Remember when you were happily coasting along in high school, lazily dreaming of long, Summer days and a life of freedom and happiness? Then, all of a sudden, a frowning gentleman from the careers office would turn up one day and blow your optimism for the future into smithereens with impudent questions of how you intend to pay for this freedom and happiness malarky. You’d splutter out the same fantasies as your friends – Bomb Squad Technician, Writer, Corporate Director of Human Resources – and yet…nobody ever dreamed of being a Playboy Playmate, did they?
On the face of it, it seems the perfect job for those who fancy a life of luxury for minimal effort; simply get your bodies out for the centerfold, shake hands with Hef and you’re living the life of luxury at the Playboy mansion. However, this rose-tinted vision discounts the fact that, as a model for one of the most internationally famous magazines in the world, you’d no longer have a private life. Your darkest secrets and biggest controversies would become public property. This is certainly the case with the ten former Playmates featured in this article.
From the complete inability to engage your brain when talking to the press to the more sinister world of alcohol addition and prostitution, we shall look at some of the aspects of these Playmates’ lives that they’d rather you’d forgotten about. These girls have run out on Hef, and written exposes about the mansion. Read on for the darkest moments in the lives of these particular Bunnies.
10. Star Stowe
Appearing in Playboy isn’t always the start of a long and fruitful career in the public eye; tragedy often lurks beneath the glamorous veneer. Ellen Louise “Star” Stowe was Playmate of the Month for the February 1977 edition of the magazine – her career would never hit such heights again. Within ten years, the one-time partner of Gene Simmons had moved to Fort Lauderdale to search for work as an exotic dancer; within 20 years, Star was dead. She had descended into the twin hells of alcoholism and prostitution when her strangled and half-naked corpse was found dumped in the area. Star was 41. Her murder remains unsolved, but is suspected to be the work of a serial killer targeting Southern prostitutes.
9. Crystal Hefner
Crystal Hefner was once just plain old Crystal Harris, the psychology major who modeled to pay her way through San Diego SU. Enter the robe-clad figure of Hugh Hefner. He bumped into Crystal at a Halloween party and instantly became smitten, featuring her as the magazine’s Co-Ed of the Week. Shortly afterwards, she began dating The Hef, becoming engaged on Christmas Eve, 2010. However, Crystal rocked the world of Playboy by doing the unthinkable and dumping Hefner five days before their planned wedding, in June 2011.
The humiliated mogul had featured Crystal as the cover star and centerfold for the July issue, under the banner “Introducing America’s Princess, Mrs. Crystal Hefner”; the savvy marketing team added a sticker proclaiming her “The Runaway Bride”. Happily for fans of…true love, Hugh got his girl in the end, with Crystal becoming the third Mrs. Hef on New Year’s Eve, 2012 – he was 86, she 26.
8. Shannon Tweed
There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the trout-tongued, millionaire rock star Gene Simmons, that seems to attract Playmates. The relationship between Simmons and the 1982 Playmate of the Year, Shannon Tweed, wasn’t the first between a centerfold and the Kiss star, but it was certainly the longest – and messiest. Various sex tapes of Tweed have emerged over the years as her relationship with Simmons progressed and the couple have, despite marriage after 28 years together, been vocal in their constant criticisms of each other. In an interview with The Today Show to promote their reality series, Family Jewels, Tweed even went as far as to suggest that the couples’ eldest son was the result of an unplanned pregnancy and was the only reason that they’d stayed together for so long. Stay classy, Shannon.
7. Azealia Banks
The Azealia Banks rap sheet is so long that she could have quite conceivably written, recorded and released a followup to Broke With Expensive Tastes by the time we finished writing about it. The 212 rapper has spent more time since her debut track dropped on extra-curricular activities rather than releasing actual music, be it beefing with half of the West Coast hip-hop scene or posing naked for Playboy‘s April 2015 issue. Possibly the most controversial moments of the self-described bisexual’s career have been suffused with accusations of homophobia and lambasted the associate editor of Vice. Proof, perhaps, that Azealia may have expensive tastes, but she is yet to learn that money can’t buy you class.
6. Kim Kardashian
There is a chance, a small chance but still a kernel of possibility, that the elevation of the Kardashian clan to cultural figureheads is one of the foreshadows of the apocalypse. As you weep for the end of civilization, take the antics of December 2007 Playmate Kim, as your starting point for the End Of Days. Weep as you remember that her career was launched by a leaked sex tape. Gnash your teeth as you consider that she once took a selfie of her blood facial and Tweeted it to her followers.
Remember that such nonsense is small potatoes to the time Kim managed to offend the entire Armenian community by posing for the Turkish edition of Cosmopolitan during the month of April, a time where people of Kim’s Armenian heritage remember the WWI genocide of Armenians by the Turkish.
5. Jenny McCarthy
Gentlemen and ladies who were of a certain age in the 90s will recognize Jenny McCarthy immediately. The blonde model and VJ was named Playmate of the Year in 1993, and quickly capitalized on her persona as a bubbly funster with a permanently agape mouth and massive assets (ahem) by cultivating a film and TV acting career. McCarthy was a popular and well-regarded host of talk show The View and at the height of her career when controversy struck. McCarthy held the view (ha!) that her son’s autism was caused by vaccination and that he was subsequently ‘cured’ by chelation therapy. While it seems likely that her son was misdiagnosed, McCarthy has since become an advocate of alternate therapies, a stance which has seen her labelled as a prominent advocate of anti-vaccination ideology.
4. Anna Nicole Smith
There have been few Playmates who have lived such a controversial life in the public eye as 1993 cover star, Anna Nicole Smith. Her infamy exploded not long after her first Playboy appearance, when she announced that she was due to wed Texan oil billionaire J Howard Marshall, six decades her senior. His death (ten months into the marriage) resulted in a long and unseemly court battle as to whom would be entitled to inherit his $1.8 billion fortune. Arguably the seediest element of Smith’s life concerned the months leading up to her death of a prescription drugs overdose and the parentage of her daughter, Dannielynne. Though her new husband, Howard K Stern claimed parentage, up to five other men were realistically in the frame to be the father. A DNA test ultimately proved that photographer Larry Birkhead was Dannielynne’s biological father, a messy end to the sad story of Anna Nicole Smith.
3. Izabella St. James
Many of the Playmates who take up residence at Hef’s mansion are fiercely ambitious and would drive a sharpened stiletto into their own eyeball rather than bite the hand that feeds them; the fact that their contracts allegedly include behavioral clauses in exchange for their complicit silence possibly has a lot to do with that. Hurrah and huzzah, then for Izabella St. James! The pretty Pole proved a pesky pain in Playboy‘s posterior with her provocative prose; her 2009 tome, Bunny Tales blew open the veil of secrecy about what went on in the dead of night at Hefner’s pad.
2. Pamela Anderson
For many, Pamela Anderson perfectly encapsulates the 1990’s. First appearing as Playmate of the Month in February 1990, the Canadian beauty has appeared on the cover 13 times since, more than anybody else in Playboy‘s history. During her 25 years in the spotlight, Pammie has managed to stir up enough controversy to last several lifetimes. She’s famously suffered two leaked sex tapes, with then-husband Tommy Lee and later with Poison’s Bret Michaels. An Australian ad for Dreamscape was banned in Britain for being deemed ‘sexist’ and risque, while her appearance as a pole dancer led to an Elton John song being pulled from rotation. She has also had to suffer the indignity of her estranged husband, Rick Saloman, labeling her a “serial baby killer” in leaked divorce court documentaries.
1. Holly Madison
Though it may come as a surprise to some, a group of highly ambitious people who are being paid to live together in close confinement while having little in common are prone to having the odd tiff. In the case of the Playboy mansion, such disagreements can go nuclear reasonably quickly and enter the public consciousness as a result. Holly Madison appeared in the November 2005 issue of Playboy, and had a subsequent relationship with Hefner before forging her own reality career. However, it seems that she was one of the most widely loathed Hefner girls amongst the rest of his squad.
Izabella St.James lived with Madison for two years in the mansion and makes no secret of her contempt for her contemporary in her book, Bunny Tales. She paints a picture of Madison as a “delusional” stalker, who attempted to trap Hef into marriage and fatherhood whilst becoming obsessed with him. St.James writes of how Madison would put noses out of joint with her behaviour while Madison penned her own memoirs, Down The Rabbit Hole, where she admits to feeling like an outcast. Whatever the exact truth, it would seem that, even in the cutthroat world of the Playboy mansion, Holly Madison was an especially reviled figure.