Playmates Expose The Dark Deeds Of Hugh Hefner And Playboy
If you have seen the A&E series about the secrets of Playboy, you will know that something was not right at the ‘Mansion”.
After appearing in an article in Playboy Magazine, Peter Lawford and Don Adams, top buddies of Hugh Hefner, and mansion regulars, contacted our team to build a present for Hugh Hefner’s birthday and deliver it to the Mansion in Los Angeles.
The present was a tribute to Hefner’s girlfriend: Carrie Leigh.
Then things got wild.
An investigator made his first call to a guy named Rosenzweig, whom he knew from “Chicago days.” Talks progressed over a period of several weeks. Ultimately, folks named Glassman and Caruso together worded a series of releases to be signed by Hefner, Eldridge, Bogdanovich, Nell Schaap and Louise Hoogstraten, each of them promising they would never file suit on certain issues again. The Dorothy Stratten murder had a long reach.
More Playmates than you know about have died from gunshots.
Hefner savored what he felt was his victory. “I’m not interested in crucifying Bogdanovich. I’m not interested in sending a guy to prison,” he said one day in the library. “I have no problem with accepting the fact that it came from a combination of his guilt and craziness in combination with being lied to and misled by other people. I don’t have any problem with that. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna pretend in talking to people that the last year and a half didn’t exist.” It was little matter to him that a paperback edition of Unicorn would soon be released. “I knew they would never pursue the suit. The depositions have left Bogdanovich totally exposed,” he said. Just as Bogdanovich had portrayed Stratten and her family as Hefner’s victims, Hefner seemed unable to view the mother and daughter of his murdered Playmate as anything more than Bogdanovich’s pawns. “The supposed reason for dismissing the case is that the pressure is too much on Louise,” he said. “Well, all the pressure has been related to . . . Bogdanovich.”
Caruso, not unexpectedly, painted a different picture. “Hefner just out financed the girl,” he said, adding, “Louise was strictly on the defensive from the first — she should have taken the offense to win,” by delving more deeply into Hefner’s own past. “I would have deposed Hefner for five or six days, six hours a day.” For Louise and her mother, however, the grim realization that the suit would take at least five years to come to trial, that their lives would be overwhelmed by it, was all that mattered. “We never understood what a burden would be caused by filing and prosecuting a lawsuit. For [Louise’s] health and sanity, therefore, I want, simply, please, for all this to be ended,” Nell Schaap said in the press release issued along with Bogdanovich’s. “Winning . . . is not worth even one more day of the pain and suffering involved.” Bogdanovich, in his release, apologized. “I am sorry if Mr. Hefner’s health has suffered because of things I have said or written. He and I were once friends, and I regret any pain Mr. Hefner and Dorothy Stratten’s family have suffered as a result of past disagreements between him and me.”
It appeared Bogdanovich had undergone his share of suffering, though more quietly than his antagonist. Hefner says he learned, on a tip from a Playboy photographer, that Bogdanovich, using a pseudonym, had entered Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai hospital on July 4th complaining of chest pains. A close friend of Bogdanovich’s denies the incident. There were rumors, too, that the director was about to file for bankruptcy. Four months later, Bogdanovich did just that in Los Angeles. According to news accounts, his failed attempt to re release They All Laughed — as a tribute to Stratten — had devastated him financially. In December, the Los Angeles Times reported Bogdanovich was left with $21.37 in the bank and $25.79 in his pocket. His debts, incurred as a result of trying to market and distribute the film, totaled more than $6.6 million against assets of $1.5 million.
Playboy, by comparison, which had accrued legal expenses in the six figures starting with its attempt to challenge Bogdanovich’s manuscript, was unscathed. “Companies have to draw a line in terms of what they’re going to allow an individual to get away with. And this was well beyond that line,” Rosenzweig explained. “Most of our costs were picked up by our insurance company. You understand, the attack was on the corporation, not just an individual. The attack was on the heart of the company — Hefner and Playmates.”
Stepping inside Hefner’s world, which is largely confined to the five acres in Holmby Hills, you sense the way of life he seeks to defend is less sexually liberating and glamorous than frayed at the edges. But Hefner’s vision is rose-colored. “Contrary to what Peter suggests, this house was quite literally a sanctuary for Dorothy,” he says. “It was a way of escaping from her husband and the rest of the hassling that goes on out there. This place has been referred to as Shangri-La. And it is. You get hassled out there — you don’t get hassled in here.”
Tonight, Labor Day Sunday, a typical gathering of middle-aged men and very young women cluster in groups, mostly of their own sex, inside his Gothic house. The standard ratio at Hefner’s house is three women to every man. A fleet of youthful butlers keeps glasses filled and ashtrays emptied. The mansion regulars are gathered: actors with familiar faces whose names, nonetheless, hover just below recall, producers who aren’t producing, athletes for whom the mansion connotes class, teenagers on the cusp of womanhood in search of film careers or unknown thrills — or with nothing better to do. Among the men are actors Robert Culp and Chuck McCann; former football player Jim Brown, who recently beat a rape rap; former L.A. deputy district attorney Vincent Bugliosi, Charles Manson’s prosecutor; director Richard Brooks (In Cold Blood, Looking for Mr. Goodbar); and octogenarian Max Lerner, the gnomic journalist and house intellectual. Lerner stays in a guest bedroom when he’s in Los Angeles and indulges in Playboy-speak, as in, “I had breakfast with Dorothy Stratten the morning she made Playmate of the Year.” This is not Hollywood’s A crowd.
“Nothing’s changed around here in ten years,” says a big man named Gene Shacove, who is wearing matching white parachute-silk jacket and pants. Shacove is standing next to a tiny 1954 Dali — Young Virgin, Auto-Sodomized by Her Own Chastity. Nearby, at the top of the double stairs leading to Hefner’s bedroom, a pumpkin-size bronze sculpture rests on a pedestal. Close examination reveals it to be, unmistakably, an upturned, disembodied vulva. Mansion staffers, who call it the “Brass Ass,” leave notes for one another in the opening. Down the hall a few feet is a large glass case filled with small figurines of a man and woman in every imaginable posture of sexual intercourse. A Midwestern university art professor sculpted the collection.
Shacove was the inspiration for Warren Beatty’s Shampoo character, the Beverly Hills haircutter who loved women. Now, Shacove cuts Hefner’s hair. “Well, one thing’s changed,” he says, after a minute. “In the old days, when you’d ask for a cigarette, they would bring you a pack. Now, you’re lucky if you get one.” Women are invited to these twice-weekly evenings of buffet dinners and movie showings because they are Bunnies in Playboy clubs, or friends of Bunnies, or the reigning Playmate of the Month. Often, they are invited on the basis of a nude Polaroid they sent to the Playboy studios on Sunset Boulevard in hopes of being chosen for a Playmate tryout. Or they are culled from the stacks of Polaroids of women who are photographed naked every Thursday morning in these studios in what amounts to an open casting call. These sessions are the real business of Playboy, the gritty essence of Hefner’s empire. His people bill the free-for-all weekly events as a kind of community service, a “courtesy” toward what they say is a multitude of 500 Playmate hopefuls a year.
Miss Chiquita Banana stands by the bar in a borrowed, backless red leather dress, a bit wobbly in her heels. She’s 18 and, under the makeup, a kid. “I’ve heard a lot of movie producers hang out here,” she whispers, her eyes casting over the crowd. Two young women are strolling a path outside. One carries a Flashmatic camera; she’s in her own Disneyland. Masculine gazes follow them as they pass, conversations falter until they are out of sight. “I don’t know why you keep calling them women,” one male guest snaps unexpectedly. “He never has women up here — they’re girls. I’m not talking about age. They’ve never been anywhere — not even to a great restaurant. They wouldn’t know endive from iceberg.”
It was in the library that Hefner first noticed Carrie, the 20-year-old from Vancouver who was staying in his house while she tried out for a Playboy-cover photo sessio