It's hard to imagine Hugh Hefner celebrating his 88th birthday this year without a boozy, babe-filled blowout at the Playboy Mansion, that 22,000 square foot Gothic-style Holmby Hills estate he's called home for the last four-plus decades. And that got us thinking - those walls have quite a few secrets to tell. So without further ado, here are 13 interesting facts about the place.
1. Playboy bought it from a chessmaster who also designed spaceships.
Originally built in 1927, Playboy acquired it in 1971 for a little over $1 million from world-renowned chess player and engineer Louis D. Statham, whose inventions included measuring devices that helped keep NASA spacecrafts on course. Today, with some renovations and expansion, it's estimated to be worth about $54 million.
2. It's a bit like prison for Hef's girlfriends.
According to Izabella St. James, one of Hef's former girlfriends, "there was a strict curfew" of 9 p.m, unless you were out with him. And while you're welcome to order any food or drink at any hour, you aren't allowed in the kitchen even for a glass of water. In her memoir she recalls that "every Friday morning we had to go to Hef's room, wait while he picked up all the dog poo off the carpet - and then ask for our allowance: a thousand dollars counted out in crisp hundred-dollar bills from a safe in one of his bookcases." Smell that? That's the stench of pure class.
3. John Lennon caused some serious damage.
During a drunken bender in the seventies (while he was separated from Yoko), he took one of Hef's original Matisse paintings off the wall and put out a cigarette on it. He nearly got his ass kicked, but managed to patch things up. The painting - with cig burns and all - is still hanging there.
4. It employs a lot of people.
The mansion has a staff of around 70 (not counting the paid Playmates living there), including chefs, butlers, groundskeepers, maintenance, security, and zookeepers.
5. Theres a secret Elvis room.
While much of the home's interior has been on camera at some point or another, this special spot is off-limits to the public. It's name is reportedly a reference to when Elvis Presley once 'slept' there with eight Playboy bunnies. They didn't call him the 'King' for nothing.
6. Hef doesn't actually own the place.
Icon Acquisitions Holdings - Playboy's parent company - owns the spread and Hef must pay 'fair market rent' and an annual fee to cover expenses like food and parties.
7. It's sort of a dump.
According to St. James (and many others who've visited recently), it's looking a little worse for the wear
and a bit depressing these days, with shabby stained furniture, broken appliances, and a distinct 'old man smell'.
8. The original Playboy Mansion in Chicago is now condos.
Hef bought the 72-room Victorian pad on the city's Gold Coast in '59 and continued using it for parties throughout the 1970s, when the Art Institute of Chicago bought it and turned it into student housing. In the mid-nineties a developer rehabbed the place and divided it into seven multi-million dollar family residences. Coolest place to raise a family ever.
9. Theres a sexy arcade.
There's a separate gaming compound a short walk from the main house. Inside are a whole bunch of vintage arcade games, pinball machines, a jukebox, pool table, and a separate mirrored room with a soft cushioned floor for, uh, sitting.
10. Its been granted some very unusual permits.
It's the only private home in L.A. with its own pyrotechnics license, and one of a select few in the city with a zoo license. Um, one of a select few? L.A., you crazy.
11. Every Sunday is movie night.
Every Sunday, Hef hosts a movie night for special guests and Playmates. On occasion a new flick is screened, but more often than not he picks something from his collection of over 4,000 films, which are organized atop the spiraling staircase of his bedroom.
12. It has a twin.
Until 2009, Hef's ex-wife Kimberley Conrad and their two children lived in the house next door, which is a mirror image of the Mansion layout, only smaller.
13. Luke Wilson was devastated after being banned.
He tried to pass himself off as his more famous brother to get inside for one of the bigger parties. It didn't work out so well and they banned him for over a year. Hes since admitted to making a tearful phone call to Hef's secretary to apologize. Other notable dudes who've been banned include former NFL players Cade McNown (for allegedly stealing Hef's girlfriend at the time), and Reggie Bush (for reasons unknown).