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Playboy founder embodies American Dream; changes American culture
Date:9/11/2008

COLUMBIA, Mo. There is little doubt that Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has become one of the most controversial figures of the past half century. From his highly publicized lifestyle to his risqu magazine, to his multi-million dollar company, Hefner has played a leading role in reshaping America's social values. After more than four years of research, Steven Watts, professor of history in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri, examined the publisher's life in his latest biography, Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream. He found that Hefner had a profound impact on American culture, in the areas of advertising, business, politics, consumer values, and sexual openness.

"The first time I arrived at the Playboy Mansion was like parachuting onto a new planet," Watts said. "Hefner is one of the smartest people I ever met and a genuine romantic. For him, the glass is not only half full, it's completely full."

For his biography, Watts was given unprecedented access to Hefner and the Playboy archives. Watts interviewed Hefner for more than 40 hours and searched over 1,800 scrapbooks about his life. As a historian who also has written best-selling biographies of Walt Disney and Henry Ford, Watts tried to discover the real person behind the flamboyant public persona. He found that Hefner pursued a dream of "personal, political and economic freedom" and viewed his pursuit of fun not as immature, but as a happy embodiment of childhood optimism in a cynical world.

"Whether for good or bad, Hefner deserves considerable credit for the sexual openness that has become so characteristic of modern America. We often forget that even in the 1960s, married characters in television sitcoms slept in twin beds," Watts said. "Following the Great Depression and World War II, which had slowed the surge of consumer capitalism, Americans stood ready to resume their love affair with material affluence and Hefner captured
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Contact: Jeffrey Beeson
BeesonJ@missouri.edu
573-882-9144
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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