Remembering Hugh Hefner ‘for the Articles’

On the impressive journalistic legacy of 'Playboy'

September 28, 2017 9:00 am

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. 

The articles. You read Playboy for the articles. 

No matter what you think of Hugh Hefner — radical publisher or predatory lothario? — there’s no questioning Playboy’s impressive journalistic legacy, particularly during the publication’s run from the ’60s through the ’80s. 

That’s because from the very first issue in 1953, the late Hugh Hefner demanded that the magazine’s pages be filled with the best prose money could buy.

After all, this was a publication for the platonic ideal of the cultured gentleman, a theme that Hefner summarized in the inaugural issue: “We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.”

Instead of an obituary, we thought it’d be apropos to highlight seven dynamite pieces of journalism from Playboy you can read online right now.

So for one last time, let’s read it for the articles.

Alex Haley interviews Martin Luther King Jr. (1965)
In this piece, a then-unidentified Haley talks to King just after he received the Nobel Peace Prize. The meeting happened in Atlanta and stands as the longest interview King ever gave to the press.

“The Day Bobby Blew It” by Brad Darrach (1973)
Often used as an exemplary piece for aspiring sportswriters, Darrach’s examination of the 1972 championship chess match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky looks at the Cold War and the war within.

“The Second Bakery Attack” by Haruki Murakami (1992)
If you’ve read any Murakami before, you know the Japanese writer’s prose tend to be fascinating and odd in equal measure. This is certainly the case in this tale involving magic, a bakery and an ambush at McDonald’s.

“Good Ole Boy, Johnny Cash” by Saul Braun (1970)
In this mid-career profile of the legendary country star, Cash is given an extended opportunity to speak for himself before Braun dives in and explains the origins of the Man in Black.

“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” by Cameron Crowe (1981)
When he was 22, the author of this piece, whom you may have heard of, went undercover at his old high school. The excerpt of the book that’s published here paved the way for the film.

“The Curse of Lono” by Hunter S. Thompson (1983)
In one of his later pieces for the magazine, Thompson heads to Hawaii to cover a marathon with faithful pal Ralph Steadman in tow. Is it all factual? Not by a long shot. Is it a fun read? You betcha’.

“Ryan Leaf’s Jailhouse Confessions, Written By His Cell Mate” by John Cagney Nash (2013)
Widely considered to be the biggest bust in NFL draft history, Ryan Leaf’s fall from grace was a hard one. Here, readers learn what his life is like in the confines of a Montana jail.

Main image: TRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

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