The day Crystal Hefner attempted to escape Hugh Hefner’s mansion, he made a chilling call.

When Crystal Hefner was 21 years old, she moved into the Playboy mansion to live with 81-year-old Hugh Hefner. Two years later, she attempted to escape. 

In her new memoir Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself, Crystal goes into explicit detail about what life was like within the walls of the Playboy mansion with Hugh

For a decade, Crystal and Hugh's relationship dominated tabloid headlines with constant speculation about what their lives looked like behind the closed doors of the mansion. For years, Playboy enthusiasts were left without answers to two big questions about the infamous couple. 

1. Why did Crystal leave the mansion? 

And 2. Why did she go back?

We now have answers to both.

Watch: Holly Madison talking about the Playboy Mansion in 2018. 

Video via Mamamia

Hugh Hefner launched Playboy magazine in 1949 with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, who we later found out was never compensated for her work. The success of the shock-inducing magazine covers allowed Hugh to expand the Playboy brand into clubs, fashion, and his infamous Playboy Mansion, which was known for its wild parties. It also acted as a home to many women, all of whom were girlfriends to Hugh. 


Many women dreamed of living in the Playboy mansion, but as we later found out, for many of them it was a dream they would soon regret... which brings us to 2011, a controversial year for Crystal Hefner. 

This was the year it was reported that she had left Hugh just before their wedding was about to take place. Her cover issue of Playboy had already gone to press so in retaliation for leaving, Hugh plastered a red sticker on her cover with the words “Runaway bride in this issue.” 

Crystal Hefner’s July 2011 cover for Playboy magazine. Image via The Sunday Times.


At the time, Crystal was vague about why she decided to leave Hugh. She told ET "I can honestly say I was not the only woman in Hef's life. And I didn't feel comfortable in my heart knowing that, and being able to get married to him. Because a marriage is between two people and that's not what our relationship was."

Unknown to the public, this wasn't the first time Crystal had attempted to escape. 

On Christmas Eve in 2010, Hugh had proposed to her. She later said she had no choice but to say yes. 

“Like all things with Hef, it was a transaction—the cover of Playboy equaled marriage, and marriage equaled the cover of Playboy. I would go along with it because going along with things was what I did. That was my job,” she wrote in her book. 

During this time, Crystal discovered that she was going to star in a new reality TV series titled Marrying Hef. She then found out that Hugh would be making $800,000 from the series. 

Crystal? Her cut would be $2500. 

For the first time, she decided to question Hugh about it. “I’m not expecting half or anything, of course not, but...maybe something more significant than this?”

“What are you in this for?” Hugh replied. 

Upset, Crystal attempted to storm out. As she was approaching the mansion gates, Hugh’s voice boomed across the grounds on speaker phones saying:

“Close the back gate! If Crystal tries to leave, detain her!”


In her book, Crystal wrote that while money might have been the catalyst for this escape attempt, it was not the only reason why she wanted to leave Hugh. 

There were some unspoken yet extremely strict rules in place for the girlfriends of Hugh Hefner. The women had to be blonde with no roots showing; they had to have well-manicured nails that were painted translucent pink, they always had to have a full face of makeup on but weren’t allowed to wear dark lipstick, especially red (Hugh hated red lipstick) and they had to wear tight clothing. 

They also had a curfew and couldn't let on that they had a life outside of the mansion, otherwise they would likely get demoted from girlfriend to playmate. At events, they had to allow anyone to touch them no matter who they were.

In her memoir, Crystal also went into detail about some of the harmful sex acts she was told to perform and what her role as “main girlfriend” entailed. 

During movie nights, Hugh and Crystal would sit together. If he was planning on having sex that night, he would reach into his jacket pocket and pull out a tissue that had a tiny blue pill in it (Viagra). That would be Crystal's sign to select a small group of women to come with her to Hugh's bedroom so he could have sex with them. 

He would go into the room first and turn on music- usually something upbeat like Madonna. Crystal would take the women to the vanity and give them silk pyjama sets to change into. They would then move to the bed, where large screens playing porn surrounded them. 

In her book, Crystal wrote that Hugh never wore a condom and would always finish in his hand. 


He was also adamant about using baby oil for everything.

“I begged Mary [Hugh's staff manager] to tell him, but you couldn’t really tell him anything he didn’t want to hear," Crystal wrote. "We tried to replace the baby oil with lube, but when we weren’t looking, he would always switch it back. He kept a doctor on retainer who would come when called to give us antibiotics. To avoid infections, I sometimes resorted to anal sex when it was my turn to straddle Hef.”

When Crystal left Hugh just before their wedding, there was speculation that she was romantically involved with Dr Phil’s son Jordan McGraw. At the time both she and the Playboy team denied this story but in her book, she has now told a different tale. 

Crystal met Jordan while she was still engaged to Hugh. 

She confided in Jordan about her anxiety leading up to the wedding and what life was really like in the mansion. “You need to talk to my dad,” Jordan said to her one day. 

When Crystal sat down with Dr Phil in his house, she said that he empowered her to be bolder and stronger in front of Hugh. “Here’s the bottom line, you’re a twenty-five-year-old woman," he told her. "You’re young, vibrant. You have your whole life ahead of you! You shouldn’t be trapped in that house." 

After Crystal managed to successfully escape the mansion she moved in with Jordan, which brings us to the next looming question: Why did she return? 

“I didn’t love Hef, and in many ways I was angry with him, but I still cared about him for all the complicated reasons you care about someone when you shouldn’t,” she wrote in the book. 


She said that soon after she moved in with him, Jordan started displaying behaviours of love bombing and deception. She also overheard Dr Phil objectifying her, telling people “Look at my son, he bagged himself a Playmate.” 

She left Jordan after she saw an email on his phone from his mum with the subject line “CRYSTAL”. The email advised Jordan to break up with her. 

From there, Crystal's life outside the mansion spiralled even more. At the time, it was believed that the girlfriends of Hugh Hefner were loaded with cash. Crystal wrote that they each received a weekly allowance of $1000 which they had to ask for every Friday. Hugh's office would also keep tabs on the allowances and make sure they were spending it on either clothes or getting their hair done. The money was not allowed to be saved. 

After leaving Jordan, Crystal decided to invest the money she had in a lingerie business which as you guessed it- failed. 

Listen to the author talk about Crystal Hefner's memoir on The Spill podcast. Post continues below.

At the same time, Hugh was calling Crystal’s mother. “He was in tears to me on the phone the other day. Give him another chance, Crystal. What on earth are you doing out here?" her mother told her. 

Lost, anxious and stressed, Crystal decided to go back to Hugh. 

Returning to the mansion Crystal wrote that it seemed like Hugh now respected her. After getting married, both of their health began to deteriorate. 


Crystal was convinced that even though she was 60 years his junior, they would die together. She was diagnosed with Lyme disease and had breast-plant illness. She also had traces of toxic mould in her system and when she got the mansion checked, she was told that the place was riddled with black mould.

“This whole time, the mansion had been breaking me down, one way or another," she wrote. "Now it was breaking down my health, my body. The house itself was literally making me sick. 

"The funniest thing to me—darkly funny—was the way Hef had always insisted that the mansion was better than the outside world, right down to the air. He would actually say, “The air is better in here.” And the whole time, it was the air that was poison.”

Crystal and Hugh's story ended when he passed away in his bed in September 2017. 

Until the release of her memoir, Crystal had avoided speaking the truth about what it was really like for the women living in the mansion. We now know that their relationship, although there was love there, wasn't a partnership, it was a power imbalance and one that switched roles right at the end when she took on the role of his carer. 

You can buy Crystal Hefner's book Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself here.

If you want more pop culture opinions from Emily Vernem you can listen to her on Mondays-Wednesdays on The Spill podcast or you can follow her on Instagram @emilyvernem.

Feature image: Getty/ Google books

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