What Happened To The Playboy Mansion?

Once the gleaming Xanadu of sexual excess, bad behavior, and carefree good times in American pop culture, the Playboy Mansion has fallen hard from its glory days. It used to host raging parties full of A-list celebrities, but three years after the death of magazine mogul Hugh Hefner, the place is apparently looking pretty shabby. The Daily Mail reported in August 2020 that new aerial photos of the sprawling estate indicated it was undergoing some serious renovations. They showed the mansion that was built in 1927 covered in scaffolding, with the roof being replaced, bulldozers and flatbed trucks overhauling the grounds, and the fabled grotto notably drained of water. The renovations were to such an extreme that contractors had set up temporary offices to oversee the effort.

Through his company, Playboy Enterprises, Hefner bought the 29-room mansion in 1971 for $1 million (he'd already had one in Chicago that almost didn't survive an incident sparked by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards) and sold it in 2016 to billionaire Daren Metropoulos for a whopping $100 million. However, part of the deal was that Hefner could continue to rent it out and live there until he died. So, what exactly happened to the Playboy Mansion? What caused its fall from its glory days as the premier party house in Holmby Hills to an oversized, dilapidated shack in dire need of a makeover?

Apparently, Hugh Hefner happened to the Playboy Mansion

The U.S. Sun reported in September that the Playboy Mansion was a "cesspit" after it had been "left to rot and stripped by looters at the time of [Hefner's] death in 2017." Inside sources told the tabloid that looters had taken just about anything they could haul away as souvenirs of a bygone era in American history. "The bedrooms — even Hef's — were stripped of things like sex toys, gold-plated statues, used sheets and lingerie," said one source. "Valuable art was snatched from the walls — with imprints of the frames still visible." Looters also got away with the patio furniture and even pried pieces of rock from the landscaping. The only place in the house that was spared was Hugh's game room, as things like pinball machines were too big to be hauled away.

But although the looters left the place looking pretty ragged, the pleasure dome's decline began long before the death of its illustrious owner. Playboy bunnies who lived in the mansion during its last decades claimed that the interior had been in need of some remodeling for years. British bunny Carla Howe told The Sun in 2015 that "the whole place feels like it's stuck in the 1980s" and that it felt "more like an old people's home" than a party palace. Los Angeles public health officials even found the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's disease in the swimming pool in 2011 after over 120 people got sick following a party.

The Playboy Mansion's new owner has vowed to fix the place up

Although his original plan was to raze the stinking place to the ground after Hefner kicked the bucket, Metropoulos changed his mind and decided to restore the estate to its "original grandeur" after members of the city council campaigned to have the house registered as a historical landmark. According to NBC Los Angeles, they didn't get exactly what they wanted, but the city entered into an agreement with the new owner to preserve the house. "The significance of the property to Los Angeles' history [...] shouldn't be forgotten," said city councilman Paul Koretz, who added, "we are pleased that Mr. Metropoulos shares our respective interest in protecting the architectural visionaries of the past that will permanently remain to benefit all lovers of Los Angeles history for years to come.”

Metropoulos responded by thanking the city council for its cooperation and saying that he is "extremely passionate" about the architecture of the house he initially wanted to tear down and was looking forward to "this momentous opportunity to transform one of the finest estates in the country." Who knows what the billionaire, who lives next door, initially had in mind, but he now says the renovations will connect his estate to the Playboy Mansion. "As Mr. Hefner was aware, I plan to meticulously refurbish the property with the highest quality and standards in mind," Metropoulos said.