Hugh Hefner’s Little Black Book

April 27th, 2012by Jill AustinFiled under: Collections, Exhibitions, Stories

This little black book speaks volumes, for it belonged to none other than Hugh Hefner, the Chicago native who founded Playboy in 1953. The book (and an intriguing “While You Were Away” note found tucked inside) will be on display at the Museum beginning Friday, May 4.

Hugh Hefner’s address book, 1956–57
CHM, i65211

No man’s world could be quite as adventurous as Hefner’s, whose suave appreciation of the finer things made him millions and led the nation toward postwar sexual revolution. Hef flipped the pages of this book while his celebrity was on the rise, building a world empire of fantasy and desire where readers could escape their troubles by getting caught in the teasing gaze of the centerfold-of-the-month. Hefner’s eye for women continues to shape the tastes of men across the globe, albeit now from Los Angeles rather than Chicago.

Photographer Stephen Deutch captured Playboy Bunnies on duty at the Playboy Club, Chicago, c. 1960.
Gifts of Stephen Deutch, i23629 and i40392

The lore of the little black book implies a secret world of go-to contacts—actual names or pseudonyms—its user has cultivated and maintained. Today, real address books, like this, are becoming a thing of the past as many people find it easier and faster to store information electronically or through social media. Whether in paper or digital form, however, the lesson remains the same: if you don’t want anyone to discover your secret, don’t save it! (Unless you are the king of the Playboy empire. Wink, wink.)

> Read more about the history of Playboy

> Read more about the history of  Playboy Enterprises Inc.

> Learn about Chicago’s magazine industry

> Discover Unexpected Chicago

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