(Photo of the Bunnies courtesy of Marylou Coyle)
As a writer / editor with Bullz-Eye.com, I’ve seen and done some pretty amazing things, from traveling to Ireland solely for the purposes of sipping whiskey to watching Snoop Dogg blow up an armored car in the name of Mafia Wars, but even as jaded as I perhaps ought to be by this point in my career, I immediately turned into a 13-year-old boy again when I got the word that one of the first parties of this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour was going to be taking place at…the Playboy Mansion.
Given all the amount of hype it’s been receiving, it would be reasonable for you to presume that this was an event being thrown in conjunction with NBC’s new drama, “The Playboy Club,” which premieres this fall. In fact, the party came about through Playboy’s own network, Playboy TV, which made their TCA tour debut back in January, courting couples to watch their new programming. But while there’s little question that this evening’s goings-on resulted in plenty of journalists writing about their experiences – I’m living proof! – it must be said that, even though there were several TV screens running trailers for Playboy TV programs on a loop, the function ultimately did more to promote the Playboy brand name as a whole than the actual network. I did walk out of the event with screeners for a couple of Playboy TV's new shows, however, so you can expect a write-up on those at some point in the future.
For now, though, here's the big thing I'm here to write about: I went to the Playboy Mansion.
Was it everything that 13-year-old me had imagined it to be? Read on and find out...
As the shuttle drove through the front gate and up the winding road leading to the Playboy Mansion, I can't pretend that I wasn't giddy with anticipation, and seeing the mansion suddenly appear off to our left only served to intensify my excitement. Basically, if you subtracted me from the above photo, you'd be looking at approximately the same sight that I was. I couldn't actually hear "The Hallelujah Chorus" suddenly begin to play, but that's probably just because I was too busy imagining how many Playmates had rolled down that grassy hill naked. And don't tell me that that's never happened, because I've already convinced myself that it has. And often.
I stepped off the bus to see a pair of Playboy Bunnies taking pictures with the guests. Yes, I had my picture taken, but, no, you can't see it: when I went to retrieve it at the end of the night, they couldn't find it, and if they managed to come up with it after my departure, they've yet to send it to me. Oh, well, at least I have my memories.
I spent the majority of the evening with a couple of the regulars from my past tales from the TCA tour: Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun and Amber Dowling of TV Guide Canada. After Amber and I hit the bar to grab a couple of the strongest bourbon and gingers you've ever had in your life - they were something like 90% bourbon and 10% ginger, leading Amber to observe, "This is why so many people end up having sex at the Playboy Mansion" - the three of us ventured into Hef's infamous grotto, which was as cool as you'd expect it to be. Yes, there were the inevitable jokes about how we were setting ourselves up to contract Legionnaire's Disease, but I'm here to tell you that the smell of chlorine was so strong that it's hard to imagine that any disease could survive in that water.
Upon exiting the grotto, it was time to indulge in some of the fantastic food that had been provided for us. On the appetizer front, I can't help but feel like the corn dogs were offered solely to be phallic (no comment on what the inclusion of crab cakes were to have signified), but they were still quite tasty. For the main courses, there were a wide variety of options, including various meats, cheeses, noodles, salads, and whatnot, but I ultimately decided to go with the sushi, which looked way too delicious to turn down.
From there, we started our stroll around the grounds. I had no idea that Hef had so many animals on the property, but there were parrots, cockatoos, toucans, peacocks, various reptiles, and many, many monkeys. Alas, we were unable to enter the mansion itself, nor were we ever favored with an appearance from Mr. Hefner itself. Rumors abounded as to why he wasn't coming out (supposedly, it wasn't his party, so he didn't feel obliged to appear), and since we never saw him, there's really no definitive proof that he was even inside, although I did hear repeated comments about how he was in the midst of a heated game of Gin Rummy. This may not be true. But if we're pretending it is, then let's also pretend that he was playing with naked Playmates.
Okay, you clearly get the idea that I've got kind of a focus on the Playmates, but I think that's pretty reasonable, given that they're almost as integral to the magazine as its articles...which, as ever, remain the official reason that I read Playboy. If you're wondering, there were indeed some Playmates onsite, giving tours of the grounds. Alas, I didn't end up taking a formal tour, and I really regret it now, as I've heard from others who did take tours that their guides offered no end of stories about various goings-on, including topless shenanigans on the tennis courts and, of course, the occasional orgies. But I still managed to see the Van Room - there's some preposterous story that Hef designed the room to look like the inside of a van because that's where he lost his virginity, but even if it's true, I doubt if that van looked quite as '70s-inspired as this room did - as well as the Red and Blue bedrooms. It was more than a little disconcerting to see stacks of towels beside the beds, but I guess it makes sense that there were copies of Playboy in the drawers of the headboards.
Given that I'm happily married and was therefore in no position to make a fool of myself by hitting on any of the hot women in attendance, the highlight of my visit to the Mansion was, oddly enough, playing "Donkey Kong." If it sounds crazy, you have to remember that I was channeling my inner 13-year-old throughout the evening. As I stood there, surrounded by Playboy memorabilia, sipping bourbon, and helping Mario save the princess, it was one of the strangest, most surreal experiences of my life. And one of the most awesome.