The Story Behind Marilyn Monroe's Nude Photos in the First Issue of Playboy
Many people know that Marilyn Monroe was the first cover girl and centerfold of Playboy magazine, but few know the details of how her nude photos ended up in the inaugural issue of Hugh Hefner's publication in 1953. In this article, we will explore the history and controversy behind the iconic images that launched a media empire.
Marilyn Monroe, who was born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, had a difficult childhood and a turbulent career in Hollywood. She rose to fame in the early 1950s with roles in films such as Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire. She was known for her beauty, charisma and sex appeal, but also struggled with personal issues, such as failed marriages, substance abuse and mental health problems.
In 1949, before she became a star, Monroe posed nude for pinup photographer Tom Kelley for $50. She was desperate for money and needed to pay her car loan. She made Kelley promise that she would not be recognizable in the photos and signed her name as "Mona Monroe" on the release form. Kelley later sold the photos to a Chicago-based company for $900, and they were published as part of a "Golden Dreams" calendar in 1952.
Hugh Hefner, who was a former journalist and copywriter, saw an opportunity to capitalize on Monroe's popularity and the public's curiosity about her nude photos. He bought the rights to the photos from the company for $500 and used them as the centerpiece of his new magazine, Playboy, which he launched in December 1953. He also featured a photo of Monroe smiling and wearing clothes on the cover, along with the headline "The Famous Marilyn Monroe Nude".
The first issue of Playboy was a hit, selling more than 50,000 copies and establishing Hefner as a pioneer of sexual liberation and lifestyle journalism. However, Monroe was not happy about the use of her photos without her consent or compensation. She felt betrayed by Kelley and exploited by Hefner. She tried to downplay the scandal by saying that she had nothing to be ashamed of and that she was not even nude in the photos, but wearing a radio.
Monroe never met Hefner in person, but he claimed to have a special connection with her and admired her as his "ultimate fantasy girl". He also expressed regret for not treating her better or paying her more for the photos. He paid tribute to her by buying the crypt next to hers at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles for $75,000 in 1992. He died in 2017 at the age of 91 and was buried next to Monroe.
Today, Monroe's nude photos are considered as classic pieces of art and pop culture history. They are also highly sought-after by collectors and fans. The original negatives of the photos were sold for $28,000 at an auction in 2001. A copy of the first issue of Playboy with Monroe on the cover can fetch up to $5,000 on eBay. And a digital download of the photos can be easily found online with a simple search. 061ffe29dd