For most boys growing up, a pivotal moment in their lives is the discovery of Playboy Magazine. I distinctly remember the time I found a stack of them underneath my dad’s bedside table. I don’t know what was more amazing to me; the fact that there were magazines of naked women (and that I liked them!) or that my father actually subscribed to a magazine like that and had been for a long time without my ever knowing. Anyway, it’s a life-changing discovery, similar to Indiana Jones finding that sacred relic in the cave. If the magazine had glowed and music had played, I would not have been surprised.
With this discovery comes not only puberty but also the fantasy of the Playboy lifestyle, as exemplified by Hugh Hefner and his Playboy mansion. If there is a universally accepted hero amongst the male population, it is probably Hugh, who gets to wear pajamas all day and sleep with beautiful women whenever he wants. So when I was called last weekend and asked to shoot a video piece for a TV show at a party at the Playboy Mansion, I didn’t have to think twice. I had to go there. And for the first time ever, my friends VOLUNTEERED to come help me shoot. Even my dad asked if I needed any help and he lives in the Bay Area. Oh, the power of Playboy.
My job was to shoot a group of basketball players in town for the E3 Video Game convention and follow them as they made their way from downtown to the party. (The party was for a videogame company at the convention…) We left the convention in a giant stretch SUV limo (of course), which took us to UCLA, where we were led to the underground parking garage. There, a table had been set up and about a hundred people were waiting in line to have their names checked and then be handed the sacred “gold wristband,” a sparkly piece of plastic adorned with the signature Playboy bunny. (I bet some guys are still wearing theirs…) Once we were cleared, we were then loaded onto shuttle buses, which took us through Beverly Hills to the mansion. For a moment I thought we were going to be blindfolded like we were going to the Bat Cave.
You could feel the excitement in the bus as we rolled up the driveway past a sign that read “Playmates at Play” and through the gates. Even the women seemed to be charged up and as soon as the bus stop, everybody hurried off. The house was pretty damn huge, but the party was in the backyard, through a gate lined with several women in bunny outfits who were there to greet us. I turned on the camera and started shooting. As we entered the backyard, it became immediately clear that the place was overpopulated with computer guys from the company. You could barely move, though I did manage to make my way to a huge tent that had been set up on the lawn and was full of people watching some sort of risqué fashion show featuring extremely hot women and very little clothing. Several of the players posed for photos with women who seemed to be wearing lingerie but were actually wearing only body paint. That was impressive. I then pushed my way through the crowd to the infamous “Grotto”, a cave behind the pool that is notorious for wild orgies and general Playboy-inspired debauchery. I could hear the giggle of women on the mattresses inside (yes, mattresses) but it turned out to be just a few computer executives posing for photos of themselves. Then my lens fogged up from the steam and I had to get out.
There’s more I could tell you but the overall gist was that yes, there were many beautiful women there, most of the blond Jenny McCarthy variety, but it really only felt like a simulation of a “party at the Playboy Mansion” rather than the real thing. Sort of like when a company has a casino party and rents the tables rather than actually going to a real casino. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be at a regular party here, when genuine Playboy-inspired debauchery might occur (people stripping off their clothes, jumping in the pool, etc.) rather than a contrived corporate event featuring pre-paid bunnies posing for photographs and jumping in the pool at exactly 10:30 pm, as if they were a bunch of seals at mealtime at Marine World.
So, in conclusion, the best thing about going to a party at the Playboy Mansion is… telling people you went to a party at the Playboy Mansion. You can see their eyes widen, their heartbeat hasten, the envy in their voices when they ask “Really? How was it?”
It’s worth it just for that.