Holly reveals why she was "afraid to leave" the mansion, as Bridget recalls witnessing Hef pulling her Girls Next Door costar's hair.
A&E's 10-part docuseries "Secrets of Playboy" kicked off on Monday night with a two-hour premiere -- and that second hour was all about the "Girls Next Door."
After appearing only briefly in the first episode, Holly Madison dominated the next one, as she opened up in detail about why "getting into the Playboy world was a dangerous choice" in the long run.
Of course, Holly has been very vocal about what she allegedly witnessed while living in the Playboy Mansion as Hugh Hefner's main girlfriend from 2001-2008. She even released her own tell-all book about it titled "Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny," which includes stories she reiterated or spoke about in more detail during the doc.
"I feel like on 'Girls Next Door,' Hef was portrayed as a kindly grandpa but that's not how he is," said Madison at the top of the hour. "It would make me so angry how manipulative he was. Hef controlled every aspect of our life."
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Before getting into the nitty gritty of it all, Madison explained that she was recently diagnosed as "not quite neurotypical," after an ex said he had issues connecting with her. After her mother said she believed Holly had Aspergers, Madison confirmed it with a doctor -- and she believes it played a part in getting caught up in the Playboy world. "I've been looking back and seeing everything through that lens now," she added, saying she felt she was drawn to the spotlight because "that would be a shortcut to being connected to people," something she struggled with otherwise.
Holly got introduced into Hef's world by going to parties in her 20s and while she "wasn't physically attracted' to Hefner, she said she did find him "very charming." She said she found the "cozy," sorority-like atmosphere of the mansion alluring and thought she'd get a built in support system if she became part of his harem. Eventually, after a night out with Hef's girlfriends, they all returned to the home and went to the bedroom -- and that was the first time she had sex with him.
"There was definitely no like romance or seduction or anything like that. It was dark in the room, there was a giant movie screen of porn. He was in the middle of the bed and the women were surrounding him. I never had casual sex with anybody before. Maybe I just wasn't ready for that," she recalled. "It was all very mechanical and robotic. It was really gross to me how Hef didn't want to use protection. The impact it had on me was so heavy."
Though she felt "humiliated" the next morning, she still eventually moved into mansion. "The indoctrination starts almost immediately," she said, claiming everyone in Hef's inner circle did nothing but talk about how "wonderful" he was. Eventually, she became his main girlfriend and that's when -- at least according to Holly -- Hefner started pitting the women against each other. She claimed he used her as a "tool" against the other women, asking them why they couldn't be "more like Holly." Added Madison: "Then everybody hated me."
Another one of Hefner's former girlfriends from the late '70s, Sondra Theodore, said that behavior was common for him.
"When I was Hef's girlfriend, every girl wanted my position. He would pit us against each other," she claimed. "There was always a tiff going with different girls. If everyone was a little unsure of themselves, then he could have his way."
She also said he was obsessed with Charles Manson and the control and adoration he had from the women in his so-called family.
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"I think Holly and I bonded because I was very clear about not wanting her position," said "Girls Next Door" costar Bridget Marquardt. "Some of the girlfriends would have liked to take that spot. They want to break all the rules but still get all the perks. I knew Holly would want a life without all the extra girlfriends."
Holly said that at the time she thought she was in love with Hefner -- but, looking back, sees it more as a "Stockholm Syndrome" situation. Though she now believes he was manipulating all the women around her, at the time, she "never blamed him for any of the drama that went on, I always blamed it on the other women." In retrospect, she realized "this situation was going on for years before I came along."
Both Madison and Marquardt then detailed how cruel Hef allegedly was to the former, especially after Holly decided to get a short haircut. Madison said Hefner "flipped out" on her, saying the cut made her look "old, hard and cheap." Bridget backed up her former costar, saying "Hef would be very abrasive in the way he said things to Holly," adding that she could see how "depressed" it was starting to make Madison.
"The drama between me and the other women became so bad. Imagine having sex with somebody in a room full of women who all hate you and you know they're all talking s--- about you," Holly said of the mood in the house. "There was a point where I felt really low, I didn't feel like I had any options. I was in the bath tub and I just wanted to drown myself. I just felt like I was in this cycle of misery."
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For Madison, being on "Girls Next Door" was the boost of confidence she so needed in those low moments. "It gave me a sense of purpose," she added, before the two women both talked about their contracts for the show.
"They made it very clear to us that if we didn't want to do it, there would be a million girls who would want to take our place," said Bridget, before Holly explained she was initially hesitant to sign because she felt it was "a contract to be in a relationship" with Hef, since the show was about his girlfriends. "That felt very prostitute-ish to me," said Holly, who added she felt like she signed the contract "under duress."
"I was in the shower and all of a sudden Hef is standing there. He opens up the shower door like, 'Why aren't you signing this contract? I need you to sign this contract!'" added Bridget. "I signed the contract, crying and soaking wet."
As their tenure in the mansion went on, Bridget said Hef "was definitely very needy of Holly's time" and always wanted her by his side.
"I remember we went to this event on the Queen Mary, we got Hef to spend the night on the Queen Mary and we were so excited," she continued, saying the girls all wanted to run around the boat in their pajamas. "He told us no, [Holly] couldn't go. And grabbed her hair. She was leaning down and he pulled her hair and was like, 'No, you're not going.' She had to be there with him, otherwise he'd be alone in his room and that wouldn't be okay with him."
As a few members from Hef's inner circle appeared on screen to say Holly and the Hef's other girlfriends knew what they were in for and could leave at any time, Madison explained why she felt she couldn't make an easy exit.
"When I lived at the mansion I was afraid to leave. Something that was always living in the back of my mind ... if I left, there was just this mountain of revenge porn just waiting to come out," she claimed. "When you would go out with Hef, he's taking all types of naked pictures of these women when they're wasted out of their minds. It's just gross."
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Eventually, Bridget and Kendra Wilkinson ran for the hills, leaving Holly and Hef alone. While she initially felt things would improve when it was just the two of them, she said he only "started getting even meaner."
"One day I had all these messages from Holly and she and Hef had an altercation downstairs during dinner," explained Bridget. "And she got up to go away and he said, 'Quit being such a bitch,' but not bitch, the C-word. And that's it, she was done."
With no other women around for Hef "to pit [her] against," Holly said she came to the realization that "he's been the problem the whole time," not the other girls in the house. She then decided it was time for her to leave.
"The time at Playboy really caused some damage. I've had different types of therapy since I've left. Other than animals in the zoo, I can't think of anything I miss," said Holly, who went on to defend her decision to release a tell-all book after leaving.
"My book wasn't motivated by money at all, it wasn't motivated by revenge. I knew he was in a place where he didn't really answer to anyone. It was strictly for me, so I would't feel bound to be living this lie where I constantly had to say things were great when I was there when they weren't," she said. "I love that people are talking about abuses of power and imbalances in relationships. I hope that helps some people."
"When I came out with my story, a lot of people were really hostile toward it. People want to villainize women in these situations, but I had so much belief in myself before I met Hef and then it was just shattered," she added. "I want people to know why I felt like I couldn't leave and why I chose to get in that situation in the first place."
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Of course, not everyone in Hef's inner circle was thrilled about the book.
Said Hef's longtime friend Joel Berliner: "God love Holly, I hope she has a wonderful life, but what she did in her book was a complete affront to Hef and everything he stood for." Added Alyson Reynolds, Hef's friend and photographer: "I don't know why she would write a book like that."
When the book came out, Hef released his own statement about it.
"Over the course of my life I've had more than my fair share of romantic relationships with wonderful women," he said at the time. "Many moved on to live happy, healthy and productive lives, and I'm pleased to say remain dear friends today. Sadly, there are a few who have chosen to rewrite history in an attempt to stay in the spotlight. I guess, as the old saying goes: You can't win 'em all!"
In the wake of the new docuseries, Playboy issued a lengthy statement to E! as well -- saying that the company today "is not Hugh Hefner's Playboy."
"We trust and validate these women and their stories and we strongly support those individuals who have come forward to share their experiences," said the company. "As a brand with sex positivity at its core, we believe safety, security, and accountability are paramount. The most important thing we can do right now is actively listen and learn from their experiences."
The statement further noted that more than 80 percent of its current workforce is female, adding that the company "will never be afraid to confront the parts of our legacy as a company that do not reflect our values today."
"We are committed to our ongoing evolution as a company and to driving positive change for our communities," the statement concluded.
New episodes of "Secrets of Playboy" air Mondays on A&E.