The Play for the Playboy Mansion
I read with fascination that the Playboy Mansion just sold for an unbelievable $105 million. Why the exorbitant price tag? For one thing, you get something no one can put a price on – the original playboy himself, Hugh Hefner, who gets to live there in his silk pajamas until he dies. Not a bad return for the $1.1 million the nonagenarian paid in 1971 for the property.
The buyer is 32 year-old Daren Metropoulos, who along with his father and brother, has made a fortune turning around sagging brands of questionable nutrition (but great nostalgia), like Chef Boyardee, Aunt Jemima, Bumble Bee, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and most recently, Hostess Brands, makers of those healthy Twinkies and Ho Hos. Apparently by making them hip again. But Aunt Jemima? Really? Until 1989 she wore a headband that was widely pilloried as a caricature of a “mammy,” a black nanny in charge of white children.
The media reported all kinds of sex merchants lining up to buy the home, including Hustler’s Larry Flynt (in a bold stroke of sword play), burlesque nightclub owner Jeff Beacher, and even lothario Charlie Sheen. But in the end it was the little known mogul Metropolis. One can only wonder what plans he has for the 29 room, 20,000 square foot mansion, complete with gymnasium, tennis court, orchard, and that fabled swimming pool with the grotto.
At just 32 years old, with a full libido, will he will be the new Vincent Chase (of Entourage), bringing his posse from Connecticut and throwing lavish parties with LA’s most exuberant models and actresses? Maybe it’s a business play, and he intends to make the brand hip again, what with the anachronistic magazine recently eliminating naked pictures because of the proliferation of internet porn. Perhaps he’ll turn it into a museum of late 20th century excess. Imagine the lore if Hef spills the beans on what unthinkable things happened where. After all, Pamela Anderson confessed that one of her children was conceived in the grotto.
But Daren took a more dignified approach and said he bought the mansion because of its historical architecture. A bit like saying we bought the magazine to read the articles.
Anyway, in an ironic twist, the other news story that is roiling our country is the rape trial of Stanford freshman Brock Turner. The brave victim has penned perhaps the most heart felt and articulate account ever of what it’s like to be violated, not only physically, but also emotionally. With Brock’s cruel, mendacious defense, and his attorney’s predictable attempts to discredit the victim with accusations of binge drinking and promiscuity, she is countering with a defiant and heroic stand for abused women everywhere. And there are plenty.
The Joyful Heart Foundation reports that one in three women are physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their life. We certainly have been reminded of that recently with the five-part documentary on OJ Simpson. And according to Victoria’s Friend, a non profit providing spiritual support, physical restoration, and training to women in the sex industry, “between 66% and 90% of women in the sex industry were sexually abused as children.”
I’m not asserting that all Playboy models are sex workers or were abused, but there is certainly an issue of self esteem for women posing naked and hanging at Hef’s pad.
So perhaps Daren could surprise us and do something altruistic with the iconic home, something to mitigate years of objectification by shining a spotlight on abuse. How about donating the Playboy Mansion to Victoria’s Friends or Joyful Heart, and thus create a safe space for abused women to rehabilitate? Wouldn’t it be poetic justice to convert the most salacious home in the world into a sanctuary for healing the traumas that perhaps led women to the mansion in the first place?
Or if that strays too far from Daren’s core principles, how about a recovery center for obesity and diabetes from eating such things as Aunt Jemima, Hostess Twinkies, and Chef Boyardee? That would be a historic brand turnaround indeed.
Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8pm on KX93.5, and can be reached at [email protected]