Denouncing “unfounded allegations” from the recently-released A&E documentary series ‘Secrets of Playboy’, hundreds of women have signed their names to an open letter published by People magazine on Tuesday. The list includes Hefner’s ex-girlfriends and employees, along with the magazine’s models and the “Bunnies” who furnished its clubs and other properties.
“From all we know of Hef, he was a person of upstanding character, exceptional kindness, and dedication to free thought,” the letter reads, adding that the founder of the iconic lifestyle brand “demonstrated a commitment to living an honest life beyond everything else” and that they looked back fondly on their time with Playboy and its satellite entities.
Among the women to sign the letter was Hefner’s second ex-wife, Kimberley Conrad, who was married to the mogul for nine years, separated for 11, and finally divorced in 2009. Despite the breakup, she seemed to carry no ill will toward her late ex, instead calling out those women who had been “emboldened to rewrite the truth at the expense of another person’s character.”
I’m saddened, mostly, that these accounts take light away from true victims of sexual abuse, and hope that in time those selling lies to defame Hef find peace within their own lives.
A preview of the show refers to the Playboy founder as a “predator” and a “master manipulator” who “ruined women’s lives.” Its stars include Holly Madison, formerly Hefner’s “#1 girlfriend,” who previously claimed in a tell-all book about their six-year relationship that he’d offered her $3 million not to leave him.
In the A&E series, that claim mutates into allegations that she was scared to leave because Hefner kept a “mountain of revenge porn” he wouldn’t hesitate to deploy against her.
Another former girlfriend, Sondra Theodore, seems shocked that Hefner, whom she calls a “madman”, was “obsessed with sex” – despite sex being the focus of the Playboy brand – and claims she “saw the devil in him.”
A&E itself features a statement at the end of each episode of ‘Secrets of Playboy’, acknowledging that while the show contains plenty of allegations of wrongdoing by Hefner and his associates, the “vast majority of allegations have not been the subject of criminal investigations or charges, and they do not constitute proof of guilt.”
Despite the support of so many who worked and played under Hefner, the Playboy company itself seemed eager to distance itself from the man who made it a world-famous name, releasing a statement insisting that “today’s Playboy is not Hugh Hefner’s Playboy” and pointing out that the company is “run by a workforce that is more than 80% female.” However, as a brand focused on catering to men’s sexuality, Playboy has always employed large numbers of women.
Hefner’s son, Cooper, has also spoken out in defense of his father, taking to Twitter to skewer the “salacious” tales spun by the A&E docuseries. Such stories are “a case study of regret becoming revenge,” he tweeted.