By · Derek Hawkins
Hefner, who died Wednesday at 91, prided himself as an advocate for the LGBT community, taking public stands on high-profile issues such as sodomy laws, same-sex marriage and transgender rights well into his later years. The anecdote about “The Crooked Man” was little known until 2009 when it was highlighted in “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel,” a documentary on Hefner’s civil rights advocacy.
The year was 1955, and science fiction author Charles Beaumont had, by most accounts, crossed the line with his latest short story.
“The Crooked Man” depicted a dystopian future where homosexuality was the norm and heterosexuals were persecuted minorities. Even the relatively progressive Esquire magazine had rejected the piece because it was too controversial.
But Beaumont found a fan in a young Hugh Hefner, who agreed to run it in his Playboy magazine, then less than two years old.
Outraged letters poured in to Playboy. Even readers of the pioneering nude publication found Beaumont’s tale of straight people dressing in drag and sneaking into dark barrooms to find partners too offensive for their tastes.
Hefner responded to the backlash in a defiant note. “If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society,” he wrote, “then the reverse was wrong, too.”
The move would serve to represent an early example of Hefner’s lifelong commitment to gay rights, and civil rights in general.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Sep 28, 2017 -