Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has died at the age of 91.
According to a statement released by Playboy, Hefner passed away in his home at the Playboy Mansion on Wednesday. The cause of death was natural causes.
Hefner launched Playboy in December 1953. Though obviously known for its pornographic photo spreads, the magazine also published original works from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Ian Fleming, Margaret Atwood, Jack Kerouac, and Kurt Vonnegut, as well as interviews with prominent figures including Miles Davis, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Stanley Kubrick, and even The Beatles.
An advocate of free speech and sexual liberation, Hefner frequently clashed with the government over censorship — and won. When the U.S. Postal Service refused to deliver Playboy through the mail, Hefner took his case to the Supreme Court and was victorious. He also fought against the country’s “sodomy laws.”
Hefner’s television series Playboy’s Penthouse was the first program to feature mixed groups of African American and white performers and audience members together. He also fought against racist Jim Crow laws by integrating Playboy Clubs in Miami and New Orleans.
“My father lived an 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,” Hefner’s son, Cooper, said in a statement. “He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history.”
Hefner served as Playboy’s Editor-in-Chief up until his death, but also made his mark in other forms of media. In addition to Playboy’s Penthouse, Hefner hosted several other TV shows, culminating in the launch of Playboy’s own channel in 1982. Later in his life, he starred in the reality series The Girls Next Door, which ran six seasons.
He produced feature-length films including Roman Polanski’s Macbeth and Monty Python’s first film, And Now for Something Completely Different, both released in 1971, and also made notable guest appearances on TV shows like The Simpsons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Robot Chicken.