You’d be a bunny to buy this den of debauchery
Houses for sale sometimes come with pot plants, or perhaps some furniture. But if you buy the Playboy Mansion, a sleazy octogenarian in silk red pyjamas is part of the deal.
The famed party lair is for sale for $285 million, as long as Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is allowed to continue living there until his death.
Given that he’s now 89, it presumably won’t be too long. It’s not clear whether Hefner’s latest wife – a platinum blonde called Crystal – is included in the package.
The Californian mansion has long been a key part of the Playboy empire because it is a concrete symbol of the hedonism and sexual freedom the bunny brand espouses.
Parties held in the lavish mansion and extensive grounds were once legendary. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, busty lingerie-clad women mingled with A-list stars such as John Lennon, Jack Nicholson and Kirk Douglas.
Being part of “Hef’s” inner circle was a fast-track to fame and riches for many young women. Things certainly have changed.
Now parties are attended by online bloggers who merely turn up so they can take photos making fun of the run-down toilets and bad taste artworks on display. You can even buy your way into a famed Playboy Mansion party as long as you’ve got $4270 and a willingness to overlook the tacky decor and urine-soaked carpets.
Hefner still insists the house is his “creative centre” and “inspiration”. Others call it a fetid jail full of dodgy bronze statues and bed sheets that haven’t been changed since the 1970s.
The house’s status as a den of debauchery packed with glamorous and sexually adventurous girls having the time of their lives has slipped even further in recent years.
Detailed exposés by women who lived there paint a very different picture.
Some say they were little more than glorified prostitutes paid $1400 a month to have sex with the old fella at least twice a week. Their accounts reveal the mansion as a grubby, dirty house dominated by Hefner, who paid for their boob jobs and acting lessons. Most nights they had to be in bed – often with him – by 9pm or they wouldn’t get paid.
The world was certainly a different place in the 1970s when Hefner first bought the house.
At that time, Playboy was one of the biggest brands in the US, with the raunchy magazine selling more than seven million copies a month.
It was the magazine men bought, not only for the high-quality nude photos of gorgeous women, but for the articles by writers such as Doris Lessing, PG Wodehouse, Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut.
The magazine was even welcomed by many women in the pre-feminist era, liking the fact that they were finally seen as sexual beings who could enjoy sex on their own terms.
This view was encouraged by the fact that the famed Playboy “Playmates” were profiled and identified in the magazine rather than just portrayed as anonymous nudes.
More than 40 years later, people are making their own porn on their mobile phones instead of buying magazines. Women don’t need a porn brand to tell them they are allowed to enjoy and explore their sexuality. And Hefner’s rotation of busty blondes 60 years his junior is now tawdry and sad rather than exciting and adventurous.
It’s no wonder the Playboy brand is trying to reinvent itself in a new era. “Less sweatsuit, more Tom Ford,” as the marketing manager puts it.
Indeed, these days Playboy magazine doesn’t even have nudes, the remaining staff are all undergoing “sensitivity training” and it’s all about “natural beauty”.
Getting rid of the mansion is therefore not just a good economic move, but a sign the brand is moving on. This is appropriate given that half of its revenue comes from merchandise sales in China. Innocent buyers snap up anything with the cute bunny logo, often not realising the sexual history of the brand and its founder.
In my opinion Hugh Hefner is no longer a famed Lothario but a dirty old man wearing Depends roaming his lair trying to find the hot tub.
The sale of the house is definitely the end of an era – and it’s a good thing too. Blog with Susie at susieobrien.com.au, follow her on Twitter @susieob and Facebook.com/ NewswithSuse