By Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Canadian models and friends of Hugh Hefner remembered the Playboy mogul Thursday as an “extraordinary” man whose legacy reached far beyond the magazine he founded.
Toronto filmmaker Brigitte Berman, who made a documentary about Hefner in 2009, said she was devastated to learn that he had died Wednesday night at the age of 91.
“He was a very funny man and very, very bright,” she said in a phone interview.
“He knew everything that was going on, he was extraordinary and extremely loyal to all his friends.”
She said Hefner granted her full access to his personal archives during the making of the film. He didn’t try to interfere with what she was doing, she said.
When he saw the finished product for the first time at the premiere, Berman said a reporter asked Hefner to comment on some of the negative things that were said about him onscreen.
“Hef laughed and said ‘I thought there would be more,’” Berman recalled with a laugh.
Berman, who described Hefner as a good friend, said she doesn’t feel the Playboy brand was exploitative towards woman, although she concedes that some women see it that way.
But her film, “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel,” points out that Hefner also helped advance the civil rights movement by helping young African American entertainers break into show business and publishing controversial opinions nobody else would touch.
“He broke so many taboos, he did so much for civil rights,” she said. “People who were branded communists and (that) nobody else would have on television, he had them on.”
Anne-Krystel Goyer, a former model from Quebec who posed for Playboy in 2009, said she met Hefner on two occasions and remembers him as “classy.”
“He was a gentleman, a man with high class and he was very gentle with the girls,” said Goyer, now 31. “I think every man should be like him.”
Canadian Playboy models Pamela Anderson and Shannon Tweed also paid tribute to the magazine’s founder on social media.
In a black-and-white Instagram video, Anderson can be seen wiping her eyes and tearfully saying goodbye. Her makeup is smudged around her eyes and she appears to have been crying.
In a long accompanying caption, she calls Hefner the most important person in her life outside of her family.
Tweed posted a photo on Instagram of a younger Hefner smoking a pipe, where she simply wrote that he changed the world.
Anderson rose to fame after being the magazine’s Playmate of the Month in 1990. She went on to appear in Playboy several times. St. John’s, N.L., native Tweed was Playmate of the Year in 1982 and briefly dated Hefner before meeting long-time partner and Kiss frontman Gene Simmons.
In Anderson’s emotional tribute, she recalls that Hefner was using a walker the last time she saw him.
The B.C. native writes that she was frequently told she was his favourite Playboy bunny.
“You said the magazine was about a girl like me,” she said. “That I embody the spirit you fantasized about.”
She goes on to credit him for her success and happiness.
“Everything anyone loves about me is because you understood me,” she said.
— With files from Caroline St-Pierre in Montreal and Maija Kappler in Toronto.