NEW YORK • In life, they never met, but the two will now lie side by side in death.
Hugh Hefner, 91, who died on Wednesday, will be buried beside the woman who helped turn him into a publishing mogul and cultural force: Marilyn Monroe.
When he launched Playboy in 1953, he decided to use a nude photo of Monroe as his inaugural Sweetheart of the Month - the predecessor to Playmate. "I feel a double connection to her because she was the launching key to the beginning of Playboy," Hefner told CBS Los Angeles in 2012. "We were also born in the same year."
In 1992, he spent US$75,000 to purchase the crypt beside Monroe's in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.
He told the Los Angeles Times: "Spending eternity next to Marilyn is too sweet to pass up."
The Monroe photo came into Hefner's hands in a roundabout way. Years before, she was starting her career and was in need of money after acting gigs dried up.
She posed nude for a pin-up photographer, who sold the pictures for US$900 to Western Lithograph.
They made their way into a Golden Dreams pin-up calendar which made millions, especially after Monroe's career took off.
"All I was ever paid for that nude calendar photograph was the fifty dollars (I got) as the original modelling fee," said Monroe, who died in 1962 at age 36.
Hefner paid US$500 for one of those nude images, plus another clothed photo, to launch his magazine.
"(His) greatest piece of luck was his choice of the first centrefold," The New York Times wrote.
"It remains by far the sexiest of all Hefner's pin-ups."