Born in 1926 and growing up in Chicago, Hugh Hefner was voted “Third Most Likely to Succeed” in high school. After a stint in the army, he went to the University of Illinois, where he met Mildred Williams. At 22, Hefner was still a virgin.
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In the spring of 1948, the two finally had sex. Thinking that meant they now had to get married, the couple wed the following year and moved in with his parents.
Unlike his wife, Hefner was obsessed by sex. He decided to create a men’s magazine that didn’t make the audience feel guilty about erotic desire, while also selling a smooth version of U.S. consumerism.
For the first issue in 1953, he paid $500 for nude pictures of Marilyn Monroe and six additional months of topless women. Playboy was a hit from the beginning. The Hefners stayed married until 1959.
I spoke with Thomas Dyja, author of “The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream,” on the following topics:
1. Middle America
2. German Intellectuals
3. Sex & Rock
4. Regular Guy
5. Jet Planes
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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)
Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend and Greg Evans on movies.