctimonious or the faint of heart.
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