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Chicago Artist Who Created Playboy Bunny Remembers Hef

By Alisa Hauser | September 28, 2017 12:51pm | Updated on September 28, 2017 1:09pm
 Former Playboy art director Art Paul.
Former Playboy art director Art Paul.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

CHICAGO — The creator of the iconic Playboy bunny logo and the magazine's first employee remembered on Thursday his old colleague and friend Hugh Hefner following the publisher's death.

"He had such strong faith in good design, in his own judgment, and that of those he hired. He was the best of employers always," said Streeterville resident Art Paul, who Hefner hired as the magazine's first art director.

Paul said when he first met Hefner, he was struck by "his near-manic passion for innovation, whirlwind ambition, and blind persistence."

He said he had "near-total creative freedom as his art director" which "was very rare in those days."

As they prepared to launch the first issue in December of 1953, they worked closely to come up with a look that would be unique.

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"Hefner bravely agreed to my cover design with elements that were all no-no’s in those days: it was done in black and white with few cover blurbs and a very open design," recalled Paul.

The photo of a smiling Marilyn Monroe "was the antithesis of the standard cover-photos then of haughty, sleek models," said Paul.

Paul, who grew up in Rogers Park and studied at the School of the Art Institute and the Illinois Institute of Technology's Institute of Design, has said that the famous rabbit logo almost began life as an adult male deer because Hefner wanted to call the magazine Stag Party.

It took Paul about an hour to draw the world-famous bunny.

Paul worked at Playboy until he retired in 1982, including at the company's original headquarters at 11 E. Superior St. and then later in the old Palmolive Building.

On Thursday, he remembered Hefner as "a very gentlemanly fellow, and despite his reputation, very proud of his children and loyal to his parents, brother, and ex-wives."

Hefner was 91 when he died Wednesday in California.

"With both of us old and unable to travel, I had hoped we would nevertheless somehow see each other one more time before we were gone, but it was not to be," said Paul, 92.

"I still have vivid memories of what an adventure Hef made of every project he initiated — not in the “racy” way that people imagine, but in allowing people to do their best work, which is the best of adventures. He will be missed."