BUNNY TALE: The Rise And Fall (And Rise) Of Playboy

playboy club

Hugh Hefner built an empire built on glitz, skin and bunny tails.

But Playboy hasn’t always had the easiest time staying relevant and in the black.

Last night’s premiere of NBC’s “The Playboy Club” — complete with a voiceover from Hefner himself — aimed to shore up the brand’s icon factor.

It smartly hearkens back to Playboy’s most glamorous era — and it’s almost enough to make us forget about the company’s ups and downs.

Almost.

1953: Hefner launches the magazine out of his kitchen. Issue one, which quickly sells out nationwide, costs 50 cents and features photos of Marilyn Monroe originally shot for a calendar.

1960: The first Playboy Club opens in downtown Chicago.

1966: Playboy solidifies its reputation for literary excellence. Over the next decade, under the tutelage of fiction editor Robie Macauley, it will excerpt John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates and Kurt Vonnegut, among scores of others.

1969: Bob Guccione launches Penthouse, the first true Playboy competitor. Hefner no longer has the market cornered, but he's still gathering momentum...

1972: Playboy's sales peak with the November issue, which sells 7.1 million copies. At this point, 25 per cent of male American college students are reading the magazine every month.

1988: Hefner's daughter, Christie, becomes head of the company. Under her tenure, circulation takes a hit, thanks to 1980s video porn and 1990s lad-mag launches (Stuff, FHM, Maxim).

1995: Playboy gets a boost from the lifting of a longtime ban -- for the first time, Ireland agrees to sell the magazine on its newsstands.

2005: As online porn keeps chipping away at Playboy, Hefner makes a move into reality TV, signing onto a VH1 reality show that follows the Mansion-set lives of him and his various girlfriends. For the same reasons you clicked on this article, it runs for six seasons.

2008: At year's end, Christie Hefner announces she's stepping down.

2009: As print media at large struggles, Playboy slashes two issues from its publication calendar. Hefner sells the home next to the Mansion at a $10 million loss. rumours circulate that Hef is shopping the company at the price of $300 million.

March 2011: With the help of an investor group, Hefner takes Playboy private in a $207 million deal.

May 2011: About seven years too late, Playboy puts its complete archives online.

June 2011: Hefner's marriage to Playmate Crystal Harris is called off when the bride backs out just days before the wedding.

Now check out the greatest moments in Julianna Margulies's history.

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