Interviewer: You're a young man in 1951, when you began not just meeting you in number when you signed Playboy. And it's really at that moment, unknown starlets photograph becomes really the beginning for you in some ways, the beginning for her in an immortal image for us.

Hugh Hefner: Well, the magazine began. Fifty three at the same time that Marilyn Monroe became a star. So the fact that I was fortunate enough to have her on the cover and in the magazine, I think I might not be sitting here if we'd started differently.

Interviewer: Well, there's something prescient about it. I mean, you are unabashedly to have made a career in a life of loving women, that the female body is gorgeous and something to be celebrated. And one of the most extraordinary she truly when you look at those original chromes, which I have done, is stunning to see what she really looks like. It was really something. You also says something to me about your ability to look at a photograph and see something that was so stupid.

Hugh Hefner: Well, I do think that she was an extraordinary person. And I you know, I feel some very obvious interconnections. As she was born in 1926, the same year I was, she grew up influenced by the same pop culture and the same movies that had such an impact on me. I think that her dreams came from those impossible fantasies created by Hollywood and being raised in my own sense, in my own case, in a very conservative Midwestern Methodist home. I escaped for long into the dreams and fantasies of movies. And I think that from her own troubled, much more troubled childhood, I think the same thing was true. And I think she escaped into those fantasies and then took her on the road, the cheap that she followed.

Interviewer: When you first started all this and you saw this events, what was it that made her the one, that sort of thing?

Hugh Hefner: Well, a lot of it has to do with I was, again, influenced from childhood by a blonde phenomenon. In other words, I grew up during the Depression and early 1940s and Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, particularly Alice Faye, had significant impact on me. And those musicals or romantic musicals from the 1930s said things in the lyrics of the songs that you couldn't say in any other way. And there was a vulnerability to Alice Faye, for example, in particular, that I also saw very much in Marilyn Monroe. And, you know, the 20th century had a love affair with blondes. And you know why that's true, I'm not sure. But it is certainly true. And it certainly, by and large, comes, I think from from cinema, comes from movies, comes from those images and separating the images from the human beings as often, you know, difficult, but they are the stuff that dreams are made of.

Interviewer: Well, she is the prime example of separating the image. Yes. And in fact, that's really part of what we're doing is also creating this year. My got this image is everywhere with us still. She is very resilient. Still.

Hugh Hefner: Yes. Probably more now than ever before. Yes. Iconic.

Interviewer: Did you sense that at that moment when you look at this?

Hugh Hefner: Well, I certainly knew in that moment in time that she was the hot new star. I mean, there was no mystery in terms of that. And certainly Fox knew it. You know, I mentioned Alice Faye. She also came from 14th Century Fox and was a major star for them, along with Shirley Temple in the 1930s. And then Betty Grable was the predominant blonde for Fox and for Hollywood in the 1940s. So I think that, you know, those are the images. And those are the stars that I think that influenced Marilyn Monroe. And they also were the conditioning for us. So when Marilyn arrived, she was the ultimate personification of that blondeness. And it was the combination of her beauty, the sexuality and the vulnerability that I think we saw in the roles, but also saw live large in her public life. I think that one of the things that made Marilyn Monroe so hugely popular and today still gives her. I think you could say quite properly, not only an iconic impact, but also the fact that she is the defining star in terms of simply the celebrity of it all of the 20th century. And I think it is because it is a combination of the glamour, the beauty and the vulnerability.

Interviewer: And that beautiful picture has all of that, too. I mean, even many young women she knew nothing about, you know, nothing about lipstick. And you used this lovely consulates and moments today.

Hugh Hefner: Well, what makes it even more remarkable, of course, is that that, you know, it is the calendar photo that we published that broke such boundaries. One have to remember that the 1950s, the post-war era, was a very conservative time, socially, sexually, politically. And to pose for that picture and then to say that all she had on was the radio, to have that attitude in the 1950s defined her persona. And was a liberating force that I think, you know, in retrospect, was the suggestion of things to come. You see it in some of the parts that she also played traditional and some like it out. But her attitude toward nudity at the time, the cover story, of course, was that she just did it for the for the money. The reality was something more than that. In interviews, she'd made the comment that she had these dreams about being naked in church and that it was a very liberating kind of thing. It is worth noting that at the very end of her career, she also did nude photography and her final scenes in an unfinished film were nude.

Interviewer: And I was going to say to you, you stayed with her.

Hugh Hefner: Yes.

Interviewer: You know, we started with you. You have. You visited her very recently as last year. And and she has me. Doesn't mind. Just terrific, is it? She's maintained a flow with you for as long as she stayed.

Hugh Hefner: Yes. Yes, that's absolutely true. We had plans in my back to shoot a very special cover for a pictorially. We were planning that December and then she died. So we postponed everything. And we had a very special front and back cover that we had planned, but then eventually shot with someone else.

Interviewer: She certainly was a giant being.

Hugh Hefner: No, no. As a matter of fact, it was, I think, for her, a celebration of being alive.

Interviewer: Did you know?

Hugh Hefner: I did not know her. My brother was an actor in New York and in her class in Strasbourg and Lee Strasberg. Actors Studio class in New York. Jane Fonda was also in same class. I didn't I didn't know. I mean, we were lives have been intimately interconnected and we even going to be spending eternity with her. I have watched with cemetaries very close by here and a number of very dear friends. Mel Torme, a Buddy Rich, Dorothy Stratten and Marilyn Monroe or are buried there. And I have managed to purchase the ball immediately next to her.

Interviewer: Very fitting, I would say.

Hugh Hefner: Yes. Well, I have that sense of yes in the way of things.

Interviewer: Just mentioned, but not totally. We to do a little bit of shooting. Suzanne, why do you do these photographs? And I thought that that was you may have a comment or something on those photographs. She's got lovely ones of her. And then he's got this magnificent treasure trove of all of these other. Yes, just a little bit about him. Did you know him?

Hugh Hefner: I met him. He was in Chicago and at the Playboy Mansion in Chicago back in the 1960s. I think he was there for a film festival. And of course, I was a huge fan growing up. And I was he was a silent one of the silent greats. But he continued to do some very good films in the 1930s. So I was a big fan growing up with him.

Interviewer: And here he is, has a sidebar. I've being granted extraordinary photography.

Hugh Hefner: Yes. And we're quite remarkable. And, of course, one of doing even some some 3-D photographs, nude another and just pure coincidentally before I. Acquire the Marilyn Monroe nude for the very first issue. I was going to do a 3-D pictorial. Which we actually photographed, and then I discovered because I had no money. I was looking for some kind of gimmick to warn the very first issue. So the notion of doing a nude pictorial and including the glasses seemed like a great idea because of the House of Wax, a 3-D movie come out at that time. And then I discovered that I couldn't afford the 3-D glasses. So did if I could afford my own room. Only because of the kindness, quite frankly, of I discovered that the John Bomb Grath Kaldor Company owned the rights to the more famous of the two images that were in calendars. And everybody heard about it. But nobody actually seen or very few people had seen the photos because the poster up of take the took the position back then that nudity was obscene and you couldn't send it to the mail. So they actually had an alternative image in which they overpressured a black lingerie on the nude. The famous nude photo. And that was one they sent through the mail. And I was the kid who believed that the both of us didn't have that right. So for most of Africa, when we published the picture and the December 1953 issue, that's the first time that most people had seen it.

Interviewer: So it just me. So you have no worries. You get this thing. Did you do it again? In some sense. I mean.

Hugh Hefner: Oh, sure. I was. As I say, I was looking for something very, very special. And I indeed promoted it to the wholesalers and scribblers around the country to the fact that we had this photograph of this upcoming famous star believe.

Interviewer: It was also quite remarkable. I mean, this is an era where you're now beginning to introduce the whole culture to the world. He also didn't shy away from it. He didn't make it. He didn't deny it. She'd step up to the plate.

Hugh Hefner: Well, as I say, I think that's what makes the event remarkable is not simply the posing. It is her reaction to what her public reaction to it in the previous decade. Any hint of scandal of that sort could destroy a career. There was an underground nude photo, a candid photo shot by accident of Carmen Miranda that very nearly destroyed another pop star, very nearly destroyed her career.

Interviewer: Miss America.

Hugh Hefner: Yes. So it reflected something very, very special about Marilyn Monroe, not only in terms of of her physical beauty, but who she was. And it was in both the image itself, but also her statement where a celebration of sexuality that was quite remarkable for its time.

Interviewer: It is. And I think that the other the other great comment is Kelly's comment about her coming in and doing that session. The second she got is that she is just at ease and like a little on camera everywhere. We would just Miss Douglas Kirkland, who did another wonderful then sitting with you and you. He admits to seeing my remarks about her, that she was completely.

Hugh Hefner: Well, in that and in the last unfinished movie that she did with with Dean Martin, the swimming scene, she was initially wearing a bathing suit type garment that made her appear to be nude. But as the shooting progressed, she took it off. And I think that it it did reflect a certain kind of attitude towards nudity, that she was raised under very strange circumstances, passed from family to family. And in one of the families have had a tremendous impact on her. They were very strict and very religious. And I think that their attitude towards nudity, etc. is a response to that. That's something I can understand because the same thing is true for me. In other words, without question, I was raised in a home in which there was not a great deal. We knew we were loved. But my brother and I were not. There were no hugs and kisses in our home. A very typical American Puritan phenomenon. And I think that my life without question and the magazine itself, our response to that. And at one point, my mother apologized for her inability to show affection. Later on, when when I was grown and the magazine was famous. Because, of course, she was raised the same way they came from farm people in Nebraska and affection. Oh, yes. I,.

Interviewer: I was born in Chicago and I you got this right.

Hugh Hefner: Well, that's why I was born. No words. When they got married, they moved to Chicago. Holdridge Carani. And they both went to Wesleyan University in Nebraska. Yes, sure. And it's a small world. Yes, sure. What do you know about that?

Interviewer: And who is your boss?

Hugh Hefner: And you understand about that Midwestern phenomenon culture so that, you know, my mother was apologizing, in effect for her inability to show affection. And I said, Mom, you don't need to do that because things could not have worked out better. In other words, sometimes that what was missing and that inability to show affection took me on a road that gave me the greatest life in the world. So God bless you.

Interviewer: Anyway, what was missing is certainly for people.

Hugh Hefner: Yes.

Interviewer: Sasha, what was missing for her was.

Hugh Hefner: Without question. And what you'll get to some extent, obviously, you know, is an overreaction. I mean, some could argue that my own life has been certainly an overreaction from some people's point of view. And for me, it's been a real celebration of life. And I think it's interesting in terms of my own role that that iconic image has very different kinds of reactions with different people. It's almost like a Rorschach test. And I have said on a number of occasions that my life is like a Rorschach test. People project their own particular fantasies and prejudices onto my life and onto the magazine. Well, that's also true from Ellen Monroe. So that you will get interpretations of her life from Norman Mailer or Gloria Steinem or whoever.

Interviewer: Did this film.

Hugh Hefner: Oh, yes. And and each has their own particular what what we are all doing is projecting on to the image of Marilyn Monroe, our own needs, yearnings, fantasies, fantasies, prejudices. And that is one of the things remarkable about her that that. That the image permits that almost mirror like projection of other other people's vision.

Interviewer: And I think that's it. I mean, when you say that, just listening to you thinking that's it, that's. She continues to do that. Yes. She continues to provide that in a way that even though they've been many stand ins along the way. And they were even in even enrolled in the same way that she has. And I think somehow or other. And perhaps it's all, you know, and I I don't perhaps it is all because of the timing of all of this in the way it even came to Playboy and to all of all what this has provided a way for the world to find, a way to explain itself somehow.

Hugh Hefner: Why do I think that's exactly so? Yes.

Interviewer: The people who can do it for them because the world is hard, that's a hard thing to do what you do.

Hugh Hefner: Yes. Well, I think that it is what it is part of the part that the pop culture plays. It is a common connection for all of us. And because of the tragic aspect to her life and the way it ended and because of the relationship with men in Hollywood, there is a perception of victimization. And a good deal more. And for the fans, of course, for the true fans, she's not a victim. She is somebody who. Was very badly hurt in early childhood and managed to somehow escape from that and use her dreams and use Hollywood. And in that sense, she can be seen as a good deal more than a victim. There is a strength there as well, even though it ended very badly.

Hugh Hefner
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
"Hugh Hefner, Marilyn Monroe: Still Life." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 21 Apr. 2006,
(2006, April 21). Hugh Hefner, Marilyn Monroe: Still Life. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Hugh Hefner, Marilyn Monroe: Still Life." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). April 21, 2006. Accessed June 30, 2022


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