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Mary O’Connor, Hugh Hefner's Longtime Secretary, Dies at 84

Mary O'Connor Hugh Hefner - H 2013
Elayne Lodge
O'Connor and Hefner in 2010.

She worked at the Playboy founder's side for four decades at the mansion as his Girl Friday.

Mary O’Connor, who spent more time with Hugh Hefner than anyone else as his trusted secretary, confidant and adviser at the Playboy Mansion for more than four decades, has died. She was 84. 

O’Connor died Jan. 27 at Sherman Oaks Hospital following a short illness. She worked for Hefner until she entered the hospital a week before she died.

“We loved her more than words can say,” Hefner said in a statement. He operated the Playboy empire out of her tiny second-­floor office from a couch looking up at her desk.

O’Connor was serving on the board for a hospitality magazine when a colleague invited her to look into the open position as manager of the first Playboy Mansion in Chicago. She moved there in 1969.

“There were 24 bunnies living in the house then,” O'Connor recalled. “It was a whole new experience and a whole lot of fun.”

Hefner, now 86, purchased the Playboy Mansion West in Holmby Hills in 1971 for $1.1 million. He and O’Connor traveled back and forth until they made the move to Los Angeles permanent. “It was great fun furnishing this house,” she once said. “It was so much fun going into a store when money wasn’t an issue.”

In the 1998 book Inside the Playboy Mansion: If You Don't Swing, Don't Ring, O’Connor was quoted as saying how much she enjoyed the company of so many Playmates in the 22,000-square-foot home.

“It’s just the vitality of it, how pretty they are,” she said. “For me, it’s invigorating. It makes me feel young. The Playmates make everything come alive, with all their craziness and everything, and the way they dress, and their little psyches … it’s wonderful."

"In the old days, I even loved the promiscuity of it. I thought it was fun. If you want to go to bed with someone the first time you’re out with him, I think you should do it.”

Hefner credits O’Connor for the part she played in his rekindled love affair and New Year's Eve marriage to his third wife, Crystal Harris. Though in failing health, O’Connor served as matron of honor at the wedding, held inside the mansion.

Friends said O’Connor never raised her voice, rarely changed her expression and was known to have a sometimes wicked, X-rated sense of humor. She was kind, even when called upon to scold those who misbehaved in Hef’s playground.

A 2008 episode of the E! series The Girls Next Door had Hefner's women spending a day at the secretary's house. The episode was titled "There's Something About Mary O'Connor," but it provided few clues about the subject, as O'Connor rarely wanted attention paid to her.

She was born Mary Eugenia Feuchtinger on Aug. 8, 1928, in Chicago. She grew up in Marion, Ind. 

O’Connor was married for the first time at age 18 to a man 11 years her senior. Her second husband introduced her to the field of auto racing, and she promoted races around the country.

Following a divorce, O'Connor moved to California in 1953. “I always wanted to come to Los Angeles, to Hollywood,” she said. “My father’s sister was a screenwriter and involved in movies and that fascinated me.”

She married twice more, and the fourth husband was named O’Connor.

The true love of her life arrived when she met Robert F. Gentert in 1982. They remained companions for 30 years until his death from pneumonia at age 82 on April 28.

Before retiring, “Captain Bob,” as he was known, sailed ships for 43 years with Getty Oil and Maritime Overseas Corp. He and O'Connor lived in the Valley Village section of Los Angeles.

Survivors include her brother James, sister-­in-­law Sheila and several nieces and nephews.

A private memorial service at the Playboy Mansion will take place at 2 p.m. Friday.

Donations can be made in O'Connor's memory to the Best Friends Animal Society or the Bailey Baio Angel Foundation.