Hugh Hefner and his wife Crystal Hefner in 2013. Hugh Hefner, of Playboy fame, died at age 91.

Hugh Hefner and his wife Crystal Hefner in 2013. Hugh Hefner, of Playboy fame, died at age 91.

ARMANDO BROWN,/AP

Hugh Hefner, the man behind Playboy magazine and a champion of sexual freedom, has died. He died peacefully from natural causes at his Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, according to a written statement. He was 91.

In 1953, Hefner launched Playboy, which became the foundation of a global empire. From then, Hefner "revved up the sexual revolution in the 1950s and built a multimedia empire of clubs, mansions, movies and television, symbolized by bow-tied women in bunny costumes," The Associated Press said.

Hefner is survived by his wife, Crystal, and four children: Christie, David, Marston and Cooper.

His daughter Cooper Hefner, chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, said in a written statement that her father advocated for "free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom." 

"He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history."

Since its inception, Playboy has featured provocative photos of women. In December 1953, Marilyn Monroe became its first cover girl and centerfold.

Playboy also published stories from famous writers, including Ray Bradbury, John Updike, Joseph Heller, Jack Kerouac and Kurt Vonnegut.

"Playboy soon became forbidden fruit for teenagers and a bible for men with time and money, primed for the magazine's prescribed evenings of dimmed lights, hard drinks, soft jazz, deep thoughts and deeper desires," the AP recalls.  "Within a year, circulation neared 200,000. Within five years, it had topped 1 million.

"By the 1970s, the magazine had more than 7 million readers and had inspired such raunchier imitations as Penthouse and Hustler. Competition and the internet reduced circulation to less than 3 million by the 21st century, and the number of issues published annually was cut from 12 to 11. In 2015, Playboy temporarily ceased publishing images of naked women, citing the proliferation of nudity on the internet." But in February 2017, the magazine declared the move a mistake and went back to its old ways.

Hefner famously claimed to have slept with "over a thousand" women and threw lavish parties at his mansions. Playboy sent this #RIPHef tweet:

According to the family, information regarding memorial services is not yet available.

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