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1962_04_28--034_SP Czar of Bunny World

36 he says, "that I was one of the great soldiers." His only girl up to that time was a high-school classmate named Millie Williams. When he was discharged from the Army, Millie was a student at the University of Illinois, so Hefner went to the University of Illinois too. He is remembered by classmates as an indifferent student—a psychology major; a contributor of cartoons to the campus humor magazine; a singer of such songs as That's My Desire, in the Frankie Laine manner, with a three-piece student band; but mostly as Millie Williams's steady beau. He and Millie were married soon after he was graduated in 1949. He was then twenty-two years old. The marriage, by Hefner's own admission, was a mismatch from the beginning. "We had three unhappy years and two children," he says, "and the walls around me grew higher." To support his family, he worked as a personnel man for a cartoon manufacturer, couldn't stand it, and quit. Then he tried to escape through selling a comic-strip idea about a college boy, "Fred Frat." Failing, he went to Northwestern University to take graduate work in psychology. This interlude lasted exactly one semester. Then he got a job as a copywriter in the advertising department of Esquire magazine at sixty dollars a week. No ball of fire, he quit Esquire when they refused to give him a fivedollar raise. By 1952, therefore, he was out of a job and his marriage was on the rocks (the divorce came later). At this point, if there was anyone in the world who would be considered less likely to start a magazine for "urbane young men who are sophisticated and interested in hi-fi, sports cars, good food and drink and women," it was Hefner. He was broke, he knew absolutely nothing about hi-fi, sports cars or women, and his sophistication was the equivalent of say, Mortimer Snerd's. Yet there he was, working at odd jobs in Chicago by day, pasting together a new magazine by night, all through most of 1952 and 1953. He admits that his idea for the publication sprang from his work at Esquire, as dull as his chores there were. While he was on Esquire's staff it dawned on him that the same formula, taken one step further with photographed nudes, would make an extremely salable product—especially since Esquire was beginning to veer away from its emphasis on sex. "Once this idea hit me," says Hefner, "I began to work on it with everything I had, and for the first time in my life I felt free. It was like a mission—to publish a magazine that would thumb its nose at all the restrictions that had bound me.' One of the first purchasers of the Hefnerian theory was a young Chicago freelance art director named Art Paul. Paul told me, "I'm sitting in my studio one day and in comes this skinny, intense wild-eyed guy. He showed me this magazine he had put together. He had done all the art work and writing himself, and it was awful. But he looked at my work and asked me to redesign his magazine. I took on the job, accepting private shares of stock in the company he was founding, instead of salary." (Paul today is art director and vice-president of the publishing division of Hefner's empire, and a wealthy man—thanks to those first shares of stock.) With Paul's help, Hefner finally assembled the first issue of Playboy in the kitchen of his Chicago apartment. Featured was the famous Marilyn Monroe Byplay at one of Hefner's Friday-night "at home's" ; guests work hard to keep themselves amused. As a lavish patron of the sensual arts, Hefner delights in throwing a party at the drop of a name.


1962_04_28--034_SP Czar of Bunny World
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