Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Canadian Surreal Experience At Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion

Julie McLeod of Oakville looks back fondly about her time at the Playboy mansion in the 1980s in the wake of Hugh Hefner's death.
© FACEBOOK Julie McLeod of Oakville looks back fondly about her time at the Playboy mansion in the 1980s in the wake of Hugh Hefner's death
Since news broke that Hugh Hefner, founder and editor of Playboy magazine, died Wednesday night at the age of 91 fans called him a “cultural icon,” and “media titan,” while critics hesitated to mourn a man they said embodied “male entitlement.”

Oakville resident Julie McLeod remembers him another way: as a kind, gracious host.

Hefner was well-known as a radical hedonist who played a major role in bringing sex into the mainstream of American media — a legacy that’s brought him both praise and derision.

McLeod, a former model and actress, was living in a hotel in Los Angeles in 1984 when her friend and fellow model Carrie Leigh — then Hefner’s girlfriend — invited her to stay at his famed home instead.

“I was a young woman so I was apprehensive,” McLeod told the Star on Thursday, nodding to the controversy surrounding Hefner that he made his living largely off women’s sexuality.

“There are a lot of people that will presume I must have been a playmate and it must have been wild. That was contrary to my experience.”

“I am very much a feminist and I never for a moment felt any level of sexism or stereotypical treatment of females,” she said of her time with the celebrity.

McLeod told the Star she ended up staying at the Playboy mansion for about six months as a guest, where she got to know Hefner, his friends, and many “playmates” — women featured in the magazine who stayed in the mansion’s guesthouse.

As soon as she arrived she was given a list of where all the guests in the mansion were staying, and how to reach the butler. It was an instant signal of the luxurious lifestyle she had just entered.

She described the time of her stay as both “wonderful” and “surreal.”

“The most wonderful side of it was Hef’s just a normal human being,” she said.

One time over Christmas, Hefner was worried about her being lonely, so he made sure to keep her company over a private breakfast — a small, human act of kindness, she said.

Other times she more easily recognized the glamorous, larger-than-life celebrity hotspot the mansion was painted as in the media.

On Christmas Eve, Hefner and his guests were sitting around a large ornate Christmas tree when Tony Bennett came out to sing.

“You never knew who you’d see,” McLeod said.

She said she understands why some people have a stereotypical view of Hefner — after all, he worked hard to hone his “playboy” image and project it to the outside world.

Wild parties weren’t really part of the deal, at least not in McLeod’s experience there. On Fridays and Saturdays party guests would usually go home by 11 p.m.

Still, “they all want to believe in that Hollywood dazzle,” she said.

Source: Toronto Star

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