Brought up in what he described as stifling, repressive circumstances, the young Hugh Hefner made his life’s work the overthrow of puritanism and prudery in American life. Scraping money together to purchase nude photographs of Marilyn Monroe, Hefner launched Playboy in 1953. His timing was impeccable. The magazine, despite never becoming completely respectable, took off because it hit the sweet spot between America’s postwar consumerism and an increasing public appetite for the frank depiction of female sexuality. For young men, Playboy became a reliable guide to the best stereo, liquor—or woman.
Hefner’s trademark was his pipe, signifying suave sophistication, and the artist Marisol emphasizes it by having Hefner both smoking and holding one in this oversized wood sculpture. It is an awkward image, sharing nothing of the glossy airbrushed world of Playboy. In a cardigan, Hefner looks more like a stereotypical 1950s dad than a swinger.