Hefner bought Marilyn Monroe's nude shots from a calendar company.
In 1949, Monroe was a poor aspiring actress. To pay her rent, she posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley. He paid her $50 for the shots. Within one year, Monroe was hitting it big, acting in such classics as Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve. By then, Kelley had already sold the risqué pictures to Western Lithograph Company, a calendar company.
Hefner bought the pics for $500.
At the time, he’d never even met Monroe, but he knew that her nudes would cause a sensation. He bought the nudes from Western Lithograph and made them the first Playboy centerfold, leaving Monroe and her studio scrambling for explanations.
The Playboy issue was a huge scandal.
Marilyn was a big star, already ranking on the top highest paid celeb lists of the time. As 20th Century Fox, Monroe’s studio at the time scrambled for a way to combat the controversy, Monroe came up with a solution.
She did an interview explaining that she was broke at the time and desperately needed the money. The public bought it, and Monroe’s star rose higher than ever. She and Hefner eventually became friendly, but…
This was basically a celeb nude hack.
Monroe never actually consented to have those pictures on Playboy. Yes, she did a nude shoot, and yes, she did it with the expectation that it might resurface at some point, but she didn’t consent to have it on a nation-wide magazine. Which is what Playboy became. Hefner had essentially capitalized on the fact that Monroe’s nudes would cause a scandal.
Hefner used Monroe to propel himself to fame, which was problematic, given Marilyn Monroe was a survivor of sexual abuse.
Marilyn was abused as a child by a male boarder in one of her foster homes and shuttled from home to home primarily because the men in those homes kept propositioning her. She was a child at the time. She married when she was sixteen (also abuse, fyi) and then spent a career being sexually bullied and intimidated by her co-stars and directors.