The year was 1970. I was in the eighth grade at St. Mark’s school in Peoria. I remember the day like it was yesterday. One of my classmates — I’ll call him Paul — brought a Polaroid picture to school to show to his friends. Paul and I were the same age — 13 years old. The person in the picture was the girlfriend of Paul’s older brother. She and Paul’s brother were in high school. She was a student at Academy of Our Lady and Paul’s brother was a student at Spalding Institute.
The picture showed the girl lying on a couch with no clothes on. She was facing the camera and was obviously posing for the picture. It was the type of picture you would see in Playboy magazine, and she was behaving like a “Playboy Bunny.” It didn’t take very long before a crowd of boys gathered around Paul to see the picture his brother had taken. Shortly after the crowd gathered, one of our teachers, James Lediger, noticed the crowd and came over to see what was going on.
By the time Paul saw Mr. Lediger, it was too late. Lediger had already seen that there was a picture and ordered the boy to turn it over to him. Lediger immediately tore up the picture into small pieces, and then asked Paul where he had obtained the picture. Then he gave a stern warning to Paul that if he ever brought another picture to school, he would be disciplined.
That incident happened 47 years ago. At the time, there were only two ways for consumers to get a photograph printed. The first way was to use a Polaroid camera, which printed the picture directly from the camera. The second was to use a camera that had film inside. In order to get pictures printed, the film had to be developed by a company that was in the business of developing and printing photographs. Back then, none of the consumer-based film processing companies were willing to print nude photographs.
Today, anyone with a smartphone can take a high-definition, color digital image and then immediately send the image to all his friends. You can’t tear up a digital image of a naked woman.
In 1970, when my classmate brought the picture of his brother’s girlfriend to school, all the boys in my class were familiar with Playboy magazine. By then, the magazine had been around for 17 years. The first issue of Playboy was published in 1953, by Hugh Hefner, a 27-year-old pervert from Chicago.
Last week at the age of 91, Hefner died. The news reports said that at the time of his death, he was surrounded by family members at his home in the Playboy Mansion, in Los Angeles.
The day after Hefner’s death, all the major newspapers, such as the New York Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times, published favorable articles about how he had built the most successful men’s magazine in the world. Several female celebrities posted messages on Facebook and Twitter that praised Hefner as a champion of sexual freedom.
The favorable articles and the gushing comments of celebrities were a final attempt to protect the gold-plated shell that the media had built around the one man who was envied by men around the world for his inexhaustible access to young, beautiful, sexy women. If anyone were to ever break open that protective shell, they would encounter the soul of a hideous, evil, wretched being who feasted on the vulnerabilities of young women whose primary desire was to be recognized and honored for their beauty.
While Hefner was very successful at promoting his magazine and the “Playboy lifestyle,” he was also very successful at helping to tear apart the very foundation of our thriving society — the traditional family, which for hundreds of years had been made up of a married man and women who were committed to a monogamous relationship.
While Hefner talked and wrote about how his goal was to bring more respect and recognition to women, his real goal was to make them into sex toys that could easily be disposed of after they were no longer useful. His magazine was known for publishing glossy, airbrushed photos of “the girl next door” and the “Playmate of the Month.” Later in life, he bragged that he had slept with more than 1,000 women.
If Hefner had shown up on the scene 50 years earlier and published photos of the girl next door, several of the men in his neighborhood would have kicked down his door, dragged him into an alley, and beat the crap out of him. They would have then warned him that if he didn’t stop publishing pictures of vulnerable young women, he wouldn’t survive the next beating.
But by the 1950s, Hefner was in the right place at the right time. The sexual revolution in America had already begun with the mass production of the latex condom, which began in 1930. And that revolution was about to accelerate with the invention and widespread distribution of the birth control pill, which became publicly available in 1960.
During the 1970s, Hefner’s magazine achieved a circulation of more than seven million copies per month. In the monthly magazine world, there’s a distinction between circulation and readership. On average, readership is four to five readers per copy. This is commonly referred to as the “pass-along rate.” I would expect that the pass-along rate for Playboy magazine was at least 10 readers per copy. If that were the case, then during the 1970s, there were more than 70 million men and boys who saw Hefner’s magazine every month.
Hefner was the equivalent of a general in Lucifer’s army. He helped to lead the war against marriage, purity, chastity, pregnancy, and the traditional family. He made sin look glamorous, inviting, and sexy. Instead of encouraging men to cherish and honor their women, he taught them that it was always okay to be on the prowl for the most sexually available and attractive young women. He was a strong supporter and proponent of abortion, which makes sense when you consider the fact that abortion has always been the final form of birth control.
While some men may be responsible for leading hundreds of souls into hell with them, Hefner may have been responsible for leading millions of souls into hell with him.
In his book, The Sinner’s Guide, the Venerable Louis of Grenada, said:
Death will rob you of all your earthly possessions; your works, good and bad, will alone accompany you beyond the tomb. If this dread hour finds you unprepared, great will be your misfortune. All that remains to you will then be distributed into three portions: your body will become the food of worms, your soul the victim of demons, and your wealth the prey of eager and perhaps ungrateful or extravagant heirs.
Hugh Hefner was a master at the sin of lust. In addition to indulging in his own lustful desires, he taught and encouraged others to do the same. Over time, his lustful heart became hardened, and he no longer had the ability to see women for who they really were. Instead, he saw them as objects and playthings whose sole purpose was to satisfy his irrational and insatiable desires. His capacity to love was replaced with the maddening and persistent urges of his body and spirit. He was trapped in his own self-made prison where his mental, emotional, and physical appetite for sensual pleasure was never satisfied.
Unfortunately, because of Hefner’s influence and reach, he was able to turn millions of men into the same type of evil, lustful monster that he had become.
The body that he used to satisfy his own sinful desires is now food for worms. We can speculate as to whether he repented before his death, but there’s a very strong likelihood that he didn’t repent and that his soul is now being tormented by the very same demons who enticed him to build and expand his lustful empire.
What was it that our Lord said about Judas? “It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Matthew 26:24. In my opinion, the same holds true for Hefner. It would have been better for him — and the world — if he had not been born.