Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Documentary on Gay Rights and Hugh Hefner

Just one more social movement in which Hugh Hefner and Playboy were ahead of the times: gay rights. A new documentary, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, opens in September and includes details on his public stance for gay inclusiveness and against discrimination. For more, read the Advocate report.

The Advocate focuses on an incident early in the magazine's history, in the mid-1950s, when Hefner published a short story that had been rejected by (his former employer) Esquire about anti-gay discrimination. But if one reads editorial comments in Playboy over the decades, one can see that he was at the cutting edge of realizing homosexuality wasn't a mental illness, that gay love is no less worthy than straight love, and that discrimination was stupid in either case. Hefner's company has also put its money where its mouthpiece is in support of gay causes. (And Hefner continues to be vocal about supporting gay marriage.)

Matthew Hays, writing on The Daily Beast, focuses on Hef's gay rights pioneering work, but he also notes that the publisher was a vocal -- and courageous -- opponent of other types of discrimination:

He commissioned articles for Playboy from writers who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era, including screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of the infamous “Hollywood Ten.” “I received a letter from Ronald Reagan at that time, requesting that I stop using writers who'd been identified by HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee],” he says. His late-'50s TV variety show, Playboy's Penthouse, featured acts “that couldn't get on network television because they'd been blacklisted.”

Similarly, his television shows and his string of Playboy Clubs brought prominent African-American entertainers into the lives of many Americans who might not follow them otherwise.

And, to end by returning to the gay-rights theme, here's more from the Daily Beast article, and it says more about Hefner than his vocal critics either know or care to acknowledge:

“Without question, love in its various permutations is what we need more of in this world,” says the twice-married Hefner, who, unlike most of his peers, favors legalizing same-sex marriage. “The idea that the concept of marriage will be sullied by same-sex marriage is ridiculous. Heterosexuals haven't been doing that well at it on their own.”

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