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 a “GIANT in publishing, journalism, free speech & civil rights.”
Pamela Anderson, whose Playboy pictorials turned her into one of the most famous of all Playmates, posted a tearful farewell video after learning of Hefner’s death.
“I’m falling apart,” she wrote in a 299-word farewell in which she thanked Hefner for numerous things, including “making the world a better place. A freeer and sexier place.”
Goodbye #Hef Mr Hefner I have so many thoughts, I have no brain n right now to edit I am me because of you You taught me everything important about freedom and respect. Outside of my family You were the most important person in my life. You gave me my life… People tell me all the time That I was your favorite… I'm in such deep shock. But you were old, your back hurt you so much. Last time I saw you You were using a walker. You didn't want me to see. You couldn't hear. You had a piece of paper in your pocket you showed me – with my name Pamela with a heart around it. Now, I'm falling apart. This feeling is so crazy. It's raining in Paris now. I'm by the window. Everything anyone loves about me is because you understood me. Accepted me and encouraged me to be myself. Love like no one else. Live recklessly With unfiltered abandon. You said the magazine was about a girl like me. That I embody the spirit you fantasized about. I was the one. You said. I can hear you say – Be brave. There are no rules. Live your life I'm proud of you. There are no mistakes. And with men – Enjoy … (Your wonderful laugh) You have the world by the tail You are a good girl And you are so loved – You are not crazy. You are wild and free Stay strong, Stay vulnerable. … "It's movie time" You loved my boys … You were always, always there for us. With your love Your crazy wisdom. I will miss your everything. Thank you for making the world a better place. A freeer and sexier place. You were a gentleman charming, elegant, chivalrous And so much fun. Goodbye Hef … Your Pamela
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.”
— Jenny McCarthy (@JennyMcCarthy) September 28, 2017
Other former cover stars and Playmates, from Cindy Crawford to Donna D’Errico, offered tributes — and gratitude.
Hugh Hefner put me in Playboy & ignited my career. I am forever indebted, Hef. You will forever live on as an icon of epic proportions. #RIP
— Donna D'Errico (@DonnaDErrico) September 28, 2017
— Miriam Gonzalez (@miriamlgonzalez) September 28, 2017
I just found out @hughhefner died. Thank u for the time together, 2 covers& artistic freedom on my second shoot. you believed in my vision
— Adrianne Curry (@AdrianneCurry) September 28, 2017
Rest In Peace, dear Hef. I always considered my #playboy cover to be a defining moment in my career, and I'm so grateful to him for being present for so many of my early burlesque shows. I'll never forget the night I came off stage and he offered me my first cover and pictorial. It was genuinely life-changing. I'll always treasure my memories of seeing Hef and his bunnies in the audience at my shows, of movies at the mansion, and of our swing dance nights. It's truly the end of an era. #hughhefner #hef
As The Washington 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.”
While the magazine helped launch some women’s entertainment careers, it also outraged feminists who found his magazine’s depictions of women degrading.
— Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX) September 28, 2017
What is the feminist take on Hugh Hefner? Was he evil because he objectified women or great because he celebrated their sexuality? Pls help.
— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) September 28, 2017
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.
Hugh Hefner was a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. We shall never forget him. May he Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/oL3lKLZRQ5
— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) September 28, 2017
Hugh Hefner changed the game with @Playboy, but those who idolize Heff should also remember him for his support of civil rights & the LGBT.
— Kaivan Shroff (@KaivanShroff) September 28, 2017
Actor Rob Lowe reminisced about their “great conversations.”
I had a number of great conversations and with Hugh Hefner. Was such an interesting man. True legend. What an end of an era!
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) September 28, 2017
One of the nicest men I've ever known. Godspeed, Hugh Hefner. pic.twitter.com/457cchqskO
— Nancy Sinatra (@NancySinatra) September 28, 2017
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.”
RIP Hef. Even though I only read Playboy for the articles. HA!
— Jason Perlow (@jperlow) September 28, 2017
— Simon Caine (@thismademecool) September 28, 2017
Musician Belinda Carlisle remembered a “sweet kind man,” while Gene Simmons of KISS praised the “entrepreneur and innovator” who built a media empire from $600 of his own savings and investments from friends and family.
— Belinda Carlisle (@belindaofficial) September 28, 2017
— Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) September 28, 2017
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) September 28, 2017
We’ve lost a true explorer, a man who had a keen sense of the future. We learned a lot from you Mr. Hefner. #HughHefner
— Norman Lear (@TheNormanLear) September 28, 2017
To Paris Hilton, Hefner was a “legend” and friend with whom she shared incredible memories.
Former SNL cast member Taran Killam looked back at a Halloween party at the Playboy Mansion with the “best haunted maze,” while actor Patton Oswalt poked some fun.
— Taran Killam (@TaranKillam) September 28, 2017
As per his wishes, Hugh Hefner’s body will be left in a fort in the woods for other kids to find & pass around.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 28, 2017
An aging Hef had become something of a self-caricature, strolling the grounds of the Playboy Mansion in silk pajamas, accompanied by a troupe of women who never seemed to turn 30.
Porn star Ron Jeremy chimed in with memories of more than two decades of parties.
— Ron Jeremy (@RealRonJeremy) September 28, 2017
Others drew attention to Hefner’s work in support of the First Amendment.
RIP HF. Few did more for writers, inc myself, breaking boundaries and helping Lenny fight for his 1st Amend Rights. pic.twitter.com/Vi4iDgYdCn
— Richard Lewis (@TheRichardLewis) September 28, 2017
Here is a list of people (including amazing journalists) who won the Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award. https://t.co/ervwhGWjup
— Andrew M. Seaman (@andrewmseaman) September 28, 2017
RIP to Hugh Hefner, the original defender of the first amendment and boobs.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 28, 2017
I am somewhat confused by the same people who were horrified over @ClayTravis' "1st Amendment and boobs" now paying homage to Hefner.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) September 28, 2017
With the praise also came criticism.
— Shani O. Hilton (@shani_o) September 28, 2017
Wait, is it possible Hugh Hefner did good AND bad things? But… But… *robot head explodes, humans escape from robot hot tub*
— Joss Whedon (@joss) September 28, 2017
Matt Schudel and J. Freedom du Lac contributed to this report, which has been updated.