Somehow, it makes perfect sense that the recently sold Playboy Mansion has a zoo license. (It also has a year-round fireworks permit.) Yes, there are the monkeys, peacocks, flamingos and ducks, but if what Hugh Hefner has been operating since 1971 isn’t some type of human zoo, then it would be difficult to apply the phrase elsewhere.
The Playboy magazine founder at one point had two mansions: one in Chicago, the other in Holmby Hills. But a federal investigation into drug use at his Chicago home (later dropped) was a motivating factor in 1974 to resettle his lifestyle full time in California. He got quite a piece of real estate for his $1 million: a 22,000-square-foot, 1927-built, Gothic/Tudor residence on 5 acres with 29 rooms plus tennis court, four-bedroom guesthouse and a swimming pool with the famous grotto that unfortunately developed into a breeding ground for Legionnaires’ disease in 2011.
Though the mansion has had its glory days with corporate events and stars (Leonardo DiCaprio, Rihanna and a drunk John Lennon, who once stubbed out a cigarette in Hef’s original Matisse, have passed through), Izabella St. James, one of seven live-in “girlfriends” with Hefner in 2002, wrote in her book Bunny Tales that Archie the dog’s urinating on the curtains was among the factors contributing to a “general scent of decay.”
St. James, 40, who now runs a pug rescue, tells THR she attributes some of the mansion’s funkier aspects to “Hef being a creature of habit. He gets attached to things. He wants things to be homey and comfortable and familiar. After I wrote my book, they got him new carpets and drapes.” She recalls mansion life as “not about sex. It’s about promoting the Playboy brand. I look at it as an interesting growth experience that sometimes comes back to whack me in the head.”
The mansion was listed in January for $200 million by owner Icon Acquisition Holdings, Playboy’s parent company (Hefner pays rent to Icon). The property now is in escrow with billionaire Daren Metropoulos, 32, whose family owned Pabst Brewing Co. and saved Hostess Brands in 2013.
Metropoulos has an adjacent home Hefner bought years ago for former wife Kimberley and reportedly plans to join and preserve the two estates. Playboy would not comment on the sales price (reportedly $105 million), terms of which include a “life estate” provision that would allow Hefner, 90, to reside there until his big move to Westwood and the crypt beside Marilyn Monroe’s that he purchased for himself in 1992 for $75,000.
This story first appeared in the June 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.