Image credits: Getty Images for AFI
Holly Madison shares intimate details about Hugh Hefner and her time at the Playboy Mansion in Monday’s Secrets of Playboy premiere. Madison launched to fame on E!’s The Girls Next Door as Hefner’s No. 1 girlfriend, dating the American publisher from 2001 to 2008.
“I wasn’t physically attracted to Hef, but I did find him very charming,” Madison admits in the A&E docuseries.
The 42-year-old model says she had trouble “connecting with other people” ever since she was a child. Her mom even suspected Madison has Aspergers, a form of autism spectrum disorder, which is when people have difficulty with social interaction.
“I think I was drawn to try and be in the spotlight because I felt like if I could be famous, that would be a shortcut to feeling a connection with people,” the reality star adds in Secrets of Playboy.
When she first went to the Playboy Mansion at age 20, Madison saw “a wholesome atmosphere” and craved the sense of community it seemed to offer. She “was able to buy into” having a relationship with a much older Hefner as she “never connected” with guys her own age.
The first night Madison went out with Hefner and his female companions, he offered her a Quaalude, purportedly telling her “they used to call these thigh-openers in the ’70s.” Madison did not take the drug, but admits to drinking heavily. When they got back to the mansion, she went upstairs with Hefner and the other women.
“There was definitely, like, no romance or seduction or anything like that,” Madison recalls of her first night with Hefner, noting there was a movie screen of pornography in front of his bed. “The women were surrounding him.”
“I never had casual sex with anybody before. I feel like I was kind of really asexual, so maybe I just wasn’t ready for that,” she says. “It was all very mechanical and robotic and you would kind of follow the other women’s lead. It was really gross to me how Hef didn’t want to use protection. The impact it had on me was so heavy. I never expected to be the first person to have sex that night or to be, like, pushed into it.”
Madison thinking of herself as asexual might sound shocking to some people, given that Hefner and Playboy are the antithesis. But Secrets of Playboy director Alexandra Dean tells Yahoo Entertainment she wasn’t surprised how Madison described herself before entering into that relationship.
“By the time I heard that, I talked to a lot of former playmates who had said something similar. And what I realized about the Playboy women is more often than not, they came from some background where they felt some conflict with their sexuality or their beauty,” Dean shares. “Some of [the women] had been in homes where they suffered abuse of some sort … or had a form of abuse before they came to Playboy. Or like Holly, had a childhood where they felt some sort of disassociate disorder so that when they came to Playboy they weren’t really equipped to defend themselves.”
Some of Hefner’s friends participate in the series and portray Madison as the one who sought him out. When asked if Madison is a victim, Dean says she doesn’t “like the word victim.”
“I find it’s a very passive word and humans aren’t generally passive or active. We’re a mix, right? And I think Holly is like the rest of us, a mix,” she tells us. “I think Holly has a lot of agency in her life and she will be the first person to own that. But do I think that Playboy exploited her? Yeah, I do. Even though she definitely walked in, you know, in many ways with her eyes open, it’s still possible to exploit somebody in that situation.”
Madison calls Hefner “manipulative” in the series and describes the atmosphere at the Playboy Mansion as “cult-like.” Many dark moments the star references are ones she discussed in her 2015 memoir Down the Rabbit Hole.
“I think the reason that Holly decided to do this docuseries is that I was able to say to her, ‘Look — what’s interesting to me about your book is it’s resonating with these stories I’m hearing from the past, and I can kind of put it in context here,'” Dean explains.
Secrets of Playboy features archival footage and exclusive interviews including former director of Playmate Promotions Miki Garcia, past girlfriends of Hefner’s, former Playmates and more.
“Like I didn’t think that what [Holly’s] saying is just the 2000s or just The Girls Next Door era. I think what she was saying was kind of the tip of the iceberg, actually,” Dead adds.
Bridget Marquardt, one of Hefner’s ex-girlfriends who also starred on The Girls Next Door, corroborates some of Madison’s claims. Noticeably absent from Secrets of Playboy is Kendra Wilkinson. Dean confirms she approached Wilkinson to participate, but Hefner’s former girlfriend was not interested. Wilkinson has stood by Hefner in recent years, clashing publicly with Madison.
Hugh Hefner Son defend his father:
Wilkinson has yet to comment on some of the disturbing claims made in the series. But Hefner’s son, Cooper, spoke out in defense of his father ahead of Monday’s two-part premiere. “These salacious stories are a case study of regret becoming revenge,” he tweeted on Sunday.
Some may not approve of the life my Dad chose, but my father was not a liar. However unconventional, he was sincere in his approach and lived honestly. He was generous in nature and cared deeply for people. These salacious stories are a case study of regret becoming revenge.
— Cooper Hefner (@cooperhefner) January 23, 2022
The Hefner family sold its remaining shares in Playboy in 2018, one year after Hef’s passing. A spokesperson for Playboy issued the following statement to Yahoo Entertainment about the documentary:
The Hefner family is no longer associated with Playboy, and today’s Playboy is not Hugh Hefner’s Playboy. We trust and validate these women and their stories and we strongly support those individuals who have come forward to share their experiences. As a brand with sex-positivity at its core, we believe safety, security, and accountability are paramount. The most important thing we can do right now is actively listen and learn from their experiences. As an organization with a more than 80 percent female workforce, we are committed to confronting any parts of our legacy that do not reflect our values today, and continuing the progress we have made to evolve as a company so we can drive positive change for our employees and our communities.
Secrets of Playboy premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on A&E.