Crystal Hefner: ‘in Hef’s mind, he still thought he was in his 40s’

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I’ve always despised Hugh Hefner, but I have an odd fascination with his girlfriends and with the cultural impact of Playboy overall. For better or worse, that girl-next-door “bimbo” archetype has always had a huge influence on me–maybe because I was in middle school when the Playboy brand experienced a huge comeback thanks to The Girls Next Door reality TV show, which was about Hef’s three live-in girlfriends. Holly Madison and Bridget Marquardt have a rewatch podcast now  that I listen to, and it’s fascinating to hear the truth about what life at the Playboy mansion was really like. It’s presented as glamorous on the show but it…really was not. Crystal Harris was one of Hef’s live in girlfriends after The Girls Next Door show ended, and she married him in 2012. She has a memoir coming out about her time at the Mansion called Only Say Good Things, and she talked to the Daily Mail about it and gave them some excerpts. The title of her book is what Hef told her–only say good things about him, but she’s not holding back. She spent a decade at the mansion and it sounds even worse than what Holly and Bridget describe. They had a nine o’clock curfew each night, but Crystal had to be home by six. He was in denial about how old he was getting, and he clearly chose young women to date who were insecure and easily manipulated.

A 6PM curfew, compulsory group sex, and chicken soup every night: Her husband, whom she met when she was 21 and he was 81, dictated precisely what shade of nail polish she should wear (pink, pale and sheer, never matte) and gently tapped her on the head when her roots were showing.

When he was in residence, he issued a 6pm curfew ensuring his young wife was home to share his dinner (always chicken soup with cream cheese and crackers) and watch his favourite movies. Then, after dark, she was expected to participate in the group sex for which Hefner was famous.

‘It was embarrassing. I don’t know the most people there’d been in our bedroom at one time but – a lot. Pretty bad. We were like, ‘Oh, now it’s your turn.’ Nobody really wanted to be there but I think in Hef’s mind, he still thought he was in his 40s, and those nights, the people, the mansion, solidified that idea. He felt, ‘I’ve still got it.’

Crystal’s childhood issues made the mansion environment seem safer than it was: When your family is broken you feel like you don’t really belong anywhere. You depend on the kindness of others and you make yourself small to try to fit in. You have no power. Then I met Hef. He lived how the other half lives. You feel, ‘Wow, I could belong here too.’ At first, the Playboy Mansion felt like a sanctuary. It wasn’t. But then you either abide by it or you leave, and I didn’t feel like I had anywhere else to go or that I could make anything of myself.

Viagra made Hef partially deaf: There were also the famous ‘Sunday Fundays’ when 200 young women would descend on the Playboy mansion. Its octogenarian owner took so much Viagra that it made him lose his hearing on one side (a recognised side effect of the drug). ‘Hef always said he’d rather be deaf and still able to have sex. Weird,’ says Crystal.

Her decision to marry him was the result of Stockholm syndrome: ‘Looking back, I think I had a kind of Stockholm syndrome,’ she says of a marriage which began when he gave her a box containing a 3.5-carat diamond engagement ring, saying ‘I hope it fits’. ‘There was part of me that always thought if this was real love, there wouldn’t be other women in the bedroom. I reconciled myself to it by trying to believe that Hef loved me as best he knew how.’

[From the Daily Mail]

Like I said, a lot of this echoes Holly Madison and Bridget Marquardt’s experience, and Holly’s experience in particular. Holly was the “Number One” girlfriend for most of the seven years that she was living at the mansion, but being ranked “Number One” also came with more pressure and more rules. I know a lot of people blame Holly, Crystal and his other girlfriends for ending up with Hef for so long. People wonder why they didn’t leave if things got so bad; or how bad things could really be at a cushy place like the mansion. But once they moved into the mansion, his girlfriends were all subject to constant surveillance, financial control, and mountains of blackmail–it was harder for them to leave than people might think. Crystal actually said last year that she had found thousands of explicit photos of Hef’s ex girlfriends when she lived at the mansion, many of which were taken without their consent. She says she destroyed them. Good for her. My point is, Hef was controlling and abusive, even if a relationship with him came with a lot of material perks.

Also, if anyone accuses Crystal and Holly of “profiting off of Hef” as if it’s a bad thing, I say, fair play to them. Hef’s entire media empire came from his shrewd decision to publish nude photos of Marilyn Monroe in the first issue of Playboy back in 1953, capitalizing on Marilyn’s star power at the height of her fame. That’s why the first issue of Playboy sold out–it’s because Marilyn was in it. Marilyn took those nude photos in 1949 only because she was broke, and desperately needed $75 to keep her car from being impounded. Hef never got Marilyn’s permission to use those pictures of her and make her the first Playboy centerfold, and she never made a dime off of being featured in Playboy, either. But Hef built the whole brand around Marilyn.

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15 Responses to “Crystal Hefner: ‘in Hef’s mind, he still thought he was in his 40s’”

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  1. Ewwwwwwwww. That’s all I’ve got to say about this absolutely disgusting mess. Just the thought of …. Ewwwwwwww. I just wouldn’t let anything or anyone 81 years old in my body. Ewwww.

  2. ThatsNotOkay says:

    I watched Secrets of Playboy and, hoo-boy. Anyone who defends that raping ground is a monster. I’m convinced that’s where Bill Cosby learned to rape people, using the “thigh spreaders,” aka rape drugs Hef provided and used on the women there himself. Cosby somehow didn’t even consider what he was doing wrong and thought the women he drugged were his girlfriends?!! Plus, there was lots more rape and control where that came from, namely, the mansion. Rot in hell. All of ‘em.

  3. Concern Fae says:

    Hefner is completely horrible, but you can’t understand the American style of toxic masculinity without looking at Hefner and Playboy. So many people focus on the illusion, but what it takes to maintain that illusion is just as important.

    Glad to see these women being able to talk about their experiences.

  4. bisynaptic says:


  5. Mireille says:

    If Holly, Crystal and the rest of those girls got money and more profit from Playboy, good on them. They deserved it. They were used and exploited by a media empire that made billions off using and exploiting women’s bodies.

  6. Seraphina says:

    There are some people who I truly think sold their soul to the devil and I think Hef is one of them. I too have a very weird curiosity about him, his brand and how it was run at the mansion. I watched The Girls Nextdoor. I also watched the series on cable recounting stories from past girlfriends and read Holly’s book and one more (yeah, waaayyyy too much interest). This man was a horrible, horrible person and so were the many that aided him in his exploitation and manipulation of these women. And if they are now making money off it – kudos to them. You learn from example. A despicable excuse for a human being.

  7. Sean says:

    “he still thought he was in his 40s”

    Isn’t that how it is for all these old men that continue to date/mate/pursue younger women? None of them want to (or can’t) admit they’re no longer young. Or maybe they think the laws of time and physics don’t apply to them?

    I watched “The Secrets of Playboy” not too long ago. It not only details the abuse and coercion these young women were put through by Hugh & Co, it also discussed his overall diet and lifestyle.

    The fact he lived to be 91 is astounding. Back in the 70s and 80s, he lived off of M&Ms and Pepsi. They made it sound like that’s all he consumed along with all of the drugs.

    He also suffered a major stroke in the 80s and almost died. Luckily for him, his best friend who was a physician and lived at the mansion recognized the symptoms immediately and got Hugh medical assistance right away.

    Why does evil live for so long?

    • Deering24 says:

      Heh–in the (wonderful) movie Moonstruck, cheated-on wife Olympia Dukakis asks a womanizing male friend why men need more than one woman. He replies that men feel incomplete without women–and it’s because essentially men fear death. Makes perfect sense to me.

  8. Mango says:

    “He still thought he was in his 40’s”

    Right because the average 40-something man has orgies with 10 twenty-something women. Yeah that’s really healthy and normal. I’m trying to imagine a middle aged or elderly woman having an orgy with ten guys half her age and I can’t picture it. It just sounds uncomfortable as hell.

    He felt, ‘I’ve still got it.’

    LMAO the only things he had are $$$ and Viagra which left him partially deaf. Without the damn Viagra this abusive monster wouldn’t still have been having penetrative sex. This is a case where medicine should not have intervened and nature should have taken its course. You’re old and abusive so no more sex (or rape) for you.

  9. Molly says:

    I really wanted to stick with Holly and Bridget’s podcast, but it’s so painfully slow. Plus, they’re terrible storytellers.

    If they edited out 75% of the mundane details, it would have been really interesting.

    • huckle says:

      I’m loving their podcast and really enjoy the details but I guess it’s not for everybody. I was an avid GND watcher too so maybe that’s why.

  10. NEENA ZEE says:

    It’s vile and disturbing that Hef and his lifestyle was lionized for so many years. I don’t even want to think about the range of abuse and criminal behavior that happened at the Mansion.

    That he sacrificed his hearing in order to continue having medically-facilitated sex with what were (essentially) children and strangers tells me everything I need to know about him. In some cultures being able to control your sexual impulses is seen as a sign of enlightenment. He was just a self-indulgent boy that never grew up. Ugh.

  11. Normades says:

    Eating chicken soup with cream cheese and crackers every night with an 80 year old than you’d have to f* him sounds like utter complete hell. And it wasn’t “group sex”, the ladies would just line up and wait their turn. So so gross.

  12. Suzie Q says:

    Come on Crystal, you knew what you signed up for, didn’t you break an early engagement with Hef before u married him. Hef doesn’t have assault any woman, they wanted $$$ and fame, they got it, and there was a price which they gladly paid.🤔I hope Crystal has found happiness in her widowhood and love again.👍