According to grim accusations made by multiple exes of Hugh Hefner, the Playboy Mansion could be a house of horrors at times.
Holly Madison has been outspoken about her own lived experiences under that roof.
In a new docuseries, Secrets of Playboy, viewers are getting a grim look at what that time was actually like.
According to Holly, the mansion had a cult-like atmosphere where the girls were gaslit, isolated, and controlled.
Secrets of Playboy premieres on A&E on January 24.
In this sneak peek clip of the new docuseries, Holly Madison is interviewed.
All the while, viewers are shown footage of the mansion, including its walls and gates.
“The reason I think the mansion was very cult-like looking back on it,” Holly’s voice begins to explain.
The reason “is because we were all kind of gaslit.”
“And,” Holly continues, “expected to think of Hef as like this really good guy.”
Holly, of course, was one of the women in a relationship with Hugh Hefner from 2001 through 2008.
Gaslighting refers to deliberately making people doubt their own senses and memories in order to make them believe that they are insane.
This abusive manipulation technique is often misused on social media to simply mean “lying,” but takes its name from a play.
It’s clear that Holly means the term in its actual meaning, as the environment encouraged her to discount her own perceptions.
“And you started to feel like, ‘Oh, he’s not what they say in the media, he’s just a nice man,'” she characterizes.
For the record, what was said in the media about Hefner in the early 2000s pales beside what has come out about him in recent years.
“Another thing that reminds me of a cult,” Holly continues, “is how it was so easy to get isolated from the outside world there.”
Isolation is a key mechanism behind cults, where members are encouraged to cut ties with anyone not part of their group.
“You had a 9 o’clock curfew,” Holly recalls.
“You were encouraged to not have friends over,” Holly describes of her time at the mansion.
“You weren’t really allowed to leave,” she characterizes.
Holly adds: “unless it was, like, a family holiday.”
We then see old footage of the girls being interviewed, asked about the “rules” of the house.
They were not, they admitted, permitted to have boyfriends.
Quickly covering for themselves, the ladies characterized Hefner as being their “boyfriend.”
“The sex always happened the same time, the same night,” Holly recalls.
“We would go out to a club every Wednesday and Friday,” she describes.
“And,” she details, “that would be expected when we got home.”
Holly did have a waitressing job, she says, which she kept to only one day a week.
She wanted to make sure that she would not have to go job hunting whenever her time at the mansion came to an end.
However, even that limited time out of the mansion made Hefner “jealous,” she reports.
“He said it made him ‘jealous,’ and he would appreciate it if I quit my job,” Holly tells the camera.
“So instead,” she shares, “we were given $1,000 a week as an allowance.”
On the surface, that almost sounds like a fair solution.
$1,000 a week would be a decent middle class salary now (for someone with no kids or expenses) and even more valuable at the time.
Even so, it’s hard to say if it’s worth the restrictions that she describes.
If you’re surrendering almost all of the hours of your day and literally living at your job, your pay should reflect that.
But then, Holly is being careful to describe this as an “allowance,” and it’s clear that Hefner did the same.
it’s clear that it wasn’t the same as a direct payment, and seemed less about rewarding the girls for their labor to please Hefner and more like another tool of control.
It will be interesting to hear what more Holly has to say, and what others choose to reveal, as the documentary unfolds.