Hugh Hefner, the incurable playboy who built a publishing and entertainment empire on the idea that Americans should shed their puritanical hang-ups and enjoy sex, has died, according to a Playboy spokesperson. He was 91.
Hefner was the founder of Playboy magazine, launched amid the conservatism of the 1950s, when marriage and domesticity conferred social status. Hefner pitched an alternative standard — swinging singlehood — which portrayed the desire for sex as normal as craving apple pie. He redefined the status for a generation of men, replacing lawn mowers and fishing gear with new symbols: martini glasses, a cashmere sweater and a voluptuous girlfriend, the necessary components of a new lifestyle that melded sex and materialism.