Hugh Hefner, legendary founder of ‘Playboy’ magazine, dead at 91

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

LOS ANGELES -- Hugh Hefner, the iconic personality behind Playboy magazine, passed away on Wednesday at age 91, his media company confirmed.

Playboy sent out a statement on Wednesday:

"Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones.  He was 91 years old."

Hugh Marston Hefner was born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois.

Hefner began his publishing career as a copywriter for Esquire magazine before launching Playboy, according to IMDB.

Hefner founded Playboy in 1953 with $600 of his own money and built the magazine into a multimillion-dollar entertainment empire that at its 1970s peak included TV shows, a jazz festival and a string of Playboy Clubs whose cocktail waitresses wore bunny ears and cottontails.

The first issue of Playboy hit newsstands in 1953 and featured a nude calendar photo of Marilyn Monroe. It sold for 50 cents a copy and was published without a date in case there wasn’t a second issue, according to CNN.

But the Playboy brand was a success and introduced everyday Americans to Playboy bunnies, Playmates of the Month and nude centerfolds.

Over the years, the legend of "Hef" only grew as he bedded hundreds of young women, married a few of his magazine's "Playmates" and cavorted on reality TV shows with a stable of girlfriends less than a third his age.

To his critics, according to IMDB, Hefner said Playboy exploited sex the way Sports Illustrated exploited sports.

In 1971, Hefner moved his Chicago-based empire to Southern California where he purchased the Playboy Mansion West in Holmby Hills, which soon became notorious for its star-studded risque parties.

Some critics dismissed him as a relic of a sexist era, especially in his later years, when Hefner spoke openly of his Viagra-fueled sex romps at the Playboy Mansion. But many men envied his adolescent-fantasy lifestyle.

According to IMDB, Hefner once told Esquire magazine, he’d slept with over a thousand women.

”There were chunks of my life when I was married, and when I was married, I never cheated. But I made up for it when I wasn’t married,” Hefner told the magazine.

And his pioneering magazine, his biggest legacy, may have helped the buttoned-up America of the 1950s and early 1960s loosen up a little about sex.

"I would like to be remembered as somebody who has changed the world in some positive way, in a social, sexual sense, and I'd be very happy with that," Hefner told CNN. "I'm a kid who dreamed the dreams and made them come true."