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Hugh Hefner remembered with praise, humor at Chicago memorial

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, died on Sept. 27. | AP file photo

At a Chicago tribute to the memory of the late Hugh Hefner, speakers ranging from the Rev. Jesse Jackson to journalists Bill Zehme and Rick Kogan recapped the wide range of groundbreaking accomplishments the man everyone called “Hef” achieved in his 91 years.

Several hundred friends, former colleagues and family members of the Playboy founder attended the Monday afternoon event led by emcee Bill Kurtis at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Streeterville.

While much humor graced the remarks — along with references to Playboy’s social and cultural impact — all the speakers’ remarks stressed the importance Hefner placed on his lifelong battles in support of freedom of speech and thought in this country.

As Christie Hefner, the Chicago native’s daughter and former Playboy CEO, put it, “While the magazine was founded as a guidebook for the urban male, its true mission was to express his philosophy of personal freedom and individual rights.”

Son Cooper Hefner, now Playboy’s chief creative officer, cited a quote from the late political columnist Walter Lippman — “Some men will plant trees that other men will sit under” — and took it a bit further in reference to his prolific dad, who he acknowledged “left behind an endless forest.”

Jackson noted that Hefner was an early and enthusiastic supporter of civil rights and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in particular, noting the color-blind hiring at all Playboy properties and Hefner’s boosts to the careers of African-American entertainers such as Dick Gregory and Aretha Franklin.

Also attending were longtime Playboy executive Rick Rosenzweig, Linda Johnson Rice, Diane Swonk, Marjorie Benton, Leslie Hindman, Joan Steel, Canadian Consul-General John Cruickshank, Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath, Michael Kutza, Bob Sirott, Dr. Lauren Streicher, William Marovitz, Bill Hogan, Marlene Iglitzen, Ald. Tom Tunney, Carol Bellows and Dori Wilson.