'Secrets of Playboy': The docuseries exposing the dark side Hugh Hefner's empire

'Secrets of Playboy' explores the hidden realities behind the Playboy empire through fresh eyes
'Secrets of Playboy' explores the hidden realities behind the Playboy empire through fresh eyes Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Theo FarrantAP
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Zeitgeisty and refreshing or dark and manipulative? This 10-part docuseries lifts the lid on the story of Playboy from the women that experienced it.


A new 10-part docuseries is set to expose the dark side of the Playboy legacy and its founder Hugh Hefner.

'Secrets of Playboy' delves into the complex world Hefner created and examines its consequences on Western culture's view of power and sexuality.

The series documenting the empire's rise and fall debuts in the US on January 24, on television network A&E, with a back-to-back premiere followed up by weekly episodes. A European release date is TBA.

Expect interviews and commentary from former affiliates of Hefner, including his former Playmate girlfriend Sondra Theordoe, and PJ Masten, who worked as a 'bunny mother'.

"If the history of Playboy was told through women's voices, what would they say?" asks director Alexandra Dean.

Was Playboy's sexual liberation a 'smokescreen'?

Photo taken in 1970 shows Hugh Hefner (top), his girlfriend actress Barbara Benton and other playmates arriving at Le Bourget airportAFP

Playboy was founded in 1953 by the late Hugh Hefner and his associates.

The company started out as a men's lifestyle magazine, which became known for its centrefolds of nude female models.

Playboy further embedded itself into popular culture with its well-known bunny iconography, and Hugh Hefner's notorious Playboy mansion.

But the legacy of Hugh Hefner and Playboy is problematic.

Dean found that although Hefner projected Playboy as being inclusive, pro-feminism and sexually liberating, that was really just a "smokescreen for what was really going on."

The series is said to hone in on questions of consent, drug use and manipulation within Playboy as a wider organisation.

The tainted legacy of Hugh Hefner

Jae C. Hong/AP Photo
Hefner died at his home in Los Angeles, California, on September 27, 2017, at the age of 91Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

The dark documentary paints an ugly picture of the late Hugh Hefner's behaviour and practices.

He died in 2017 from sepsis and is buried in a crypt beside Marilyn Monroe that he purchased for €62,000 in 1992.

The allegations in the documentary present Hefner as a “monster”, who used drugs to victimise and take control of the women around him.

However, Dean said not everyone she approached to be interviewed had something negative to say about the magazine's founder.

"Most women you talk to about Playboy are still loyal to Hef and really support the organisation in their experience and everything about it. And I want to be really clear that I don't think this doc invalidates their experience," clarifies Dean.

Check out the video above for a preview of the 'Secrets of Playboy'.

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