The iconic Playboy Magazine founder, Hugh Hefner, died on Wednesday, Sept. 27. He was 91 years old. But Hefner had been preparing for this day for at least 25 years, and he picked out a perfect spot to be buried. The Playboy legend will be interred next to Marilyn Monroe at the Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California. And there’s a pretty good reason why Hefner is being buried with Marilyn Monroe.
The blonde bombshell was actually on the cover of the very first Playboy issue released in December 1953. That issue went on to sell out its 54,000 copies, according to Metro, and that success is widely attributed to Monroe’s appearance. But she didn’t exactly agree to be the face of Playboy before the magazine’s release. The original cover image was just a photo of her at a public appearance, not a specific image she posed for with Playboy.
The first issue of Playboy also included Monroe as the first centerfold with a nude photo. But again, this wasn’t something she specifically did for Playboy. Rather, that nude photo of Monroe was taken in 1949, Complex details, when she needed the cash. Hefner went on to buy the old picture to use in the magazine. At that point, Monroe had become famous, so she had to account for the photos. She did an interview where she simply told the truth: She was broke and needed money. Telling the truth worked, and her career continued to flourish.
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Meanwhile, Playboy continued to flourish as well, becoming a mega-hit in the proceeding decades as it roared through the sexual revolution… and featured some amazing pieces of literature, too, OK?! (For real, all your favorite authors have been published in Playboy. It’s kind of insane.) The Playboy franchise went on to create clubs, events, and one fantastic reality television show, with Hefner at the center of the whirlwind for more than 50 years.
But Hefner’s success all started with Monroe.
And he never forgot that. In 1992, Hefner bought the crypt next to Monroe’s at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles. He spent a reported $75,000 for it, according to the New York Daily News. (With inflation, that comes out to about $130,000 today.)
Monroe famously died of a sleeping pill overdose in 1962 at 36, which had widespread social reactions as she was such a famous icon. Her funeral was held at Westwood Village Memorial Park with only 31 mourners, according to the Los Angeles Times. A crowd of fans gathered outside the cemetery, and police guarded it, but crowds remained silent. She was buried in a green sheath dress with a green scarf. Joe DiMaggio, the famous Yankee and Monroe’s ex-husband, attended the funeral and reportedly sent a bouquet of roses to her crypt three times a week for years.
Per the Daily News, Hefner spoke about buying that burial spot in a 2000 Playboy interview. He explained,
Jay Leno suggested that if I was going to spend that kind of money, I should actually be on top of her. But to me there’s something rather poetic in the fact that we’ll be buried in the same place. And that cemetery also has other meanings and connections for me. Friends like Buddy Rich and Mel Torme are buried there. So is Dorothy Stratten.
So Hefner picked a final resting space near the woman who started it all for him with that messy first issue all those years ago. He died on Wednesday of natural causes. His son Cooper Hefner, Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises, said in a statement,
My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom.
Hefner chose to be buried in a space that perfectly reflects his life and legacy, down to the lack of official approval from Monroe. It’s fitting, don’t you think?