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Holly Madison felt trapped in a ‘cycle of gross things’ at Hefner’s Playboy Mansion

A young woman and an old man pose in formal attire.
Holly Madison and the late Hugh Hefner arrive at an event in June 2007.
(Matt Sayles / Associated Press)

The Playboy Mansion is about to give up some of its secrets, four years after the death of Hugh Hefner, founder and editor in chief of Playboy magazine.

Next month will bring the debut of “Secrets of Playboy,” a 10-hour series on A&E featuring players from “all levels of the brand,”the cable network said in a release Tuesday. Among those doing the talking? Former Playboy bunny and Hefner’s one-time girlfriend Holly Madison.

“Hefner defined the sexual revolution and allowed for the freedom of sexual expression,” A&E said in its release. “Yet intertwined with the glossy façade of a world that seemingly celebrated women was a more sinister reality that for decades allowed nefarious conduct including sexual assault and drug abuse to flourish, and where prostitution, suicide and even murder lurked in the shadows.”

Madison, who starred in E!'s “Girls Next Door” with Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson and lived in the Playboy Mansion during her 2001-08 stint as one of Hef’s girlfriends, describes a very stressful time where she was harangued by the man of the house.

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“I remember there were times, probably within the first couple of years that I lived there, where I felt like I was in this cycle of gross things and I didn’t know what to do,” Madison says in a promo video. She describes pressure to “look like everyone else” and says that the one time she cut off her long hair, Hefner lost it.

“He flipped out on me and he was screaming at me and said it made me look old, hard and cheap,” she said.

Years ago, I pulled into a long driveway in Holmby Hills, then stopped in front of an imposing wrought-iron gate.

Marquardt remembers that period too, sharing details such as Hefner’s seemingly random red-lipstick ban for Madison.

“It was very frustrating to live with every day, all of the drama that was going on and the tensions,” she said in the promo. “I could definitely see that she was getting depressed and sad and her demeanor was starting to change.”

Madison previously wrote in her 2015 tell-all book, “Down the Rabbit Hole,” that she had contemplated suicide during her time at the mansion.

In the book, she explained her decision to move into the mansion: “I felt stuck in my life, trying to make ends meet. I lost the lease on my apartment. I felt like I’d already thrown myself to the wolves, so I might as well reap the rewards and not just be one more slut who walked through those doors.”

Holly Madison is out for revenge, Kendra Wilsonson says, and that’s what’s behind the Hugh Hefner-bashing in Madison’s new tell-all book.

(Fellow girlfriend Wilkinson, who is not part of A&E’s upcoming series, told People when the book was released that Madison had “this ulterior motive” while living in the mansion and was simply upset that she never became Mrs. Hefner. Wilkinson called the book “revenge.”)

Wondering how sex could happen in such a stressful environment? Well, former Hef girlfriend Sondra Theodore, who dated him from 1976-81, has the answer: drugs. And no, not Viagra.

“Quaaludes, down the line, were used for sex,” Theodore said in the new promo teaser. “Everything felt good to touch, everything felt soft and soft focus, and it was lovely. Usually you just took a half. Now, if you took two, you would pass out.

“It was such a seduction, and the men knew this,” she continued, “that they could get girls to do just about anything they wanted if they gave them a Quaalude.” Theodore said she had never touched drugs before coming to the mansion.

A former Hef assistant says Hefner was definitely in on it, including having a prescription for the drug in his name. There were actually four or five people on staff who had prescriptions, according to former assistant Lisa Loving Barrett, who worked in the mansion from 1977-89.

Former Playboy bunny Holly Madison doesn’t miss much about living in the storied mansion.

“Quaaludes were, we called them the leg spreaders ... that is what the whole point of them was, you know,” she said. “They were a necessary evil, if you will, to the partying.”

“Secrets of Playboy” debuts Jan. 24 on A&E and will be available to stream on the network’s app and at aetv.com.


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