I just opened up the paper and read the sad news, the famed Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills has been sold. Fortunately Hugh Hefner is still living in it. How must he feel knowing his next door neighbor and new owner, Daren Metropoulos, can't be wishing him good health since the sale stipulates that Hef remain in the house until his death?
I shake my head over the history this famous house has seen. I wish, as I did when the Playboy Mansion in Chicago was sold, that one of these historic properties would've been turned into a museum. Whether you liked Playboy or not, whether you liked Hef or not, one fact remains--he changed the world.
I don't have room in this column to list all he's done: early civil and gay rights advocate, gave a first voice to renowned authors; championed freedom of speech and freedom of choice....I could go on but you get the point. He opened the door for the sexual revolution too, which I'm sure we all appreciate.
I've spent many happy moments in that magical place. The Mansion sits on 5.3 acres, has 22 rooms, is the only residence in the area with a grandfathered in zoo license, is nearly 22,000' ft., has a wine room, the famous Grotto and, of course, the Bunny House where visiting Playmates would stay.
I remember my first visit to the Bunny House. Holly Madison was Hef's girlfriend at the time and, during a filming of "Girls Next Door", she wanted to show us all the renovations she'd done to it. Basically, this amounted to painting everything pink and plastering the walls with Bunny logos. (Not too imaginative, but he kindly let her do whatever she wanted at the time).
I remember my first visit to the Mansion too, then called Playboy Mansion West. (He owned the original Playboy Mansion in Chicago until 1975 or so, where I was lucky to be a resident for a while). It was in 1976 after I'd been chosen Chicago's Playboy Bunny of the Year. The International Bunny of the Year Pageant was televised on ABC and the winning Bunnies from all the clubs were invited to attend and participate (all expenses paid). A grand party was held at the Mansion to celebrate and I remember some of the celebrities in attendance-- Warren Beatty, O.J. Simpson, Redd Foxx, the Hudson Brothers, Don Adams, Leroy Neiman and more. Hef took photos with every Bunny, or so it seemed and was, as always, the perfect host and gentleman.
What struck me was that, as grand as this tudor-style property was, it was surprisingly cozy and charming. A huge bust of Barbie Benton by Frank Gallo was the prominent feature in the living room, she had found the house for Hef and, at the time, he paid around $1 million for it. (It sold for $120 million according to recent reports). The artwork was beautiful with lots of personal photos scattered throughout.
I've been to many Playmate Reunion parties there too, where no expense was spared. Tables heaping with food, bars everywhere (with surprisingly adorable male waiters). It was always a thrill and an honor to be invited. I've saved every single invite I've ever received. Early on, elaborate invitations would arrive in the mail...near the end, an evite was the best we could expect.
I've been to the Mansion for intimate gatherings too. One of my favorites was a cozy get-together with a few of the Playmates from the '70s. We sat around a table overlooking the perfectly manicured backyard and just chatted about old times. It made me feel good to make Hef laugh. He has the best sense of humor and is still, at age 90, sharp as a tack.
I was there with my dear friend Patti McGuire Connors (1977 Playmate of the Year), her darling daughter Aubree Connors, Debra Jensen Mcmurry (Miss January 1978), Alison Reynolds (his longtime friend) and Monique St. Pierre (1979 Playmate of the Year). Even though Hef was frail, he still had that twinkle in his eye and lit up at the sight of his "old" friends.
It was a moment I'll never forget. He also signed a lot of my memorabilia (magazines, pageant programs, etc.) which I treasure. I remember how thrilled I was to see a framed photo of Hef and me roller-skating together at a past party hanging on a wall.
Lucky for me, I'll always have these memories. I'm just sorry that those wonderful trips to the Magical Mansion have come to an end. I'm blessed that I'm still friends with many of my beautiful fellow Playmates and safe in the knowledge that, even though the Mansion may be gone, we will always have Playboy.......I hope Hef lives to be 200 too. Let's see how patient the new buyer will be then.
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