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November 30, 2011

Hef @ SCA

Legendary Publisher Visits Students

When it comes to the topic of censorship, Playboy publisher, founder and Chief Creative Officer Hugh M. Hefner is never at a loss for words. On November 29th, Critical Studies Division professors Dr. Rick Jewell and Dr. Drew Casper hosted the iconic American businessman in their censorship class. Hefner's visit marks the eighteenth year in a row he has visited SCA.

Dr. Rick Jewell, Hugh M. Hefner and Anna Sophia Berglund

“We live in a world now that’s a reflection of the last fifty or sixty years which includes Playboy’s influence on that,” said Hefner. “Magazines are the most personal form of communication and that’s what has always been the most interesting to me from the beginning. My work is a labor of love.”

When asked about Playboy’s change from a traditional magazine into a brand, Hefner replied, “We are increasingly, and will be increasingly, a lifestyle branding company. We have expanded into casinos, clubs and clothing. In recent years we’ve been more popular with women, which has been very satisfying to me. The conflict between the women’s movement and Playboy – that conflict shouldn’t be there. The women’s movement and the sexual revolution should be part and parcel of the same thing.”

Hefner fielded questions from the audience which ranged from the influence of the internet on the publishing world, the difference between erotic content and pornography and what he felt separated Playboy from the countless other publications which followed in its footsteps.

“Hef is a man that needs no introduction,” said Jewell. “It’s impossible to have a discussion about American or even world culture without mentioning his incredible influence.”

Hefner’s Q and A was held after a screening of Brigitte Berman’s biography Hugh Hefner: Playboy,

Hugh M. Hefner and Dr. Rick Jewell

Activist and Rebel. Hefner spoke about the role of controversy in crafting and maintaining the image of Playboy.

“Stirring up controversy is very easy,” said Hefner. “These days, the question should be if it’s of anything worthwhile. We live in a tabloid world. What set Playboy apart was that it was saying something.”

Hefner also spoke about Playboy’s role in the civil rights movement.

“On [Playboy’s Penthouse] we opened up to the audience and showed [Playboy] to the rest of the world. It meant that blacks and whites were mixing in a social setting, which was unthinkable in the 1960s,” said Hefner. “Since there was no racial bias in my life, there was no racial bias in the show. I’m proud to have been in a position to do it.”

The USC School of Cinematic Arts and Hugh Hefner have a long relationship including Hefner dedicating the Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive in the basement of Norris Cinema Theatre, the Hugh M. Hefner Exhibition Hall in the SCA Complex and the Hugh M. Hefner Chair for the Study of American Film, held by Jewell.

Hefner was recently awarded a plaque from the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s longest running owner/publisher of a magazine.

When asked to look back on Playboy’s long run in the world of publishing, Hefner stated that, “I can look at my life with great candor and say honestly that my [business and personal] relationships have been a lot more positive than negative. I never thought of Playboy as a sex magazine. It was a lifestyle magazine. It was a romantic magazine. I’m a romantic. It’s been a great ride.”