Inside Playboy's first New Year's Eve party post Hef

Hugh Hefner’s parties were legendary and I’ve been lucky enough to have attended my fair share but, in my mind, all bets were off for this year’s annual New Year’s Eve party considering Hef’s recent passing. So, when I received a text from his son Cooper, the magazine’s chief creative officer, asking if my email address was correct for sending an invite, I was surprised and elated. I knew the event wouldn’t be held at the L.A. Playboy Mansion since it had been sold and, from reports, everyone had to vacate the premises by December 27. So I anxiously awaited the news and then THE email arrived.

I was thrilled to see that Cooper had used one of his dad’s favorite pinup artists, Olivia De Berardinis, to again create the invite image. A scantily clad woman wearing Bunny ears, a fluffy tail and a sheer negligee invited guests to join him (Cooper) at a NYE party at the historic Culver Hotel, dress code “black tie, ball dress or lingerie required.” I went straight to my calendar and carved out time for Chuck and me to join the party!

We saw the hotel from a mile away since the iconic Bunny logo was projected onto a two-story wall like a “bat signal” (Cooper’s words) (see video here). Security was tight and paparazzi had already staked out positions in front. Once inside the smallish ballroom, there was no mistaking you were at a Playboy party. Costumed Bunnies mingled with the crowd taking photos (see video here) and PB logos were projected onto the walls with videos of magazine covers streaming inside. (I was happy to see that my February 1979 cover, the one I recently recreated, was one of the images chosen–see video here)!

The Culver Hotel, an historic boutique property located in West Los Angeles, was built in 1924 and once owned by John Wayne. It has a rich and romantic past and has played a distinguished role in cinematic history having hosted cast members from iconic movies such as Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz to modern day productions like this one, Cooper’s first solo New Year’s Eve party.

Inside the six-story, 46 bedroom hotel, there are lots of cozy nooks and crannies (see video here). Seating outside allowed guests the opportunity to dine under strands of twinkling lights and upstairs, at another chic bar, Playboy memorabilia was displayed in a glass case including the magazine’s first and most famous “Marilyn” issue. Playboy photographs adorned every wall and a Playboy Club Key allowed you access to a special room called the Bunny Cave. A buffet offered comfort food– grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup and more, including a long table filled with desserts. Hors d’oeuvres were served throughout the evening.

I decided on black-tie attire although I have indeed dressed in lingerie at past parties. This year, I felt the occasion required more civility and, I was happy to see, most all the other guests, around 300 or so, did too. Actually, it was one of the most elegant Playboy parties we’ve ever attended. Beautiful young women who looked and dressed like supermodels attended alongside handsome young men all decked out in tuxes. Cooper and his gorgeous fianceé, actress Scarlett Byrne, set the tone.

Cooper looked like a hip 50’s throwback to his dad’s heyday–black tuxedo, pegged, short, perfectly-fitted slacks and a crisp white shirt and bow tie. Scarlett was decked out ala Audrey Hepburn wearing a gorgeous floor-length green/turquoise gown with a low, v-shaped neckline and a simple strand of pearls. They never left each other’s side the entire night and could often be seen gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. It was a delight to see Cooper so happy and with a partner who clearly loves and supports him.

Entertainment was outstanding and something exciting seemed to be happening at any given moment. Showgirls in silver top hats danced to “Puttin on the Ritz” (see video here), a hot band (Night Owl) had everyone on the dance floor, a singer from “America’s Got Talent” (?) (a friend of Cooper’s and Scarlett’s whose name I missed) sang Sam Smith’sToo Good at Goodbyes” to rousing applause, and more dancers performed other numbers throughout the evening.

Playmates seen in the crowd included Jessica Wall (Sept. 2017), Milan Dixon (Oct. 2017), Tiffany Toth (Sept. 2011) and Summer Altice (August 2000).

A section of the ballroom had been cordoned off for Cooper and his family with a couple of security guards keeping a close watch. His mother, Kimberly Conrad Hefner (Playmate of the Year 1989), brother Marston and their grandmother were all in attendance. I didn’t see any aging actors or scantily clad women like Hef’s parties used to attract. I believe the crowd at this year’s soireé accurately reflected the changing of the guard, both for Playboy and the magazine, one with a new, more youthful vision that embraces change.

After the party was in full swing, I noticed a new edition to Cooper’s group–Tiffany Trump, President Donald Trump’s and his ex-wife Marla Maple’s daughter. She was much taller than I expected and clad in a figure-hugging, strapless, short, sparkling gold cocktail dress. She was hugged by all as her two security guards stood watch. It made me wish I had a security guard too since it seems everyone had one but me.

Cooper and Scarlett, along with guests, spent a lot of time on the dance floor. He even coaxed his mom Kimberly out for a number or two. I never saw Tiffany leave the security enclosure.

As the countdown to midnight began (see video here), the iphones came out to record the historic moment–historic on many levels, the first post-Hef party, Cooper’s first job as sole Playboy party host as well as a brand new year. The event exceeded all my expectations. Sparklers lit up the room as black and white videos of Hugh M. Hefner’s legendary life were projected onto the walls (see video here). Chuck and I were ecstatic to be witnesses and honored to be guests. Cooper whispered something so sweet in my ear that it brought tears to my eyes but this will remain my little secret.

Following the celebration to ring in the New Year, Cooper took to the stage. He thanked guests for attending and choked up when he spoke of his late father. I love the way he wears his heart on his sleeve and think this type of sensitivity bodes very well for Playboy’s future.

No one wanted to leave the party. It was a night for remembering the past and looking forward to a bright new era. It was a night to honor Hef and the remarkable legacy he left us. And I, for one, can’t wait to join Cooper and Playboy on the next exciting leg of their journey.

(To see Playboy Mag’s NYE coverage, click here).

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