Inside the Strange and Storied Past of the Playboy Mansion — From Family Home to Bunny Haven
Inside Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion
Hugh Hefner died Wednesday at 91 years old at the famed Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. The magazine magnate actually sold the estate for $100 million in 2016 to next-door-neighbor Daren Metropoulos, but a stipulation of the deal was that the Hefner be allowed to continue living there until his death. While Hefner leaves behind a remarkable personal history, his former home has a storied and often strange tale of its own.
The House Was a Family Home
The infamous estate was constructed in the 1920s by British developer Arthur Lett’s son, Arthur Jr, who lived there with his family. After his death (and a string of divorces), another couple, Louis and Anne Statham, picked up the property in 1961 and spent two years renovating the structure and its grounds.
The Man Who Started the Party
When Anne suddenly died, a grieving Louis became the first bachelor to turn the mansion's hallowed halls into a high society party destination, where, Curbed reports, legendary balls and raucous parties were held. Statham sold the estate to an already controversial Hefner for more than $1 million in 1971, and the rest is Hollywood history.
The Grotto Outbreak
The notorious grotto is probably the most well-known feature on the 5-acre property in Los Angeles’s Holmby Hills neighborhood (the private zoo is a close second). In 2011, nearly 123 people became ill after splashing around in the rock-covered cove, prompting the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to investigate. They soon discovered the sequence of Whirlpools that make up the area held a bacteria that leads to Legionnaire’s disease, a form of severe pneumonia.
A Popular Party Spot
The pool was another highly frequented spot during Hefner's annual parties, with one NPR reporter noting, “Say what you will about the Playboy Mansion; they like their inflatable pool toys.”
An Outsider's View
Press events and media screenings were held throughout Hefner’s tenure at the house. One attendee noted some of the home's more unusual features: everything on the property carried the bunny logo, one Playmate described a bedroom as a “dormitory,” and a space was designed like the back of a van, “so that the floor is a mattress.”
The Room Count
Former Playmate and Girls Next Door star Kendra Wilkinson was photographed cuing up on the pool table in the game room, one of 29 rooms that are included in the 22,000-square-foot property.
Hefner’s former girlfriend, Holly Madison, opened up about her time at the mansion in her book, Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny. “Everyone thinks that the infamous metal gate was meant to keep people out. But I grew to feel it was meant to lock me in," she wrote.
Wilkinson and Madison both penned memoirs about their life at the estate, delving into their relationships with Hefner as well as their interactions with other women. “The climate in the mansion was toxic,” Madison wrote. Following the news of Hefner's death, however, Wilkinson shared a sweeter sentiment. “Hef changed my life. He made me the person I am today. I couldn’t be more thankful for our friendship and our time together,” she said in a statement to PEOPLE.