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New documentary film profiles Playboy's Hugh Hefner

By Bryen Dunn     Jul 29, 2010 in Entertainment
“Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel” is a documentary film based on the life of the iconic American Playboy Magazine founder. However, there is much more to this ageless stud than bunnies and boobies.
Hefner is well known as the brains behind the magazine, and subsequent empire of entities he built, including the world known Playboy Club, which celebrate 50 years of business this year since the opening of its first Chicago location in 1960.
Academy Award winning Director Brigitte Berman brings forth a stark reality look at the man behind the flamboyant mansion enterprise. Hefner himself provides much of the content throughout the film, interspersed with old footage, anecdotes and celebrity input from the likes of George Lucas, Dr. Ruth, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Gene Simmons.
Known for his multiple lovers, rambunctious parties and his adoration for the female form, there is a whole other side of Hefner that comes to light in Berman’s biopic. As is typical of most youth, rebellion is part of exploration and growing up. Raised under a strict religious upbringing of puritan repression, Hefner soon realized this was not the path he would choose to follow as an adult. He had a flare for creativity, wanting to write and draw cartoon sketches.
He graduated with a psychology major, completing a thesis on the antiquated and archaic sex laws in the United States. Shortly thereafter, he had his vision for Playboy Magazine, secured $8,000 for startup costs and went forth with publishing his first edition in the early 1950’s, featuring none other than Marilyn Monroe on the cover, and her infamous nude photograph as the centre spread. It was an instant success, and as they say the rest is history – 50 years of history!
What may not be known is the key role he played in breaking down race barriers, bringing jazz music to a higher level, challenging governmental laws on sex and drug use, launching an organization for street youth, igniting the careers of writers and musicians, and assisting with the relocation of Vietnamese children during the war. Hence, he could very well be known as an activist and humanitarian first and foremost.
Despite these deeds of recognition, it was not an easy road to success as the religious right, feminists, and government officials made it their mandate to shut him down. With his strong network of professional staff he successfully challenged and succeeded in conquering the naysayer contingent.
Playboy Magazine reached its heyday in the 1970’s and 80’s, and not only featured the ‘girl next door’ photos, but also great literature pieces, cartoon series, and celebrity interviews. The first Playboy Interview was done by Alex Hailey, who later went on to write the acclaimed Roots saga. Hefner also started the Playboy Jazz Festival, bringing both the music and his magazine to greater notoriety. His Playboy Penthouse television series was used as a launching pad for many fringe artists and musicians, such as Sammy Davis Jr. and Lenny Bruce. He also created the Children of the Night foundation that assisted street youth in changing their lives around.
So beyond the underwater bars, sex parties, and lavish lifestyle, Hugh Hefner remains dedicated to pushing boundaries and speaking up for what he considers worth fighting for. Not bad for a man turning 85 years old next April!
Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel – 2010 Release, 124 Min
Opens in Toronto Friday, August 6, Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary Friday, August 13 and Vancouver Friday, August 20
More about Playboy, Sex, Hefner, Documentary
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