“At the mansion, the indoctrination, I feel, starts almost immediately when you’re there, and you start hearing about how wonderful Hef is from his circle of his friends,” the Vegas Diaries author, 42, said during the series premiere on Monday, January 24. “So, in the beginning, Hef is what you would now call a love bomber. He’s somebody who tells you ‘I love you’ almost immediately.”
The Holly’s World alum dated the late Playboy founder from 2001 to 2008, during which time she lived in the famous Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. Since writing her 2015 tell-all memoir, Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, she’s been outspoken about her experiences with Hefner, who died in 2017 at age 91.
In the new series, former Playboy models and ex-girlfriends of Hefner noted that many of Madison’s claims mirrored their own memories of life at the mansion. “I know for a fact the rules she had to follow,” Carla Howe, a former model, said in the premiere. “You’re imprisoned in that Playboy [world]. Like, you can’t do your own thing.”
Madison recalled one incident when Hefner allegedly “flipped out” on her because she cut her hair shorter than he liked. “I remember when she cut her hair,” Jonathan Baker, a friend of Hefner’s, recalled. “He was very unhappy about it.”
Stefan Tetenbaum, who worked as Hefner’s personal valet from 1978 to 1981, alleged that life wasn’t easy for employees at the mansion, either. “He thought he was the king, the emperor,” Tetenbaum claimed. “We were just servants. Everybody else was invisible. He didn’t want to know our names. He just gave us directions.”
According to Tetenbaum, staffers were supposed to avoid contact with the women in the mansion, even if they tried to initiate a conversation. “We were told you cannot talk to the girls,” he explained. “You’re not their friend. You work for Mr. Hefner — you don’t work for them.”
Baker and some of Hefner’s other friends claim that they never saw him treat his girlfriends with anything less than kindness. Madison, however, noted that those acquaintances didn’t always see what was happening behind closed doors.
“I feel like on The Girls Next Door, Hef was portrayed as, like, a kindly grandpa, but that’s not how he is,” the reality star explained. “It would make me so angry how manipulative he was. Hef controlled every aspect of our life.”
Secrets of Playboy airs on A&E Mondays at 9 p.m. ET.
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