Hefner died at home, surrounded by loved ones, according to a press release from Playboy, from natural causes.
His son, Cooper Hefner, credited his father as living "exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom."
This is true. I wrote a paper on Hefner for a journalism class in college and was quite surprised at what I uncovered upon researching the man. Of course, this was long before he really ran with it, doing reality TV and dating seven women at the same time. The Hef I wrote about was madly in love with Barbi Benton, a 70's icon (and rightly so - simply a knockout). When he was 27 he started a magazine that he initially wanted to call "Stag Party," but later changed it to something that sounded more upscale.
"Playboy" launched in 1953 with a naked Marilyn Monroe -- and the magazine quickly became a movement. Eisenhower's America was shocked, and titillated, and changed forever. But, the fact is, the word pioneer totally fits. The old joke, "I buy it for the articles" never resonated as a joke to me. There were fantastic articles in "Playboy," and significantly more of those than there were nudie pics. Some the the world's greatest literary voices got their start with the magazine. Some of the biggest celebrities ever deemed the mag worth of a Q&A - the type who otherwise shunned such a stunt. But Hef was savvy enough to know that just a few pages dedicated to beautiful - and naked women - would make noise. It did. And for a long time.