Hugh Hefner had a thing for blondes.
You could see it if you spent Sunday nights watching him on the hit E! reality show “The Girls Next Door” from 2005 to 2009.
The co-stars living with him in the Playboy Mansion looked like Barbie pinups — Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson and Bridget Marquardt.
But Marilyn Monroe? She was his “first” blonde. And if the plans Hefner laid many years ago come to pass, he will spend eternity next to her. The Playboy publisher died Wednesday at age 91.
The Daily Mail reported that Hefner’s body was driven away from the Playboy mansion early Thursday morning “to begin the journey to his final resting place next to Marilyn Monroe.”
In 1992 Hefner spent $75,000 to buy the crypt next to Monroe’s at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles. The actress died in 1962.
“I’m a believer in things symbolic,” Hefner told the Los Angeles Times. “Spending eternity next to Marilyn is too sweet to pass up.”
The two reportedly never met. But when he launched Playboy in 1953, Hefner bought a nude photo of her for a reported $500 from a Chicago calendar company and used her as his first “Sweetheart of the Month,” or Playmate, as it later became known.
She appeared on the magazine’s first cover, too, wearing clothes.
“First time in any magazine, FULL COLOR, the famous MARILYN MONROE NUDE,” the cover exclaimed.
Monroe, he would say years later, “set the standard” for the magazine.
“I’m a sucker for blondes, and she is the ultimate blonde,” he once said.
In 2008 he told E! News the story behind that nude Monroe photo, taken four years before Hefner published it.
“The picture was something that had been shot before,” Hefner told E! “It was a calendar photo shot by (pinup photographer) Tom Kelley. Most people had heard about it, but almost nobody had seen it, and nobody had seen it because the post office had taken the position that you couldn’t send nudity through the mail. And I’m the kid that didn’t think the post office had that right.”
In grand understatement, he said the Monroe nude, which she never gave Playboy permission to use, “caused a sensation.”
In 2011 The New York Times Magazine wrote that Hefner’s “greatest piece of luck was his choice of the first centerfold. It remains by far the sexiest of all Hefner’s pinups.”
“It was a brilliant purchase for a magazine just being born — America’s newest star caught lushly in the nude, posing coyly on a red velvet drape,” journalist David Halberstam wrote in a 1993 story on Monroe.
In her 2016 book “Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock and Fear, and Why,” author Sady Doyle noted the toll that nude picture took on the actress.
It turned Hefner into an instant celebrity, Doyle wrote, but Monroe had to apologize for it and “feared for her career.”
Her acting career took off a year after she posed for the nudes, which she did as a 23-year-old struggling actress needing money. She was so embarrassed that she reportedly signed the release form “Mona Monroe.”
She later said her photos made their way into a pinup calendar that made millions after she became famous when all she got was a $50 modeling fee — enough for a monthly payment on her secondhand car, Halberstam noted.
Doyle called Hefner’s purchase of the crypt next to Monroe’s “a gruesome joke ... ‘sleeping with’ the woman he’d almost ruined, and doing so without her consent — claiming her in death, as he’d claimed the right to exploit her in life.”
Monroe herself seemed to have mixed thoughts on her famous Playboy appearance.
“I never even received a thank-you from all those who made millions off a nude Marilyn photograph. I even had to buy a copy of the magazine to see myself in it,” she said in “Marilyn: Her Life in Her Own Words” by George Barris.
“I admitted it was me who posed for that nude calendar even when the Fox executives became nervous and believed this would cause the ruination of any films I would appear in and also the end of my movie career.
“Of course they were wrong. The fans, my public, cheered when I admitted it was me, and that calendar and that Playboy first-issue publicity helped my career.”