'Secrets of Playboy' Recounts Horrific Stories About Hugh Hefner's Alleged A-List 'Power Predators'

Women have stepped forward in A&E's docuseries to share hideous allegations of sexual assault by Hugh Hefner's famous friends Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, NFL player Jim Brown and more

Hugh Hefner, Bill Cosby
Hugh Hefner and Bill Cosby. Photo: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Hugh Hefner was "obsessed with fame," according to his ex-girlfriend Holly Madison.

And in Secrets of Playboy's eighth episode, "Predators' Ball," members of the mogul's inner circle revealed how he courted famous friends — including Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski and NFL player Jim Brown — only to wield his knowledge of their sexual exploits against them.

But while the knowledge of alleged sexual violence by Hefner's pals seemed only a passing shadow over the conscience of these men who frequented the Playboy Mansion, the episode also explored once again how Playboy's culture of sexual objectification irrevocably scarred countless women who were victimized by Hefner's circle of "power predators."

Women at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles "were just being used," said Sondra Theodore, Hefner's girlfriend from 1976–81. Hefner and his friends "liquored 'em up, they gave 'em drugs and they ended up in the Jacuzzi, and it was a free-for-all."

PJ Masten, a Playboy employee from 1972–82 and regular Mansion guest, agreed: "Celebrities and VIPs that were at the L.A. Mansion would definitely drug and sexually assault young women."

March 1984 Playmate Dona Speir added, "What predator is not going to go to the Playboy Mansion? It's locked, it's secure, all the cookies are in the jar, and it's okay, no one judges."

A statement at the end of each episode of Secrets of Playboy reads, "This series contains allegations of wrongdoing over decades by Hugh Hefner and others associated with him. The vast majority of allegations have not been the subject of criminal investigations or charges, and they do not constitute proof of guilt."

Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby. Gary Gershoff/Getty

Bill Cosby

"At the Mansion, it was the Wild West back then," said Jim Ellis, Hefner's bodyguard from 1980–81. "There was rampant sexual exploitation. Bill Cosby was up there three to four times a week — he wasn't there to eat lunch."

Said Masten, "I heard many stories about Bill Cosby, from the '60s all the way up to 2008."

Ellis agreed, saying, "Everybody that worked at the Mansion knew that he was basically a predator."

This week's Secrets of Playboy features stories of sexual exploitation by Cosby, now 84, regarding six separate women — three of whom shared their own stories on camera.

The stories run the gamut in their severity. (And it should be noted that Cosby has faced sexual assault allegations for decades from scores of women. He was released from prison in January 2021 after a 2018 sexual assault conviction was overturned — that decision was upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday, just hours ahead of Secrets' airing.)

Playboy photographer Suze Randall recalled sitting next to the comic at one of Hefner's weekly movie nights: "I didn't know who Bill Cosby was," she said, "'til he put his hand down my knickers."

Speir said she knew Cosby before her time as a centerfold. "Someone had taken my headshot and given it to Bill Cosby. And I fly off, and I meet him and I end up in this underage — what I thought was a relationship. And I'm a minor. So this 'relationship' goes on for maybe a year and a half or so. I'm not even 16, or I may have turned 16, but I don't even drive yet — I'm a baby!"

She said that "how this all ends is I end up in a drug and alcohol facility in 1982. And I remember Cosby calling me on the payphone and him saying to me, 'You know, you're not much fun when you're not drunk.'"

Masten, who said she had a casual friendship with Cosby for six years during her time with Playboy, also mentioned a teen named Judith Huth: "Cosby had carte blanche. ... He brought her up to the Mansion, she had cocktails, he drugged her, she was sexually assaulted at 15 years old."

Masten additionally referenced Chloe Goins, who claimed Cosby sexually assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008.

"Did Hef know?" asked Theodore. "I think he did. How could anything be slipped under anyone's nose in that house? Cameras were everywhere. He had to know. But Cosby was his go-to celebrity at the jazz festival, at the tennis tournaments ... and because of that, he was allowing the women to be used."

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PJ Masten
PJ Masten. A&E

Perhaps most harrowing was Masten's own account of how Cosby allegedly drugged and raped her — an account with distinct similarities to those of the many women who've come forward against the Cosby Show star.

The alleged assault happened in 1979 in Chicago when Cosby was in town. When he invited Masten to dinner, she said, "I didn't think anything of it because I knew this person."

She met him at his penthouse suite and he offered her a drink. "I said, 'I'll take a Grand Marnier.' He gave me the glass, I took two sips and that's the last thing I remember until four o'clock the next morning," she said.

"And I woke up in bed, naked, and I looked to my left, and there he was, naked, sleeping next to me, and I was in a panic," she continued. "And I slithered out of the bed to try to collect my clothes that were all over the floor, and I had blood coming down my leg because he sodomized me. ... It was a lot of blood. I dripped it all the way to the lobby of the hotel."

After recounting her assault, she began to weep.

Masten was at work the next day when she said Cosby called to ask, "Why did you leave?"

"I hung up the phone, and I was in complete, total shock," she recalled. "That next day, I called my boss, and I told her that he raped me and he drugged me, and her reply was, 'That's Hefner's best friend. I suggest you shut your mouth if you want to keep your job.'"

Even as she rebuffed multiple invitations by Cosby for a follow-up date, Masten said the star sent her a four-foot ficus tree with a card that read: "Stay healthy mentally, stay in charge of yourself."

She was shaken and felt powerless: "I couldn't go to Hefner because there were a lot of very strange things happening up at the Mansion. How am I gonna go to him? Who's gonna listen to me? I knew nothing would have changed, I know he would have been held accountable. He was Bill Cosby, he was gonna buy NBC Studios. Who's gonna listen to me? How do I prove it? I had no avenue to go down."

Secrets of Playboy
PJ Masten. A&E

Masten said she started cutting herself and eventually attempted to commit suicide several times, once ending up in the hospital for 17 days.

"We have a sisterhood of victims of Bill Cosby," she said.

A statement at the end of the episode of Secrets of Playboy reads, "Bill Cosby has stated that none of the allegations about him in this series 'have been substantiated by any legal process' and that they are 'unsupported by any factual basis.'"

Cosby's representative did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on the allegations contained within the episode.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Publisher Hugh Hefner looks over proof sheets for his magazine Playboy

Hefner the Director

And while Hefner gave his famous friends the illusion of power, he had set up his enclave of sexual "circus" of sexual debauchery so that he would have leverage on them.

"Hef, he had tapes on everybody," said Theodore.

"Most of the time Hefner never participated," said Stefan Tetenbaum, Hefner's valet from 1978–81. "He thought of himself as a film director."

He continued, "But many of the girls were devastated after what they were expected to do, what they were forced to do. Well, can you imagine, after he had all these tapes of you having sex with different girls, what power he had over these men."

At the time, while much of the focus was on the famous men, "We didn't know about the emotional expense that these women would suffer."

And one of those women was November 1968 Playmate of the Month, who committed suicide on April 7, 1974.

Young's neighbor Melanie Myers, a celebrity astrologer who found the Playmate's body, said Young had staged a collage of photos and newspaper clippings above the site where she killed herself and had written "HUGH HEFNER IS THE DEVIL" at the top of the mural.

Myers revealed that, before the 30-year-old died, she had opened up about a traumatic visit to Hefner's infamous Grotto at the Playboy Mansion. Either during that trip to Grotto or some time around it, Young discovered she had been filmed having sex by "a member of this Playboy Mansion entourage."

"Paige was so over-the-top upset about that tape. This was the end of the world for her," said Myers. "She didn't seem that shy, you know, about sex, and it made me wonder, What was on that tape?"

Journalist Holly Slavic, who has investigated Young's death, spoke with a friend in whom Young had confided that Cosby had raped her and implied the rape was the result of Cosby drugging her. (Though Slavic made a point to note that "a direct connection has not been made between Bill Cosby and Paige Young's suicide.")

"When I knew her, Paige was into clean living," Myers agreed. "I think more likely is that Bill drugged her."

Two days after Young's death, Myers said "everything was cleaned out and gone. It was like it never happened. How does a Playboy centerfold killer herself with the message 'Hugh Hefner is the devil,' and it doesn't hit any of the media outlets? ... She thought the only way that anybody was gonna pay attention to her was if she killed herself. The message [about these predatory men] got squashed. It was so sad that Paige went to all this trouble to leave a message, and no one cared."

Jamilah Lemieux, a journalist and cultural critic, noted that based on her research, "The suicide rate for Playmates is significantly higher than the rate for American women. And so, I think it's worth asking, 'What is it about Playboy that leads so many women that have graced its pages to tragedy?'"

Slavic added, "In my interview with Richard, Paige's friend, Richard said, 'Hefner ruined a lot of good women.'"

Roman Polanski, Hugh Hefner
Roman Polanski with a date, Hugh Hefner and Barbi Benton. Getty

Roman Polanski

Given Hefner's penchant for filmmaking, it's no surprise one of the famous associates he sought out was celebrated director Roman Polanski.

Indeed, Slavic claimed that director John Huston — who acted in Polanski's 1974 Oscar winner Chinatown and was a regular visitor to the Playboy Mansion — was the other noteworthy name mentioned alongside Hefner's in Young's suicide note.

Polanski was fresh off the success of Chinatown when he began developing Pirates. The film was a decade-long journey, stalled in large part by Polanski fleeing the U.S. in 1978 after he pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor as a result of his relationship with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer.

By February 1984, Polanski had rebuilt his career while living in exile in Europe and was casting for Pirates. He met future Playmate Charlotte Lewis, who reiterated in Secrets of Playboy the allegation she first made in 2010: "I was raped by Roman Polanski when I was 16."

Lewis explained, "It took a long time for me to realize that what had happened to me wasn't my fault. Because I always thought it was my fault. You don't realize at the time when you're very young that what's happened is illegal or wrong — you know it's wrong because it doesn't feel right."

She continued, "There are some men that obviously of a generation feel that there is some entitlement, and that women are just for sex — you know, objects. It's about the control, really, isn't it? It's amazing there is still some kind of protection for these boys, these men, these debauched human beings."

Theodore clearly remembered spending time with those men, recounting "heavy" conversations with Hefner and his friends at the Mansion. "Roman Polanski was one of the stories" that the men frequently revisited, she said.

According to Theodore, "[The gist] was, 'He got caught! What a schmo, he got caught.' Like it was okay to be with a young girl, just don't get caught. They were just relieved that they hadn't gotten caught."

Said Lewis, "What we're dealing with is a very powerful team of close friends who stick together — men — defending their guy."

A spokesperson for Polanski did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Jim Brown
Jim Brown. Focus On Sport/Getty

Jim Brown

One of the few Playboy Mansion regulars who's spoken about his experiences in Hefner's world is NFL legend Jim Brown.

"It was a ball," the former Cleveland Browns fullback told an interviewer in archival footage. "There were new girls coming in from all over the country, and anything was okay between consenting partners."

But the issue of consent is challenged by several Playboy insiders who saw Brown in action.

Brown "always abused different Playmates. I observed it. Many people witnessed it," said Stefan Tetenbaum. (Theodore said Hefner confirmed as much to her, too.)

Tetenbaum's wife, Stella, who served as a hostess at the Mansion in 1978 and '79, recalled a party at which Brown allegedly took a woman, "turned her upside down and held her by the heels — this was right in front of me — and shook her violently, violently, until her bosom fell out of her bra. And then [he] flipped her back up and she's hanging out. I could see it on her face, and I thought, 'Oh my God.'"

stefan tetenbaum secrets of playboy
Stefan Tetenbaum. A&E

In another incident, both the Tetenbaums heard screaming coming from the Grotto.

"We peeked in there, and we saw Jim just going bananas, bananas, violently on this girl," said Stella.

Stefan said Brown had seated the woman on a "sex chair" Hefner had outfitted with a dildo and was "beating her."

"When he was finished, I had to help her, and I took her to the front of the Mansion and had one of Hefner's drivers take her to the hospital," he said. "I never saw her again there."

To the Tetenbaums' knowledge, Brown was never held accountable, and he was allowed to return the Mansion.

"He would brutalize these girls," said Stefan. "He cracked ribs, he dislocated jaws, but nobody was gonna come forward because nobody wanted Hefner to come after you — or Jim Brown [to come afer you]."

"It bothered me," admitted Stefan. "It seemed that this was natural, that this was what they expected Hefner to allow them to do."

A representative for Jim Brown did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on the allegations contained within the episode.

Looking back on her tenure at the Mansion, Stella summed up, "The sense I got was the young girls didn't have a clue. At that age, they don't know better. I think for girls from small towns, it was like, 'Oh my God, I'm going to be a star!' I don't think they thought much about what would happen when they got there."

"These men," said Theodore, "they were like [kids] in a candy store up there."

hugh hefner

In a statement released just before the docuseries' premiere on Jan. 24, Playboy's current leadership denounced Hefner's alleged "abhorrent actions."

"We trust and validate women and their stories, and we strongly support the individuals who have come forward to share their experiences," the statement read. "As a brand with sex positivity at its core, we believe safety, security and accountability are paramount, and anything less is inexcusable."

The statement also noted, "Today's Playboy is not Hugh Hefner's Playboy."

Secrets of Playboy airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on A&E.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

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