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How Marilyn Monroe ended up on the cover of Playboy naked and the high-profile scandal behind it

Darya SkubEntertainment
Hugh Hefner became popular by using Monroe's photo without her permission

While still in the army, the future businessman Hugh Hefner noticed that men spent hours looking at pictures of naked women. This inspired him to make Playboy, an entertainment magazine. Hefner decorated the cover of the first issue with a provocative photo of 23-year-old actress Marilyn Monroe, borrowing money from his mother and friends to print it.

On December 10, 1953, the first Playboys appeared on store shelves and newsstands in Chicago. One magazine cost 50 cents, and its circulation of 70 thousand copies was sold out in a day. This brought fame to both its creator, Hefner, and actress Marilyn Monroe. But the girl did not take pictures for the glossy. And when she saw it, she thought that her movie life was broken. Read more in the article by OBOZ.UA.

The story of the spicy photos of an old Hollywood star

In 1949, unemployed Marilyn Monroe had financial problems. The girl was desperate. So she agreed to pose naked for the camera. For this, photographer Tom Kelley paid 50 dollars. It should be noted that the artist made Kelley promise that she would look unrecognizable in the photo. The fact is that she was nervous and doubted whether she had done the right thing.

Later, Tom sold Monroe's spicy photos for $900 to the Western Lithograph Co. and they were published in the Golden Dreams erotic pin-up calendar. The calendar was published in a small edition and did not have the expected success. In other words, few people saw Monroe's candid photos. At the same time, the actress was actively working to break through in cinema and had her first successes: directors offered her not only supporting roles but also leading ones.

How Marilyn Monroe ended up on the cover of Playboy naked and the high-profile scandal behind it

How Hugh Hefner managed to get a photo of Monroe

Let's emphasize an important detail: contrary to popular belief, Marilyn never modeled for the cover of the first issue of Playboy. She just didn't even know Hugh Hefner! She didn't know that he would use her photos taken at the start of her career for his own enrichment either.

Why did Hefner choose her? By 1953, Monroe had starred in films that quickly became popular. These were We're Not Married! (1952), All About Eve (1950), and Don't Bother to Knock (1952). Hugh then became interested in the actress as a woman and a model. He turned to his friend John Baumgarten, the owner of nude calendars, and bought a photo of Marilyn on red corduroy for $500 (the same one that Tom Kelley had taken).

How Marilyn Monroe ended up on the cover of Playboy naked and the high-profile scandal behind it

In 2008, in an interview with E!News, Hefner gave another reason why he decided to attract readers' attention with uncensored photos of Monroe. According to him, there were rumors that the celebrity had undressed for a photoshoot and that the photos could be seen in the Golden Dreams calendar (mentioned above). People became convinced of the veracity of this information only after the release of Playboy. "In addition, it was forbidden to send or receive nudes in envelopes by mail back then. I was a young man who did not agree with this. We published these photos and they became a sensation," Hugh added.

Let's get back to Monroe. She, of course, learned that tens of thousands of people had seen her candid photos. After that, she immediately bought the glossy herself. The star was worried that such "fame" would harm her movie career, but fortunately, the unfortunate situation improved her recognition and helped her get higher fees.

How the founder of Playboy fooled the actress

Sunday, December 10, 2023, marked the 70th anniversary of the first issue of Playboy with a nude Marilyn Monroe on the shelves. Her most famous impersonator, Suzie Kennedy, is convinced that this anniversary is a "bittersweet occasion." Speaking to the Daily Star, she said, "I love that she was never ashamed of her sexuality. She was not ashamed when people tried to shame her for those nude photos. But it saddens me that it made Playboy and Hugh Hefner popular, and he (Hefner - Ed.) never paid her."

How Marilyn Monroe ended up on the cover of Playboy naked and the high-profile scandal behind it

We would like to add that Hugh Hefner was obsessed with Marilyn, even though he did not know her personally. "I feel a double connection to her because she was the key to the beginning of Playboy," he told CBS in 2012. The media mogul even spent $75,000 in 1992 to purchase a crypt next to Monroe's in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. "I believe in symbolic things. Spending eternity next to Marilyn is too sweet to give up," Hefner told the Los Angeles Times. The Playboy founder died in 2017 at the age of 92.

How Marilyn Monroe ended up on the cover of Playboy naked and the high-profile scandal behind it

Earlier, OBOZ.UA wrote about how Marilyn Monroe, the style icon of old Hollywood, dressed.

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