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At age 85, Hugh Hefner has been in the spotlight more than half his life.
The Playboy founder and former E! Entertainment reality star most recently generated headlines when he was dumped by fiancee Crystal Harris five days before his wedding.
“I didn’t think it was the right thing for me to do,” Harris explained afterward. “It was mutual between Hef and I. There was no fight; we sat down, and we talked about it.”
For his part, Hefner’s already moved on, revealing he has a new girlfriend in Shera Bechard, Playboy’s Miss November 2010. He also addresses the aborted wedding in Runaway Bride, a Lifetime special airing at 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Here are five facts about the publishing mogul:
1. He started Playboy with $600 after being honorably discharged from the Army. In 1946, Hefner was working as a promotional copywriter at Esquire magazine when he came up with the idea of a publication for men. “Esquire was always for older guys but it had changed and like other magazines that were more popular, it was very much devoted to male bonding and outdoor adventure,” he told CNN. “And I wanted to read a magazine that was a little more sophisticated and was focused really on the romantic connection between the sexes from a male point of view.” When it launched in 1953, it was an instant success, with 50,000 issues sold nationwide. Hefner attributes its immediate popularity to the inclusion of a nude picture of Marilyn Monroe.
2. He’s helped save the Hollywood sign — twice. In the 1970s, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce determined that the sign needed a complete rebuilding, at a cost of roughly $250,000. So Hefner stepped in and organized a gala fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion, where sign letters were ceremoniously “auctioned off” at $27,700 each. Just last year, he stepped in again to help after a Chicago-based investment group said it would sell the property unless it raised $12.5 million. Hefner donated $900,000 of his own money, effectively stopping the sale.
3. He’s a distant cousin of President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry. Hefner is ninth cousins with both politicians. He’s actually a closer — if only slightly — relation to Kerry (once removed) than Bush (twice removed). “Well I feel closer to Sen. Kerry,” Hefner once quipped to CBS News, before adding that he’s also an 11th-generation direct descendant of William Bradford, who came over on the Mayflower.
4. He owns the burial plot next to Marilyn Monroe. Hefner bought the crypt at L.A.’s Westwood Village cemetery in 1992 for $75,000, according to the U.K.’s Guardian.
5. He had a stroke in 1985. Although it was minor, the stroke caused him to re-evaluate his lifestyle. As a result, he turned over all Playboy business operations to daughter Christie. “I had a relationship with my father,” Christie Hefner told CNN. “And I was protected from the hardest part, which would have been in the public eye and [people] meeting me for the first time, seeing me not as Christie, but as Hugh Hefner’s daughter.”
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