It’s September 27, 2017. In a New York sub-urban coffee bar, a couple is sipping an espresso, holding hands. In some part of the world called North Korea, people are dancing to Kim Jong Un’s tunes- their only music. In Washington D.C.- another Trump rhetoric lightens up a punk’s mood. Others, either stuck in an endless queue in the neighbourhood super-store or running errands for home or maybe finishing a pending PowerPoint are up and about. Suddenly, the radio broadcasts news and maybe, in some places else, a TV starts to blurt it out. Hugh Hefner, 91, is no more.
“Hefner passed away quietly in his Los Angeles, California home”, the broadcasters announce.
Yeah, you heard that right. But, how do you care? “Hugh Hefner is dead…. that old hag who made a life dressing himself in cheap satin robes by depriving women of theirs…”. So what?
For most of us, who’ve confessed albeit eerily, the insane pleasure of holding a Playboy magazine in the hands, Hugh Hefner was the granddaddy responsible for publishing the stuff that lay inside a colorful digest. Must it be said, it was good stuff but maybe not a hundred percent reading material.
It’s clearly not that tough to understand why? For you didn’t read Hugh Hefner’s Playboy; you viewed it. You glanced through the pages embossed with sensual imagery and copious amounts of tantalisingly hot women. Rather, babes. You scrolled past each page maybe with painstaking attention, staring endlessly at figures and assets that no account statement or balance sheet in the world provided.
Thanks to- what might be rightly called great efforts by Hugh Hefner- reading became fun. Even if, the magazine demanded being tucked away safely where none could read your fantasy. Fantasy, after all, is a genre that Harry Potter movies don’t only provide.
But with the Illinois-born former millionaire’s passing, a question must be asked!
Who really was Hugh Hefner? Is it even important to know him? Why must a man that cavorted around with semi-nude models, rather Playboy bunnies be read about? He was no inventor, after all. He didn’t invent the microwave kitchen or the seatbelt. He didn’t put a space shuttle in outer space and neither did he capture Kim Kardashian’s famous behind on a magazine cover that wouldn’t stimulate an Amish Tripathi reader.
In fact, in these randomly assorted shenanigans lies the answer to unraveling what might be a hugely under-appreciated enigma. Here was Hugh Hefner- Chicago-born, staidly elegant, lanky, intelligent, gruesomely determined in establishing a name of his own at a time where odd jobs gave the average American youth the delight of eating a hot dog. Hugh Hefner wouldn’t care for a hot dog, for he was to give the world a brand new connotation to the phrase ‘hot’.
Most businessmen perish attempting to grab something out of a rabbit’s hat. But in Hugh Hefner, America saw a man that established an icon, a lasting imagery out of something as harmless as a rabbit. Here was a bloke who first made news back in 1927, when the fanciful Playboy Mansion opened. It was a time when India wasn’t even independent, Israel didn’t even exist and SEX wasn’t sex, rather more of a locker-room fantasy; something that parents did and insisted children to stay off from. By the time James Dean eclipsed from Earth, perhaps in some hurry, Hugh Hefner was already a known name.
Guess what? Hefner didn’t have to wear a stylishly slick red Levis jacket for that. How many men would’ve walked up to a Marilyn Monroe to ask her for her nudes? Hefner did just that and handed her $500. What next? Those ‘iconic’ snaps were published in Playboy, a magazine girls featured in and boys bought and red. Parents, in the most conservative American circles too would secretly glance through its pages. Oomph was birthed gloriously in those glossy pages, riddled with serene imageries; sinful, playful and least of all- joyous.
That said, Hugh Hefner’s remarkable and dazzling story doesn’t end there. The very first edition of the legendary Playboy magazine was published courtesy an $8000 investment Hefner managed.
Today, as Hefner is put to rest, having lived a life of grandeur, a word many aspire to live up to in pompous, ‘talk-of-the-town’ parties that run on glamour and function on booze, sex is still a taboo. At least, in more than half the world. It’s a coy term, a phrase of misgivings and, an idea that something dirty, unbecoming emanates from it.
Who can change this developing world, one that functions on a medieval belief-system? If this is not true, then how else would one justify a Taslima Nasreen staying off her Bangladesh government’s limits? Isn’t that crazy. Thankfully, Hugh Hefner didn’t have to face these cultural shockers. Thankfully, he must have delighted himself scrolling down a fanciful collection of the many business earnings and market-cap that his legendary Playboy Enterprises earned in his time.
By the time Hugh Hefner died, the Playboy Enterprises have earned upto $1 billion dollars worth of sales figures. While one can only gasp in deep admiration for this success story, here’s another Hugh Hefner-driven landmark that’s unmistakable to his harshest critic: the ‘notorious’ print major reached a circulation mark of 2,00,000 in the mid-1950s itself. This would would increase to a stratospheric level: 7 million readers by the 1970s.
If SEX or the need for it didn’t drive it, then what did? He might have been a swinger- Hugh Hefner- but he was surely a man enough to admit that and, make a life out of that. Consider the employment he must’ve provided to the many luscious ladies who thought of pursuing a life outside of the (corrupt) sands of commerce?