US Mounts Major Global Anti-Money-Laundering Campaign


June 19, 2018

US Mounts Major Global Anti-Money-Laundering Campaign

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

The US Treasury Department has initiated a wide-ranging campaign against money laundering across the globe and is leaning on governments particularly in Cyprus, Beirut, Singapore and the Gulf states including Dubai in an attempt to stop the flow of billions of dollars that wash through the financial system every day from Russia, Iran and China.

Although planning for the campaign, headed by the department’s Marshall Billingslea, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crime, began during the administration of former US President Barack Obama, the Trump administration is seeking aggressively to stop the flow of illegally gained money from the three countries into UK and French real estate, small German banks and the Gulf states.

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Paul Manafort is charged for money laundering.

It is uncertain how much of the new assertiveness can be traced to the US initiative. A spokesman for the Treasury Department said only that the department is “undertaking initiatives against money laundering in several different countries as part of an ongoing process.”

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However, banks from Cyprus to Singapore to the long-standing boltholes for hot cash in the Caribbean are being told to clean up their act or lose access to the Belgium-originated Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication – the SWIFT system, as it is known, through which almost all of the world’s financial transactions travel. Hundreds of billions of dollars a day move through the system, which enables the world’s financial institutions to send and receive secure information about financial transactions.  The SWIFT system has come to dominate the world’s movement of money.

Sources speculate that the US aggressiveness played a role in the demand last week by the UK government, also triggered by the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea Football Club, explain the source of his vast wealth before he is granted a new UK visa. The UK government has launched a further crackdown on wealthy investors into the UK.  Offshore destinations of illicit funds in the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, Gibraltar and Nassau are also under the microscope.

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Read this:  https://www.khmertimeskh.com/92067/

The amount of money spirited out of developing countries is astonishing. The Washington, DC-based NGO Global Financial Integrity, in a 2017 report, estimated that illicit currency flows in and out of the developing world amounted to at least 13.8 percent of total trade, or US$2 trillion, in 2014, the last year for which reliable data were available. An astonishing US$3.97 trillion in illicit funds left China between 2000 and 2011 alone, according to Global Financial Integrity.

Laundered money has been pouring out of Russia for the better part of two decades as oligarchs made rich by the Putin regime have looted a long string of government-linked companies, particularly in oil and gas. The money has gone into expensive homes along the Cote d’Azur in France as well as London, and New York and Beverly Hills in the US. At one point, realtors in New York said roughly 30 percent of condominium sales were going to buyers who listed international addresses including – notably – the family of the now-disgraced former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, as well as Viktor Khrapunov, the former mayor of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s capital city, who has been accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the country.

With the Trump administration on a rampage against Iran, US authorities are seeking to shut down Iranian funds flowing into Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar as well as banks in Asia including Woori Bank and Industrial Bank of South Korea, according to Bloomberg News Service, which cited documents and testimony on how Iran siphoned US$1 billion from escrow account funds to evade US-imposed sanctions. Other banks that have been hit with compliance lapses included the Agricultural Bank of China, one of the country’s Big Four banks as well as

Songhua Bank of South Korea and Mega International Commercial Bank of Taiwan, according to Bloomberg.

The campaign to lean on Middle Eastern banks could well cause a liquidity crisis in the region including Dubai and Qatar, two of the region’s biggest banking centers, as well as in Lebanon, equally with Cyprus a repository of laundered funds that have flown into financing of terrorist activities by Hezbollah and other groups.  One source speculated that uncertainty over a liquidity crisis was spurring unsettled emerging markets over the past couple of months, with Argentina again facing crisis.

The problems for Cyprus are enormous.  Stelios Orphanides, writing in the Cyprus Business Mail on May 29, said that there is “increasing concern in the ranks of professionals and entrepreneurs in Cyprus over the impact of stricter anti-money laundering and terrorist financing practices being applied, amid fears that recent US pressure on the islandʼs financial and business service providers to take US sanctions more seriously into account, may have a transformative effect on the economy.”

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The disgraced former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor are now under investigation

The problems are exemplified by the notorious FBME Bank, headquartered in Tanzania although at least 90 percent of its business was conducted in Nicosia before it was shut down by the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN last October after a three-year campaign. The bank, owned by Fadi and Ayoub-Farid Saab, was the repository of funds from such notorious characters as Dmitry Klyuev and Andrei Pavolov, key suspects in the looting of Hermitage Capital, once controlled by William Browder before he was driven out of Russia. Dozens of outlaw organizations allegedly banked at FBME, although the Saabs continue to deny any wrongdoing.

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The Hermitage looting and its aftermath resulted in the so-called Magnitsky Act, passed in the US Congress after Sergei Magnitsky, an associate of Browder’s, was beaten to death in a Russian jail while he was attempting to investigate the theft. As a result, a list of top Russian officials were barred from transacting financial business through the SWIFT system.  Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-backed lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and others in Trump Tower in June of 2016, was attempting to get the Magnitsky Act reversed. That meeting is now a subject of the investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian attempts to subvert the 2016 election that brought Trump to power.

FBME was the subject of a 2016 series of stories by Asia Sentinel that described the alleged laundering of millions of US dollars out of the Indonesia-based Bank Mutiara, formerly known as Bank Century, which was looted by its owner, Robert Tantular, and others during the global financial crisis of 2009.  Bank Mutiara was taken over by the Tokyo-based J Trust financial conglomerate, heavily backed by Nobuyoshi Fujisawa.  J Trust and the Saabs have threatened multiple lawsuits against Asia Sentinel over the stories. Asia Sentinel stands by its reporting.

Another of the primary targets of the campaign is Singapore, which by one report has the equivalent of US$368 billion from Indonesia in its banks – 40 percent of the island republic’s total bank deposits. In one astounding heist, more than  US$13.5 billion was looted from the Indonesian central bank’s recapitalization lifeline to 48 ailing banks during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis. As the government poured money into the banks in the attempt to save them, the bankers were stealing it and moving the money to Singapore.

According to a 2007 Asia Sentinel story, some 18,000 Indonesians described as “rich” live in Singapore. They were said to be worth a combined total of US$87 billion, more than Indonesia’s entire annual government budget at the time.

Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission is said to be investigating the movement of as much as US$1.5 billion from Bank J Trust, the former Bank Mutiara, which was sold to the Japanese financial services corporation J Trust Group. J Trust is heavily backed by Taiyo Pacific Partners, the Washington State-based investment fund whose chief investment officer was Wilbur Ross, now President Donald Trump’s commerce secretary. The Indonesian bank is believed to be connected to some of the country’s most powerful politicians. KPK targets are said to ionclude Boediono, the former central bank governor and vice-presidential running mate of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Others are said to be Rafat Ali Rizvi, a British citizen who at one point faced the possibility of a death penalty for helping to loot Bank Century, the carcass from which Bank Mutiara was fashioned, and Hesham Al Warraq, a Saudi national who was also a major shareholder in the bank. Only Robert Tantular, the president of Bank Century, has been jailed.

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Other countries’ leaders have used Singapore as a piggy bank as well, including Myanmar, whose generals moved millions of stolen funds out of their country into Singapore banks. The Singaporeans were so grateful that in 2009, they named an orchid planted in their spectacular Singapore Botanic Garden for Thein Sein when he paid a visit.  More recently, Singapore cracked down on Swiss banks BSI Bank and Falcon Private Bank and withdrawing their licenses in 2016 for acting as conduits for billions of dollars funneled from the scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd. Two other banks – the Singapore-based DBS and the major Swiss bank UBS were hit with heavy fines.

A Tribute to Krishen Jit–The Doyen of Malaysian Theater


June 1, 2018

A Tribute to Krishen Jit–The Doyen of Malaysian Theater

by Johan Jaafar

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“Krishen was the best drama critic the country has ever known. To label him just a “critic” is almost a misdemeanour. He was in fact a keen observer, a chronicler and a commentator.”–Dato’ Johan Jaafar

Marion D’Cruz was among friends last Saturday. They came from all over to celebrate the publication of a book on the late Krishen Jit. That morning, Five Arts Centre was the venue where friends of Krishen and Marion converged reminiscing about the man they knew well.

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The book Excavations, Interrogations, Krishen Jit & Contemporary Malaysian Theatre is one of a kind. It is basically a compilation of essays by 14 writers of different backgrounds and disciplines on the life and works of Krishen.

It stems from a conference held in January 2015. With an illuminating introduction by the editors (Charlene Rajendran, Ken Takiguchi and Carmen Nge), the collection unveils the various layers of Krishen’s works and his personality.

It is like peeling the layers one by one, “excavating” if you like, and with lots of critical studies and analysis (thus the “interrogations”), Krishen surfaces but not all. There are many more layers to be uncovered for Krishen was no ordinary bloke, nor his works easy to be “appropriated.”

For many of us who have known Krishen, he was simple and forthright as a person. But the complexity lies in his works and especially his writings.

I have edited some of his essays in Bahasa Malaysia in Dewan Sastera, the literary journal published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP). I have collaborated with him in a few essays.

I have been following his columns in the New Straits Times for years. He has written about me and my works, some I liked, others I didn’t and I told him so.

Krishen was the best drama critic the country has ever known. To label him just a “critic” is almost a misdemeanour. He was in fact a keen observer, a chronicler and a commentator.

To many who have acted under his direction or listened to his talks, he was a guru and mentor. He can be exceptionally harsh, even brutally critical in his writings.

But theatre activists of his generation took note and paid attention. Being reviewed by Krishen was in itself an honour.

For 22 years (1972 to 1994) his nom de guerre, “Utih”, was writing for the New Straits Times. When he started the column in 1972, a lot of things were happening on the Malaysian stage.

Theatre in Bahasa Malaysia was alighted with new works by the likes of Syed Alwi, Nordin Hassan and Dinsman. Theatre in English, once the flagbearer of excellence suffered because many of its stalwarts were migrating to theatre in Bahasa Malaysia.

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Datuk Baha Zain joined The University of Malaya in 1960 and was my Second Residential College (Kolej Tuanku Bahiyah) mate. –Din Merican

In fact Krishen was the bridge between the two, as argued by Literary Laureate, Datuk Baharuddin Zainal, another of his close friend.

Two years later, I joined the University of Malaya and was part of the vibrant student and theatre activism in the campus. Hatta Azad Khan was at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Mana Sikana was at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

All three of us were, together with Nordin and Dinsman according to Krishen and other critics, the pioneers of the “absurd theatre” in the country.

I knew Krishen through his writings as a student. He was a lecturer at the History Department when I joined the UM.

When I joined DBP in 1977, I had already befriended Krishen. In 1979, he was entrusted to organise a theatre festival for the Malay Studies Department of the UM.

It was to be called “Festival Teater Jabatan Pengajian Melayu” in conjuction with the 25th year of the department’s existence.

He selected seven plays to represent the various stages of contemporary Malay theatre. My play, “Angin Kering” was chosen to represent the experimental era of the 1970s.

I was to direct the “oldest” play, a transitional play (sandiwara) entitled “Si Bongkok Tanjung Puteri” written by Shaharom Husain. It was a tough assignment for Krishen.

I was given the task to assist him by my employer DBP. For many months we worked on the project. We even collaborated in an essay on Shaharom Hussain for the March issue of Dewan Sastera in 1979.

On his own he wrote a two-part essay as a retrospective of Malay theatre in the same edition and in the following month.

I got to know Krishen up, close and personal. He was a voracious eater, I can vouch that. He enjoyed being in my car, for I drove fast and perhaps a little reckless back then.

“I feel safe in a fast but cheap car!” he told everyone who cared to listen to his agony. He was combing details of the works of Shaharom relentlessly.

We met Shaharom a few times and marvelled at his collection of books and newspaper cuttings. As a historian Krishen probed the history of the genre, sandiwara.

As a theatre enthusiast he engrossed himself with the workings of the already dying genre. We met actors and stage hands who were involved in the first production of “Si Bongkok Tanjung Puteri.”

It was an enlightening experience working with Krishen. In 1992, I joined the Utusan Melayu Group as the Chief Editor.

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Datin Marion D’Cruz, a Theater Icon in her own right, was a tower of strength behind my University of Malaya contemporary, Krishen Jit. I remember Krishen as an intellectual.–Din Merican

 

I became a restless spectator for years, for I was busy as a journalist and later in the corporate world. I heard Krishen started Five Arts Centre with his wife Marion in 1984. We met occasionally over teh tarik when time permitted. I was abroad when I heard of his demise.

This book is written with passion and understanding in trying to excavate and interrogate his body of works, his disciples, his work ethics and more so his contribution to the world of theatre.

He was a perfectionist, no doubt. And he was a man driven by his obsession to raise the bar of Malaysian theatre. He was never selfish, but uncompromising yes, and he was perfecting his art all the time.

Many who have worked with him understand his demanding pace and exactitude. He expected the best. He was lucky to have Marion and some of the best and dedicated stage people at Five Arts Centre.

This publication is a fitting tribute to Krishen Jit.

 

 Johan Jaaffar has just published a book, Jejak Seni, about his 50-year incredible journey as an actor, playwright, director and later chairman of the country’s largest media company. He was a journalist and a former chairman of DBP.

https://www.thestar.com.my

The Unending Journey towards being Malaysian


May 24, 2018

by Zairil Khir Johari

The Unending Journey towards being Malaysian

...in Malaysia today there seems to be a renewed prejudice towards migrant communities, even those who have settled for generations and should no longer be considered anything other than part of Malaysian society. Instead of treating our fellow citizens as one of our own, there are efforts to ban Malay words from being used by non-Malays, as well as the unconstitutional suppression of rights of non-Malays to religious expression.–Zairil Khir Johari

Nearly 1,400 years ago, the Prophet Muhammad and his small band of followers left Mecca, where the fledgling Muslim community was increasingly persecuted and oppressed, for Yathrib (later renamed Medina), a city 320km to the north.

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God Help Malaysia if these guys are our warriors inherited from the Najib Era

This journey has come to be known as the Hijrah, an epochal event that not only marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar, but also the consolidation of the first Muslim community. It was from the success of this migration that the small community was able to grow and blossom into what it is today – representatives of the world’s second largest and fastest-growing religion.

Taken literally, hijrah means migration, the physical movement of people from one place to another. But hijrah also carries a spiritual and existential meaning, connoting a search for something better – be it to further one’s career, to develop one’s talent, to seek a better life and, in some cases, even for something as basic as survival. In other words, hijrah can be taken to mean a journey towards betterment, whether personal or collective.

Hijrah is not a concept removed from our own society and civilisation. South-East Asia is a maritime region consisting of 25,000 islands and with a peninsula peppered by vast riverine networks, and so our forefathers were constantly on the move. If today’s world is said to be borderless in the metaphorical sense, the Malay Archipelago could be said to be one in the literal sense.

The Inclusive Malay World

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The 1Malaysia Bugis Warrior

In fact, it would not be inaccurate to say that society back then had no historical need or cognisance of borders. This conclusion can be gleaned from studying the literary manuscripts of yore, such as Hikayat Hang Tuah, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, the Malay Annals and Misa Melayu, among others. There may have been a complex and mature network of international trade, and along with it constant interaction with sailors and merchants from all corners of the world, but nowhere in the writings is there a reference to the notion of orang asing, or foreigners – at least not in the way we understand it today.

Instead, the term used to describe migrants or people who had journeyed from other territories was orang dagang. While one may ascribe this expression to mean merchants, the classic texts actually use the term saudagar for that purpose. Thus, orang dagang refers not to transient traders, but travellers who, having settled in a new territory, assimilate themselves by contributing their work, energy and loyalty to the collective social and economic development of their new community. In short, migrants were very much embraced as part of society and not seen as outsiders or the proverbial “other”.

This concept has its modern parallel in what we would describe today as citizenship, albeit in a more progressive and encompassing way. A citizen after all is someone who, in addition to being an inhabitant of a particular state, is also a legally recognised member of that state and therefore subject to whatever incumbent rights, duties and obligations that are provided for. But as modern states did not exist then, recognition of the orang dagang was less legalistic and not so narrowly defined. Rather, they were simply accepted as productive members of the community.

Indeed, there were also no real political borders. While there did exist the concept of hamba raja, which refers to a ruler’s liege subjects, it was not a permanent relationship because people were free to shift their loyalties to another ruler, depending on where they happened to be. Kingdoms had no defined borders and a ruler’s territory only stretched as far as his influence.

Now, there was indeed a term used to describe outsiders, but it did not refer to foreign travellers or traders who offered their wares and services – these as we have established were the orang dagang. Instead, if we are to use Hikayat Hang Tuah as an example, the term orang luar is used in every instance to refer to invaders, namely the Portuguese who were also called the Ferringi. These orang luar were seen as arrogant and unwilling to honour local culture and customs. They were therefore cast in negative light, as the following excerpt shows:

“Seketika juga maka Feringgi itu pun habislah; yang ada hidup semuanya habis lari terbit keluar kota. Maka diturut bunuh oleh segala orang luar itu, habis mati semuanya Feringgi itu.” Hikayat Hang Tuah Tuah, 524:38

The passage above speaks of the defeat of the Ferringi (Portuguese), with survivors having fled the city of Malacca. The remaining orang luar (outsiders), who were the Portuguese, were then wiped out.

A Region of Migrants

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It is also interesting to note that in the Malay language, people are central to the concept of territory. In fact, the Malay term for region or territory, i.e. rantau, includes elements of migration and mobility. When rantau is conjugated as a verb, merantau, it takes on the meaning of traveling. Hence, the word rantau refers to both geography and the movement of people – something that has no English equivalent.

Although the concept and practice of merantau is often said to be particular to the Minangkabau community of West Sumatra, in truth it was normal practice throughout the entire Malay Archipelago, as we have already explored through the etymology of the term orang dagang.

It should come then as no surprise that the establishment of the famed Malacca Sultanate had its origins in the migration of asylum seekers. If we recall our history lessons, the founder of Malacca, Parameswara, was in fact an exiled prince of Palembang who after failing to establish a safe haven in Temasek (now known as Singapore) had no choice but to merantau further to finally settle in Malacca.

 

Learning from History

History is full of lessons for us to draw from. To be sure, circumstances then and now differ vastly, and the borderless societies that fabled characters such as Hang Tuah and Parameswara lived in have long been replaced by modern nation-states with clear borders and complex legal regimes.

However, by deconstructing some of these key concepts, we find that the ancient Malay world was in fact a very inclusive one – a far cry from the narrow and shallow narratives that pervade our country today. Migrants or orang dagang were welcomed and accepted, so long as they chose to contribute to the society. The only people who were considered to be real outsiders were aggressive invaders who sought to impose foreign values at gunpoint.

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Gurney Drive, Penang, where pendatangs hang out

Unfortunately, in Malaysia today there seems to be a renewed prejudice towards migrant communities, even those who have settled for generations and should no longer be considered anything other than part of Malaysian society. Instead of treating our fellow citizens as one of our own, there are efforts to ban Malay words from being used by non-Malays, as well as the unconstitutional suppression of rights of non-Malays to religious expression.

It must be stressed that these bigoted actions are not only wrong but also antithetical to Malay culture. In fact, it goes against the very grain of Malay history, which paints the Malay world to be a migrant one, where even the Malay identity itself is a very fluid concept. According to great scholars of Malay studies such as Anthony Milner, Malayness is not defined so much by descent or bloodline than it is by culture and civilisation. In other words, Malayness is not an ethnicity but a culture, and a very liberal and accommodative one at that.

A Never-ending Journey for Improvement

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In the year 622 AD, the original Muslims who followed the Prophet Muhammad on the Hijrah did so to seek greener pastures. They did so for their own survival, and for better opportunities. But the Hijrah did not end when they settled in Medina. In fact, it can be argued that it has not really ended – that it is a continuous journey, a migration in search of improvement, be it physical or spiritual.

And so the journey goes on for us here in Malaysia. In keeping with the traditions of our forefathers, we should continue to derive strength from the ever-evolving diversity of our society. This fact should be celebrated and not exploited as a cause for division. Whatever our roots, whether we have indigenous ancestry or whether we are descended from migrants or orang dagang, we are all Malaysians.

Zairil Khir Johari is Senior Fellow of Penang Institute.

 

 

Book Review: The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture


November 8, 2017

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The Cultural Axis

by Robert O.Paxton

 http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/10/26/nazi-fascist-cultural-axis/
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Benjamin G. Martin
Harvard University Press, 370 pp., $39.95

 

“When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I reach for my revolver.” This philistine wisecrack is often attributed to Air Marshal Hermann Goering, or some other Nazi notable. Benjamin Martin sets us straight on its source: the 1933 play Schlageter by the Nazi Party member Hanns Johst, in which a character says: “When I hear the word ‘culture’ I release the catch on my Browning.”

Martin’s illuminating book The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture shows how badly astray this famous quip leads us: cultural concerns were in fact vital to the imperial projects of Hitler and Mussolini. We do not normally associate their violent and aggressive regimes with “soft power.” But the two dictators were would-be intellectuals—Adolf Hitler a failed painter inebriated with the music of Wagner, and Mussolini a onetime schoolteacher and novelist. Unlike American philistines, they thought literature and the arts were important, and wanted to weaponize them as adjuncts to military conquest. Martin’s book adds a significant dimension to our understanding of how the Nazi and Fascist empires were constructed.

German power and success gave the Nazi case particular salience. The special meaning of Kultur in Germans’ evaluation of themselves is an important part of the story. According to a famous essay by Norbert Elias, the meaning of Kultur for Germans is hardly comprehensible without reference to a particular historical development.*Kultur, he explains (along with Bildung, or education), denoted in pre-unification Germany those qualities that the intellectuals and professionals of the small, isolated German middle class claimed for themselves in response to the disdain of the minor German nobles who employed them: intellectual achievement, of course, but also simple virtues like authenticity, honesty, and sincerity.

German courtiers, by contrast, according to the possessors of Kultur, had acquired “civilization” from their French tutors: manners, social polish, the cultivation of appearances. As the German middle class asserted itself in the nineteenth century, the particular virtues of Kultur became an important ingredient in national self-definition. The inferior values of “civilization” were no longer attributed to an erstwhile French-educated German nobility, but to the French themselves and to the West in general.

By 1914, the contrast between Kultur and Zivilisation had taken on a more aggressively nationalist tone. During World War I German patriotic propaganda vaunted the superiority of Germany’s supposedly rooted, organic, spiritual Kultur over the allegedly effete, shallow, cosmopolitan, materialist, Jewish-influenced “civilization” of Western Europe. Martin’s book shows how vigorously the Nazis applied this traditional construct. Hitler invested considerable money and time in the 1930s, and even after World War II began, in an effort to take over Europe’s cultural organizations and turn them into instruments of German power. These projects had some initial success. In the end, however, they collapsed along with the military power they were designed to reinforce.

In a parallel and even less enduring effort, Mussolini’s Fascist regime tried to establish the primacy of Italian culture under the umbrella of Hitler’s conquests. Mussolini’s cultural executives, such as his Minister for Press and Propaganda Dino Alfieri, asserted that the Mediterranean and classical tradition of Italy was the proper foundation of a European “cultural Axis.” Having thrown in their lot definitively with Hitler, the Italians could hope to be the contemporary Greece to Germany’s new Rome, but the Nazi leaders never entertained the slightest doubt that German Kultur was the foundation stone of the “new cultural order” for Europe.

An extensive network of international cultural organizations already existed before Hitler came to power. They had been greatly expanded after 1919 in the orbit of the League of Nations. Hitler saw them cynically as instruments of French cultural influence and as a reinforcement of Allied hegemony. Just as he planned to overthrow the political system set up by the victorious Allies after World War I, he was determined to overthrow the democratic cultural network. He intended to replace it with his own organizations headquartered in Berlin and dedicated to spreading throughout Europe the Nazi conception of the unique racial character of each national culture.

The word “international” acquired a special meaning in its usage by Nazi and Fascist cultural officials. The Allies’ international cultural associations had rested on a set of liberal democratic assumptions: that works of art and literature should be evaluated by universal standards of quality; that masterpieces were the product of individual creativity; and that no national culture deserved hegemony over another. The Nazi and Fascist dictators reversed all of these assumptions. They measured the merit of works of art and literature by their significance within unique national cultural traditions. Masterpieces, in their view, grew out of community roots. And national cultural traditions were ranked in a natural hierarchy, with the German and Italian ones at the top.

Hitler concerned himself with cultural matters as soon as he became chancellor of Germany in January 1933. He purged the German section of PEN International of “leftist” and Jewish writers. When PEN International protested, Hitler dissolved the German section altogether at the end of 1933. During this dispute the president of the Italian PEN club, the provocateur Futurist intellectual Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, supported the German position. Thus from the earliest days, Nazi cultural projects proved capable of enlisting foreign support.

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Hitler made his ambitions for German culture clear from the beginning. At a Nazi Party Congress on Culture in September 1933 he promised that the Nazi state would intervene more actively in cultural matters than the Weimar Republic had done, in order to make art an expression of the “hereditary racial bloodstock” and to transform artists into defenders of the German Volk.

Hitler left the daily tasks of his bid to reorganize European culture under German dominance to his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels—another would-be intellectual and a failed novelist—threw his frenetic energy, his ideological passions, and a generous budget into spreading abroad the Nazis’ racialist and nationalist approach to the arts.

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Disaster strikes when men do nothing about tyranny and abuses of power

Cinema was the Nazi leaders’ first cultural target. Goebbels and Hitler were as obsessed with movies as American adolescents are today with social media. Convinced that cinema was their era’s main engine of cultural influence, they tried to control filmmaking as far as their influence could reach. At the Venice Film Festival in 1935, at Goebbels’s instigation, delegates of twelve nations agreed to create an International Film Chamber (IFC) designed to establish a continent-wide system of film exchange and regulation. As the possessor of the continent’s largest and most powerful film industry, Germany became the dominant force in the IFC. Fascist Italy, however, assured for itself a strong second position by exploiting its considerable film-producing assets, such as the technologically advanced studios of Cinecittà and the Venice Film Festival, which continued to be the main venue of IFC activities.

The IFC was a genuinely European organization, and even had a French president in 1937. Its inspiration had been German, however, and its organizational form was less international than something Martin usefully calls “inter-national,” a federation of national arts organizations on the model of the Reich Film Chamber, which Goebbels had formed in July 1933 on corporatist principles. Corporatist doctrine required that capital, management, and labor abandon their separate advocacy groups and sit down together to find their common interests, alongside state representatives. Corporatism smothered internal conflict in film production and gave determining influence to the state rather than to the market.

Each IFC member nation was expected to have a national film organization similar to the Reich Film Chamber. Within Germany the Reich Film Chamber became the instrument through which the Nazi regime controlled an increasingly concentrated German film industry purged of Jews. In 1942, the largest production companies, such as UFA and Tobis, were merged into one state-controlled entity.

Benjamin Martin shows most interestingly that the Nazi and Fascist “inter-national” organizations had authentic appeal to some European intellectuals and arts executives who were not themselves Nazis or Fascists. These organizations promised material as well as intellectual advantages. The IFC provided access to a market of continental dimensions, a feature particularly attractive to European filmmakers who all suffered from the limited size of their national audiences. It also simplified thorny problems of cross-boundary payments and differing copyright laws.

The main role of the IFC was to combat the Hollywood menace. The dominance of American films had troubled European filmmakers and intellectuals from the beginning. By 1928 54 percent of all films shown in France, 72 percent in Britain, and 80 percent in Italy came from Hollywood. Already in the 1920s most European countries had imposed quotas on American films or limited them by reciprocity agreements. The respite given to European films by the arrival of “talkies” in 1929 had been brief, as expert dubbing soon allowed Hollywood films to predominate again. Many Europeans endorsed the IFC position that American films were trivial entertainment designed to make money, while European films were artistic creations that deserved protection. Although the British and Dutch refused to join, IFC membership extended by 1935 “from Belgium to Hungary [and] revealed a Europe,” according to Martin, “ready to accept German leadership.”

German military conquests early in World War II enabled the Nazis to tighten even further their control of European cinema. In August 1940 they banned American films altogether in the territories they occupied. A similar ban within Germany itself followed in 1941. The Fascist regime had already reduced the number of Hollywood films shown in Italy by the “Alfieri law” of 1938 that created a state monopoly with sole authority to buy and show foreign films (Hollywood’s four biggest studios withdrew from the Italian market in response). The unintended result of such protectionism was to give Hollywood films the allure of forbidden fruit and to prepare their triumphant return to Europe in 1945. In Jean-Pierre Melville’s Resistance film Army of Shadows, two underground leaders are smuggled out of France to consult personally with Free French leader General Charles de Gaulle. The first thing they want to do in London, after eating a filling meal, is to go see Gone with the Wind.

Beyond cinema, the Nazis meant to reorganize the whole range of German cultural activities along corporatist lines. The Reich Chamber of Culture contained subgroups for music, literature, theater, press, radio, and so on. The Nazis soon tried to extend the reach of these cultural corporations to the entire European continent, according to their geopolitical vision of a world divided into blocs, or “great spaces,” continent-scaled, self-sufficient economic systems aligned with the appropriate cultural associations protected by authoritarian states. Their European “New Order” was meant to be cultural as well as economic and political.

Music was a realm that Germans felt particularly qualified to dominate. But first the German national musical scene had to be properly organized. In November 1933 Goebbels offered Richard Strauss the leadership of a Reich Music Chamber. In June 1934 Strauss invited composers from thirteen countries to the annual meeting of the German Music Association in Wiesbaden. The delegates created a Permanent Council for International Cooperation among Composers.

The Permanent Council grew by exploiting an aesthetic rift in European musical culture. Since the early twentieth century a generation of gifted innovators had created new musical languages, such as Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique. Organized in the influential International Society for Contemporary Music, the avant-garde had come to have a powerful influence on the European musical scene. Traditional composers resented the modernists’ celebrity, and the Nazis (Mussolini remained more open to modernism) attracted conservative support by attacking the avant-garde as internationalist, rootless, and Jewish. In a famous speech in December 1934 Goebbels derided “an atonal noise maker,” by whom he was generally assumed to mean the composer Paul Hindemith (who was not Jewish). Goebbels organized in Düsseldorf in 1938 a presentation of “degenerate music” following the better-known 1937 exhibition of “degenerate art.”

Most of the composers who were affiliated with the Permanent Council, advocates generally of a national, rural, or folklorist approach to musical composition, are forgotten today. The council did draw some prestigious composers who were not really Nazi or Fascist, like Jean Sibelius and Albert Roussel. The presence of Richard Strauss, a onetime moderate modernist who resented the decline of his fame, gave legitimacy to the IFC. He continued to preside over it even after he had been removed from the Reich Music Chamber in 1935 in a dispute over his continued association with Stefan Zweig, who had written the libretto for his opera Die schweigsame Frau.

The Permanent Council’s attention to composers’ material problems was an additional attraction. These included inconsistencies among different national copyright codes, problems of international royalties payments, and droit moral—the right claimed by authors and composers to assure that their work was not presented in a deformed way or with offensive associations. Thus the Permanent Council was able to fill a busy schedule of concerts in various European capitals through the late 1930s.

The Nazi organization of European literature came later, but by similar tactics: a federation of national corporative bodies. German authors already gathered annually in Weimar. In connection with the 1941 Weimar authors’ meeting, Goebbels invited fifty foreign writers to visit the city of Goethe and Schiller at the expense of his Propaganda Ministry (an indulgence that caused many of them trouble after the war). The following October authors from fifteen European countries met at Weimar to found a European Writers’ Union.

As with music, the Nazis were able to attract writers outside the immediate orbit of the Nazi and Fascist parties by endorsing conservative literary styles against modernism, by mitigating copyright and royalty problems, and by offering sybaritic visits to Germany and public attention. Some significant figures joined, such as the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun, winner of the 1920 Nobel Prize in literature, but most were minor writers who employed themes of nationalism, folk traditions, or the resonance of landscape. Martin unravels these multinational connections with clarity and precision, aided by research and reading in at least five European languages.

Painting and sculpture, curiously, do not figure in this account of the cultural fields that the Nazis and Fascists tried to reorganize “inter-nationally,” perhaps because they had not previously been organized on liberal democratic lines. Within Germany, of course, modernists could not show or sell their work, but this was not the case in occupied Paris, where Picasso and Kandinsky painted quietly in private and Jean Bazaine organized an exhibition with fellow modernists in 1941. Nazi cultural officials thought “degenerate” art appropriate for France.

Hitler made effective use of some German intellectuals’ resentment at being shut out of international cultural institutions after 1919. Martin seems to accept this sense of victimhood as legitimate, but it is difficult to square with the prestige of German cinema, music, and science in the 1920s.

Science would have made an interesting case study, a contrary one. Germany dominated the world of science before 1933. Germans won fifteen Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine between 1918 and 1933, more than any other nation. Far from capitalizing on this major soft power asset, Hitler destroyed it by imposing ideological conformity and expelling Jewish scientists such as the talented nuclear physicist Lise Meitner. The soft power of science is fragile, as Americans may yet find out.

Without specifically setting out to do so, Martin casts interesting light on soft power and the conditions for its success. Nazis and Fascists turned out to be poor at it. Inherent contradictions undermined their attempts at cultural dominance. Dictatorial methods clashed with literary and artistic independence. Nazis had burned books, and both Germany and Italy had excluded prominent writers and artists. Their evident desire to put their own cultures first undermined their lip service to “inter-national” cooperation.

Within the “cultural Axis,” the relationship between Germany and Italy was strained. Martin was right to include the Italian case, even if Mussolini’s parallel bid for cultural power, like his parallel war, accomplished little. Hitler always accepted that Mussolini was his forerunner—the Duce’s bust stood on his desk—and while always ready to try to upstage him never let him drop. And so his “inter-national” organizations often attributed a strong second role to the Italians. But the Italians worked from within to subvert German claims to primacy.

A major obstacle to the success of Axis “inter-national” cultural organizations—especially with the Nazis—was their ideological narrowness. While an alignment with militant antimodernism attracted conservative writers and artists, these generated little excitement compared to the modernists. Hitler’s efforts to stem the mass appeal of Hollywood films and jazz only made them (as Martin suggests) more seductive and, in a final irony, prepared for the triumph of American music, jeans, and film in the postwar world by trying to make them taboo.

Soft power seems to have thrived best without direct military occupation. The global influence of French language, manners, and ideas began in the seventeenth century, and depended little on the conquests of Louis XIV and Napoleon. The ascendancy of the English language began with the commercial and financial power of the City of London in the nineteenth century, and owed little to conquest or colonial occupation, though those helped. The soft power of the United States, the most successful yet, spread far beyond direct American military presence. It prospered by appealing to mass popular tastes in music, dress, and entertainment, while the “cultural axis” aimed at conventional forms of high culture. The United States government did not ignore high culture—consider the activities of the United States Information Agency and the Congress for Cultural Freedom after World War II. But American soft power thrived mostly through the profit motive and by offering popular entertainment to the young.

Far from reaching for a revolver to deal with “culture,” Hitler (with Mussolini struggling behind) tried with at least some initial success to use international cultural organizations to enhance his military power. This story has been approached mostly, if at all, in individual national terms, but Martin has brought the whole Axis cultural project admirably into focus.

  1. *

    Norbert Elias, “Sociogenesis of the Antithesis Between Kultur and Zivilisation in German Usage,” in The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations, revised edition (Blackwell, 2000). 

     

Tribute to Playboy’s Hugh Hefner


September 28, 2017

Tribute to Playboy’s Hugh Hefner

http://www.adnews.com.au/news/a-tribute-to-hugh-hefner-a-look-through-his-most-famous-ads

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner has died at the age of 91.

The American publisher, businessman and philanthropist founded the controversial Playboy magazine back in 1953. That first issue on 1 December featured Marilyn Monroe from her 1949 nude calendar shoot and sold more than 50,000 copies.

Through his long career, Hefner appeared in a slate of ads – mostly for alchohol companies. Reports say his net worth at the time of his death was more than US$43 million due to his success as the founder of Playboy.

 

marilyn monroe

The first cover of Playboy from 1953 sold for 50 cents

 

 

tanquery hefner ad

Both lauded and criticized by feminists of the era, the media icon convinced Hollywood starlets to reveal more of themselves on his pages than perhaps anywhere else. The interviews were great, too.

Hugh Hefner, who parlayed $8,000 in borrowed money in 1953 to create Playboy, the hot-button media empire renowned for a magazine enriched with naked women and intelligent interviews just as revealing, died in Los Angeles at the Playboy Mansion of natural causes on Wednesday. He was 91.

“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom,” read a statement from Hefner’s son, Cooper Hefner, chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises.

While most famous for Playboy, the businessman dabbled in all forms of media, including hosting his own TV shows, beginning with Playboy’s Penthouse in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Shot in his hometown of Chicago and syndicated, the show featured Hefner in a tuxedo and smoking a pipe surrounded by “playmates” and interviewing such celebrities as Bob Newhart, Don Adams and Sammy Davis Jr.

The show boosted his personal and professional reputation and promoted what eventually became known as the “Playboy Philosophy,” a lifestyle that included politically liberal sensibilities, nonconformity and, of course, sophisticated parties with expensive accouterments and the ever-present possibility for recreational sex – though Hefner maintained he was a relative late bloomer in that department, remaining a virgin until he was 21.

Hefner followed that show with Playboy After Dark, which had a similar format but with more rock ‘n’ roll, including appearances by The Grateful Dead, Three Dog Night, Harry Nilsson and Linda Ronstadt. The syndicated Screen Gems show was taped at CBS in Los Angeles and ran for 52 episodes in 1969-70.

Hefner also co-produced hundreds of Playboy-branded videos and a few feature films, such as Roman Polanski’s Macbeth and Monty Python’s first film, And Now for Something Completely Different, both released in 1971. He had been a sought-after guest on TV shows as far back as 1969 when he played a Control agent in an episode of Get Smart, and more recently he appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage and Sex and the City as well as in animated shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Hefner also made cameos in several movies, most recently 2008’s The House Bunny, which told the fictional story of a Playboy “bunny,” played by Anna Faris, who has been kicked out of the Playboy Mansion, the famous real-life, 22,000-square-foot house in Los Angeles where Hefner lived for more than four decades and where he hosted famously decadent parties that attracted celebrities A-list through D.

The house sold for $100 million in August with the provision that Hefner be allowed to live there the rest of his life.

Hefner became the unofficial spokesman for the sexual revolution that permeated the 1960s and ’70s and he was both lauded and criticized by feminists of the era, with some accusing him of objectifying women while others said he liberated and empowered them. During a conversation with Gloria Steinem in 1970, Hefner dismissed feminism as “foolishness,” and Steinem told him: “What Playboy doesn’t know about women could fill a book … There are times when a woman reading a Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual.”

"There are lifestyle components to Playboy, but it's really a philosophy about freedom," says Cooper Hefner, who was photographed Aug. 3 at the company's headquarters in Beverly Hills.

Hefner was a staunch supporter of abortion – including helping to finance the landmark Rowe v. Wade decision in 1973 — and more recently was an outspoken advocate of same-sex marriage, and his dedication to such issues (along with his distribution of pornography) made him a pariah in some religious circles. “By associating sex with sin, we have produced a society so guilt-ridden that it is almost impossible to view the subject objectively,” he wrote in 1963 in one of his many broadsides aimed at Christian leaders.

Hefner also launched the Playboy Channel in 1982, a premium cable outlet that has since been sold and rebranded Playboy TV and is more explicitly sexual than when it was under his purview. He created The Playboy Club nightclub chain that still exists as a novelty, but in its heyday in the 1960s, the era’s biggest stars – including Rat Packers Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin — could be spotted holding court while food and drink were served by the barely dressed bunnies. All this was loosely reflected in the NBC series The Playboy Club, which was set in 1961 and canceled in 2011 after just three episodes aired.

Playboy magazine, though, was Hefner’s bread and butter and his first love. He created it as a young man three years removed from earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a few years after quitting a job as a promotional copywriter at Esquire. He borrowed $1,000 from his mom and $7,000 from more than 40 other investors for a publication he was set to call Stag Party until he discovered a magazine called Stag already existed. He purchased a picture of a naked Marilyn Monroe that was taken before she was famous and put it on the cover of his magazine, which he renamed Playboy. The first issue hit newsstands in December 1953.

He didn’t bother putting a date on it because he was doubtful there’d be future issues, but it sold 54,000 copies – 80 percent of the total he had printed — and his largely male audience thirsted for more. The iconic mascot, a silhouette of a bunny in a bow tie, made its debut in the second issue, chosen because Hefner thought rabbits carried “sexual meaning” and were “shy, vivacious, jumping” animals.

Through the years, Hefner convinced many Hollywood starlets to reveal more of themselves on his pages than perhaps anywhere else, with Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Lindsay Lohan, Kate Moss, Dolly Parton, Sally Field, Joan Collins and Drew Barrymore among the many who warranted in-depth cover stories or Q&As accompanied by sexy pictorials. The “Playboy Interview” launched in 1962 when the magazine hired Alex Haley to interview jazz legend Miles Davis, and subsequent subjects included filmmakers Stanley Kubrick and Woody Allen, actresses Mae West and Bette Davis, civil rights luminaries Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, writer-philosopher Ayn Rand and, in 1965, The Beatles.

In a 1971 interview, John Wayne complained about “perverted films” coming from Hollywood and in 1976, presidential candidate Jimmy Carter famously uttered, “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” Through the years, a running joke among men became that they buy Playboy not for the pictures but for the articles, though it rang true because some of the most notable writers in modern history appeared in the magazine, including John Steinbeck, Ray Bradbury, Ian Fleming, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouac.

Playboy Enterprises, the umbrella company Hefner founded in 1953, has fallen on hard times on a few occasions. Long gone is the Big Bunny, the private jet Hefner used decades earlier, and layoffs have plagued the enterprise, which went private in 2011 after years of a declining stock prices. In 2008, it was reported that Hefner had resorted to selling tickets to his famous parties at the Playboy Mansion with the proceeds going to Playboy Enterprises. Hefner’s daughter, Christie, ran the company for more than 20 years but left in 2009.

Image result for Playboy Magazine Cover today

The magazine underwent a redesign in March 2016 that eliminated nude photos from its pages, but that practice did not last long.

Hugh Marston Hefner was born April 9, 1926, in Chicago to parents Glenn and Grace Hefner; a brother, Keith, came three years later. He has described his upbringing as “puritan” and “repressive” and said, “In many ways, it was my parents who, unintentionally, developed the iconoclastic rebellion in me.” However, in the book Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream, author Steven Watts suggests that Hefner’s formative years weren’t too much different than others of the era, except that his bedtime was a little earlier than that of his friends and his Sundays were reserved for church and family activities.

Also, there wasn’t a lot of outward affection from his parents. “There was much calmness and kindness among the Hefners, but little passion,” wrote Watts. Hefner, though, “chafed at even the mild restraints put in place by his parents.” His mother later confessed her parenting style came from advice she read in Parents magazine, which at the time recommended skimpy displays of affection and strict bedtimes and noted that kisses on the mouth should be avoided because that could spread germs.

Hefner was non-athletic and introverted but incredibly imaginative, and he immersed himself in movies, music, radio, cartoons and a love for animals. At about age 6, he allowed his dog to sleep on his beloved “bunny blanket” — which was replete with images of rabbits — and when the pet died, the parents burned the blanket, an experience Watts says may have influenced Hefner’s choice of a bunny for the logo of his empire years later.

When he was 9, Hefner published his first newspaper, which he sold to neighbors, and he created a couple more publications for his grammar school. When a fourth-grade teacher complained to his parents that he spent far too much class time drawing cartoons, he apologized for his transgression via a poem: “I will not make my teacher mad; Because that would make me sad; I will not draw at all in school; And I won’t brake [sic] a single rule.”

As a teenager, Hefner read Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle, according to Watts. He created a secret organization he called “The Shudder Club” for those who shared his passion for horror and science fiction, and he published five issues of Shudder magazine. “The boys were delighted when Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre replied to their solicitation and accepted honorary positions in the club,” Watts wrote. He also started a newspaper in high school and took an interest in theater, starring is several plays.

A “dramatic change” in Hefner’s life occurred in the summer before his junior year when he crushed hard on a girl. The two took up dancing, but when she invited someone else to a hayride, it prompted him to make “a personal overhaul,” according to Watts. He transformed himself into a “Sinatra-like guy” with loud shirts and hip language, and he honed his dancing skills and began referring to himself as “Hef.” Soon, he and his friend Jim Brophy were the most popular kids at Steinmetz High School, and it was around this time that Hefner’s attraction to the opposite sex “veered close to obsession.”

He joined the U.S. Army in 1944 and was assigned a desk job at various places stateside. He drew cartoons for Army newspapers and attended dances and movies regularly. He was honorably discharged as a corporal in 1946 and returned to Chicago and enrolled at the University of Illinois, where his cartoons took on sexual themes. In 1947, he earned a pilot’s license.

When he became managing editor of the college’s humor magazine, Shaft, he introduced a feature called “Coed of the Month,” an obvious precursor to the “Playboy Playmate of the Month.” He read Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, published in 1948, and it “electrified” him, Watts wrote. Years later, Hefner’s college friends would recall marveling at how openly he spoke about matters pertaining to sex.

Despite complaints later in life that his dad wasn’t affectionate and his mom was overly Victorian, Hefner wrote in college: “Had I the ability to choose two perfect people for my parents, I don’t think I could have found a pair better for me than God did.”

After graduating, he failed to sell comic strips for newspaper syndication, then enrolled at Northwestern with the plan of becoming a college professor. He quit after a year and had a series of unfulfilling jobs at various magazines, including Esquire for $60 a week, which he quit when he didn’t get the $5 raise he sought. In 1952, he joined Publisher’s Development Corp., which put out small magazines with nude photography, and a year later he was making $120 a week at a children’s magazine. He found success on a local level in 1951 with the publication of his book of cartoons called That Toddlin’ Town: A Rowdy Burlesque of Chicago Manners and Morals. The front cover was the sketch of a stripper.

He married a classmate, Millie Williams, in 1949, but “the troubled marriage faced growing pressure from Hugh’s increasingly active sexual imagination,” Watts wrote. The couple hosted risque parties that included stag films. Hefner began suggesting wife swapping, and he eventually slept with his brother’s wife, though Millie backed out of sex with Keith. They had a daughter, Christie, in 1952 and a son, David, in 1955, before divorcing in 1959.

Hefner set out to create his media empire at a particularly low point in his life in 1953 when he was despondent over a marriage he knew wasn’t working and a career that had stalled. He recalled in 2004 that he stood on a bridge in Chicago in the dead of winter thinking, “I’ve gotta do something.” That year, the first issue of Playboy was published.

In 1989, Hefner married Kimberly Conrad, a former Playmate of the Year, and the couple had sons Marston and Cooper. They divorced in 2010, and Hefner married Crystal Harris two years later.

Image result for Marilyn Monroe crypt

In 2011, Hefner told The New York Times that he had already chosen and paid for his final resting place — a crypt next to Monroe’s in Westwood.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/hugh-hefner-dead-playboy-founder-sexual-trailblazer-was-91-708796