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Hugh Hefner Crippling Back Infection Started Decline in Health

9/29/2017 1:00 AM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

Hugh Hefner started having serious back issues about 2 years ago, and it was all downhill from there as far as his health ... TMZ has learned.

Sources close to the Playboy founder tell us he already had back problems in his late 80s, but it got much worse when he got an infection. We're told it was so debilitating for Hugh, he could barely walk without assistance and was bedridden soon after.

That's when his public appearances became extremely rare ... one of his last was at the Mansion in May 2016 to announce Playmate of the Year, Eugena Washington

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago ... our sources say Hef caught a bug, and in his still weakened condition, his immune system simply couldn't fight. We're told it was a mild illness, but family and friends knew it would probably be too much for him.

Hugh was surrounded by loved ones when he died ... including, we're told, his sons Marston and Cooper, his daughter Christie and 2nd wife, Kimberley Conrad.

Hugh Hefner's Sons Mourn Legendary Father's Death

9/29/2017 6:39 AM PDT

Hugh Hefner's sons were solemn after chowing down ... understandably after losing their legendary father.

We got Cooper and Marston Hefner Thursday night leaving Katsuya in L.A. They were there with a few family members as they waited for valet to bring them their ride.

We asked them about plans for the final Playboy Mansion bash.

Paps offer condolences but the boys are mostly mum. As we reported ... new and old mansion staff will return to the mansion to remember the boss.

Hef died peacefully Wednesday in his famous L.A. home. He was 91.

Miss Sept. Jessica Wall I Was Hef's Last Playmate Pick ... My Mind's BLOWN

9/29/2017 12:50 AM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

Hugh Hefner still had a hand in Playboy's centerfold biz as his health was failing ... according to Miss September, who's floored she'll now be mentioned in the same sentence as Marilyn Monroe.

Jessica Wall -- who's 34-24-35 from Chicago -- tells us she was the final pick for Playmate Hef made before his death. She says it really hit her that she was now ending a tradition that started with Marilyn way back in 1953.

However, she hopes the Playboy mogul will be remembered for much more than handpicking hot women to grace his magazine. She explained why he was so much more than that.

While it's a good bet she'll be at the final Playboy Mansion party -- Jess says she and the Playmates have something else cooking to honor Hef. Good luck getting it out of her though. No loose lips, here.

Hugh Hefner Playboy Mansion Staff Reuniting To 'Memba the Boss

9/29/2017 12:30 AM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

You can tell Hugh Hefner was seriously beloved because even his former employees are rallying to celebrate his life. 

Our Playboy Mansion sources tell us ... staff members, new and old, started planning the reunion almost immediately after Hef died Wednesday. We're told 2 former butlers created a Facebook group that night to put the band back together -- employees, Playmates and Hef's children are all invited.

We're told the employees -- many of whom were featured in "The Girls Next Door" -- wanted to get together out of respect for Hef and the close-knit environment he created at the Mansion. Although many of them were laid off 2 years ago, we're told they still treat each other like family.

The staff event will be off-site from the Mansion, and is separate from the final tribute party to Hefner. 

WWE's Torrie Wilson: Hef Was a Genius Playboy Changed My Life!

9/28/2017 4:22 PM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

Ex-WWE superstar Torrie Wilson is celebrating Hugh Hefner's life -- telling TMZ Sports she's incredibly grateful for everything Hef and Playboy did for her career. 

Wilson famously graced the cover of Playboy twice -- once in 2003 and again in 2004 -- and says the magazine took her already booming career to the next level. 

But her favorite Playboy memories? It's all about the mansion ... telling the guys on the "TMZ Sports" TV show she'll always remember the crazy parties at Hef's place. 

"I'm so glad that I have those stories for the rest of my life."

Check out more of Torrie tonight on "TMZ Sports" on FS1. 

Donna D'Errico Hef Was More of a 'Family Man'

9/28/2017 2:45 PM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

Former Playmate Donna D'Errico says Hugh Hefner will be remembered as a kind and generous man -- and she's emotional about missing her final chance to see him.

The "Baywatch" star, and Miss September '95, told us Hef's public persona only tells part of his story. She says behind the scenes he was a warm, caring man who treated Playboy models like family ... and still looked out for them years after they'd appeared in the magazine.

Donna also expressed regret about a decision she made over the summer ... explaining how she missed seeing Hef to say goodbye.

It won't be the same, but as we first reported, there's still one final Playboy Mansion party for Donna to pay her respects.

Hugh Hefner Death One Last Playboy Mansion Party in His Honor

9/28/2017 11:45 AM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

Hugh Hefner's not going out without one more legendary Playboy party ... TMZ has learned planning is underway for a celebration of his life at the Mansion.

Sources close to Daren Metropoulos -- the Pabst heir who bought the mansion last year -- tell us he's going to sign off on a party for Hef sometime soon. We're told the get-together will be more of a tribute to the Playboy founder's life ... and less of the standard Playboy blowout bash.

Daren needs to OK all parties since he made the purchase.

We broke the story ... Daren bought the Playboy Mansion last year for a cool $100 mil, on the condition that Hef could live there for the rest of his life. Sources say he plans on combining an adjacent estate he owns with the Mansion and restoring both to their OG condition. 

As for the birds, monkeys and other animals that call the mansion home ... we're told they'll all stay on the property when Daren moves in.

Daren released a statement Thursday on the passing of Hef, saying ... "Hugh Hefner was a visionary in business, a giant in media and an iconic figure of pop culture whose legacy will leave a lasting impact." 

Hugh Hefner Tons of Playboy Ties and Celebs In His L.A. Burial Spot

9/28/2017 11:21 AM PDT

Hugh Hefner will be in good company in his final resting place -- the cemetery where he'll be buried is filled with more celebs than the Holmby Hills 'hood where he lived in the Playboy Mansion.

Hef bought the crypt next to Marilyn Monroe years ago at the Westwood Memorial Park Cemetery -- but she's just the start. Merv Griffin, Farrah Fawcett, Florence Henderson and Rodney Dangerfield are also nearby. 

Farrah graced the cover of Playboy in 1978 and then again 1995, when she also posed naked inside. There's also at least one other famous playmate of the month and centerfold buried there, too.

HINT: She was Playboy's "Miss January 1955."

Over on Hollywood Boulevard, a less permanent memorial went up Thursday morning ... the Chamber of Commerce placed a wreath over Hef's star.

Hugh Hefner's Crypt The Guy Next Door To Marilyn Monroe

9/28/2017 6:52 AM PDT

Hugh Hefner's so-called "better place" is waiting ... and it's right next to the woman who helped him launch Playboy.

Hef bought the crypt to the left of Marilyn Monroe's in L.A.'s Westwood Village Memorial Park. He dropped $75k on the burial spot way back in 1992 -- and once said, "Spending an eternity next to Marilyn is too sweet to pass up."

Marilyn, the cover girl for Hef's first issue of Playboy, has been there since her death in 1962.

Fun-ish fact: Marilyn's ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio, used to own the crypt above hers -- but sold it when they got divorced in 1954.

Pamela Anderson Tearful Goodbye to Hef ... You Gave Me Life!

9/28/2017 7:30 AM PDT

Hugh Hefner held up a piece of paper with Pamela Anderson's name on it, and a heart drawn around it, the last time she saw him ... which Pam revealed during a sobbing farewell to the Playboy founder.

Pam, arguably the most famous Playmate, was crying with her eye makeup running when she posted the message for Hef, saying ... "I am me because of you / You taught me everything important about freedom and respect. Outside of my family / You were the most important person in my life / You gave me my life..."

Pam's October 1989 Playboy cover launched her career, and she became Playmate of the Month in February 1990 -- and she's remained extremely close to Hef ever since.

She says he was in such failing health the last time she visited that Hef didn't want her to see him. As we reported, Hef's condition had seriously deteriorated before his death Wednesday.

Pam thanked the Playboy legend for making the world "a better place. A freeer and sexier place."

Hugh Hefner DEAD AT 91

9/27/2017 8:25 PM PDT
Breaking News

Hugh Hefner -- who founded Playboy and turned it into a globally iconic brand -- is dead at 91.

Playboy says Hugh died peacefully at home Wednesday, surrounded by loved ones.

Hefner's health had been in serious decline over the last year and he's not been seen in public for some time. His passing comes just over a year after his brother, Keith, died battling cancer.

Playboy magazine catapulted Hef into a cultural phenomenon ... paving way for the iconic Playboy Mansion that quickly became known for its legendary parties.

As TMZ reported ... Hefner parted ways with the pad in August 2016 ... selling to Pabst Blue Ribbon heir Daren Metropoulos for $100 million. But the sale had one condition -- Hefner could live in the mansion without the new owner's meddling until Hefner died.

Hefner married 3 times -- first to high school sweetheart Mildred Williams in 1949 ... then former Playmate of the Year Kimberly Conrad in 1989 ... and finally Crystal Hefner in 2012. She's 31.

His third marriage came 4 years after breaking up with longtime GF Holly Madison. He's survived by 4 children -- Christie and David from his first marriage and Marston and Cooper from his second marriage.

Hefner founded Playboy in 1953 with Marilyn Monroe gracing the first cover. The magazine landed huge celebrities for years to come -- including Cindy Crawford, Kim Basinger, Pamela Anderson, Madonna, Sharon Stone, Naomi Campbell, Carmen Electra, Drew Barrymore and Kim Kardashian.

The magazine stopped publishing nude photos in 2016 but went back to them in February of this year after Hugh's son, Cooper, was named chief creative officer.

The mag also had a strong pull with some amazing writers -- including Gabriel García Márquez, Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami.

Hugh Hefner Fans Pay Respects At the Mansion Gates

9/28/2017 8:04 AM PDT

Hugh Hefner was so revered his fandom crossed generations ... and they all gathered in front of the famed Playboy Mansion moments after news of his death broke.

Fans descended on the Mansion Wednesday night, and there was a little bit of everything -- from hot chicks mourning in silence and bros wearing smoking jackets to a young family.

Yes, a father of 3 brought his kids, including his 8-year-old daughter, to the mansion ... and explained why it was a can't-miss pilgrimage for them.

Hefner died peacefully in the Mansion at the age of 91.

Les Moonves & Randy Jackson Our Friend Hugh Hefner ... Was Iconic, Revolutionary

9/28/2017 7:42 AM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

Hugh Hefner was ahead of his time, but not because he put hot women in centerfolds -- and that's what Les Moonves and Randy Jackson will remember about him.

We got the CBS honcho leaving Craig's Wednesday night in WeHo, and Les had seriously high praise for Hefner. You know that running joke, "I only read Playboy for the articles"? Les says there's a lot of truth behind it, and for good reason.

As we reported ... Hefner died peacefully at his home. He revolutionized the magazine biz -- partly with Playboy's famous photos, but also by attracting amazing writers. 

Hef's leadership is what Randy admired the most.

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