Hugh Hefner will be buried next to Marilyn Monroe and it’s not cute
Playboy founder and media icon Hugh Hefner has died of natural causes, and the tributes are pouring in from celebrities and the general public alike.
The details surrounding his death are still unknown, but his burial situation’s been on lock for 25 years. Hef bought the crypt next to Marilyn Monroe’s grave back in 1992 so that he could be entombed beside her.
“Spending an eternity next to Marilyn is too sweet to pass up,” he reportedly once said.
This, coupled with the fact that Playboy’s first ever cover featured Marilyn, might make you think the admiration was mutual between both icons. But when you look into Hef and Marilyn’s past, his statement becomes pretty creepy — especially since Marilyn never consented to appearing in Playboy, never met Hef, and never agreed to “spending an eternity” next to him.
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Marilyn Monroe was the first model to grace the cover of Playboy back in 1953, and she appeared nude inside. She was a massive star at the time, so naked photos of her were a big deal. The cover was a success for Hef, and the story’s often retold to make him look like a determined and tenacious rookie editor. As People flatteringly reports, “Hefner was able to scrape together $8,000 to introduce the magazine with the decade’s hottest star on the cover.”
Well, here’s the thing: that money he scraped together didn’t go to Marilyn. In fact, Hef never even met Marilyn, and she never actually posed for Playboy. Instead, he bought the photos from other agencies and photographers and cobbled together a spread. The sole nude photo was taken from a calendar that had leaked and almost ruined Marilyn’s career a few years earlier.
Marilyn had decided to do the nude calendar shoot in 1949 because acting jobs weren’t coming in and she needed money so her car wouldn’t be impounded. Then, in 1952, Marilyn had finally hit it big in Hollywood. A reporter saw the calendar one of the nude photos had ended up in, and realized one of the models was Marilyn. The story blew up. Marilyn handled it by admitting to the photo shoot and insisting she didn’t do anything wrong.
“[The photographer] didn’t think anyone would recognize me,” she said after the photos leaked. “My hair was long then. But when the picture came out, everybody knew me… I’d never have done it if I’d known things would happen so fast in Hollywood for me.”
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A year later, when the scandal had finally died down, Playboy bought the rights to one of the photos and used it as the magazine’s first centerfold. We couldn’t find any record of how Marilyn felt about that, but she probably wasn’t thrilled.
In the Playboy issue, there was no interview with Marilyn. Instead, there was a write-around in which the author calls her a “juic[y] morsel” and shades her pretty heavily, implying she’s not that hot:
There is no denying the young lady is very well stacked.
Yet, her curves really aren’t that spectacular. Even if you believe the best of the conflicting reports — 37 1/2” 23” 37” (and we don’t) — we’ve known girls in our roguish wanderings who beat those dimensions all to hell.
The same can be said for her face. It’s sweet, wide-eyed and innocent — and on top of her rather surrealistic torso, it’s slightly sensational. But Hollywood uses slightly sensational females for waitresses and studio messengers.
Add this to the long list of celebrity profiles where male authors feel a need to neg their female subject, no matter how gorgeous she is. Also, incredibly, this is the second time the author goes over Marilyn’s alleged measurements in the short piece.
Playboy also gave much of the credit for Marilyn’s fame to two men.
[When it comes to how she became so famous], publicity is the most obvious answer. Nobody climbs to stardom without a healthy boost from the rear by a Grade-A publicity man. In this case, there are two — Harry Brand and Roy Craft — both Grade-A. They do their boosting for 20th Century Fox and they outdid themselves on Marilyn.
Yet some of the biggest publicity breaks were unplanned. Marilyn’s romance with Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio was on the up and up: in fact the studio boys were actually against it, because they thought it would hurt her popularity. And when they first heard about the now famous nude calendar, even their ulcers had ulcers.
It seemingly doesn’t even occur to the writer that these big publicity breaks were a result of Marilyn’s actions. Instead, she’s presented as a passive recipient of men’s actions, some of which work out for her and some don’t. And Playboy joins the ranks of men who profited from Marilyn’s charisma, talent and hard work.
In later years, Hef would go on to gush about Marilyn from afar, calling her “the ultimate blonde” and saying he would’ve liked to have dated her. But the truth is, we have no idea how Marilyn Monroe felt about Hef or Playboy. Her agency and opinion are stripped away at pretty much every point in the narrative surrounding her relationship with the brand.
This isn’t the only time Playboy profited from women’s images and gave the women themselves the short shrift.
There are plenty of other examples, but here’s one that stands out. Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson and Bridget Marquardt were responsible for revitalizing Playboy’s brand in the 2000s with the hugely popular reality show “The Girls Next Door.” People weren’t tuning in every week to watch Hef shuffle around in a bathrobe, you know? But as it turns out, they were being massively underpaid, according to Holly’s memoir. They were under the impression that Playboy found them to be totally replaceable and Hef thought he was the show’s main draw.
The hugely popular show fizzled out after Holly, Kendra and Bridget left the cast, so it’s pretty clear they were the reason people were tuning in.
At the end of the day, Hugh Hefner did a lot of good work, including helping to fund Roe v. Wade, supporting the civil rights movement, and putting a woman of color on the cover of Playboy as early as 1971. He also should be applauded for taking discussions of sex out into the open, although the debate over whether Playboy objectified women will probably rage on.
But his legacy contains more than a few creepy footnotes, including his insistence on laying next to Marilyn Monroe, a woman he never met but whose nude photos he disseminated, “for all eternity.” Sady Doyle puts it best in her book “Trainwreck”:
[Buying the crypt next to Marilyn’s] was a gruesome joke, “sleeping with” the woman he’d almost ruined, and doing so without her consent — claiming her in death, as he’d claimed the right to exploit her in life.