Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hugh Hefner, Teen Cartoonist

The playboy of the Western World at age 16.
Jane Sellers and Hugh Hefner, 1943.

They dated each other’s best friend when they were in high school together in Chicago. When Jane Sellers moved to California in 1943 her sixteen year-old school pal, Hugh Hefner, began writing to her. Their friendship and correspondence endured for sixty years.

July 2, 1943. "When I said I was a man of liesure
(I still don't know whether I'm spelling this right)
I wasn't kiddin." Many of Hef's letters to
Jane Sellers at this time were festooned
with cartoons in the margins.

“At 16, I knew he was destined to do amazing things, so I saved every scrap of paper he ever sent or gave me,” Jane Sellers later said.

Recording For Jane.
"Please excuse opposite side of this paper
- but the only thick paper that I have like
this has zoology on the other side. Sorry!"

Hefner, the student council president at Steinmetz High School, was voted Most Likely to Succeed, Most Popular Boy, Best Orator, Best Dancer, Class Humorist, and Most Artistic. He would bring his humor and artistic talent to bear on a series of cartoons depicting daily life at Steinmetz.

My Day.
"We would go by his house to see who which of our boyfriends were cheating," Sellers recalls. Hefner, apparently, took notes during the day about what his classmates were wearing and doing and sketched them in the evening, a new strip every night detailing school events. The strip was titled School Daze.

The Gang.

The strips are just a small part of Jane Sellers’ Hefner archive, which was acquired by rare book dealer Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis. I asked Kahn how he wound up snagging this singular collection.

A Typical Hefner Day at Steinmetz. At lower right, Hef
(he was calling himself that in High School)
writes "See Portrait of Hugh on Back."

“I was called over to examine a scholarly Egyptology collection owned by a lovely (and somewhat ‘glam’) octogenarian. I couldn’t help but notice that she had an entire bookcase of Playboy-related material (books, records, and many binders). I figured that she had been a bunny circa 1958 or so. I finally worked up the courage to ask her why she had what appeared to be a very large Playboy collection. She said, "Oh, Hef and I went to school together...I dated his best friend and he dated mine. We've been friends for 60 years or so. I really need to do something with the collection, too." One thing lead to another and I ended up cataloguing it and am working on placement.”

Hef as soft-shell clam: Self-Portrait,
on back of My Typical Day at Steinmetz.

In addition to the comic strips, the collection includes 166 multi-page typed or autograph letters; books on and about Hefner; invitations to various parties at the Playboy mansion; news clippings on and about Hefner; Playboy music; form S-1 for Playboy’s IPO; the first issue of Playboy, signed (twice) by Hefner; unique photographs; and much more.

"Here I am, goin' home after a hard day's work
at school, on the Star, and practicing the play.

(I get home around 6)."

“It is, Kahn asserts, “ simply put, the deepest and most personal collection of material related to arguably the most significant cultural icon of the 20th century.”

Playboy issue #1. Contemporaneously signed by Hef
with his high school cartoon self-image,
perhaps the ONLY Hefner signature
to not feature his standard bunny doodle.


A pdf of the full catalog of Jane Sellers' Hefner archive is available for the asking:

Lux Mentis, Booksellers
Antiquarian & Fine First Editions - Specializing in Library/Collection Development
110 Marginal Way, #777
Portland, ME, 04101

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