(CBS/AP) — Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner has died at age 91.
The Chicago-born Hefner was credited — or blamed — with initially pushing the boundaries of adult entertainment with the magazine’s launch in 1953.
Playboy released a statement saying Hefner died of natural causes at his Los Angeles home Wednesday night surrounded by family.
The news of Hefner’s passing was first reported by Playboy on the magazine’s Twitter page.
The graduate of Steinmetz High School and the University of Illinois turned started Playboy with its first magazine featuring a nude Marilyn Monroe as the centerfold. That first issue sold more than 50,000 copies. Within a decade, Playboy was selling millions of monthly issues.
At its peak, Playboy included more than 20 clubs and resorts, and employed more than 5,000 people, including the iconic Playboy Bunnies.
While some said he was simply a purveyor of smut, Hefner said he was selling an idyllic lifestyle magazine for men.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Hefner once said his definition of obscenity was “racism, war, bigotry. But sex itself? No.”
“What a sad and cold war this would be if we weren’t sexual beings. I mean, that’s the heart of who we are,” he said.
In the process of creating his multi-million dollar entertainment empire, Hefner became the ultimate playboy himself.
Hefner, or “Hef,” himself became a larger-than-life celebrity known for his casual lifestyle, his tendency to wear bed clothes, and hobnobbing with celebrities in Chicago and later in Los Angeles.
The name Playboy was emblazoned on the Chicago skyline for from the late 1960s until the 1980s, after Hefner purchased the Palmolive Building at 919 N. Lake Shore Dr. He sold the building in 1980, and moved the Playboy offices to 680 N. Lake Shore Dr. in 1988. Playboy kept offices in Chicago until 2012.
Hefner’s original Playboy mansion also was in Chicago, at 1340 N. State Pkwy. He bought the mansion in 1959 and built a pool in the basement, after convincing the city it was for personal use only. He rented the upper floors to Playboy Bunnies, and didn’t allow male visitors or liquor unless Hefner provided it.
He purchased his Los Angeles mansion in 1971, and eventually leased his Chicago mansion to the School of the Art Institute in 1984. It served as a dormitory until 1990, and was sold to a real estate firm in 1993, and turned into condos.
Hefner was married several times and is survived by his wife, Crystal, and four children. While many have credited him with – or accused him of – starting the sexual revolution, he thought of himself as more of a romantic.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.