Like a lot of guys my age, I grew up — or at least, grew to adulthood — thinking that Hugh Hefner was some kind of demi-god, and I couldn’t think of anything better than being allowed to live in the Playboy Mansion. The impression we had back then was one of constant parties (perhaps even orgies!), drinking, music, and the circulation of hot, bosomy, scantily-dressed women. No, not merely women — Playmates!
Somewhere in my 20s when I actually started meeting women and having sex with them on a regular basis, Playboy became irrelevant to me. At some point I did have a subscription, but I actually did read the articles; Playboy was actually once known for having well-written articles by a variety of popular authors, and insightful interviews with popular and controversial people. But eventually I let the subscription lapse. I think it’s because on some level I understood that Playboy represented a fantasy, an ideal that was not only unachievable, but perhaps not even desirable. I’m reminded of the old expression about a good lover is one who can make love to a new woman every night, but a great lover is one who can make love a different way every night to the same woman.
So except for the occasional news report in which [insert famous female celeb] poses for pictures, I really hadn’t given Playboy any thought in years.
Until a couple of months ago, when there was a big media blogcraze over the 84 year old Hef’s marriage to the 24 year old Crystal Harris.
In the aftermath of the various news and blog articles about how Hef is a geriatric has-been, and how Crystal was another gold-digger, several former Playmates have come out with tell-all memoirs that show the Mansion — and the Playboy lifestyle — as little more than trailer-park living in a high rent district.
Izabella St. James, in her book “Bunny Tales,” revealed some of the most unbelievable aspects of living at the Mansion.
Being a Hefner Girlfriend was a specialised job, not to be confused with being a Playboy Playmate. In fact, Girlfriends were not allowed to become Playmates because Hef had found that they tended to flee the Mansion as soon as they collected their $25,000 Playmate cheque. Girlfriends were given their own bedroom, an allowance of $1,000 a week in cash, a new car, free dental and medical treatment, almost limitless clothes, hairdos, make-up and facials and all the cosmetic surgery they could wish for – Izabella reckons Hef shelled out $70,000 a year on breast implants.
It was a very generous deal in many ways, but it did have its drawbacks. First, there was a strict curfew, so unless you were out with Hef, you had to be back in the hutch by 9pm. Second, while you could order any food or drink you wanted, at any time, from one of the many Mansion “butlers”, you were not allowed into the kitchen, even for a glass of water. And third, of course, you had to live in the extraordinarily dingy Playboy mansion, where all the furniture was falling apart, the mattresses were stained and the carpets were covered in dog poo. I remember visiting it in the early Nineties and being struck by its shabbiness then, and evidently it was the same or worse when Izabella moved in. Part of the trouble might be that Hef does not actually own the mansion; he has to rent it, room by room, from Playboy Enterprises and, according to Izabella, pays $25,000 a month for his own bedroom.
Kendra Wilkinson wrote:
Life at the Mansion was “way more strict than my life has ever been,” according to Wilkinson.
Staff members would keep track of when she, [Bridget] Marquardt and fellow girlfriend Holly Madison left and returned to the Mansion in a book, Wilkinson says – and Hefner would pour over it every morning, which made her “insane.”
Izabella backs this up:
‘Strictest of all was the curfew. Everyone had to be on the Mansion grounds by 9pm every night — unless we were out with Hef at a club or a function. People honestly did not believe us when we told them we had a curfew at the wild and crazy Playboy Mansion.’
And the trailer park aspect?
For Izabella, the Playboy Mansion was far from the glamorous pleasure palace she had imagined. ‘Each bedroom had mismatched, random pieces of furniture,’ she recalls in her autobiography Bunny Tales. ‘It was as if someone had gone to a charity shop and bought the basics for each room.
‘Although we all did our best to decorate our rooms and make them homely, the mattresses on our beds were disgusting — old, worn and stained. The sheets were past their best, too.
‘Eventually I persuaded Hef to pay for a new mattress and bed linen — but I had to turn in every single receipt before I was reimbursed.
‘Hef also eventually permitted us to have the rooms painted and recarpeted. But for some reason he insisted on creamy, white-coloured carpets. He liked the girlfriends’ rooms to look very girly, all white carpet and pink walls.
‘It looked great at first, but with two dogs (most of the girlfriends had pets that lived in their rooms — I had two pugs), butlers delivering food, dirty shoes and occasional spillages, the carpet was grey and stained in a matter of months.’
She adds: ‘But then Hef was used to dirty carpets. The one in his bedroom had not been changed for years, and things became significantly worse when Holly Madison moved into his room with him as Girlfriend No. 1 soon after I moved in, bringing her two dogs.
‘They weren’t house-trained and would just do their business on the bedroom carpet. Late at night, or in the early hours of the morning — if any of us visited Hef’s bedroom — we’d almost always end up standing in dog mess.
‘Everything in the Mansion felt old and stale, and Archie the house dog would regularly relieve himself on the hallway curtains, adding a powerful whiff of urine to the general scent of decay.’
Seriously, Hef? A multi-million dollar international outfit, and you can’t get he girls new mattresses every few years? Not that they would get worn out, since the girls weren’t allowed to date, and even sex with the big guy himself was infrequent.
The buxom blonde says “of course” she and the Playboy founder were intimate, but notes she often only saw him once a day – in passing.
“Besides the nights we went out, I only saw Hef, like, once a day walking through the halls to his office. There were never solo dates,” she said.
And when Hef finally did get busy?
“One of the girls asked me if I wanted to go upstairs to Hef’s room. In my head I could hear my mom’s voice, ‘You know they have orgies there.’ I said ‘Okay, if I have to.’ It seemed like every other girl was going and if I didn’t it would be weird. One by one, each girl hopped on Hef and had sex with him for about a minute. I studied their every move. Then it was my turn, it was very weird. I wasn’t thinking about how much older Hef was, all the body parts worked the same. I wanted to be there.”
If any guys are still reading this and hoping that this is all a bad dream, here are the parting words of Izabella:
“I wanted to see if this experienced King of Sexdom knew anything the rest of us did not. But he just lay there like a dead fish. We often wondered why he did it at all. He must know deep down that it is just a show. But he is trying to live out this fantasy he has been selling to people since 1954.”
Now, I certainly don’t feel sorry for the women who
were paid received an “allowance” of $1,000 per week in cash in exchange to have a world-famous sugar daddy, to live in a nice area in the city, and to occasionally have free cosmetic surgery (mainly boob jobs). But it really makes you wonder about the type of woman who would consent to live in the manner described her for any length of time, let alone the several years that many of the women managed.
Ironically, Hefner used to make a point about espousing his quasi-hedonistic Playboy Philosophy, and while it’s hard to believe now, was actually culturally relevant back in the 1960s. Young men growing up in the 1960s and 1970s saw Hef as one of the ultimate “cool” guys, and stories (more likely rumors) of the escapades at the Chicago headquarters were legion. That’s why I have to admit that even though I hadn’t thought about Playboy in years, and in fact, had long believed the entire thing to be a charade, I do have to admit to being just a little disappointed to discover that the Playboy lifestyle has become nothing more than a sad and pathetic anachronism.