I think Hugh Hefner is smart. I don't think he is any kind of genius. All he ever really had was a fantasy of how he would live his life if he could and an unshakable belief that a large number of other men, around the World, would want to share that fantasy with him. It turned out that he was right. In just a few years, his magazine went from nothing to the most recognizable, discussed and profitable publication in the world. From the middle Fifties to the middle Sixties, it was probably the most influential vehicle for the spread of affluent American culture and what they used to call, before feminism, the Sexual Revolution. The magazine spawned a chain of night clubs and vacation resorts. Hugh hosted music festivals, movie festivals and television shows. The career of a young man or woman who had verifiably been to the Playboy mansion and met Hugh Hefner was made.
By the late sixties Hugh Hefner was no longer young. The Hefner fantasy life began to be considered dated by some. The Playboy empire began a long slow decline. I think that this was highly appropriate. I'm not sure Hugh Hefner wanted it any other way.
The thing that I find most impressive about Hugh Hefner is that it was his personal vision that he was merchandising. It was the vision that he desired to live. When society changed, he didn't feel obligated to change with it. The decades of indulgence never dissipated him or perved him out, as happened to so many who acquired so much, so quickly, for so long
The resorts closed, then the clubs. Magazine sales shrank and the demographic became less sought after by big money advertisers. Through it all, Hugh lived the same life, his dream.
Today, Hugh Hefner is a very old and frail man. People make jokes about him. He has several air headed, young, blond girlfriends at a time, that he dodders around the mansion with and changes regularly. He takes a lot of naps and enjoys soft, bland food. Still, in most ways, it's the same lifestyle he's always had. It's kind of anachronistic now and modified to what his frail, old body can tolerate, yet still enjoy.
You got to ask yourself this. Has anybody else, in the history of the World, ever enjoyed such a good life, for so long, with so little negative blow back? I can't think of anyone. Most people born with the resources to live any way they want burn out early. Those that have to strive for what they desire slave away the best years of their lives and are too old to spend much time enjoying it when it's finally achieved. Not Hugh Hefner. Would you have been willing to trade your life for Hugh Hefner's? I bet a lot of guys would have. I remember discussing that exact thing with my bunk mates at summer camp, fifty years ago. I would have swapped lives with him, on any given day over the last fifty or so years. I'd do it tomorrow if asked and never look back.
I don't think that Hugh Hefner's empire will outlast him and that's good. When he dies they should lay him out nice, lock him in the mansion with his minions, sycophants and retainers and fire it up. No Viking funeral for this boy. Suttee!