Adult Industry Remembers Hugh Hefner

LOS ANGELES—The adult industry stood united Thursday remembering the legacy of Hugh Hefner, the iconic publisher who changed the world at the helm of Playboy magazine.

Hefner passed away Wednesday at The Playboy Mansion at 91, leaving behind a global media empire that not only thrust adult entertainment into the mainstream consciousness, it also transcended cultural borders and defined a generation.

“Our industry lost a true leader,” said Hustler founder Larry Flynt. “Hugh paved the way for so many of us, for all of us. He will be greatly missed and his legacy will live on.” 

“Hugh Hefner was a legend,” said Steven Hirsch, founder/co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment. “Our dealings with Playboy helped propel us in the formative years of our company. He will be forever remembered as an iconic pioneer and the industry wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him. RIP.”

Hefner’s impact on American culture spanned more than a half century and his influence on the evolution of adult entertainment was immeasurable.

Dan O’Connell, the founder of Girlfriends Films, called Hefner “the first big-time pornographer.”

“Hefner changed the world for everyone and especially our industry,” O’Connell told AVN. “He was a rogue and upset a lot of people because he was the first real celebrity made by sex and porn, and the first to advance sex and porn in a somewhat respectable and upscale fashion.

“While he and Playboy were reviled by many, it was very hard not to respect and admire the guy, especially since he got into very little legal trouble considering the sacred ground he broke. It is difficult to imagine what our industry would look like today if not for Hefner. Certainly, he laid the foundation for whatever legitimacy we have. The guy was class. Unfortunately, we as an industry haven’t been able to replicate that.”

Brad Mitchell, CEO of MojoHost, echoed the sentiment, telling AVN Thursday, “Hugh Hefner was more than a notorious figure, an industry pioneer, an ingenious businessman and the man we all slightly envied. His legacy as the supporter of free speech and promoter of freedom of sexual expression is hard to underestimate. Hefner successfully challenged prudence, conservatism and traditionalism in the nature of human relationships, for which I believe we all should sincerely applaud him.”

Paul Fishbein, the founder of AVN, noted that Playboy TV was an integral part of the history of the AVN Awards as it grew as a broadcast product. The AVN ceremony started airing on Playboy TV in 1998.

“If it weren’t for Playboy TV, the AVN Awards might have never aired on television and for that, I can thank Playboy and Hugh Hefner for paving the way and believing in our product,” Fishbein said.

Director Jacky St. James recalled her first experience with Playboy.

“I remember in 1994 seeing Jenny McCarthy on the cover of Playboy magazine and being mesmerized by her beauty,” St. James told AVN. “I bought the magazine at the ripe age of 17. My first nudie magazine purchase. For me though, it wasn't her pictures that enthralled me as much as the articles or the interviews. It is an age-old joke that people buy Playboy for the ‘articles,’ but I actually did. It was a really incredible way of marrying pop culture and sexuality in a classy way and nobody, nobody did that better than Hef.”

AVN Hall of Fame performer Brittany Andrews, who appeared in Playboy’s special “Top 10 Adult Stars of All Time” issue in the mid-2000s, told AVN, “Playboy has actually played a big part in my career.”

“Starting off in my first performance at the ripe age of 21 on Playboy TV for their show Hot Rocks with Sir Mix-a-Lot,” Andrews said. “From there on, I became a Playboy TV regular, from guest hosting Night Calls to being the ‘sexpert’ on Judge Judy.

“Then came the chance to be in Playboy magazine, which as an adult film star was unheard of. It was a huge honor that only a rare few in the adult industry have had the privilege of doing,” Andrews continued. “Hugh’s passing is an end of an era. He was an entrepreneurial, sexual revolutionary. He changed many lives, including mine. For that I'll forever be grateful. One of the most recognizable iconic legends of our time. RIP Hef.”

AVN Hall of Fame performer Nikki Benz added, ”Hugh Hefner was a pioneer.”

“He created a brand that is recognizable all around the world,” Benz said. “He was an entrepreneur, a legend in his own right, and he will be dearly missed. I'll forever be thankful for all that he's done for the adult entertainment and free speech."

Director and author Kay Brandt commented, “The man had balls, not only surviving but thriving amidst changing political parties, politically correctness, sweeping industry changes, decency laws, censorship, and judgment. It's because of his commitment to his visions and enterprise that erotica has flourished for decades in both literature and film. His spirit will always be alive in his brand and in our memories.” 

Moose, the owner and president of Girlfriends Films, recalled his formative years when paying tribute to Hefner.

"Ultimately I have Hef to thank for my first ‘birds and bees’ talk, but it wasn’t with my father. It was my Scottish grandmother who asked my mom for the car keys so she could head out to pick up my first issue of Playboy, a case of condoms and a six-pack of Coors. She handed me a bag with everything inside and told me not to open it until everyone was asleep. Can’t imagine why—I was 13 at the time and ready to take on the world," Moose told AVN.

"For many years I held onto that copy of Playboy, which featured Pamela Anderson on the cover. It now sits with a collection that I’ve kept since the ‘70s, the same type of boxed-up collection that many fans of the man and the mag have acquired over the years. I’m not sure if he understood the tremendous impact he had on young people through a media outlet that changed the world. He was truly a legendary influencer and a class act in the adult industry."

Jay Allan, the seasoned photographer and director, recounted how Hefner made a “huge impact” on his life.

“Both in how I view women and also as an artist photographing them,” Allan explained. “I love shooting women in their best possible light and Hefner led the way with the highest quality nudes.   

“I grew up in the age of magazines and had a wonderful fascination with the Playboy world that he created. As a photographer my career path was set once I started looking at Playboy.’

Veteran producer/director Ivan actually appeared in the March 1984 issue of Playboy—when he was 14.

“They paid us to play basketball with a Playmate and took pictures,” Ivan revealed Thursday. “Hugh Hefner was a true pioneer of showing us the beauty of the female form. Any person in adult entertainment should appreciate the doors this man opened up for all of us.”

Bree Mills, head of Gamma Films and creator of Girlsway and Pure Taboo, said "Hugh Hefner's influence extends far beyond just building a recognizable brand."

"He was an early pioneer in challenging what porn should and shouldn't be, by successfully mixing titillation and cheesecake with highly intelligent and socially conscious journalism," Mills said. "He elevated sexuality from being hidden in bedrooms and back rooms to being at the forefront of Western culture."

Lewis Adams, director of sales at US Arcades and Bedroom Products, remarked, “The Big Three were and will always be Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler—in that order. I'm sure I'm not the only person to say this, but the first time I remember seeing a naked woman was in a Playboy.”

Jim Austin, the expat who is now the head of business development for the Cyprus-based cam site, Stripchat, told AVN, "Stripchat mourns the passing of an icon in our industry. He left his mark on the world and lived an amazing life."

Meanwhile adult star Kayden Kross articulated what many were feeling as they reflected on the loss. “I don't know ... just feels like the end of an era,” Kross said. “Growing up, he was this larger-than-life figure at the head of an empire. I half expected him to be immortal.”