If there’s one thing you can’t accuse Hugh Hefner of, it’s of not living his life to the full, the way he wanted.
And as news of his death, at the grand old age of 91, was announced overnight, people began toasting the man behind the Playboy empire and sharing their memories.
Of course, Hefner lived his life in what many considered to be an unconventional manner, regularly having multiple girlfriends at the same time in the infamous Playboy mansion, as well as marrying three times, twice with significant age gaps.
And, perhaps because he knew what it meant to be judged by other people, it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was an early adopter of the campaign for gay rights.
Reddit users have been sharing a little-known fact about the early days of his Playboy magazine, when under two years after the publication had launched, he agreed to publish a science fiction short story called ‘The Crooked Man’, written by Charles Beaumont. The story had been rejected by Esquire magazine in 1955 and was about straight men being persecuted in a world where homosexuality was the norm.
After the magazine received angry letters, Hefner wrote a response to criticism where he said, “If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society then the reverse was wrong, too.”
In 1971, he acknowledged that he experimented in bisexuality, and later used his magazine to speak out in support of gay marriage.
In a letter entitled ‘Sexual Freedom’ in the September 2012 issue of Playboy, the then 86-year-old Hefner wrote:
“The fight for gay marriage is, in reality, a fight for all of our rights. Without it, we will turn back the sexual revolution and return to an earlier, puritanical time,” he writes. “Today, in every instance of sexual rights falling under attack, you’ll find legislation forced into place by people who practice discrimination disguised as religious freedom. 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.
“No one should have to subjugate their religious freedom, and no one should have their personal freedoms infringed. This is America and we must protect the rights of all Americans.”
Hefner received praise for his letter and, after publishing, tweeted: “My editorial titled ‘Sexual Freedom’ on gay rights in the September issue of Playboy is generating a lot of positive response.”
Previously, he had also told The Daily Beast: “Without question, love in its various permutations is what we need more of in this world. The idea that the concept of marriage will be sullied by same-sex marriage is ridiculous. Heterosexuals haven’t been doing that well at it on their own.”
Readers have also been reminding people that Playboy wasn’t all about the centrefold models - there was also some great writing in there too:
So, as Hugh is laid to rest in the the crypt next to Marilyn Monroe’s at Los Angeles’ Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery - which he bought for $75,000 in 1992 - we can thank him for consistently promoting gay rights and personal freedom for all.