Hugh Hefner claimed, “Life is too short to be living somebody else’s dream…In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a sweeter life.”
Starting from the first Playboy issue with a photograph of Marilyn Monroe, Hugh Hefner built a vast magazine empire which ushered in a kind of revolution in the 1960s. In the process, he lived a lifestyle that was the envy of many: a playboy without the limits and restrictions dictated by a traditional and conservative upbringing.
Although his magazine had a carefree and hedonistic approach, it helped promote a sexual revolution. It was, however, controversial, criticized for its objectification of women and promotion of exceptionally high standards of beauty. But he was also a lifelong champion for civil rights and equality.
Hugh Hefner became one of the most intriguing figures in the U.S. and had an enduring influence on the culture.
Here are twenty strange facts Hugh Hefner wouldn't want us to know.
18 Hefner had Genius Level Intelligence but was a Poor Student
Superior intelligence is not always measured by success in school or academic achievements. Albert Einstein, although he was an excellent student disliked the rote methods used for learning, so he dropped out when he was fifteen. Best known for his General Theory of Relativity, Einstein was considered a genius.
Hugh Hefner was not passionate about school either and was only an average student. However, his genius was different than Einstein. His contribution to changes in modern day morals is without question.
17 The Playboy Editor Drank 36 Bottles of Pepsi in a Day
Hefner loved Pepsi and rumor has it that he drank 36 bottles in one day. Doing the math, that is over 17 liters of a liquid containing 1,116 grams of sugar, and 2.5 grams of caffeine.
If this rumor were true, Hefner would never have been seen in public because he would have spent all his time in the bathroom, and his weight would have been well over 250 pounds.
16 To Start Playboy, He Mortgaged His Furniture
The oldest son of conservative Protestant parents, Hefner had a difficult time convincing them a magazine like Playboy could be a successful venture.
He was forced to mortgage some of his furniture to raise funds, but eventually, his mother loaned him an additional $8,000 to kick off the project her son believed was worthwhile.
15 He Offered Priests and Church Officials a Discount on Playboy
No one ever believed men purchased Playboy magazine “for the articles,” instead of the photos of beautiful women. However, the magazine does have a proud literary tradition, publishing stories by authors like Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Arthur C Clarke, Jack Kerouac, and John Steinbeck.
Furthermore, to encourage an intellectual debate on morals, Hefner offered a special discounted Playboy subscription rate for priests and church officials.
14 Hefner Earned His Degree in Just Two-And-A-Half Years
Despite being just an average student in elementary and high school, Hefner’s genius started to show itself in college. He earned his bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in just two-and-a-half years, a year and a half ahead of the usual four years required for a degree.
Hefner also had a double minor in creative writing and arts, learning skills that would serve him well in the magazine publishing business.
13 He Served in The U.S. Army During World War II
Hefner’s fortune while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II was his duty assignment as a POG.
In Susan Gunelius’ 2009 biography Building Brand Value The Playboy Way, she says Hefner’s “creative vision was allowed to blossom. Instead of crossing the ocean with a rifle in hand, he would sit at a desk with a typewriter at his fingertips.”
12 Hefner Was a Cartoonist While Serving in the U.S. Army
Hefner began his interest in cartoon drawing while in high school. He wrote and created the illustrations for his own comic book called School Daze. In the U.S. Army, while serving as an infantry clerk, he made cartoons for military publications.
Later, the Playboy magazines included cartoon illustrations by several different artists including Robert Brown, Roy Delgado, and Doug Sneyd.
11 Hefner Held Two Guinness World Records
Hefner held the Guinness World Record for the most extensive collection of personal scrapbooks. He began the hobby in 1943 with cartoons he drew of himself and his high school classmates and continued the pastime late in life. His routine included scrapbooking every Saturday morning, and one can only imagine the wild and crazy content he saved in his collection.
Hefner’s second record was the longest tenured editor-in-chief of a magazine.
10 Hefner Twice Helped Reconstruct the Hollywood Sign
Although the Playboy headquarters was not moved from Chicago to Los Angeles until 2011, Hefner lived in the Los Angeles mansion from 1974 until his passing in 2017.
During his residence, he twice helped reconstruct the Hollywood sign, first by purchasing the “Y” in “Hollywood” with $27,000 of his own money. In 2010, he helped again by donating $900,000 to preserve the 138 acres surrounding the Hollywood sign.
9 His First Job was at Esquire Magazine
David Granger, Editor in Chief of Esquire, once wrote: "Esquire is special because it's a magazine for men. Not a fashion magazine for men, not a health magazine for men, not a money magazine for men. It is not any of these things; it is all of them. It is, and has been for nearly seventy years, a magazine about the interests, the curiosity, the passions, of men."
No doubt Hefner gained valuable experience while working there, despite resigning on a bad note when he was refused a $5 raise.
8 The First Issue of Playboy Had No Date
Although he was passionate about the concept of Playboy magazine when Hefner started it, he didn’t put a date on the first issue, uncertain there would be a second. Playboy reached a peak of 5.6 million subscribers a year in 1975.
Today, the magazine has a circulation under 500,000 and publishes four issues a year.
7 The First Issue of Playboy Featured Marilyn Monroe
Hugh Hefner knew how to assure success with his first issue of Playboy magazine. He featured Marilyn Monroe, the most photographed woman in the world. She was captured on film and cameras by professionals and amateurs alike, some who searched to capture the essence of Monroe, while others her exceptional beauty.
Who could resist purchasing a magazine that contained revealing photos of the Hollywood goddess? The first issue sold 50,000 copies.
6 The Playboy Mansion is also a Zoo
Hefner’s love of animals has a long history. When he was still a young man, he won an award from the Illinois Humane Society for his poem, “Be Kind to Dumb Animals.” He followed that credo at the Playboy Mansion.
The grounds included a private, licensed zoo with animals ranging from flamingos to squirrel monkeys, many of which were “rescues.”
5 The Playboy Mansion was Sold in 2016
The Playboy Mansion was not only a licensed zoo, but it was also the only residence in Los Angeles with a fireworks license for its annual July 4th party.
Daren Metropoulos, the wealthy 33-year-old entrepreneur, best known for reviving nostalgic hipster brands like Hostess and Pabst Blue Ribbon, purchased the mansion in 2016.
4 Hefner Owned 200 Pairs of Pajamas
The huge Playboy mansion property featured 22 rooms, cinema, wine cellar, three zoos and aviaries, a games room, basketball and tennis courts, a pool with a waterfall, gym, and two forests. As a result, Hefner’s parties, events, and other responsibilities often required him to work (or at least stay awake) all night.
Pajamas were the most comfortable attire, and they became his preferred apparel. He owned over 200 pairs.
3 Hefner Was a Family Man, With Three Wives
Despite his reputation as the quintessential lady’s man and “Playboy,” Hugh Hefner was also a family man. Married three times and nearly four when the wedding of the Playboy founder to 25-year-old Crystal Harris was called off just days before the scheduled date.
Hefner had four children by his first two wives.
2 Playboy wasn’t Hefner’s first choice
The name Playboy wasn’t the first choice for Hefner’s magazine. The publication was initially called Stag Party. However, he changed the name after the already-existing men’s adventure magazine Stag threatened to sue to protect their brand.
The new choice of name and logo proved to be the right one. Playboy-brand shirts, hats, bags, and other attire can be seen everywhere.
1 Hefner Used a Body Double
The demands, responsibilities, and lifestyle of an individual in Hugh Hefner’s position were enough to exhaust anyone, and they were for him as well.
Occasionally Hefner was unable to attend a hosted dinner party or event, either due to another commitment or pure exhaustion. His solution was genius: he sent a cardboard cutout of himself to attend in his place, keeping his record intact for never missing a party.
Sources: bbc.com, finance.yahoo.com, globalnews.ca, twentytwowords.com