There will never be another Hugh Hefner. The media mogul, celebrity, and notoriously classy millionaire playboy made his mark starting in 1953. Few people knew that Hefner had a humble start, working as a promotion copywriter at Esquire, in Chicago. The men’s magazine gave Hefner his first taste of writing to an audience that would eventually make him a worldwide celebrity.
When Esquire moved to New York, Hugh Hefner decided to leave the company, and he stayed in Chicago. He had been collaborating on an idea to launch another men’s magazine. While Esquire focused on men’s fashion, politics and news, Hefner wanted to create a different magazine.
Every man reads Playboy magazine “for the interviews.” But it’s really not a joke—the editorial genius and standard of Hefner to provide qualitative reporting. The magazine may have had great pictures of gorgeous nude women, but the copywriting was more than worth reading. And that is because, at his heart, Hugh Hefner was a writer. The first publication of Playboy magazine featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover in December 1953. And it created a tremendous scandal. Marilyn Monroe had not agreed to be on the cover or posed for a Playboy photoshoot. But Hugh Hefner had purchased the rights to nude photographs of her.
Hefner may go down as the only millionaire CEO to be interviewed in silk pajamas. But his contribution to cannabis legalization is something many people do not know about.
Why People Read Playboy “For the Interviews”
Before Hugh Hefner passed away on September 27, 2017, he left a media legacy of firsts behind. Playboy magazine was the first publication to show full-frontal nudity. Bachelor party films and photos were always available, but they had never been editorialized into a magazine before.
More than just a collection of naked pictures, Playboy chalked up some impressive interviews. One of the most famous interviews was with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1980. It was one of the last interviews that Lennon gave before his death. Before Jimmy Carter became President, he was also interviewed.
One of the most unforgettable interviews to ever appear in Playboy was with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Journalist Alex Haley (writer of Malcolm X’s Autobiography) in 1965. Playboy’s interview is said to be the longest one ever provided by Dr. King, with a chilling but noble statement.
“I must face the fact, as all others in positions of leadership must do, that America today is an extremely sick nation, and that something could well happen to me at any time. I feel, though, that my cause is so right, so moral, that if I should lose my life, in some way, it would aid the cause.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Hugh Hefner was the first to coin the term “centerfold.” No one had really used that layout in a magazine format before. And that was one of many ‘firsts’ that Playboy accomplished.
What Did Hugh Hefner Think About Marijuana?
Not only did Hugh Hefner believe that weed was the best thing since sliced bread, he felt that legalized access was a constitutional right. He was so passionate about cannabis that he involved himself as one of the first silent but powerful advocates for marijuana legalization.
Starting Playboy with only $600 to his name, Hugh Hefner built the empire, and it gave him the funds to pursue some of his pro-cannabis personal convictions. According to an article on Leafly by Lisa Rough, the pro-legalization organization NORML may not have existed without early help from Playboy.
NORML led the charge for legalization in the United States. To date, it is the most viewed online resource for cannabis news and state laws. The organization remains a powerful media influence supporting the federal legalization of cannabis.
But in 1970, when Keith Stroup started NORML, it was cash strapped. And the Playboy Foundation began by donating $5000. Later it was reported that Hefner might have been contributing as much as $100,000 every year to support legalization efforts.
Keith Stroup (founder of NORML) wrote a moving piece the day that Hugh Hefner died. And it acknowledged his tireless effort and support to make cannabis legalization come to fruition in California. Stroup stated that “Hefner was a fearless cultural crusader who believed deeply not just in the right to sexual freedom, but also in civil rights and the right to privacy. May he rest in peace.”
How Often Did Hugh Hefner Smoke Weed?
Every day, according to his girlfriend, Holly Madison. He was interviewed for a book called “High in America: The True Story Behind NORML and the Politics of Marijuana.” And in the book, he said that weed helped him discover “a whole other dimension to sex.” Madison stated that Hugh and his girlfriends would return from dancing, and then he would smoke up before sex.
But of course, he did, right? After all, he had several girlfriends to fill his oversized bed at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. Guaranteed, there was some Sativa behind that stamina.
Hugh Hefner had been fond of drinking, and then he gave it up. Later, to replace his happy buzz, Hefner started smoking marijuana. And he loved it. He saw a future where California would allow for medical and recreational cannabis. Talk about being a prophet for pot. And less about altruism but more interested in having some great parties in the Grotto.
The Playboy and the Mansion Harassed by the DEA and Suspected of Distribution
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) doesn’t like weed. And they don’t like anyone who endorses it, even as a constitutional right. Blame the Anslinger era for the “rage against the weed” stance that the DEA built (and kept) for decades. In the 1970s, the Playboy Mansion and Hugh Hefner became caught in the crosshairs of cultural change and prohibition.
Hugh Hefner was the first to coin the term “centerfold.” No one had really used that layout in a magazine format before. The first centerfold was a nude of Marilyn Monroe in 1953. In the early days, the magazine would show partial and suggestive nudity because of public decency laws. However, the pictures did not show the pubic area.
That eventually changed in the 1970s. But in the interim, it made lawmakers angry. The harassment of Hugh Hefner started immediately after he began funding NORML. But the feds started to follow him and operate surveillance on him and his house aggressively in the 1970s.
The best evidence they were ever able to collect was a link between his secretary. Bobbie Arnstein was dating a known drug dealer named Ron Scharf. And Sharf was a frequent guest at Playboy Mansion parties.
Tragically, Hefner’s secretary was charged and convicted. She received a 15-year prison sentence because she refused to give evidence against Hugh Hefner. The young woman committed suicide in 1975 before she started to serve her sentence. The tragic event fortified Hefner’s support of cannabis legalization.
Playboy Launches a New CBD Brand
Given the long and relevant history that Hugh Hefner had with cannabis, it is not surprising that Playboy would jump in. As a lifestyle brand, Playboy has developed a product line of hemp-derived CBD wellness products. It is called “CBD by Playboy.”
In 66 years of operation, Playboy has kept a consistent theme and mission to accentuate American sex lives. The CBD by Playboy products isn’t your run of the mill creams for aches or pains or hemp pre-rolls. CBD by Playboy provides intimacy products formulated to improve sexual wellness, which is a great product niche and marketing angle for the brand. They already own the space.
The products are affordable. A CBD arousal spray is supposed to flip your ignition switch, and it sells for $45. There is also an intimacy warming gel that retails for $47. And as an aperitif after a really fun night, a relaxing CBD bath bomb that sells for $15. Distributors are also selling Playboy condoms and an official Playboy bunny glass ashtray on sites like Pleasure For All.
It’s been almost four years since we lost Hugh Hefner, but we think he would be proud of the new product line. And the fulfillment of his goal to help everyone have a little more fun in life.