Hugh Hefner, the most iconically horny man of all time, left a considerable legacy in his 91 years on Earth.
Yes, he’s best known for elevating smut to a mass commodity, but the Playboy founder’s death has kickstarted conversations about his other contributions to popular culture.
In life and death, Hefner has been praised as one of the leading figures in America’s post-war turn away from old-school notions of morality. That didn’t extend solely to presenting nude models for the (mostly) heterosexual male gaze; Hefner saw sexual liberation as one aspect of broader cultural change.
Another vital aspect of that worldview was Hefner’s advocacy for gay rights at a time when it wasn’t exactly PC.
Hugh Hefner advocated for gay rights in the 1950s. Yes, the 50s (pre-Stonewall).— Raymond Braun (@raymondbraun) September 28, 2017
This headline is from The Advocate. pic.twitter.com/LwF1EvBnhv
That year, Playboy published a short story about heterosexuals being persecuted in a homosexual-dominant society. Many complaints.— Charles Clymer????️???? (@cmclymer) September 28, 2017
In response, Hugh Hefner said: "If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society, then the reverse was wrong too.”— Charles Clymer????️???? (@cmclymer) September 28, 2017
Hefner was also a noted supporter of civil rights. The Washington Post notes that in 1961, he bought back the rights to independently-run Playboy clubs which turned away black patrons.
In a follow-up letter, he said “we are outspoken foes of segregation [and] we are actively involved in the fight to see the end of all racial inequalities in our time.”
That kind of support has been remembered by civil rights legend Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr:
Hugh Hefner was a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. We shall never forget him. May he Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/oL3lKLZRQ5— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) September 28, 2017
????Hugh Hefner, Rosa Parks and You. pic.twitter.com/SYrnYRUAoF— jamšé bőnd (@Jams_Bond) September 28, 2017
Hugh Hefner repeatedly hired Dick Gregory to perform at Playboy clubs when no one else would hire him.— John Lurie (@lurie_john) September 28, 2017
Hefner was also a staunch supporter of reproductive rights for women, and funded several court cases advocating for legal access to birth control. Not one to refrain from tooting his own horn (take that as you will), he told Esquire in 2002 that “I was a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism.”
I hope people remember all the remarkable journalism published by @hughhefner – as much as the pictures.— Michael Socolow (@MichaelSocolow) September 28, 2017
He also helped bankroll Roe v. Wade.
Quite a legacy.
For a while there, he also threw some parties. Some folks are are pretty cut up about it.
Paris & I are reminiscing about the Playboy parties at the mansion & how much we love Hef. She’s texts me the perfect Hef emojis ????????????????????????????????????????????— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) September 28, 2017
RIP Hugh Hefner I went to so many of his parties at the Playboy mansion it was legendary you will never be forgotten— juicy j (@therealjuicyj) September 28, 2017
The rest of you? Well, you’re all cracking jokes about how thirsty the bloke was, all the time. Evidence suggests this was the case, and truth be told, he’d probably be happy you have the freedom to say what you want about him.
They're gonna bury Hugh Hefner like Alexander the Great except the coffin will be filled with baby oil instead of honey.— Matt Christman (@cushbomb) September 28, 2017
Hugh Hefner. Asses to asses. Bust to bust.— Adam Nix (@AdamTheNix) September 28, 2017
This is the stiffest Hugh Hefner has been in years— sophie merckx (real) (@stace_ofbase) September 28, 2017
Hugh Hefner isn’t dead, he’s just leaving us for a younger, hotter life.— Alex Blagg (@alexblagg) September 28, 2017
rip hugh hefner. we honor your memory by violently cranking our hogs. ????????????— bobby ???? (@bobby) September 28, 2017
I hope Hugh Hefner stipulated he was to be buried by hand, no shovels. You know. Just to make things extremely hard one last time.— Paul Verhoeven (@paulverhoeven) September 28, 2017
As per his wishes, Hugh Hefner’s body will be left in a fort in the woods for other kids to find & pass around.— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 28, 2017
I'm only mourning him for the articles https://t.co/OtwX5mqKoU— spicy cinnamon taco (@Caitlin_Welsh) September 28, 2017
Why did Usher need help specifically https://t.co/4hnHOPSypI— Dr Yobbo (@DrYobbo) September 28, 2017
The rumors of my death are, as Mark Twain observed in a similar situation, greatly exaggerated. I'm very much alive & kicking.— Hugh Hefner (@hughhefner) July 12, 2011