Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Hugh Hefner was a cultural icon. Considered by some to be a driving force behind the sexual revolution, Hef and the Playboy brand promoted a place where men could be boys — or, more precisely, playboys.
One of the most physical representations of this unapologetically hedonistic lifestyle (besides scandalous photos between the glossy magazine pages) was the Playboy mansion. The house was built in 1927 just a few hundred feet off Sunset Boulevard, a stone’s throw from the famed Los Angeles Country Club and wealthy neighbors such as Google exec Eric Schmidt and fashion heiress Alexandra von Furstenberg.
Millions of fans took a glimpse inside during the airing of the popular 2005 reality show The Girls Next Door, but even with the doors flung wide open, the house maintained an air of mystery. Ahead, find the shocking things you never knew about the one and only Playboy mansion.
1. Hef never actually owned the Playboy Mansion
Playboy Enterprises bought the mansion for a cool $1.05 million in 1971 from famous chess player and inventor Louis D. Statham. But here’s the weird part: For no apparent reason, Hugh Hefner didn’t have his name on the deed of the sprawling 29 room, 5 acre estate. He actually leased it from his company for $100 per year.
2. The property won’t stay in the family
Many assume that Hefner’s son Cooper, who maintains creative control of Playboy magazine, will move in now that his dad has moved out — but that’s simply not true.
The house sold for a whopping $100 million in 2016 to the next door neighbor and co-owner of Hostess brands Daren Metropoulos. The snack food mogul plans to rebuild it from the ground up and combine it with his existing property to create a massive 7.3 acre compound.
The only catch? Metropoulos had to agree to let Hef and his wife, 31-year-old Crystal Harris, live there until he died.
3. The first Playboy Mansion wasn’t on the West Coast
The original Playboy Mansion still stands in the same city where Hef launched: Chicago. Originally purchased for $400,000 in 1959, the first site of unapologetic publication featured a fire pole and basement-level pool.
Once Hef started hanging out with celebrities all the time, he found it more convenient to live nearby. So, he left the Windy City behind in favor of the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles. He leased the original Playboy Mansion to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1984, and in 1993 a real estate company acquired it and turned it into seven condominiums. There’s no word on whether the fire pole still remains.
4. The King was all shook up during his visit to the mansion
Legend holds that Elvis Presley spent one incredible night with eight Playboy bunnies in the 1970s. After what we hope was an extensive room cleaning, the aptly-named “Elvis Suite” was closed to the public.
5. Playboy Mansion parties got a little crazy
John Lennon stubbed out his cigarette on an authentic Matisse painting. A llama was mysteriously found dead after an all-night rager. And those are just the stories that went public! We wonder what those walls would say if they could talk.
6. Hef loved to walk on the wild side
Not only did Hugh Hefner have a private zoo on the property with exotic pets like peacocks, macaws, and monkeys, he also had a special safari room decked out in animal skin rugs and leopard print. Some might call it cheesy, but Hef called it home.
7. It wasn’t all fun and games for the girlfriends
Some former Playmates paint a dismal picture of what life was like in the mansion. According to Izabella St. James, “Every Friday morning we had to go to Hef’s room, wait while he picked up all the dog poo off the carpet — and then ask for our allowance: $1,000 counted out in crisp hundred-dollar bills from a safe in one of his bookcases. We all hated this process.” All the live-in girlfriends also adhered to a strict 9 p.m. curfew and were never allowed to entertain male visitors in the house.
8. There was something in the water
In 2011, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health received a phone call when 120 Playboy Mansion party guests contracted the same strange symptoms. After an investigation, they concluded that the whirlpools of the mansion’s grottos were infested with the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, a severe pneumonia.
9. Rumor has it the mansion fell into disrepair
Numerous sources claim that the once opulent mansion gradually became dirty and decrepit as years went by. According to Bunny Tales by former girlfriend Izabella St. James, the house was less fairy tale castle and more packrat paradise. She said, “Everything in the Mansion felt old and stale, and Archie the house dog would regularly relieve himself on the hallway curtains, adding a powerful whiff of urine to the general scent of decay.”
10. The whole house needed a major upgrade
Besides being dirty, the house was apparently, “stuck in the 80s” with mismatched furniture that looked like it came from a flea market. St. James recounts in her memoir, “The mattresses on our beds were disgusting — old, worn and stained. The sheets were past their best, too.”
Now that Hugh Hefner’s gone, the mansion will go on to a new future. And maybe that’s a good thing.
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