Cindy Crawford, Jenny McCarthy, others remember Playboy’s Hugh Hefner

 In Entertainment

Hugh Hefner and his then-girlfriend, 19-year-old actress Barbara Benton, surrounded by Bunny Girls at the Playboy Club in London in 1969. (AP file)

The actress Kat Denning remembered meeting Hugh Hefner at his famed mansion, where he was “very nice to my mom.”

Kim Kardashian said she was “honored to be part of the Playboy team.”

Larry King called him was a “GIANT in publishing, journalism, free speech & civil rights.”

Iconic founder of Playboy magazine Hugh Hefner died on Sept. 27. (Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

A visionary editor who for decades threw lavish parties at his home, the Playboy Mansion, Hefner lived a glamorous Hollywood life, sharing time and photo ops with a diverse cast of celebrities, civil rights leaders and journalists.

The memories, condolences and even some jokes that people shared after Hefner’s death reflect the complicated legacy of the founder of Playboy magazine, who died at 91.

Actress Jenny McCarthy tweeted her 1994 Playboy cover and thanked Hefner for “changing so many people’s lives, esp. mine.” While the magazine helped launch some women’s entertainment careers, it also outraged feminists who found his magazine’s depictions of women degrading.

Other former cover stars and Playmates, from Cindy Crawford to Donna D’Errico, offered tributes — and gratitude.

As The Post’s Matt Schudel wrote: “From the first issue of Playboy in 1953, which featured a photograph of a nude Marilyn Monroe lounging on a red sheet, Mr. Hefner sought to overturn what he considered the puritanical moral code of Middle America.

“His magazine was shocking at the time, but it quickly found a large and receptive audience and was a principal force behind the sexual revolution of the 1960s.”

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson noted that the magazine editor was a “strong supporter of the civil rights movement,” a part of Hefner’s legacy that others also wanted to highlight.

In 1961, Hefner bought back Playboy club franchises that refused to admit African American members.

“We are outspoken foes of segregation [and] we are actively involved in the fight to see the end of all racial inequalities in our time,” he wrote.

Actor Rob Lowe reminisced about their “great conversations.”

As an editor, Hefner commissioned articles by celebrated writers, including Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin and Joyce Carol Oates.

As Schudel wrote for The Post: “Mr. Hefner brought nudity out from under the counter, but he was more than the emperor of a land with no clothes. From the beginning, he had literary aspirations for Playboy, hiring top writers to give his magazine cultural credibility. It became a running joke that the cognoscenti read Playboy ‘for the articles’ and demurely averted their eyes from the pages depicting bare-breasted women.”

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