Playboy Magazine Launches with Marilyn Monroe Issue
Updated: Jan 29, 2020
This month marks the 66th anniversary in which Hugh Hefner launched Playboy's first issue, with one of the most recognizable and fascinating starlets of film's golden age gracing the cover - Marilyn Monroe in December of 1953. But she wasn't just on the cover, there were also nude photos of her in the magazine. The magazine became an instant success, selling 50,000 copies almost immediately, according to the Daily News. And Hefner always attributed the success of Playboy to Monroe's inclusion in its inaugural issue. But Monroe never actually signed an agreement to be in Playboy.
Before Monroe hit it big, she was (as many aspiring actresses are) in need of cash. In 1949, she posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley in exchange for fifty dollars. Kelley sold his photographs of Monroe to Western Lithograph Company, which made calendars.
Only a year later, things turned around for the actress when her career finally began to take flight. In 1950, Monroe appeared in two films, "Asphalt Jungle," and "All About Eve," and the starlet finally began to gain recognition.
Four years later, Monroe's images resurfaced when Hefner purchased Kelley's photographs of Monroe with "nothing but the radio on" from the Chicago calendar maker for $500, according to the LA Times. Hefner made Monroe his first ever centerfold, or "Sweetheart of the Month," as it was called at the time. (Hefner didn't come up with his idea for "Playmate of the month" until about a year after the magazine's launch.)
Here is an audio interview of Marilyn Monroe explaining the story behind taking the photos:
After the publication, Monroe made the decision to do an interview in which she explained that she had been desperate for money when she posed for the nude photos. And it didn't seem to negatively affect her career at all. She also developed a close relationship with Hefner.
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