12 Things You Didn’t Know About Playboy

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Happy 90th birthday to Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. The men’s magazine publisher started his career as a copywriter for Esquire, but left in 1952 after being denied a $5 raise. He started Playboy shortly after, which was almost titled Stag Party. The first December 1953 issue sold out in weeks, at 50 cents a copy. Since then, Playboy has influenced the scope of culture, journalism, and sexuality. Here are 12 things you might not know about the Playboy empire and Hugh Hefner.

The famous Playboy rabbit logo was designed by the company’s first art director Art Paul. He reportedly created the design in under 10 minutes. “The rabbit, the bunny, in America has a sexual meaning; and I chose it because it’s a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping — sexy,” Hugh Hefner once said of the image.

The first issue of Playboy featuring Marilyn Monroe on the cover, an image from her 1949 nude calendar shoot, sold more than 50,000 copies.

Hugh Hefner won a lawsuit against the US Post Office in an obscenity battle. The magazine eventually won the same second-class mailing privileges shared by other periodicals.

The first Playboy mansion was located in Chicago and had 70 rooms. The basement contained a swimming pool with a glass wall. It’s now a three-family home.

A Playboy Club membership cost patrons $25. Drinks, cigarettes (with a Playboy lighter), and meals could be purchased for $1.50 each. “They made their money on the drinks. A buck-fifty was nothing for a filet mignon dinner. A buck-fifty was a lot for a drink,” explained former Bunny Kathryn Leigh Scott.

The first Playboy magazine interview was published in 1962, featuring jazz legend Miles Davis. “Why is it that people just have to have so much to say about me?” Davis said in conversation. “It bugs me because I’m not that important.”

Hefner was arrested on June 4, 1963 for selling “obscene” literature after the nude Jayne Mansfield issue of Playboy published. The jury was unable to reach a verdict.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has published a Braille edition of Playboy since 1970 (the first men’s mag for the blind), funded by the Library of Congress.

Playboy’s Penthouse, Hefner’s first variety show, first aired on October 24, 1959. Guests included Ella Fitzgerald, Lenny Bruce, and Nat “King” Cole. The set was decorated to look like Hefner’s apartment and featured Bunnies in attendance.

In 1961, Playboy Bunnies who worked the clubs made close to $1,000 a week. Aretha Franklin, a performer at one of the clubs, sang and played piano for only $250 a week.

Playboy After Dark was Hefner’s foray into the ’70s, featuring celebrities and musicians like Joe Cocker, Ike & Tina Turner, and Sammy Davis Jr. By that time Hefner was already into his 40s, so the host appears somewhat out of his element with the younger crowd.

Lena Soderberg was the November 1972 Playboy Playmate. Part of her centerfold photo is used to test algorithms in digital image processing. From Technology Review:

From that point on, use of the Lena picture in imaging circles grew, until it simply became standard. In 1997, Soderberg was a guest at the 50th annual conference of the Society for Imaging Science and Technology. She is known as the “first lady of the internet,” for the influence her image has had on digital imaging technologies. Since image compression essentially helped build the modern internet, the society’s president Jeff Seideman has said, “The use of her photo is clearly one of the most important events in the history of electronic imaging.”