Playboy magazine has distanced itself from its late founder, Hugh Hefner, following a series of disturbing allegations made by ‘Bunnies’ that he drugged, groomed and secretly filmed girls and celebrity guests in his mansion.
Interviews with dozens of witnesses for a new documentary series has forced a fresh reassessment of Hefner and his empire, suggesting that while the magazine magnate tried to present himself as a champion women’s rights in reality he was a “vampire” who manipulated and coerced young women.
“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,” Playboy said in a statement ahead of the show’s broadcast on Monday night.
In a 10-part series Hefner’s former butler claims the millionaire would host “pig night” where he would invite prostitutes to come over to his mansion to have sex with his high-profile and celebrity friends and would secretly film.
Hefner reportedly had cameras in every room in the Los Angeles mansion and even in the garden where there were hidden microphones. In California, it is a criminal offence to record people in a private setting without their permission.
The late publisher who died in 2017 at age 91, was just 27 when he started the legendary publication that disrupted conventional media with its risque and often graphic images.
But former employees, as well as partners of Hefner, spoke to the filmmakers about the much darker side to the Playboy world.
The series includes interviews with Linda Lovelace, the 1970s porn star who found fame with the film Deep Throat, who said Hefner partook in bestiality and was interested in Charles Manson and snuff films.
Holly Madison, a model who dated Hefner for eight years, also told how he refused to use protection during sex and how the Playboy Bunny lifestyle even led her to consider suicide.
Hugh Hefner in 2011 Credit: Kristian Dowling
Others said that Hefner had a stockpile of Quaaludes, the powerful sedative which Bill Cosby’s accusers claimed he drugged them with.
Hefner would have his own prescription, they said, and Hefner would keep them in a drawer in his bedroom and hand them out to women at the mansion.
Playboy, which is now publicially owned, added in its statement: “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.”
“We will never be afraid to confront the parts of our legacy as a company that do not reflect our values today. As an organisation with a more than 80 per cent female workforce, we are committed to our ongoing evolution as a company and to driving positive change for our communities.”
The PLBY Group leadership team also reassured staff that the Hefner family is no longer associated with Playboy.
After Hefner’s death, his estate sold its remaining Playboy shares of 33 per cent, worth $35 million, split between Hefner’s widow and his four children.
Cooper Hefner, Hugh’s 30-year-old son with former Playboy Bunny Kimberley Conrad, defended his father, writing on his Twitter: “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,” he wrote.
“These salacious stories are a case study of regret becoming revenge.”