Roger Ebert pays tribute to a man who deserves it very much:
As Hefner speaks, you realize that he believes in civil rights and liberties so deeply that it's instinctive. Many people shared his politics in the 1950s and early 1960s, but not many of them ran corporations that (a) depended on mass audiences, and (b) stood to lose business because of political beliefs. When it came to African-Americans in his clubs or on his TV show (or as his centerfolds), Hefner did the right thing without calculation, and paid a financial penalty. When the (endless) Playboy Philosophy argued for change, it is unlikely he gained a single reader. But he outlined and defended a progressive philosophy. And when magazine interviews were often revolting puffery about celebrities, he went long and in detail with people like Malcolm X, Bertrand Russell, Ayn Rand, Jean-Paul Sartre, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Marshall McLuhan. The fact is that sex made money for Hefner, and he used it to produce one of the best magazines in America.
Hear, hear. And More.
He also spent money to free a man who faced a 50-year prison term for...fellatio. And helped overturn laws that made fellatio and cunnilingus a crime in all 50 states (for which many of us must be grateful). He fought against laws punishing homosexuality and interracial marriage. He supported Lenny Bruce's fight against an obscenity arrest in Chicago. He fought obscenity prosecutions brought by such as Charles Keating, founder of the Citizens for Decent Literature. He won. Berman's doc cannot resist juxtaposing shots of Keating lecturing on morality and Keating in handcuffs being led to prison for bank fraud. Hefner's Playboy Foundation fought for civil liberties in general. The cost for these activities came out of his profits, and that didn't give him a moment's pause.