Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, passed away yesterday at the age of 91. One of his best lines serves also as his epitaph: “Life is too short to be living somebody else’s dreams.” Hefner was one of the great hellraisers of modern America and had a huge impact for much of the second half of the 20th century. Playboy was a champion of freedom of speech and freedom of the press and was in the forefront of criticizing the Vietnam War. I sometimes disagreed with Playboy’s political slant but I always loved their cartoons (well, most of them).
I wrote for Playboy from 1994 to 2002. In a 1995 memo to my editor, Jim Petersen, Hefner said that I was a writer who has a clear voice. I appreciated that and appreciated even more that Playboy did not balk at controversial pieces on no-knock raids, racial profiling, Ruby Ridge, asset forfeiture, war on drug absurdities, Janet Reno, Waco, and other topics. Some of the Washington/East Coast publications I dealt with in those years seemed paranoid of my ideas (as opposed to my investigative reporting). Not so with Playboy. This was also thanks in part to Petersen – who was far more open-minded and literarily gifted than most editors I have encountered. Plus, Petersen enjoyed firing machine guns. (The New York Times labeled Petersen “a cultural icon of a carnal sort” thanks to his 20 years as the Playboy advisor.)
Playboy was the only magazine that ever allowed me to use the phrase “Flying Philadelphia ****” in a discussion of government health care subsidies.
After I started getting published there, some of my conservative and libertarian friends thanked me for making them honest men – since they could sincerely say that they were buying the magazine for the articles.
— James Bovard (@JimBovard) September 28, 2017
Below are links to the text of most of my Playboy pieces.