Definite mixed feelings thinking about Hugh Hefner. One the one hand I seriously applaud him for creating and running his own successful and more liberated vision of a self made man and of more freely lusty ladies in Playboy. In a way he was a bit like Walt Disney, who sanitized fairy tales for children just as Hef sanitized sexuality and declawed his bunnies for safe and unthreatening male consumption.
He was a rebel of his time. On the other hand, it has always bothered me that his success is largely a result of the clever exploitation and objectification of women. Even how it all began, with the Marilyn calendar. It’s genius and exploitation literally hand in hand.
I know he had great love and respect for Marilyn Monroe, though, which shows his soul and true heart, most revealingly in that his ashes will be forever resting by hers in the Westwood cemetery because that is the spot he bought, probably a long time ago. It is a symbolic gesture that speaks volumes. Marilyn, who was always lonely now has an ashes buddy.
He was a visionary and he was a man, with all the drive, fire, and flaws of a man. He isn’t a saint. He never claimed or aimed to be one. It sucks that he had a serious blind spots when it came to seeing women as true equals. Though he saw himself as a champion of the sexual revolution, he had a big blind spot when it came to respecting the feelings and personal boundaries of women. He condemned Gloria Steinem, who went undercover as a bunny to write about what life at the mansion was like.
Years later Holly Madison also came away from the mansion with less than flattering accounts of life with Hef there. He saw feminists as the enemies of classic boy/girl dating dynamic, as he saw it. To his credit he did give women leadership roles in his company and had a respect for them in the workplace. He rooted for his models to grow their careers and gave them opportunities to expand their reach. Within his own sexual politics paradigm he used his power and influence to give women opportunities within his company and beyond.
No matter how progressive he thought he was he was still a man of his times. He resented the confines of the 50s mentality only as far as it encumbered his freedom to bang and exploit as many women as possible for his own sexual and financial gain. But when women said; you’re crossing boundaries, you’re objectifying us, you’re using quaaludes to enable people to rape us, he did not see how those freedoms are worth fighting for too and that is sad.
I admire him as an entrepreneur. As a writer and a publisher it inspires me to hear how he got fed up writing advertisement copy for other companies and had the vision of a more mainstream men’s magazine. He filled a gap in the market. And Playboy was not just for the body it was for the mind. He published great writers such as Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke, John Updike, and Ray Bradbury. I believe in the equalization of high and low art. With the CLASH Media website and CLASH Books this is what we believe in as well. It is this belief that brought me and Christoph Paul together. We connected over our love of horror movies, Marilyn Manson and great literature. He loves sports and politics. I love folklore and pop music. To embrace the entire self, high and low, is what will make society whole again. I firmly believe this. So I do think Hugh Hefner contributed to culture, and that should not be devalued or diminished.
Always good food for thought with you. 🖤
Leza Cantoral is the editor in chief of CLASH Books. She is the author of Cartoons in the Suicide Forest and the editor of the upcoming CLASH Books anthology, Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath. She is the host of Get Lit With Leza where she talks to cool ass writers, filmmakers, and pop culture fanatics. She also slays cyber- trolls with her bare hands and spends way too much time on Facebook. Find her there or on Twitter & Instagram @lezacantoral