On the Importance of Hef


Enjoyable ruminations by Roger Ebert on the man behind Playboy. Small bite of a large dish:

He also spent money to free a man who faced a 50-year prison term for…fellatio. And helped overturn laws that made fellatio and cunnilingus a crime in all 50 states (for which many of us must be grateful). He fought against laws punishing homosexuality and interracial marriage. He supported Lenny Bruce's fight against an obscenity arrest in Chicago. He fought obscenity prosecutions brought by such as Charles Keating, founder of the Citizens for Decent Literature. He won. Berman's doc cannot resist juxtaposing shots of Keating lecturing on morality and Keating in handcuffs being led to prison for bank fraud. Hefner's Playboy Foundation fought for civil liberties in general. The cost for these activities came out of his profits, and that didn't give him a moment's pause.

Ebert embeds this fun video of William F. Buckley squaring off against Hefner over Judeo-Christian sexual mores:

And if you haven't wasted an afternoon on YouTube searching on "Playboy After Dark," you've missed out on a lot of fun:

Reason on Playboy here.

NEXT: Video Games and the Supreme Court

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  1. Any man who draws the hatred of people as diverse as Gloria Steinem and Kathryn Jean Lopez can’t be all bad.

  2. Maybe if Hef wasn’t so enamored of fake tits I could like him more.

    1. He pretty much destroyed a great product. The women who were in the magazine back in the 50s and 60s really did look like hot women that you see every day deciding to take their clothes off. Somewhere along the line, they morphed into silicone injected barbie dolls.

      In Hefs defense, however, I think he was responding to market forces. Just when the hell did American men become enamored with fake tits, on anorexic skinny women shot up with colligan in their lips?

      1. April 1965 is my guess. That was when the first pair of fake tits appeared on the cover adorning playmate Sue Williams.

        She also happens to be the shortest playmate ever at 4’11”.

        1. Wow. I didn’t know they had those back then. And she ended up committing suicide. That is a bad omen for fake tits.

          1. I can recall many small-ish and natrually boobied beauties when I read Playboy in my yout. They didn’t all have huge racks, not that I minded that either.

            1. They just looked better.

              1. Barbie Benton.

                That is all.

      2. Most men like big tits. But big natural tits sag when they’re not in a bra. Big artificial tits don’t.

        1. “But big natural tits sag when they’re not in a bra.”

          Not if they are attached to the right woman under the age of 30.

    2. I only bought Playboy for the articles.


      1. I consider today’s men’s magazines like Maxim to be the opposite of Playboy. Back in the day, people would claim to read Playboy for the articles. Today, I would rather admit to looking at pictures of half naked beautiful women than ever admit to reading any of the articles in it.

        “Maxim, oh I just read it for the semi-soft porn”. Admitting that you might read of their articles, now that is really embarrassing.

        1. Don’t knock the articles. Quite a few of them are really well written.

        2. Maxim:

          Just like playboy. Except the articles suck. And the chicks aren’t actually nekidd.

    3. Don’t think of them as fake. Think of them as bionic.

        1. Six million dollar tits.

    1. That is a great link, SIV. Well done.

    2. Outstanding. Brings back fond memories of furtively sneaking issues from my dad’s collection.

  3. My favorite Playboy After Dark clip is this one of Deep Purple performing “Hush”.

  4. What Hef taught me is that many self-described feminists are stupid enough to be cajoled into showing off their ta-tas as long as you frame being a slut as an empowering feminist thing.

    1. Yup. Feminism empowered women to think having the sexual mores of men was a good thing. And it is… for men.

      1. As a woman, I call bullshit on this idea. Having been in high school in the seventies means that I came of age during the short window of time– before AIDS and the rise of the religious right family values anti-fun crusade— when casual, promiscuous sex for both men and women was culturally acceptable. It was ok to be slutty, which was a word one rarely heard. And you know what? It was FUN. Very few women I know who are my age regret those years; a fair number, myself included, feel sorry that our daughters had to come of age in a more repressive, judgmental atmosphere, one where the word “slutty” is once again thrown around freely.

        1. And I envy you.

      2. It is for women too, women who want to fuck anyway.

      3. Feminism empowered women to think having the sexual mores of men was a good thing whatever the hell they wanted about sexual mores.


  5. Out of the over 650 playmates, only 42 are dead. Not a bad average for a closed group spanning 60 years.

    Playboy also put its brand on collections of jazz, stand up comedy, and science fiction.

    1. A few of them fell into the hard partying life and had things end badly. But most of them went off and married rich men and became moms. I always thought one of the things that must piss feminists off most about Playboy is how to this day most of the playmates list being a wife and mother as one of their main life goals.

      1. Let’s face it, they’re not going to be brain surgeons. It doesn’t take a brain to get knocked up. I do wonder about the Playmate divorce rate though. Plenty of those rich men married for a trophy wife but the brass starts to fade at some point.

        1. It is usually pretty high. Being a beautiful woman makes it actually harder to find a decent husband. Every man wants to bang them. And it is impossible for them to tell which ones actually think anything of them or are just lying. It is like having a huge amount of money. Who are your real friends and who is just there for the cash?

          And not all of them are stupid. Some of them have college degrees from good schools. Yet, their most cherished goal is to get married and have kids.

          1. Whoa whoa whoa, I did not call them stupid. I’m not going to be a brain surgeon and neither are you but that doesn’t mean either of us are stupid. Then again, I don’t really care about the caliber of someone’s alma mater–I’ll merely point to our current and last president.

            I do find it funny and ironic that what the people who get paid for posing naked want most is monogamy and the destruction of their beautiful bodies. Talk about a waste.

            1. I think a good bit of that wife-and-mother schtick is just that– schtick. Centerfolds are all about the fantasy, and that girl-next-door gone wild persona apparently resonates with a lot of men. Ever watch any VH1 fame-whore “dating” shows? Like Rock of Love? Yeah, they all want to be wives and mothers, too.

              1. Yeah that sounds about right. The fap factor just isn’t there if she’s talking about attaining an executive-level position by the time she reaches her 40’s.

                1. Although you know, if the fuckin girl next door would just go wild for chrissakes, maybe we wouldn’t all be so hung up on that.

  6. Oh fuck. He’s lit the Sorgatz beacon.

    Everyone! Hide your parents!

    1. Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice! Sorgatz Sorgatz Sorgatz!

      I’m truly flattered that my name was mentioned before I even got here, but?wonder of wonders?I’m actually looking for a real woman now.

  7. I really wish someone would put this on YouTube. Also, I really wish the transcriptionist would learn the difference between “unilateral” and “you’re lateral.”

    1. Michael Dukakis: Well, Lloyd, we represent unpopular and discredited views.

  8. So, when did Hugh Hefner die? Wikipedia says nothing.

  9. Wow, been 30 – 40 years since I gazed at a Playboy. What with all the free internet videos…
    Kind of funny how Bob Guccione’s (no idea of how you spell his name) death was such a non-event. Penthouse always seemed so exotic to me…they had those…what was it? O yeah, brunettes!

    1. Don’t forget the letters, best described as freaky fantasies from sexually frustrated guys.

      1. Oh man, I remember my first exposure to the letters. Added major depth to my nascent concept of the spank bank.

  10. Once upon a time the Playboy Interview was fuckin’ important. They were lengthy, in depth and allowed the subject to present his or her thoughts without gotchas being tossed by the interviewer. It was truly quality journalism.

    The “Playboy Interview” started with Miles Davis in September of 1962 (Volume 9, Number 9). Over the years they have conducted interviews with Jimmy Carter, John Lennon, Fidel Castro, Ayn Rand, Malcolm X, Kurt Vonnegut, Bertrand Russell, Salvador Dali, Martin Luther King Jr., Jean-Paul Sartre, George Wallace, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Orson Welles, Ralph Nader, Arthur C. Clarke, Yasir Arafat, Steve Jobs, Stephen Hawking, Larry Ellison, Shintaro Ishihara, Robert De Niro, and Carl Sagan.

    Hugh Hefner may have been Peter Pan with a hard-on but that was only part of his personality.

    1. Back in the day, I actually did read the magazine cover to cover (after the pictures of course).

    2. The first exposition of libertarian thought in a mass market publication was in the March 1969 issue of Playboy. “The Death of Politics” by Karl Hess, former speechwriter for Barry Goldwater won Playboy’s award for best non-fiction writing that year.

      You can read “The Death of Politics” @

  11. The biggest difference between sexuality now and 2000 thousand years ago? The naked pictures now move.

  12. God Bless Hugh Hefner.

    And what’s the deal with Buckley, it’s like the guy is trying to pull 3 of the longest words he can find from the dictionary in every sentence.

    1. It’s called erudition.

      1. It’s called erudition.

        Or book-learnin’.

      2. Or just being a pompous ass.

    2. Buckley did have a liking for ten dollar words.

      Unlike most people who use them, he used them correctly.

      I might disagree with his arguments, but I never caught WFB using a word incorrectly.

  13. The cost for these activities came out of his profits, and that didn’t give him a moment’s pause.

    it was a write-off

    1. You don’t know what a write-off is.

  14. Hef was also instrumental in breaking down gender expectations.

    Prior to Playboy the best a man could expect to amount to was husband/father/breadwinner who would be worked to death by the time he was 60.

    But Hef popularized a lifestyle built on the finer things ? literature, music, good stereo equipment, and sex without marriage, that liberated men from the expectation of settling down and waiting to die.

    James Bond would never have been popular without Hugh Hefner.

  15. It should also be noted that in being a tireless champion of freedom, expression, and human liberation, Hef was able to truly revel in the experience of doing coke of Barbi Benton’s tits.

    Ah, Liberty…

    1. Hef was a Pepsi man, dude. 😉

  16. Playboy (and the other skin magz) were my only source of alternative comix during the late 70s-early 80s. I discovered HR Giger in a late 70s Penthouse. I used to shoplift CLUB and Hustler before I was allowed to legally buy them.


    This is a good article too. He was heavily involved in civil rights campaigning (though I don’t agree with his contribution to ERA ratification).

  18. Playboy blessed us with a couple of Bobs — Shea & Wilson. Also helped along Jean P. Shepherd and some good cartoonists.

  19. So what you’re saying is, Hefner was a shadowy corporate doner, giving to– what were at the time– generally liberal causes.

  20. That’s good stuff, thanks for the heads up Welch.

  21. Do not link to Roger Ebert. Ever.

  22. I just watched that entire 6 part youtube interview with Buckley and Hefner and I am so fucking jealous that you stupid baby boomers grew up with such intelligent discourse on a major network talk show, and these poor kids today end up with O’Reilly and the View.

    You stupid boomers have no idea how lucky you were.

    Yes, I’m bitter about it.

    But the interview is amazing, Thanks Welch. Hefner does a great job of defending himself against the various strawmen Buckley devises. Buckley kept trying to challenge Hefners authority to question several thousand year old ethical religious standards, and Hefner successfully defends his position by arguing that American society is founded on the ideal of questioning religious moral authority, especially from a constitutional standpoint.

    Buckley 0, Hef 1.

  23. it’s funny though that wit all his money he still does promotions like for stoli (the vodka) and i heard that now he’s doing a promotion for (the lingerie site)…interesting the guy still enjoys making more money

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