Playboy Channel had a party for the Television Critics Association for their TV for 2 lineup. It was a rare chance for anyone to go to Hef’s place, let alone TV writers. Actual magazine playmates were giving personalized tours of the grounds, though not inside. I went with Nefeteri Shepherd, Miss July 2000.
We began at the animal cages, where I held a bird on my arm and watched some baby monkeys swing around.
Neferteri Shepherd: Our first stop, the birds and monkeys. You can take pictures with the birds. I advise you not to put your fingers in the monkey cage. They’re babies and they might bite. I want you to keep your fingers! These are the second group of monkeys. There used to be different ones and you could feed them bananas and grapes and strawberries, but these are babies and they’re not as used to human contact yet.
Out front, the driveway provided a space to pause and reflect on the majesty of the Mansion.
Neferteri Shepherd: This is the front of the house and there’s a car coming. We don’t want to get hit. The mansion sits on approximately 5.2 acres of land and has the largest Redwood reservoir in the state of California. The house was built in 1927. Arthur Letts was the first owner of the mansion. He had it built for himself and Hef bought it in the ‘70s.
From the front, we could see the layout of the mansion from the outside. On the left, a closed window hid Hef’s bedroom, and on the right his office as Shepherd explained.
Neferteri Shepherd: This is Hef’s bedroom. He might be [home] but he’s not going to have that open. He never has that open. He sleeps here every night. Even sometimes if he has an event in Vegas, he’ll want to fly home to sleep in his own house. Who wants to be in a hotel when they can live here? Then he walks over here and that’s his office. That’s where he works every day. He’s still involved with the magazine. Any playmate that goes to the magazine, he puts his stamp of approval before she’s able to become a centerfold.
In the backyard, a steep hill of grass provides the setting for wet and wild fun.
Neferteri Shepherd: This is what we call our rolling hill. During the summer time, for Fourth of July, they do the Slip n’ Slide out here. It’s really cool, they’ll have two Slip n’ Slides by each other and people can race down the Slip n’ Slide. This is my favorite view when you drive in and you can see the side of the house. I love it. It’s so pretty.
Though we couldn’t go inside, we could see into a few windows from the back of the house.
Neferteri Shepherd: Oh, they left the window open. This is where they have movie nights. Hef loves the old movies, Casablanca, that type of thing. He also has new releases that people come and watch and hang out. They have a buffet setup with his friends, and some of the playmates come to hang out. There’s also a library back here if you can see it and that’s the great hall where the statues are.
Shepherd got Hef’s approval, but she shared the story of her first audition.
Neferteri Shepherd: I went to an open casting call. They were looking for the millennium playmate. I went to an open casting call. A friend gave me a newspaper clipping and said, “You should try this out.” I just turned 18 the day before, literally. Of course when I said that when I walked in, they were like, “Where’s your ID?” In my normal life I’m a nerd so I had my glasses on, I had my hair pulled back, they’re like, “Uh, okay, come in.” I guess I took off my top and they were like, “Oh, well, this is workable.” Put some makeup on, “Oh yeah, you clean up good.”
Further back through the bushes in front of the Mansion, Shepherd showed us a flat grassy grounds and fountain.
Neferteri Shepherd: This is the wishing well. This is actually where Hef proposed to Kimberly Heffner and this is the lawn where they got married. She actually lives across the street. If you’d like to, you can throw some coins in there and make a wish. It’s a little romantic place.
Along the walkway, a square plaque stood out. It was Hugh Hefner’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Neferteri Shepherd: This is Hef’s star. They actually let him have his star here because he doesn’t really leave the house that much. They said, “Hey, you can have one here and you can have one on the Walk of Fame” so he has two.
An annex separate from the house became the game room. Three different Playboy pinball machines represented the updates to Hef’s image and pinball technology over the years. He also had classic arcade games, a pool table and a few modern racing and shooting games.
Neferteri Shepherd: Originally, this was the gardener’s house. This was the original gardener’s house. When Hef purchased the home, he turned it into the game room. You can always come back after the tour if you want to and play games and hang out.
The game room also had a giant $5 bill on the wall.
Neferteri Shepherd: Hef worked for Esquire magazine and he wanted a five dollar raise. They told him no and he quit and started Playboy magazine. They sent him this as a gag gift. He became a multi-millionaire over five bucks.
In case you’re hooking up with a playmate and can’t make it back to the house, there are some bedrooms in the game room too.
Neferteri Shepherd: There’s two bedrooms back there and there’s a room called the Van Room on this side. The story is that Hef lost his virginity in the back of a van and created a replica of it. We call it the Van Room. We’re not sure if that’s true, but when I became a playmate, that’s what everyone said.
Passing a tennis court and three satellite dishes, we came to another animal sanctuary, this time for creatures protected behind glass.
Neferteri Shepherd: This is an underground atrium. There are animals in here. There’s nothing loose. Everything is in a case. There’s our aquarium, the salt water fish tank. There’s animals on both sides if you want to take a peek. This is our koi pond.
AND, finally, The Grotto. Steamy heat made it hard to stay for long, and a distinct smell of, ahem, party substance lingered from shindigs past.
Neferteri Shepherd: Well, this is the grotto. It actually leads out to the swimming pool. It’s about 82 degrees. It is a strong smell. Some people when they come to the parties bring a bathing suit, or bring none at all and take a dip in the pool and in the grotto. It’s really nice.
Photo credit – AP, Fred Topel, Wenn.com