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Out There

A midnight bunny-hop through the gardens of the Playboy Mansion.

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like behind the velvet (smoking jacket) curtain that is the Playboy mansion, here’s a bit of an overview (see photo gallery).

We’d never been before to the infamous Holmby Hills, California compound, and so it was with voyeuristic anticipation, and a kind of boyish glee, that we happily accepted an invitation to the “Candy Land”-themed Hugh Hefner party this past Saturday night.

It did not disappoint. (Full disclosure: Besides editing this blog, I am also the writer-at-large at Playboy magazine.) I attended with two fine, and unfazed, chaps: strapping-buck editorial director Jimmy Jellinek and Hollywood-handsome publisher John Lumpkin.

After a series of security checks, passing, aptly, Candy Spelling’s grand residential gates (she’s Hef’s neighbor, natch), we entered the compound, passing shuttles of expectant, and paying, visitors, and saw the stately, turreted stone mansion for the first time, all a-buzz with extension-haired, body-painted ladies in every form of lingerie and stilettos known to womankind.

While the elaborate “Kandyland” theme took its inspiration from the circa-1949 (and-going) children’s board game-man-sized candy canes and the like-there were many nods to “Willy Wonka” and “Alice in Wonderland,” adding up to surreal gorgeousness and Technicolor surprises round every manicured bend, on a breezy evening with a near-full moon.

Little People dressed as Oompa-Loompas danced, a Cheshire Cat lulled in a tree branch. “What you got going?” I said to a gregarious Oompa, “Keep doing it.” Was that ex-Page Sixer Neel Shah roaming the grounds over yonder? You bet it was.

Drinks were flowing from outdoor settees, beds, and ottomans arranged around mini-bottle-service bars throughout. A living Barbie Doll stepped out of her box and go-go-danced. Piles of blonde-haired girls (I counted maybe 40 brunettes in what appeared to be over 1,000 females), well, piled on top of each other, created a Plato’s Retreat-like effect. Not a soul was camera-shy. Men who had brought scantily clad dates were oblivious to any untoward ogling of their ladies by other dudes, as they couldn’t stay focused, focused, doing exactly the same.

If Frank Lloyd Wright were describing the women in attendance–both hired by Playboy as eye candy and long-faced “regular” girls from Glendale, Thousand Oaks, Eagle Rock, and Hollywood’s so-called “Lowlands,” doing their best to keep up (as it were)–the word he would use is “cantilevered.” You could rest a serving of bouillabaisse for two upon most of the breasts on display. The word “inhibited” was not in anyone’s vocabulary. It was the male-partygoers, in fact, that looked almost contrarily sheepish–inmates overwhelmed by the embarrassment of a five-course last meal. (Would it ever get “bettah than ‘dis?”)
Most of the party took place under Big Top-sized, canopied domes, a la Circe de Soleil, where smoking wasn’t permitted. The surrounding lagoons were dotted with addled ducks and gigantic, Day-glo mushrooms. Cocktail waitresses doled out candy, and canapé-d mushroom caps. (‘Shrooms were big.) Pauly Shore held court, again, natch.

One of the most fun things to do was to slip under the big tops, finding some unsnapped flap, where you discovered some new layer to the proceedings, such as cages full of monkeys huddled together warming themselves on heat lamps, lush rolls of topiary-ed hills, and aeries of assorted parrots and cockatiels.

The Great and Powerful Hef passed through, smiling that sidewinder smile, surrounded by blondes and bodyguards. But there was nothing menacing about the security. If anyone knows crowd control like they know the lapels on their Big and Tall suits, it’s the security at the Mansion, from the ongoing Bacchanals thrown annually.

A little retro, a little “right now,” plenty of camp, a conspicuous consumption break from the tension of oil spills, wars, and recessions, Candy Land was a sweet success. I for one am hoping to have another go at it, say, the Mid-Summer’s Night Dream fete, the mother of them all. What you got going, Hef? Keep doing it.

 

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