Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion in LA is up for sale, but will this handing over of the keys to the kingdom betray secrets from its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s? The decadent dwelling, known for its lascivious parties, has hosted everyone from Warren Beatty to Shia LaBeouf, Nancy Sinatra to Kim Kardashian. But when it’s sold, at least one thing stays behind…
Hugh Hefner – known as “Hef” – purchased the Holmby Hills neighborhood mansion in 1971 for $1 million from chess player and space engineer Louis D. Statham. Its celebrity neighbors have included Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. Amazingly, the party palace is now worth 200 times its original amount.
There was a time when 12 or more Playboy bunnies lived at the dream house. These sex symbols, irrevocably tied to the Playboy brand, were a staple of the parties. So were the requisite “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.”
Built in 1927, the infamous home’s most legendary parties took place during the disco era and the Reagan years, with Hefner celebrating every holiday on the calendar. Mardi Gras, Fourth of July, Halloween and New Year’s Eve (as these photos show) were some of the mansion’s most off-the-hook nights.
To celebrate the arrival of the new decade, the 1980s, Hefner threw a star-studded pajama party with photos revealing his guests in silk robes and underwear and a spate of barely dressed vixens. Hef, as usual, greeted them in his trademark bathrobe.
Celebrities attending the 1980 soirée included Cher’s ex Sonny Bono, big actors at the time like Dudley Moore and Robert Culp, media heiress Patty Hearst, Motown producer Berry Gordy, football player Jim Brown and basketball giant Wilt Chamberlain.
Fireworks often lit up mansion parties. Guests saw exotic birds such as flamingos, toucans, peacocks and macaws roaming the grounds, and over 100 squirrel monkeys in a massive cage. Unsurprisingly, Hefner paid for a year-long fireworks permit and even secured a zoo license.
Hef’s pleasure palace is one of the few residences in Greater Los Angeles with a license to host such exotic pets, which increases the myth surrounding the veritable den of iniquity. Hefner’s also always been associated with the bevy of scantily clad women who surround him and the ragers he threw at his mansion.
When “[Hefner] throws a party, he really throws a party,” said the presenter of ABC’s 1979 part documentary, part variety show Playboy’s Roller Disco & Pajama Party. Speaking from one of the fetes, the same host raved that if “this is your first time here, you’re gonna have the time of your life.”
And they were unforgettable times for many guests including such superstars as John Lennon, who in the ’70s – around his “lost weekend” period – is said to have put his cigarette out on a Matisse painting. Hefner almost barred him from ever re-entering the mansion again!
With 29 rooms, a home theater and a wine cellar, the notorious LA residence replaced the original Chicago Playboy Mansion, which debuted in 1959. Stories of the West Coast fixture’s golden years often feature its famous grotto.
The grotto is an underground waterway where bunnies lounged and naughty things were said to have happened. This unique space, along with the mansion pool appeared as the backdrop for many a steamy Playboy magazine image spread.
The mansion’s notoriety and symbolism as a pleasure-seeker’s first-choice for non-stop revelry has made it a popular film and television location shoot as well. The well-known celebrity home has made cameos in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Sex and the City and of course playah-friendly HBO show Entourage.
The Playboy Mansion also had hidden passageways to connect it with other famous neighbors’ homes, such as those of well-known Hollywood romeos Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, as well as Kirk Douglas and James Caan. Apparently, those decadent tunnels were shuttered in 1989, according to a member of the mansion staff.
Neither Hefner nor the representatives of the legendary actors wanted to comment about the passageways, increasing the debaucherous mystique surrounding the mansion. It’s safe to say that things have quieted down in the 90-year-old’s later years – at least by Hef’s standards.
Despite looking happy in party photos and videos and receiving $1,000 in cash each week from Mr. Hefner, some bunnies complained about living at the mansion. Furniture was in need of repair and more sordidly, bedding and mattresses were apparently used and soiled.
Actor Rob Lowe told Esquire he attended a Superbowl party at the mansion at age 19, just a few years after this party happened. “There must have been five or six Playboy centerfolds splayed about the cozy den, wearing very provocative and skimpy outfits,” he said, later describing how he chatted with a naked bunny in the grotto while a Hall of Fame football star had his way with her.
Tales of unbridled hedonism are a thing of the past for the mansion although their verboten halo remains around Hef. With the rise of the internet and online porn, Playboy magazine also changed – its U.S. edition no longer features photos of nude women. The property’s air of secrecy and exclusivity has also waned as it’s been hired out for public events.
Still, the burned Matisse painting on one of the mansion’s walls, along with the well-worn bedding remain reminders of the mansion’s more tempting and taboo glory days in the fearless and unguarded ’70s and ’80s. Stories behind other features of the mansion stay with its famous owner, but not for long…
Hugh Hefner will air all his dirty laundry firsthand to you if you’re willing to pay the $200 million price tag for his luxurious home. He has no plans to leave the party pad that made him the envy of so many men. A condition of the sale includes allowing the editor-in-chief of Playboy magazine to remain its most famed resident. Hef apparently has no other place to go, or just doesn’t want to go anywhere else. Would you?