World Mourns Hugh Hefner: The Playboy Legend Is Dead at 91

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A legend is dead. 

Hugh Hefner, the celebrated founder of the iconic Playboy magazine, died Wednesday in his Los Angeles home. He was 91.

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The magazine released a statement saying Hefner died of natural causes at the Playboy Mansion while surrounded by family.

Starting in 1953, Hefner's brand — in the founder's own words — ignited "the flame that became the sexual revolution" as it grew into a pop culture behemoth.

The magazine became a launchpad for countless stars and a means of injecting new life into flagging Hollywood careers. As such, celebrities of all stripes reacted with heartache after learning their pal "Hef" had passed away.

"RIP to the legendary Hugh Hefner," Kim Kardashian, who appeared on the cover of his magazine in 2007, tweeted after hearing the news. "I’m so honored to have been a part of the Playboy team! You will be greatly missed! Love you Hef! Xoxo"

Jenny McCarthy, a star and 1993 "Playmate of the Year," tweeted: "RIP  Thank you for being a revolutionary and changing so many people's lives, especially mine. I hope I made you proud."

Even political figures were touched by Hefner's life.

"Hugh Hefner was a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. We shall never forget him. May he Rest In Peace," wrote Jesse Jackson.

Hefner's footprint extended into the age of reality television, as well. The E! reality show The Girls Next Door debuted in 2006 and followed Hefner and three of his live-in girlfriends, Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson and Bridget Marquardt.

After Hefner's death, Wilkinson said in a statement: "Hef changed my life. He made me the person I am today. I couldn’t be more thankful for our friendship and our time together. I will miss him so much but he will be in my heart forever."

Marquardt tweeted: "So sad but forever grateful for all the wonderful memories and amazing experiences."

Madison, whose memoir Down the Rabbit Hole painted a dark picture of her time in the Playboy Mansion, has not issued a statement as of Thursday morning.

Hefner's Playboy touched millions of average Americans over generations, as well. Many of them gathered at his star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame to pay tribute late Wednesday.

"Definitely an icon," one Hef mourner told KCBS. 

Mourners also traveled to the Playboy Mansion to pay their respects at the gates, where Star Track Tours owner Jeff Napshin said tourists were moved to grief when they learned of Hef's passing.

"When they finally saw it and they saw the helicopters and all that and I told them the name of the person that died, I think it hit them," Napshin said. "I mean people make jokes, Hugh Hefner and all that... but when you think about who he is and what he's done, huge huge guy. And to be here the night he passed away, it's a big deal."

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Hefner leaves behind a wife, Crystal Harris, and four adult children: Sons Cooper, Marston and David and daughter Christie, who took over control of Hefner's corporate empire in the late 1980s.

Son Cooper immediately released a statement following his father's death, which read:

"My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom.

"He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history."

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