Hugh Hefner: Rebel with a cause

Fri Jul 30, 2010 10:55am EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - At 84 years-old, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner embodies the lifestyle of sexual freedom that his men's magazine has espoused since it was founded in 1953, featuring a nude centerfold of Marilyn Monroe.

Yet, there is another side to the pajama-loving man known around the world by his nickname, Hef. Along with sexual freedom, he has championed civil rights, published stories challenging McCarthyism and the Vietnam War, and backed gay causes and the legalization of marijuana.

New documentary film, "Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel," debuts in theaters on Friday offering audiences this other side of Hefner. He sat down with Reuters in the Playboy mansion to talk about the film, today's political conservatism and how he wants to be remembered.

Q: Do you feel like this particular part of your life, the social activism, had been lost in the focus on your lifestyle?

A: "No, I don't think it was lost. I think Ray Bradbury said it very well some time ago when he was talking about the magazine and he said, 'People don't see the forest because of the T's'. In other words, the lifestyle and the pretty girls, the centerfolds, etc. They simply are what gets the attention."

Q: The documentary addresses the irony of the two sides of you: the carefree life vs. the serious political activist. Where is the common ground between the two?

A: "Aren't they exactly the same? In other words, aren't the sexual revolution and racial emancipation the same thing? I just think these are areas of our free society that have not been truly free and properly dealt with."

Q: A lot of people would say 'no,' and that your brand of sexual freedom is really just the objectifying of women.   Continued...

<p>Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for a portrait at his Playboy mansion in Los Angeles, California, July 27, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>