Hugh Hefner is one of the most influencial people to ever walk the earth. His name alone conveys a sense of innovation and accomplishment, not to mention everything he has contributed to American culture through Playboy magazine. A lot has been written about Hef, but on the occasion of his birthday, we thought it appropriate to showcase a timeline that shows the massive scope of his work throughout his 90 years.


  • 1920

    April 9, 1926

    • Hugh Marston Hefner is born in Chicago, Ill.

    1930 1940
  • 1940s

    • Hef distinguishes himself in high school with extracurricular activities: he founds a school paper, writes, cartoons and serves as president of the student council where he champions student causes

  • 1944-46

    • Serves as a writer for a military newspaper in the U.S. Army

  • 1949

    • Works as an assistant personnel manager for the Chicago Carton Company for $45 a week

    • Graduates from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with a bachelor of arts in psychology and a double minor in creative writing and art

  • 1950

    • Works as an advertising copywriter for the Carson Pirie Scott department store for $40 a week

  • 1952

    • Works as a promotion copywriter for Esquire

  • 1953

    • Mortgages his furniture, generating a bank loan of $600 and raised $8,000 from 45 investors to launch Playboy, which was initially called Stag Party

    • The undated first issue of Playboy is published, featuring Marilyn Monroe from her 1949 nude calendar shoot - it sells over 50,000 copies

  • 1954

    • In its second, third and fourth issues, Playboy publishes Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451

  • 1955

    • Hefner publishes the controversial story “The Crooked Man” by Charles Beaumont which supported homosexuality by depicting a world in which homosexuality was the standard and heterosexuality was the persecuted sexual preference

  • 1959

    • The first Playboy Jazz Festival is held at the Chicago Stadium

  • 1959-1960

    • Hefner hosts trailblazing TV show, Playboy’s Penthouse, which showed both white and black performers together

  • 1962

    • The “Playboy Interview” debuts with interviews with Miles Davis, Malcolm X (1963), Martin Luther King Jr. (1965), and George Lincoln Rockwell (1966)


  • 1969-1970

    • Hefner hosts the TV show, Playboy After Dark

  • 1971

    • Playboy Enterprises goes public, the magazine is selling seven million copies a month, there are 23 Playboy Clubs, resorts, hotels and casinos with more than 900,000 members worldwide

    • Hefner purchases Playboy Mansion West in Holmby Hills, CA

  • 1975

    • Hef makes Playboy Mansion his full-time residence

  • 1978

    • Hefner encourages fund-raising efforts that led to the restoration of the Hollywood Sign and personally contributed $27,000 (or 1/9 of the total restoration costs) by purchasing the letter Y in a ceremonial auction

  • 1979

    • The 2nd Playboy Jazz Festival is held in the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles - This was the first jazz festival to happen on the West Coast

    • The Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award is created by Christie Hefner “to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans”


  • 1980

    • Hefner earns a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for helping save the Hollywood Sign and is honored further with Hollywood Hall of Fame Award as Outstanding Citizen of the Year

  • 1984

    • Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, an endangered subspecies of marsh rabbit, is named after Hefner in honor of his financial support

  • 1985

    • While the Reagan Administration cuts funding for shelters of battered women, Hefner and his daughter Christie fight against the Meese Commission

  • 1992

    • Hefner gives $100,000 to USC to create a course, Censorship in Cinema

  • 1993

    • In the Simpsons episode “Krusty Gets Kancelled”, Hefner guest-voices himself where he plays a musical piece on wine glasses

  • 1994

    • Hefner establishes and funds the Playboy Jazz Film Festival, the first-ever showcase on the West Coast for many of the best and rarest films in the jazz lexicon

  • 1995

    • Donates $1.5 million to endow the Hugh M. Hefner Chair for the Study of American Film at the USC School of Cinematic Arts

  • 1996

    • Receives the International Publishing Award from the International Press Directory in London

  • 1998

    • Is inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Society of Magazine Editors at its 1998 ceremonies in New York

  • 1999

    • Finances the groundbreaking Clara Bow documentary, Discovering the It Girl

  • 2001

    • Is inducted into the New York Friars Club as an honorary Friar on the occasion of his gala roast in New York City, an evening of uninhibited comedy subsequently aired nationwide on the Comedy Central network

  • January 2002

    • Receives the Henry Johnson Fisher Award, the highest honor of the Magazine Publishers of America

  • 2006

    • The Playboy Club and Casino at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas opens, named the “Fantasy Tower”

  • 2006

    • Hefner guest-stars as himself in an episode of Seth Green’s Robot Chicken on the late-night programming block Adult Swim

  • 2007

    • Makes a $2 million dollar donation to the USC School of Cinematic Arts to help fund a central exhibition space in the new headquarters and a new archival repository for student films and historic documents

  • 2008

    • Throws fundraiser events for Much Love Animal Rescue

  • 2005-2009

    • Grants full access to Kevin Burns for the A&E Biography special Hugh Hefner: American Playboy in 1996. Hefner and Burns’ most notable creation, The Girls Next Door, runs for six seasons and 90 episodes

  • 2010

    • Is acknowledged with two Guinness Book of World Records titles: One for being the longest running editor of a magazine and the other for the largest personal scrapbook collection (2,396 volumes at the time)

  • July 30, 2010

    • A documentary by Brigitte Berman, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, is released

  • April 26, 2010

    • Hefner donates the last $900,000 sought by a conservation group for a land purchase needed to stop the development of the famed vista of the Hollywood Sign

  • October 2010

    • PEN Center USA honors Hef with both the Award of Honor and the First Amendment Award

  • November 18, 2010

    • Children of the Night founder and president Dr. Lois Lee presents Hefner with the Founder’s Hero of the Heart Award in appreciation for his unwavering dedication, commitment and generosity

  • 2011

    • Hefner receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Press Club at its annual National Entertainment Journalism Awards event

  • 2015

    • Hefner states that a fight for gay marriage is “a fight for all our rights. Without it, we will turn back the sexual revolution and return to an earlier, puritanical time.”

  • SOURCES: Hugh M. Hefner Foundation; Playboy Archives; The Crimson Report; Images: Playboy Enterprises; Simpsons: Fox; It Girl: Turner Classic Movies; Playboy Club: © RD / Kabik / Retna Digital/Retna Ltd./Corbis; Friars Club: © Globe Photos/