‘Like a cult’: Hugh Hefner’s widow Crystal shares the reality of life in the Playboy mansion

If anyone truly knows what life in the Playboy mansion is like, it’s Hugh Hefner’s widow Crystal Hefner.

Crystal became the late Playboy founder’s third wife in 2012, a few years before his death.

Despite perceptions of what life in the $150 million mansion would be like – namely a life of opulence, fame and fortune on the arm of the late mogul – it was more ”smoke and mirrors” for Crystal.

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Crystal tells 9Honey Celebrity in a candid and exclusive chat that she first turned to the Playboy mansion and to Hef as she was “looking for somewhere to belong,” after “coming from a hard childhood” and losing her beloved father.

But after almost a decade in the mansion, she found the Los Angeles-based pad was filled with “black mould and fungus”, which took millions to fix; her health suffered both mentally and physically; and Hef “didn’t know how to love” her.

As she promotes her new memoir, Only Say Good Things, Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself, Crystal describes her time in the mansion as like living in a “cult”.

She also didn’t mince her words when talking about the late Playboy founder, who was known for having relationships and dalliances with multiple women, describing him as a ”narcissist” who did a “lot of damage to a lot of us women”.

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Crystal Hefner

Twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon became “girlfriends” of the late mogul alongside Crystal, before she married him.

The trio appeared on the reality show The Girls Next Door during the final season, which aired in 2009. The first five seasons focused of Hefner’s then-girlfriends Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson, and Bridget Marquardt.

“It’s a weird social experiment in time that will never be repeated again, it was like a cult. We were all sleeping with the same person, but hopefully something good comes out of it,” she says about her book, which she hopes will help others.

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“With Hef, he wanted multiple girls in the bedroom, it was sad. He didn’t know how to love me.”

“I try and find good memories, but it’s hard, especially as I learn more about how bad the place was and how Hef did a lot of damage to a lot of us women,” she continues.

“I know Holly and Bridget do a podcast about things they enjoy, but I look back and there’s nothing I can really find. The house was mouldy, the art was fake, it was this façade.”

Crystal, who has undergone years of therapy following her time in the mansion, writes in her book that Playboy logo magnets were slapped onto limousines when Hefner would travel.

“It made it seem like Hef was travelling with this huge entourage. Most of the time those jets were paid for by someone else, but it worked,” she says.

She says she found a sanctuary in the mansion, where she had a curfew, beauty rules and limited funds at the beginning – with her own desk space in Hef’s closet.

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“Looking back, it’s so sad as it was a big old mansion… it wasn’t as great as I thought it was upon leaving,” she says.

She says Hefner, who died in September 2017 at the age of 91, was a “narcissistic person”.

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“He was very particular, he had this strict schedule we had to stick by every single day. He was a narcissistic person, but we know narcissistic people could be charming and over time I feel like he was this sad, lost boy that never grew up.

“He never got love from his parents and his first wife [Mildred Williams, now 98] cheated on him and he married her and he created Playboy to overcompensate for the lack he had in his life, to fill this void.

“I don’t think he filled that void. I think he died, a lonely, sad, old man.”

Crystal hefner

Crystal remained by Hef’s side in his final moments caring for him as he died from sepsis.

“I was with him until the end. I’m still trying to understand that, if it’s Stockholm syndrome, I’m not sure,” she says.

Crystal notes Hef died just before the Me Too movement swept through Hollywood, saying he “left the earth just in time”.

“I hope he would be OK with it, me telling my truth [and writing the book]… maybe he wouldn’t be, but I do know if he was here, he wouldn’t be getting away with the things that he got away with before,” she says.

“I think he left the earth just in time, he left a month before Me Too happened.”

“There’s a lot of haters that say, ‘you’re trying to profit off a dead man’. First off, books don’t make that much money, he profited so much off us for so many years,” she says.

Hef and Playboy once labelled Crystal a ”runaway bride” on the magazine cover when she briefly left him before their scheduled 2011 wedding, but they later tied the knot.

“He put that runaway bride sticker on and it was one of the top-selling issues of all time,” she says.

“It’s something I could never do again for sure,” she says about her experience in the Playboy mansion.

“But my story is a good story, I wouldn’t have it any other way and I think I learned a lot about other people and myself and now I’m in a position to help others and I do thank him for giving me the platform.”

Crystal’s book Only Say Good Things, Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself, is out now.

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