Hugh Hefner left behind a complicated and controversial legacy that's explored in the new A&E documentary series Secrets of Playboy.
When Hefner launched Playboy in 1953, the magazine all but jump-started the sexual revolution, heralding a new era of sexual freedom and expression. Though some of the magazine's and Hefner's own ethos has soured as times have decidedly changed.
According to a press release on Secrets of Playboy, behind Playboy's "glossy facade" was a "more sinister reality" that allowed for decades of "nefarious conduct including sexual assault and drug abuse to flourish, and where prostitution, suicide and even murder lurked in the shadows."
The series will explore how the Playboy "machine was a powerful force that, at its worst, manipulated women in a toxic environment, silencing their voices, pitting them against one another, and opening the door to sexual predators."
Over the decades, Hefner resided in a state of arrested development, living out a fantasy of perpetual bachelorhood complete with his signature smoking jacket and multiple blonde girlfriends. His treatment of these women comes into view in the first look from Secrets of Playboy.
Michael Bezjian/WireImage Holly Madison and Hugh Hefner
Holly Madison, who dated Hefner from 2001 to 2008, describes some the verbal abuse she endured from him for something as slight as getting a haircut.
"I came back with short hair and he flipped out on me," Madison recalls. "And he was screaming at me that it made me look old, hard, and cheap."
Hefner, it seems, reserved a particular ire for Madison.
"Hef would be pretty abrasive in the way he said things to Holly," adds fellow Hefner girlfriend Bridget Marquardt, who also dated the Playboy founder from 2001-2008. "She came down with red lipstick one time and he like flipped out and said he hated red lipstick on girls, [and that she] should take it off right away. Even though other people could wear red lipstick and it didn't seem to bother him."
Life in the Playboy mansion was not as fun and glamorous as it seemed, at least not for Madison who grew sad and depressed from all the everyday drama in the house.
"I remember there were times probably within the first couple years that I lived there," Madison says, "when I felt like I was just in this cycle of gross things and I didn't know what to do."
Secrets of Playboy premieres Jan. 24, 2022, at 9 p.m. ET on A&E.
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