Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died of natural causes at age 91 late Wednesday night. He no doubt leaves a complicated legacy with some seeing him as a champion of free speech, sexual freedom and other causes, while many will remember him as a hurdle for feminists, someone whose entire existence and livelihood was based on sexually objectifying women. (This New York Times account of a run-in Gloria Steinem had with Hefner in 1998 illustrates the tension that Hefner’s legacy is likely to stir up; Steinem was flummoxed at having to be in the same room as him, according to the report.)
On the official Playboy Twitter feed, the magazine posted a photo of Hefner with a caption that reads, “Life is too short to be living somebody else’s dreams.” It’s one of his famous quotes. Without the help of his mother, however, he might not have been able to live out his own dreams and the world right now might not be marking the passing of Hugh Hefner. As Money reports, in 1953, Hefner decided to launch his own magazine, but, as he once recalled to Fortune magazine, “The problem was that I had no money.” Hefner, naturally, went to his father for a loan, but was stymied. That’s where his mother, Grace Hefner, played what is perhaps the pivotal role in his life.
“My father declined. He was an accountant, and he didn’t feel that a magazine was a good business investment,” Hefner said in the 2003 interview with Fortune. “My mother took me aside and said that she had some money of her own, and she would give me $1,000. She didn’t believe in the magazine, but she believed in her son.” Hefner put the first issue of Playboy together at his kitchen table.
It turned out to be a good business investment for Grace Hefner, in addition to being helpful to her son. The launch issue of Playboy sold 50,000 copies and was an instant success. In 1971, when Playboy Enterprises, the magazine’s parent company, went public, she and some of the other early investors who came after her became millionaires.
Grace Hefner died at age 101 in 1997. Hugh, who was active on social media, paid tribute to her in some photos that were taken in 1976 that he posted to his Instagram account in 2014. His father, Glenn, was also pictured in some of the snapshots.
Hefner once said that, despite his tremendous wealth and success, Grace, who was a devout Protestant, had always wished that he had become a missionary.
In the video below, see more about Hefner’s life and his mother’s role in helping him achieve his dreams.
Read the full story at Money.