When I picked this book up, I had no idea who Holly Madison was. Having never seen an episode of The Girls Next Door, I could not tell you the cast members’ names and I only vaguely knew that it centered around three women who lived in the famed Playboy Mansion. Still the idea of getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Hugh Hefner’s pleasure palace seemed like a bit of decadent fun, so when it became available at my local library, I checked it out.
The way I figured it, the book could go one of two ways: either it would be well written and full of juicy tidbits or it would be one of those tragic tales that they make into a Lifetime movie. I was wrong on both counts. Down the Rabbit Hole is just…sad and for all of the wrong reasons. For everyone who has ever viewed the iconic Playboy brand as the pinnacle of the soft-core porn industry or looked at Hugh Hefner as a man who is still living the high life despite his age, this book will leave you deflated and you’ll be sorry that you peeked behind the curtain.
Madison’s tale is fairly standard: Small town girl wants to make it in the big time so she packs her bags and moves to Los Angeles where she hopes to end up in that most famous of all magazines, Playboy. It’s an interesting career choice and after securing an invite to one of the Playboy Pool Parties, she becomes a regular fixture until (almost immediately) she moves in to the Mansion itself.
Of course things aren’t always what they appear to be in Wonderland and Madison learns that she is not welcomed with open arms. The other “girlfriends” of Hefner’s have a very specific pecking order and Madison is low man on the totem pole. She spends a significant amount of time talking about how mean everyone is to one another, how Hefner perpetuates the drama and why none of his “main squeezes” tend to end up in the magazine itself. Evidently the Number One Playboy himself knows that despite his wealth, at his age he is hardly a “catch” and many of the girls will only cuddle up next to him in order to secure their pictorial, collect a handsome paycheck and find someone else in pretty short order. So naturally, he has to keep those closest to him on a tight leash. (Metaphorically speaking, of course)
Couple this unflattering scenario with the idea that the Playboy mansion is hardly the palatial digs one might expect it to be. I could have done without hearing about the urine soaked carpet, the stacks of adult films lying around and the furnishings that seem straight out of the seventies. (Let’s not even talk about the bizarre bedroom ritual that followed a night on the town.) By the time the Girls Next Door television show got off the ground, Madison has devoted half a decade to this place with no promise of a photo shoot and little more to show for it than the distinction of being Hugh Hefner’s main girlfriend. Once upon a time, that illustrious title had cache but to hear Madison tell it, the shine has long since worn off. Halfway through the book I wanted to yell, “What were you sticking around for, Lady?”
After being coerced into signing her GND contract and having some of her fashion designs pirated (by Playboy no less) I think I would be having a chat with the guy in charge…especially if I was living with him. Down the Rabbit Hole is a cautionary tale for which I have no sympathy and if you’re smart, you’ll avoid it. Bag It.