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Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny

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The shocking, never-before-told story of the bizarre world inside the legendary Playboy Mansion—and, finally, the secret truth about the man who holds the key—from one of the few people who truly knows: Hef’s former #1 girlfriend and star of The Girls Next Door

A spontaneous decision at age twenty-one transformed small-town Oregon girl Holly Sue Cullen into Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner’s #1 girlfriend. But like Alice’s journey into Wonderland, after Holly plunged down the rabbit hole, what seemed like a fairytale life inside the Playboy Mansion—including A-list celebrity parties and her own #1-rated television show for four years—quickly devolved into an oppressive routine of strict rules, manipulation, and battles with ambitious, backstabbing bunnies. Life inside the notorious Mansion wasn’t a dream at all—and quickly became her nightmare. After losing her identity, her sense of self-worth, and her hope for the future, Holly found herself sitting alone in a bathtub contemplating suicide.

But instead of ending her life, Holly chose to take charge of it.

In this shockingly candid and surprisingly moving memoir, this thoughtful and introspective woman opens up about life inside the Mansion, the drugs, the sex, the abuse, the infamous parties, and her real behind-the-scenes life with Bridget, Kendra, and, of course, Mr. Playboy himself.

With great courage, Holly shares the details of her subsequent troubled relationship, landing her own successful television series, and the hard work of healing, including her turn on Dancing with the Stars. A cautionary tale and a celebration of personal empowerment, Down the Rabbit Hole reminds us of the importance of fighting for our dreams—and finding the life we deserve.

295 pages, ebook

First published June 23, 2015

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About the author

Holly Madison

7 books336 followers
Holly Madison spent five seasons on the #1 rated E! hit reality show The Girls Next Door before landing the leading role in the Las Vegas Strip's smash hit, Peepshow. She also starred in two seasons of her own hit E! series Holly's World.

Madison divides her time between Las Vegas and Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

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Profile Image for Madeline.
775 reviews47k followers
June 28, 2016
Or, as I called the book in my head, Everyone is a Whore Except Me and Here's Why. Better yet: The Truth About Kettle: An Autobiography by Pot.

Look, I'm not going to pretend that I had any good reason to read this book. Underneath the surface, this is a scathing indictment of unfair beauty standards, the fear of female sexuality, and the entire goddamn patriarchy (and Madison, delightfully, seems blissfully unaware of the deeper implications of some of her observations about the unfairness of life at the Playboy Mansion - she's just mad that all these girls were so mean to her). But that's not why I read it. I read it because "behind-the-scenes look at trashy reality show" is one of my favorite memoir styles, and I've always been weirdly fascinated by mistresses, harems, harem culture, and the whole "what men think women do when they're not around vs. what women actually do" issue. But mostly I just wanted dirt on Hugh Hefner, the weird atmosphere of the Playboy Mansion, and the women who were paid to have sex with Hefner under the guise of "girlfriends."

I wanted dirt, and hoooooly shit, readers, does Holly Madison deliver the dirt. It's hilarious that the cover photo shows Madison holding a finger to her lips, because she is holding nothing back here. A more honest picture would be Madison shouting at the reader. Reading this book is sort of like sitting down for coffee with a casual acquaintance right after she's broken up with her boyfriend, and you have to sit there and listen politely while she unloads every complaint and annoyance she ever had while they were dating. In short, Holly Madison has some things to get off her chest, and god damn was I here for that. I read this book in two and a half days.

So, some background: Holly Madison spent seven years living in the Playboy Mansion as one of Hugh Hefner's "girlfriends." In the early years, she was one of a larger group of girls (who are always referred to by Holly's hilariously oblivious narration as "the mean girls"), but later the girlfriends shrank to three members: Madison, Bridgette Marquette, and Kendra Wilkinson. The women gained fame when they starred in a reality show based around the Playboy Mansion, and then eventually moved on to get their own shows once they left the mansion. Sidebar: there are a ton of The Girls Next Door episodes on YouTube right now, and there are worse ways to waste an afternoon.

Madison's memoir is an incredible portrait of a total lack of self-awareness. She spends most of this book desperately trying to convince the reader that she is somehow different than all the other women who "dated" Hugh Hefner and posed in his magazine. See, those other girls were dumb bimbos, but not Holly! She only pretended to be dumb! The other girls were cookie-cutter blondes who all looked like clones of each other, but not Holly! Sure, she bleached her hair and got plastic surgery, but only because she wanted to fit in! It's totally different! And the other girls were opportunistic sluts who only used Hef to gain fame! Not Holly! Sure, she left the mansion and got her own reality show, and went on Dancing With the Stars, and starred in a Vegas show, but she accomplished all of that on her own! The fact that each of these projects made direct references to her history with Playboy is just a coincidence!

It is stunningly absurd that, for all the time Madison spends insisting that she's built a career on her own and has completely escaped the shadow of Playboy, she can never convince the reader that she's become famous in her own right. I mean, for God's sake, the subtitle of this book makes sure to mention that Madison is "a former Playboy bunny" because like it or not, that is Madison's sole claim to fame.

Of course, to hear Madison tell it, she was just playing the game, and was trying to get out all along. She never loved Hef, and had to pretend otherwise because it suited his cultivated image. She merely played along, Madison insists, until she was able to escape. The idea that other women may have had the exact same strategy has not occurred to Madsion, and she remains blissfully unaware of her own hypocrisy. One of the many, many bits of vengeful gossip Madison gives us is that Kendra's signature loud laugh is completely faked, and that Kendra only started doing it to distinguish herself from the other women. This, readers, is the dictionary definition of "pretty fucking rich" because have you ever heard Holly Madison's laugh? She just bleats "ha ha ha ha" in a monotone, like someone who mispronounces a word because they've only ever seen it written down.

And for all her railing against "the mean girls" of the mansion, Holly Madison is like the most petty and passive-agressive person I've ever read about. After detailing her breakup with Vegas magician Criss Angel (Vegas. Magician. Criss. Angel.) Madison gleefully quotes, at length, all of the negative reviews his show received. I'm pretty sure that Peep Show, Madison's own Vegas show, wasn't exactly showered in positive reviews, but as far as she's concerned, it was a massive hit and everyone loved her and her lifelike, nuanced acting. And Madison makes sure we know that after she left The Girls Next Door, the show was a failure without her and was quickly canceled. When Madison's own reality show is canceled after two seasons, she explains that this was right after a new president came on at E!, who wanted to move away from Playboy-related content. The implication is that, if it wasn't for this change in management, Holly's show would still be running today. When she is accused of starting a twitter fight with Hefner's new girlfriend by claiming she stole her look (a look which, remember, Madison adopted in order to fit in with all the other bleached, surgically enhanced blondes at the Mansion), Madison is adamant that she did no such thing, and only posted a generic tweet about hating copycats. I see you, Madison. You ain't slick.

And of course Holly Madison feels a personal affinity with Marilyn Monroe, unwilling patron saint of vapid starlets who want to appear complex. Here's one of the book's more rage-inducing paragraphs:

"Like me, Marilyn had suffered at the hands of some not very nice men. She was used, underappreciated, and struggled to find herself. She worked her way up in Hollywood with stars in her eyes and a kind heart, but found that Hollywood wasn't always as kind in return. She may have been publicly adored, idolized, and lusted after, but she often felt alone and trapped. Those dark demons eventually got the best of Marilyn. Part of me knows that could have easily been my fate had I not chosen to take care of myself. I only wish poor Marilyn could have done the same."

Wow. Wooooooow. I love this paragraph, because it reveals so much more about Madison's character than she realizes. She puts herself in the same category as Marilyn Monroe, one of the most famous and most talented women of her generation, and did everyone catch the way she subtlely blames Monroe for her own suicide? Gee, if only Monroe had "chosen" to take care of herself, she might still be alive! If only Holly Madison had been around to show her the way!

Underneath the drama and the fluff and the gossip, Madison is (perhaps unintentionally) exposing something much darker and far-reaching than a bunch of backstabbing mean girls. The real fascination of this memoir is watching Madison explore how she was brainwashed and virtually imprisoned, and how she went about the process of slowly undoing the damage she incurred at the Playboy mansion - a process that is still ongoing.

Simply put, Holly Madison is a survivor of domestic abuse, although she doesn't yet have the emotional vocabulary to articulate this. You only have to read a few paragraphs about Hugh Hefner's intense control issues (he apparently hates red lipstick on women, and once screamed at Madison when she dared to wear it) and the way he pits the women against each other to realize that you're reading a description of a textbook abuser. When Madison is describing the steps she took to leave the mansion (saving money, making an escape plan), she sounds exactly like everyone who ever had to go through the process of escaping an abusive partner.

It's going to be easy for reviewers to demonize Holly Madison for her choices (and as you can see from the many, many paragraphs above, it's hard not to) because, as I said in my review of Pamela Des Barres's memoir of her time as a groupie, Madison is merely a symptom of a bigger disease. The real villain of this story is not backstabbing opportunistic women, but the man who orchestrated their struggles, and encouraged fighting among them so they would forget who the real enemy was. But Madison didn't forget, and she's at her best when her writing is full of righteous fury and frustration at Hugh Hefner, the man who kept her a virtual prisoner and destroyed her self-esteem so thoroughly that she contemplated suicide. Sure, Holly Madison is awful human being, but Hefner is the Dr. Frankenstein, while Madison is merely the monster that all the villagers go after with pitchforks.

In conclusion: fuck you, Hugh Hefner. You're a bad person, I'm glad your entire empire is crumbling, and I hope whatever barely-legal girl you marry next smothers you in your sleep.
December 9, 2019
When is a prostitute not a prostitute? - If a woman who is homeless, couchsurfing, and has debts and no real income approaches a man to request that she come and live in his place as one of his many women and knows she will have to have sex with him and will get a $1,000 a week, what would you call her? Holly, Izabella, Kendra and the other four girls all called themselves "girlfriends". Well I suppose escort, whore or scrubber didn't appeal to them or Hugh Hefner. Hef likes to be known as the ultimate ladies man so of course he couldn't be seen to pay for sex. So his private brothel was known collectively as 'the girlfriends' and he didn't pay them, he gave them a 'clothing allowance' and paid for all and any beauty enhancements, nails to plastic surgery.

In the Playboy house there was a recruiter for a high-class whore agency. Holly herself says she never went that route, but lots of the girls did. Some who got found out by Hef were thrown out of the house. Others I suppose just realised it was less work for more money flying out to some Arab in Turkey for the night and left. Then there was the Heidi Fleiss connection. All these girls, Holly included, had all had jobs in the 'entertainment' industry or were prepared to strip naked to pose for men's wanking material in Playboy. It doesn't matter how you dress it up, this is selling sex for money. I don't think that's wrong or immoral, I just don't like hearing of an elegant silver implement for tilling the fair earth when what is meant is a shovel for digging up potatoes!

In her book, Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion, Izabella details exactly what the duties of these whores were (she says Holly was chief nipple-sucker in bed). She didn't like Holly, characterised as cold, manipulative and very focused on Hef being her stepping stone to fame. Holly, despite some clever ghost-writing, did nothing to change that view of herself. Holly characterises Izabella and the other girls as 'Mean Girls'. Holly says, "...suppose you are the company you keep... and let's just say the other six girls weren't winning any spelling bees." Izabella St. James (who is equally self-deluded) had a law degree.

Holly worked hard to become the chief girlfriend and bedroom-sharer of Hef. So did she become a girlfriend? She says she was shy, 'a shrinking violet', who deluded herself into believing she was in love with Hef. Really? A man who was as old as her grandfather, had sex with six other women at the same time and treated her so much like an object he ripped her apart for wearing red lipstick and cutting her hair. All the girls were rapaciously greedy clones, all long-haired blondes with boob and nose jobs wearing trashy outfits. I don't really know why he needed more than one (and some mirrors). She elbowed everyone out of the way and classes all Hef's previous main girlfriends as, 'two-faced manipulators'. Takes one to know one sweetheart :-)

I don't know if Holly fits the DSM-IV definition of a narcissist, but she is the only person who matters in her world. Everyone else, with the exception of Bridget Maquardt who never achieved the smallest measure of success after leaving the house, she slags off. She rips apart Hef who actually gave her training and a job directing photo shoots for Playboy. She hates all the other girls and can't understand why they don't like her. She especially hates Kendra. In fact, Holly only likes people who do things for her. After 7 years in the house she is bored, has substantial savings and is looking to strike out on her own.

She meets Criss Angel and he offers her love, marriage and the opportunity to leave the house for his own, so she does. The relationship by her account is 99% abuse by Criss and only 1% fun. He gets her on her red carpets, introduces her to people, but all of this is not because he is proud of his new girlfriend and showing her off, nope it is only for the publicity she can bring to him. Really? Hef's ex-whore whom no-one has any respect for?

Actually this is a point she belabours at length. That she is more than Hef's ex, more than a nude Playboy model, more than the vacuous blonde she played on Girls Next Door which I never saw. Or I did but only like flicking through channels when I was in the US once. She really wants to forge her own identity and she, as much now as before she asked Hefner if she could move into the house, wants fame and money. She wants her own tv show. This is her focus, fame.

So she says that Criss Angel who not being able to take her anymore offers her a ticket home to her parents and stores her goods for her until she can decide what she wants to do.

Eventually she gets a Vegas show of her own, on the strength of being Hef's ex (she does not see this), one where a lot of the reviews say things like, "If you EVER want to see the poster girl for dumb vacuous blonde with zero stage presence (but, granted, nice boobs), google Holly Madison. My god....she can't act her way out of a paper bag..... WHAT was Hugh thinking? (oh...he's a guy...nevermind)." On her opening night, wanting to crow it over Criss she sends him a text and gets this as a reply from his girlfriend,

"I told myself I wouldn't do this but I am answering your text anyway. Criss is with me now. Stop texting him. You are disgusting. You are in a burlesque show because you can't do anything else. You used an old man to get to the B-list. Criss told me the real reason you guys broke up. It's not because of scheduling differences but because you were on anti-depressants* and he couldn't be with someone like that. If I had your reputation I would be on anti-depressants too. You are the biggest running joke around here. You got used. Lose this number."

Sometimes the truth hurts. (*I think 'anti-depressants' might be a euphemism for ... other drugs. Th)ey were freely available in the Mansion, Hefner kept some in his pockets even.

Anyway to make things a bit more brief, Holly compares herself to Marilyn Monroe. She gets cameo roles in Hefner's show, hates his new no. 1 girlfriend (Crystal, the one he married) but it's her fault of course. Gets her own show but doesn't want to be associated with Playboy in any way as she now thinks she is famous in her own right. She cannot stand not being the no. 1 focus and in the spotlight and when she makes too much of herself in a cameo on Kendra's show it is of course the production crew's fault. Kendra who isn't quite such a bitch says in an interview, "We've all found our own little roads to go and that's just the way it goes." This infuriates Holly who thinks that means Kendra thinks she is better than anyone else and will do anything for publicity, lol. She's such a bundle of cliches is Holly. Pot calling the kettle etc...

So she tweets Kendra, "I decided to text her how I truly felt; that she was a coward and that she tried to act like the "real" girl on TV, but she's the fakest person I've ever met."

Kendra responded (this made me laugh). "Girl, I don't have a problem with you. I just don't like it when people think we are friends." Holly tells her how rude she is and Kendra responds, "Who are you? i don't even know you. We were never friends. It was all just work."

Well that explains the extreme nastiness directed at Kendra in the book.

Anyway, it all ends happily ever after when Holly meets a smart, funny, really rich man and within months she is pregnant, gives up her show and moves in with him. Funny how these things go, isn't it? Not one ever to lose an opportunity for tv time and fame, she does a deal with E! network to shoot the birth and says,

"Being surrounded by the crew, even in the delivery room, made me feel extra safe and supported during this new experience. They made me feel like they had my back..."
A year later they have Disneyland in California closed so they can get married in a fairytale extravaganza despite the fact she is now about 34 and I hope that she and Pasquale and little Rainbow Aurora all live happily ever after.

But if they don't, I'm sure there will be a tv special, a National Enquirer exc lusive and a book telling us how terrible it was....

The book is quite well written by her "collaborator" (is that what they call ghost writers these days?) Leslie Bruce. It is a pretty much enjoyable story of a successful gold-digger and whore who protests she wants to be famous in her own right and never hear "Playboy" again but without it, she would just have been the tall, not-terribly pretty girl from Alaska called Holly Cullen with a great body and a desire to make money from it, and we'd never have heard of her.

5 stars to Leslie Bruce
1 star to Holly Madison
2 stars for the book.

Sorry this review is so long, I enjoyed writing it but editing... not so much. Well truthfully, not at all.

You know what I'd really like? I'd like to have a completely off-the-record, no phones coffee with Leslie Bruce and hear what she really thinks of Holly. ;-)

Notes I made every now and again
Hef has died! I see that all the whores girlfriends are coming out the woodwork and saying just how much they loved Hefner. Really? They all reviled him in the tell-all books of life in the mansion with the old guy you had to screw on a timetable.

I just had to update this with what Kendra said about Holly in today's Twitter fuss . Kendra who is forthright that living in the house with Hefner was work, unlike the revisionist Holly, said today of Holly, "She wasn't in fear with that dick in her ass for a paycheck, 'That bitch is in fear now knowing so many of us saw her doing some nasty shit. She's embarrassed and in shame. She was the clean up girl. Holly's job was to get Hef hard again and clean him up with her mouth."

If she doesn't get sued, it's true! Holly had to "clean up" Hefner in front of five girls so yeah, I could see that she's embarrassed about that extremely sex worker-like, un-girlfriend like behaviour. Funny shit though!
Profile Image for Ashley DiNorcia.
336 reviews536 followers
August 10, 2015
Here's the tl;dr version:
-Feel bad for me, but don't because I'm better than everyone else.
-I'm using Hef because I'm about to be homeless and god forbid I move back home like a normal person. Also I want to be an actress, but I'm too lazy to pursue it the traditional way like...actually trying so I guess I'll sit here and be miserable while getting everything handed to me and then complaining that it's not enough.
-I'm totally not just here to use Hef and get whatever I can out of the situation. I'm not like those OTHER GIRLS.
-Willingly stayed in a situation that was making me miserable because I was finally getting what I wanted! Reality TV YAY!
-Nothing is my fault. Ever.

More whining. More "holier than thou" speeches about the "other girls." The sense of entitlement is unreal. I simply cannot sympathize with this girl. For all her bragging about how intelligent she is, I find myself lacking the ability to write a coherent review after reading this hot mess.
246 reviews3 followers
June 27, 2015
My mind is whirling with so many thoughts right now that I can't even keep track of what I'm thinking as I'm thinking it because another thought forms.... This book did that to me!

So, I don't normally read biographies or nonfiction. I have, in the past, just not often. However, as soon as I heard about this book I had to read it.
I won't lie, I was a viewer of the tv show, The Girls Next Door. I loved watching their bubbly personalities. I can't count how many times I giggled as something played out onscreen. Again I will be honest when I say that I thought Holly was the girlfriend that truly cared even a smidgen about Hef. So reading this was extremely eye-opening. I couldn't put it down once I started and as soon as I finished I logged online to see what other readers were feeling after reading and I was shocked!
Readers (or probably just commenters) on stories across the internet are shaming Holly for the decisions she made in the past. They are shaming her for feeling the way she felt in the past and the way she feels now. And it's not right. We don't know what truly happened in that mansion. Everyone will have their own perspective on events and that's okay. Everyone will feel in their own way and again that's okay. Something my husband always tells me is, "Don't be sorry for how you feel. It's how YOU FEEL, it can't be wrong and you can't change your reaction, your feelings, to a situation." And he is absolutely right, everyone reacts in their own way to words, events, and certain situations. We can't change our feelings, we can only close them off and PRETEND to feel differently. Feelings bubble up subconsciously, we don't force them unless we are acting.
This book was mostly about how Holly FELT during her time in the mansion and how she FEELS now while looking back at the past. She isn't wrong for how she feels. I'm not defending her or Hef or any of the other girlfriends mentioned in the book, but I will say this: If Holly truly felt what she wrote in the book... Holly, I am happy for you now. I wish you the best.
I don't wish any form of abuse on anyone, whether sexual, verbal, emotional or physical. Yes, Holly went into the relationship knowing that she was going to be "taken care of", but that still gives NO MAN or WOMAN the right to degrade or control you. A relationship is a mutual dance. It's give and take. It's being there for someone when they need help and having someone be there for you when you need help. It's knowing that you are loved and safe to be yourself and vice versa. What was written in this novel was not a relationship.

As for those that are criticizing her because she pursued him and she knew what she was in for... Does anyone ever really see abuse coming? NO, because abusers are smart. They are charming, they hide it and they reel you in.
For those criticizing her for "biting the hand that feeds her after she made the decision to date a man old enough to be her grandfather in exchange for money".... Have you even read the book? And have you ever made a decision that you regretted later on? Or are you a saint?

As I stated above, we can't be sure what happened because we weren't there. But what we can take from this book is we shouldn't ever allow anyone to strip us of our self-worth no matter who that person is or how much we feel we owe someone. We should never settle for less than we deserve. We should always strive to reach our goals no matter who stands in our way and we should never give up.

If you read this novel and didn't get that from it, you went in biased and I hope you take a second look at it with an open mind and an open heart.
October 3, 2019
2 Bitter High school drama stars

What kind of catty ass, poorly written, woe is me crap did I just read! Wow where to even began.... I liked the show the girls next door. Holly was always my favorite as I really thought she loved Hef. Now let me be honest here and say I have never been a fan of Hugh Hefner. I have always thought he was a dirty, creepy, nasty, selfish old man. He spent his whole life using young pretty women. He made a shit ton of money sexually objectifying women. He fucked em and used them like interchangeable sex toys, that he could replace in seconds. He was a huge hypocrite that openly fucked multiple barely legal women while demanding faithfulness for those same women.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with women posing nude, or making porn or anything they want to do with their bodies. As long as it's their choice and they are respected. I also don't have any problem with open relationships or polyamory. Personally they are not for me as I'm not a sharer, but if that's what you want and it's not hurting anyone, you do you boo. That being said, I always felt Hugh was a self serving prick that had no respect for women, while pretending to be about women's sexual liberation. If any average Joe kept multiple girlfriends, slept with 18 year olds while well into his 60s,70s, 80s etc, slept with twin sisters at the same time, did drugs and past them out like candy, was super controlling, took a shit ton of nudes photos and sold them and had men coming to parties to,watch and or hook up with hot young, high and drunk women he would be labeled a pervert, creep, pimp, and a sexual predator. So yeah I have never cared for Hugh Hefner. However I do understand that it was consensual and that the girls were in it to get the fame, status, money, and all that came for being with Hugh.

So understanding my feeling on the whole playboy mansion crap, one day I was channel surfing and seen an show called the Girls next door. I was curious and nothing else was on so I watched the episode and totally got hooked. Why you ask , would you watch a show with a man you clearly don't like and the the answer is I loved Holly. I really thought she was different. I thought she loved Hef unlike the other women. I hoped Hef would see she truly cared for him. That he would change his ways, he was old enough to settle down, and make her happy. I wanted her to get her HEA. Even if it was with a dirty old man. When they broke up I wasn't all that heartbroken, but I was again, curious. So when I heard Holly wrote a tell all I wanted to read it. The other day I found her book on sale for 1.00 and was so excited to dive in and see what it was like with Holly and Hef. To get all the dirty deets on how their relationship really worked and why they broke up. What I got was a whinny, catty book filled with a shit ton of girl drama and very little about Holly and Hef. It got really tedious and I was so disappointed.

It truly was almost 400 pages of Holly going on and on about how all the other girls in the house were evil, hateful, druggie whores. They were just so mean to her. Poor Holly! Everyone hated her for no reason at all. She was of course perfect, friendly, and loving. All that was good and right, and they were just mean whores that were using Hef! Treating her like shit and making her life a living hell. They were using him for what they could get and didn't care at all about him personally. Holly on the other hand found Hef gross, controlling, verbally abusive, and manipulative. She didn't like sleeping with him and didn't like the person he was, thought he looked like an old embarrassing fool, but she wasn't a whore or a user like the other women. Nope she had a kind of Stockholm syndrome and truly believed she loved Hugh.

She tried to like him. She never did drugs, and she didn't sleep with other men. The other women just wanted fame and money from Hef, but not Holly. This is all said while she tells us readers how she's going to the Mansion in hopes of being in playboy to start her career. Then she tells how she got to tag along on a outing to a dance club as a guess with Hef and his then girlfriends. She goes because she is homeless and is hoping to get asked to stay at the mansion. She then tells how after clubbing, she goes home with Hef and the girlfriends, ends up sleeping with him(while so drunk that it's all hazy). The next morning she tells him she is homeless and asks to move in. She pushes herself into his life. Needed him for money, a career starter and a place to live, even though he was a gross outta touch old guy , but hey she was not like the other whore users. She was a good girlfriend that tried to have things in common with him, and tried to keep him from looking like a old fool. And she slept with only him a man that was old enough to be her "great grandpa"( her words) which he didn't appreciate enough. She was so not a user, in it for what she could get. Nope she was a victim.

It was so obvious to the readers that Holly, in fact didn't like Hef. She wasn't attracted at all to him. Wanted what she could get from him. And felt bitter, like he didn't give her enough or do enough for her. It was also obvious that she was disgusted with herself and the other girls for sleeping with a dirty old man for what they could get. She felt shame so she tried to make it sound like she was in it for more pure reasons. She didn't like him but at least she tried. Then she acted like she got a kind of Stockholm syndrome. Please stop. While there was a bit about Hef in the book and their relationship 90% of the book was boring retellings of the fights she had with the other girls. Then after making sure to paint herself as a good person, unlike the other girls, she makes herself a victim again. Stating that Criss Angel tricked her into another abusive relationship. The book it's self is poorly written, jumps around, and was super boring. Having read it I now have no respect for Holly. I really did like her before. I would have still liked her had she been honest. Had she not went out of her way to paint herself a pure hearted sweet victim and all the other women as whores. If she would have been like Yea I slept with Hef to get fame, but he used me too. I could have been fine with that, but she wasn't nothing like I thought from the show and that is just sad. I just wished I would have never read this book. I wanted a juicy tell all filled with real love, some drama, what went wrong between Holly and Hef and instead got catty bullshit. Total let down!

Profile Image for Aki.
148 reviews
June 24, 2015
I couldn't quite get past the "woe is me" cry of despair everytime she was bullied by the other girls in the mansion when you could turn the page and next she would be gloating about how she and Bridget were scheming to get those girls kicked out of the house. Nor did I care for how she reitterated on several occasions how she wouldn't "stoop to so & so's level," but had no issue airing out that person's dirty laundry as if that were "taking the high road." The first 3 quarters of the book were narrated by a mean girl complaining about other mean girls and it read as trashy as if you were watching a reality tv show.

The last quarter picked up when she finally moved out, escaped her abusive relationships, and really started to discover herself. Her fairy tale ending was heart warming and there were a couple important messages to young women that were unfortunately obscured by tacky drama.

For $15 it kept me entertained for 2 days.
September 21, 2020

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I actually received an ARC of this when it first came out five years ago and I remember really liking it. When it showed up for free on Kindle Unlimited, I thought it might be fun to do a reread. I've been feeling pretty low and sometimes it's nice to just kick up your feet and read something that's all drama, all the time. And it really doesn't get much more dramatic than having one of Hugh Hefner's ex-girlfriends regale you, the reader, about what it was like to live inside his harem.*

*Allegedly-- I remember my professor teaching me in journalism that we're all the heroes of our own stories, and everyone tries to spin events to make themselves look better, which is part of what makes objective journalism so difficult. Even the journalist has Thoughts. Luckily, I'm not a journalist, and this is a memoir.

In DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE, Holly paints herself as a small town girl with big, glittering dreams. In the early 2000s, when party and tabloid culture was at its nexus, it makes sense why a girl with aspirations of Hollywood glamor would go for the Playboy lifestyle. I don't know if any of you were teenagers in the 2000s, but back then, it seems like you couldn't go into any store without seeing baby doll t-shirts with things like "Little Devil," or "I don't play well with others," and a lot of stores carried cheaply made facsimiles of the Playboy bunny necklaces. Several of our cheerleaders and dance squad troupe members wore them. I think Holly captures the zeitgeist (she actually uses that word, zeitgeist) of that time really well, and how many people fell prey to the honeyed trap of cheap, Hollywood glam. She constantly complains about how people only saw her as a bimbo, and in the beginning of the book she says that a lot of girls had to look and dress as if they were stupid because that was what society (e.g. cisgendered white dudes) had decided what was attractive, and while you could argue that she knew what she was getting into when she posed for that first semi-nude photoshoot, I think it's also important to point out that when cisgendered white men dictate the rules of the game, it's cruel and slightly unfair to select out the players for the lion's share of the blame.

Life inside the Playboy Mansion is... well, I was shocked then and I was shocked now. Hef just comes across as an emotionally manipulative sleaze, pitting his girls against each other to watch them fight, and referring to the Quaaludes he offers the girls as "thigh-openers." Like Donald Trump, he comes across as a poor man's idea of rich, and I guffawed when I found out that, according to Holly, he didn't actually own the mansion but payed rent on the rooms in use (upwards of $5000 per room in use), and that the bunny necklaces he gave the girls weren't even real diamonds but cubic zirconia. I wasn't laughing at his overt attempts to control and possess the women who ended up being his girlfriends, though, and even though they were trained to hem and haw about what really went on in the bedroom, apparently it was basically a group orgy that nobody was really into but him. He also apparently goaded them on in private to fight so he could play the good guy in public, and tried to control them with money. When Holly finally tried to leave, he left a copy of his will on her bed for her to read that said that he'd live her three million dollars when he died but only if she was living in the Mansion.

Her post-Hef life was also pretty dramatic. Her eventual falling out with Kendra made me sad (although I do wonder if Holly is really as blameless as she comes across here-- she mostly tries to be nice, but those "Southern girl" type insults (you know the ones, the "bless her heart, but" kinds) keep slipping out, and at one point she feels free to "correct" Kendra on something she said in her own memoir. So now I really want to read SLIDING INTO HOME because it would be interesting to see her perspective on things. Criss Angel comes across as an abusive creep in this book. Apparently he also took back all the jewellery he gave her too when they broke up, which is tacky. I liked how she got into burlesque stage shows, and how much she obviously enjoyed being on her own reality TV show once she was free of all the hot mess of her past. Reality TV is just another one of those things I just don't understand, and it was interesting to hear from one of the-- well, actors-- just how faked some of those scenes could be. There are definitely a lot of humble-brags. You'll get to hear about Holly's 2 hour delivery when giving birth to her child and how much she "enjoyed" it. Also, her breasts were insured, at one point, for one million dollars. But also, she's just like any other girl, she could be your bestest, nicest friend.

I actually did like Holly-- at least, I liked the version of herself she painted here. I never hear anything about her anymore either, which probably means she is nice. Hollywood gossip rags and YouTube commentators fall over themselves trashing people who are actual jerks. I'll never forget the Criss Angel sketch Mad TV put out, making fun of Mindfreak. And god, at this point, making fun of the Paul brothers is practically an Olympic sport for aspiring YouTube comedians. So, I'm like 95% convinced that Holly is as genuine IRL that she appears here, and I like the way she tells her story. Her frustration at being portrayed as dumb is pretty obvious, and I think it's equally obvious that she is not dumb at all, and felt taken advantage of and ill-shaped by her experiences as a vulnerable twenty-something who ended up in a situation that seemed to be way, way more than she bargained for.

Honestly, I'm kind of surprised that DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE has such ratings on Goodreads. It's a pretty quick read and a compelling story. It really shines a bright light on the dark side of reality TV, famous-for-being-famous D-listers, and party culture, while also serving as a cautionary tale about how sometimes the things we think we want can actually be the last things we need. I guess a lot of people were probably really turned off (literally and figuratively) by the sex and the sleaze, and maybe some of them figured Holly was a hypocrite for seeking this sort of lifestyle out and then turning around and writing a tell-all about it, and I'm slightly less sympathetic with those reviewers because I do think that situations can easily get out of someone's control, even if they consented first without knowing all the facts, and that people with a lot of money and power can make things very difficult for those who have neither (especially if, like Holly, they are poor and on the verge of being homeless).

So I liked this book. I'm taking it with a grain of salt, but I liked it.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Kate.
49 reviews6 followers
June 24, 2015
I read this book because watching The Girls Next Door was a guilty pleasure of mine. It was light, funny, and unusual. I, like I assume most readers of this book, was curious.

First of all, this book is poorly written. The amount of parentheses and exclamation marks is excessive. Sometimes thoughts are in italics, other times in quotations. The phrases "to be honest," or "honestly" are overused. The entire book is supposed to be an honest opinion or story, so I don't understand why these phrases require such frequent use. I could go on and on about this aspect.

Also, Ms Madison doesn't take much of the blame for the dissolution of any of the friendships or relationships she discusses. She often "feels sorry" for the people around her, then delves into a description of her low self-esteem. She has somehow combined superiority with a victim mentality. Nothing is ever her fault, she tries her hardest, and that makes her better than you.

I have nothing to say about the revelations she made about the mansion, Playboy, or Mr Hefner, besides the fact that if she said it once in this book, she said it a hundred times.

Everyone makes mistakes in their youth. At first, we may not seem them as big mistakes. Then they're the worst thing that's ever happened to us. Finally we figure out that the truth is somewhere in between. It seems like Ms Madison is still in that second phase. I hope that writing this book was cathartic. But if she writes another one, I will not be reading it.
Profile Image for Summer.
137 reviews186 followers
October 24, 2016
Well, well, well, who knew?! I know you might see this book as a silly book, but I liked it, because I felt that Holly was really honest when she wrote it. Everything about Hef is already disgusting but knowing that he is not even nice, he is not even the nice grandpa he seemed on the "The Girls Next Door" ??!! I am glad she spilled the tea about everything!
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,460 reviews9,613 followers
April 3, 2016
MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List

I loved the book, but I loved The Girls Next Door! I have all of the box sets accept for the last one with the new girls.


Bridget and Holly my favorites but it took me awhile to get to like Kendra, she was young and annoying at the time, most of us are when we are that young :-)

I loved Bridget the most because she was sweet and loved Halloween, my favorite time of the year! I loved Holly and I bought her socks she sold at the time, the freaking tube socks I kept trying to find forever. Damn, I should have took a pic of them on since I still have them :-D

I always thought Hef was just a dirty old man and a lech I'm sure when he was younger, but he has what all men.. well most men.. want, all the girls money can buy.

Every time I watched the show it was so much fun when the girls got to do things on their own, or have fun around the house without Hef involved. It seemed to me that a lot of times in the shots with Hef, everyone had smiles that weren't always genuine and I'm guessing if he was this strict man, I wouldn't have a smile either. I'm guessing you would have to get the multitudes of women drunk or on some kind of drugs to get them to have sex with you. Uggg, moving on, just the thought makes me sick.

I thought the book was great, it took me back to the days of watching the show and I think I will have to sit down and have a marathon now. There are a lot of people that love and hate the book. I don't see anything wrong with it, I felt the same way about a lot of things that were said, but that's my opinion and I don't care what anyone else thinks ;-) I have read other books where people are in some nasty situations and everyone asked them, "Why didn't you just leave?" Sometimes things are not that simple. Shit just happens. I was married to a drunk/part psycho for 5 years so I really don't judge how long it takes someone to get out unless you have kids and those kids are being hurt or your animals. Just no!!! And whether I like a person or not, I'm not going to judge them when they have issues or mental problems etc. You do what you feel like you can do when you can.

I loved that Mary stayed friends with Holly, well all of the girls I'm sure and I was so sad to hear of her passing from cancer. :-( She was such a nice lady.

But, I'm glad that Holly found her dream, not many of us can do that. She seems to have a great husband and a daughter and a son on the way :-) Congrats.


Now, I wish Bridget would put out her own book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Profile Image for SUSAN   *Nevertheless,she persisted*.
504 reviews98 followers
March 14, 2016
I quit at about 40%. I grew weary of the "poor-little-me" routine. Get over it girl. You asked to move into the Playboy mansion because you were virtually homeless. You were given an allowance,lavish gifts,cars,etc.
Now you have the unmitigated gall to write a tell all and place yourself in the role of the victim.
It became a whiney trope about how horrible her life in the mansion was,how her confidence was eroded,how awful Hef was to her,how all of the other girls were "mean girls". Where are the violins.
I felt this book was a way to payback anyone who has ever slighted her. I have absolutely no judgement about her choices,you were an adult,my problem is the lack of responsibility for said choices. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.
Profile Image for Mary.
60 reviews5 followers
July 9, 2015
This is an incredibly important book. Yes, it has an interesting pick up in that Holly Madison is a former girlfriend of Hugh Hefner, star of the show Girls Next Door, and Playboy Playmate.

However, this book isn't about the glories of bunny life. It's a book about the actuality of bunny life.

You think everyone's so perfect and loves how they look? Holly points out the creepiness behind the cookie cutter image (and very low ages) that all of Hefner's girlfriends were pushed towards, and talks about the body dysmorphic issues that arise when you are living in a world where the idealization of a very particular body type and look are pushed so hard.

You think life in the mansion is carefree and like a wonderful sorority? Holly talks about the strict rules (like a 9pm curfew for full fledged adults), infighting (largely incited by drama queen Hefner himself) and consistent emotional abuse from Hefner. It may seem trivial, but it truly destroys your feeling of self worth when someone does customary things like they love you and says they love, but then intimidates, bullies and controls you. Or even worse, ignores you.

So why didn't Holly just leave? She's an adult, right? Holly also talks about the shitty situations some people can be in that make them think they cannot get out of their personal hell.

This is an important book, and one I would readily give to anyone who is living a life they want to get out of, but doesn't think they can. It will help them recognize their situation and start thinking about how they can not just separate themselves from it, but also thrive once they are free.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kayle.
318 reviews4 followers
June 30, 2015
I admit it. I loved The Girls Next Door. Their lives seemed so fun, so carefree. I loved all three girls, and especially Holly, who seemed genuine, classy, and had a good head on her shoulders. I felt when she left the show it was, again, a classy move on her part. She realized she was never getting children or a marriage out of the relationship and moved on. I respected that. So, it was rather surprising to see her write a tell-all book with the intention of 'telling her own story' and then spending a huge amount of time defaming her own character.

Let me save you the pain and loss of brain cells and give you the rundown of what Holly Madison wants you to know. Honestly, honestly (did she mention, HONESTLY) the only reason she ever even moved in to the Playboy Mansion was that she had nowhere else to live. She treats this as if it was the ONLY solution to her problem and that she would have been homeless otherwise. Holly, you see, is never responsible for anything that happens. She is the victim of circumstance. HONESTLY.

I had to stop listening to the book about halfway through, in the 5th hour of her claiming that she was in denial about her relationship with Hugh Hefner and that it was all an act. Well, I suggest someone get her Academy Award ready, because bravo to her for almost a decade of excellent 'acting'.

This is a sad, sorry attempt at redemption that wasn't necessary. It's a money grab, and it makes her look like a gold-digging fool.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
462 reviews291 followers
October 6, 2017
3.5 stars. This proves that underneath the surface there’s always another deeper darker layer that is hidden beneath the glitz and glamour. It’s actually a sad portrayal that money and fame is not always the ticket to a fulfilling life or will gain you instant happiness. There’s always a price.

The book doesn’t always depict the playboy lothario in the nicest kindest light but Holly manages to still keep a decent amount of respect while simultaneously cutting down the illusion. In honesty I wasn’t expecting much from this book but it was unexpectedly interesting and by the end of the book I was encouraged by her outlook on life and how she managed to weather the almost daily negativity of living in the playboy house and then turning it into a positive outcome and actually making a success for herself outside of the playboy house walls.

In light of all the recent publicity due to Hugh Hefner’s death at the age of 91 this was an eye opening account of the real behind the scenes going ons, the manipulation, the strange bedroom arrangements and how much is fabricated for publicity and for the cameras!
Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,955 followers
May 2, 2017
She seemed to have fried her brain somewhere along the course of her life.

I might have watched a few several episodes of The Girls Next Door when it was on the air. But I never followed through until the end, and it looks like I wasn't missing much.

By now, most of us know that even reality shows are scripted. Show creators are well aware that every audience has a preference of what they want to see, and the shows try to deliver this.

What I didn't realize was how much Hugh Hefner (Hef) tried to squelch any showing of the behind-the-scenes drama which was unfolding in the lives of the three stars of the show. He wanted to create drama to feed his own fantasies, but couldn't have the world seeing anything other than his life as absolute perfection.
Being able to hold her stories over my head was just another tool Hef used to manipulate me. Watching me get upset and squirm was just another way he satisfied his perversions.

I can't say that I was surprised to find out just how sleazy Hef was. I can't even say that I'm surprised by how much people idolize a man who is little more than his own creation and ego. The guy is icky - truly. Since Cosby got nailed to the wall for the pill thing, people should really take a second look at Hef.

However, Down the Rabbit Hole left a sour taste in its portrayal of Holly being nothing more than the victim in all of this. Yes, it's probably true that desperate times did call for desperate measures, but since she was only willing to spill the tea on everyone else and not herself, I found that her attempt at looking humble came across as nothing but fake and self-serving to the extreme.

This book was an attempt at damage control. And I don't think it hit the intended mark.
I had to take it from a 19-year-old bimbo who I had been nothing but welcoming to?

So everyone else at the mansion was sleazy except for Holly?

The only real mention of Holly having sex with Hef was the very first time. She was 'out of it' and had a heavy body on top of her.



Oh no, girl. You played the game. You don't get to act like you weren't selling yourself for the money.

Own it. And give a middle finger to the haters who can't handle it. If you make a choice, live in that choice. Don't try to sell me an entire book that tells me you were nothing but a victim.
Bridget and I were so square we wouldn't even have known how to get drugs.

Interesting, considering how drug use was mentioned repeatedly in the book. There were (former) girlfriends and playmates who were using, and Hef was supposedly drugging his dates to get them to open their thighs. I felt like there were plenty of contradictions in this story. The biggest contradiction came from Holly's portrayal of herself being nothing but nice and a perpetual doormat.
I was beyond mortified and prayed that the floor would just swallow me up. I was certain everyone on set was assuming that all three of us were equally ditsy.

Was Hef a sleazebucket? I'm pretty sure he was.
Were your roommates b*tches? Also, I'm pretty sure that there were no lies told here.
Did you tell the whole story? I'm thinking no.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,229 reviews1,141 followers
April 7, 2022
Reread 2022!

I read this book for the first time back when it originally was published in 2015 but obviously rereading it in 2022 is a completely different experience.

Holly Madison is obviously best known for her reality show The Girls Next Door which followed her life as one of Playboy Magazines Hugh Hefner's girlfriends. I thought that the show was fake, I mean I'm only a little bit younger than Kendra Wilkinson so I was a teenager and I didn't think for one second that those girls were actually sleeping with that old man.....Boy was I wrong.

Back when I originally read this book I devoured it. I loved all the salacious behind the scenes tea. I laughed and enjoyed it and then I really didn't give it a second thought.

Then in 2021 I found Holly's YouTube channel and she was/is rewatching The Girls Next Door and giving commentary. Those videos are eye-opening enough on their own but then A &E released their bombshell docuseries Secrets of Playboy.

Wow Wow Wow!

After watching that show I decided I needed to reread this book. It felt completely different. I didn't laugh once. This story is harrowing when viewed through my 2022 eyes.

Hugh Hefner was a terrible human being and I truly hope Hell exists just so he can burn in it.

Holly Madison's story is riveting and it's truly a story of how terrible things can make you stronger. I think Holly was the perfect person to write a book exposing the dark world of Hugh Hefner. I believed her the first time I read the book but on a second read I think understood it more and felt it more.

This book isn't for everybody but if you loved The Girls Next Door like it did than I think you'll enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Sara.
1,080 reviews359 followers
January 30, 2018
A couple of years ago I loved biographies, the trashier the better. This mainly meant any of Katie Price's many, many attempts. I wanted to read something a bit lighter after my previous read, and thought this would be a good 'toe dip' into light reading as I'd watched a couple of episodes of 'Girls Next Door'. What transpired was more a sad tale about domestic abuse and one woman who is clearly still struggling to mature and come to terms with what happened in her youth.

I'm rather conflicted, because Holly was very clearly used and abused by Hef during her time at the mansion, and I felt deeply sorry about what happened to her. Her comments about hoarding money to help plan her escape, and the constant put downs leading to crippling self doubt mirror so many survivors tales of domestic abuse. However, at times I also feel she comes across as very abrasive and hard to like. She makes some quite catty comments about other women's intellectual abilities, and doesn't shy away from commenting on how badly her ex Criss Angel's Las Vegas show does compared to her own. I felt as someone who's been told she's worthless so many times already she might have shown more compassion for other people instead of blowing her own trumpet to the detriment of others.

I can't deny I enjoyed this, although it is obviously biased to reflect Holly's take on her experiences behind the mansion gates. It was a unique and sad look into a world many wonder about and few get to experience. Holly doesnt hold back at all, and there are plenty of scandals and secrets exposed here, making for an excellent and eye opening memoir.
Profile Image for Sarah.
400 reviews134 followers
February 23, 2016
3.5ish stars.

When I found out that Holly Madison wrote a tell-all book about her life, I knew I had to read it. I watched The Girls Next Door when I was younger and I was curious as to why these beautiful young girls would go out with a rich old dude. Of course, now I know that I underestimated just how "desirable" a rich person was. I was completely fascinated with the playboy bunnies and Hugh Hefners girlfriends.

This book was juicy. Like really juicy! It has so many details about Hugh Hefner and life in the playboy mansion with the other girls, as well as other things like reality shows and Criss Angel. I did not know that Hugh was such an asshole and that the girls had so many strict rules that they had to adhere to, such as curfew at 9pm and no red lipstick. It really gave away a vast amount of information and it answered all my questions about life as a bunny and girlfriend.

To be honest, I didn't read this for insightful knowledge about feminism from Holly and so I wasn't dissatisfied with this book. Reading other reviews on here, it's clear that some people were expecting just that and they were disappointed in this book because it didn't really give any wise lessons about feminism. I thought it was entertaining and I liked Holly. It's clear she wrote herself in a good light but I didn't mind because regardless, I like her. She got a happy ending that she wanted and so it was a good ending too. (Plus she named her child Rainbow Aurora and I love that name! I have always considered both of those names for my future babies!).

I would recommend this to people who are interested in Playboy, Holly or memoirs.


“It’s amazing the dark places your mind can wander when you’re depressed. The depths of my own depression had led me down this very dark path, and there was no gleaming light, however distant, at the end of this tunnel.”
Profile Image for Amanda.
103 reviews2 followers
June 25, 2015
I religiously watched season after season of Girls Next Door, DVRing every episode as it aired. I fell in love with the charmed life presented on the reality series. Holly was always my favorite of the three stars. I followed her story onto Holly's World and desperately wished I could make it to a Peepshow performance.

When I saw that she was releasing a memoir of her days at the mansion, in a way I felt like I owed it to her to read the story from her perspective. As an adult, I had come to the realization that things weren't always what the seemed behind the scenes, something I was only peripherally aware of while the show was on air.

A lot of what I read here shocked me, even more resonated with me. The quest for self-discovery, self-worth, and self-esteem are issues I constantly battle. I understand all too well looking back on a situation and seeing how wrong it was, how damaging it was. Her message at the end is inspirational, but beyond that, her entire story is an inspiration of what can be overcome when you finally believe in yourself.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,161 reviews509 followers
May 16, 2022
We have a book swap here on our farm where interesting books are swapped between visitors from all over the world. Holly Madison's memoir was a recent addition to the shelf and caught my attention.

If I must offer an opinion, for what it's worth, I would say that this book is the thoughts and impressions of a young woman who was lured into the world of fame and fortune, since a very young age, and instead of outgrowing her admiration for Marilyn Monroe, decided to pursue the same career path and wrote a book about the experience. She combines Alice in Wonderland with Marilyn Monroe to get her story out.

As a young girl she was gifted a paper doll set of Marilyn Monroe which started her trajectory. Imagine if she received a paper doll set of a nurse, doctor, or anything else, what her life would have turned out to be. The wealthiest Arabian King was once asked what he would advise parents on raising kids. He said if you want your child to drive a Mercedes when he's grown up, buy him a dinky toy Mercedes to play with as a young boy. We all remember how enchanted we were with all the glitz and glamour, covered in bling of our dolls' outfits. But somehow something triggered in us and we chose other paths in the end.

She's daring, honest, kind, and takes full responsibility for her choices. She dabbles a little, okay a lot, in victimhood, but we as readers cannot tell her story better if we did not walk her path in her shoes. So I will refrain from doing that. She did a great job as it is in writing this book, in my opinion.

I never thought much of Hugh Hefner, just as I was never impressed at all with Epstein, Cosby, Polanski, Weinstein, Woody Allen, Keith Rainiere, and all the rest of those recent old geezers with too much money and too little self esteem who enslave young women in their sex games. Of course there are the ship-loads full of politicians and lesser human beings in these games as well. They just did not revel in the limelight as much.

The book has its moments of raunchiness and salacious details, as is required to hone in on Hefner as a weird but wonderful captor of ambitious young women. They all became living Barbie Dolls to suit his fetishes. It's more like a willing buyer, willing seller, scenario. Nobody was forced to do anything against their will. They all got something out of it. Nothing came for free.

Reality TV saved Playboy from an earlier demise. Like all media this enterprise is challenged by new internet outlets, severely eroding its influence and profitability. When The Girls Next Door landed on E!, a new lease of life hit the Playboy enterprise and pushed three very different, but delightful young women into stardom. Their success was phenomenal. The combination of sex, clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry and fast cars, inspired millions of young girls all over the world to become The Girls Next Door or Cardashian clones. Body dismorphia is rampant, drug abuse a given, and acute depression a number one stomper on their dreams and self respect. Some girls make it, some don't.

I never bothered to know more about Hugh Hefner or his enterprise. I think this reality tv show opened up his world for the first time to the public. He was a savvy businessman and knew how to protect his interests against the greedy, ambitious, ruthless young women who tried a hit and run on his fortunes. He made them pay for what they wanted. Dearly so. It was a dog-eat-dog situation and the girls mostly lost.

My impression of Hugh Hefner after reading this memoir was that he was still a hard worker, but a lonely old man who had to force young women with money and a life of luxury to be his companions and sex partners. He became a gentle blackmailer and preferred the girls as young as possible.

Holly Madison shares her experience to set the record straight on a life of debauchery, addiction, and enslavement to: 1) influential high-roller men, and 2) young woman's own aspirations. She exposes the media, but also the toll they paid for choosing this lifestyle.

She chose to remain in the entertainment industry on many levels. The bottom line: she became successful on her own terms. This memoir is/was a runaway bestseller, after she already established herself in a successful Las Vegas show, and her own reality TV show and still enjoys the love and admiration of millions of young woman all over the world. She's married with two kids and still outstandingly beautiful as a human being, mother and entertainer. She has as much shortcomings as the rest of us.

An entertaining, well written, interesting read.

PS. This memoir inspired me to read Izzabella St. James memoir, Bunny Tales which was written first. If I read hers first, I would have understood Holly's memoir better.
Profile Image for Ari.
727 reviews20 followers
June 28, 2015
Wow, I wonder if Holly Madison has any friends left, after trashing 99% of them and anyone she has ever crossed paths with. Mildly interesting and a fast read but seems more like revenge, even though she claims it's not. Nice try.
Profile Image for Kristy.
384 reviews1 follower
June 25, 2015
I really enjoyed listening to this. I may have seen 1 or 2 episodes of Girls Next Door ever, I have never seen an issue of Playboy, and I was always creeped out by Hugh Hefner. I heard last week that Holly Madison did not sign a non disclosure agreement and used an audible credit to preorder this. The author reads it herself and does a good job, though for some reason she takes on a slight British accent (or what is probably not even a British accent) for the Lewis Carroll quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Still, the quotes are completely appropriate for the chapter they precede. Some parts come across as defensive and I can't imagine Criss Angel is thrilled with his portrayal, but it's the author's story as she experienced it. It was an entertaining listen. Oh, and yes - based on this, Hef is as creepy and manipulative as I imagined. Gross, man. Holly - I'm glad you got out. Keep on doing you.
Profile Image for Ashley.
124 reviews4 followers
July 12, 2015
I don't condone manipulative/abusive relationships. But are you kidding me?

My opinion - I don't sympathize with what Holly went through when she didn't object to any of it until many years later. I really like her- she comes off as sweet and intelligent. But her actions were so frustrating.

Pretty much she moved into the mansion because she needed a place to live. Um..?
Her dream was to be famous and her goal living at the mansion/being with Hef was to get in the magazine. She had an agenda so I don't understand why she was surprised when she wasn't treated like a princess.

I wasn't surprised to learn that life at the mansion wasn't 24/7 parties and luxury and that, gasp, the women were treated like replaceable objects. Why was Holly??

Living with the most famous womanizer on the planet, are you seriously shocked he wanted to have sex with you/treated you like a dime a dozen/wasn't sincere when he said you were his one true love?
She put up with that plus mean girl roommates for 7 years (while using the publicity/perks as a stepping stone to further her career) then whines that it was so bad.

She often describes life at the mansion as oppressive. She was 20-27 years old with a 9pm curfew, had to ask permission for everything she wanted, and constantly had to try to get along with the other live in girlfriends. This book made me feel so suffocated.

Before she moved in, she was working as a waitress and scraping by, going to college and auditions. Is that really so bad when your dignity and self esteem are at stake?

This entire book is a complaint and NOTHING is her fault.
Profile Image for Marla.
1,260 reviews216 followers
December 5, 2015
Wasn't sure if I was going to like this book but I actually did. I opted for the audio version and Holly reads it herself. I always thought Hef was a disgusting man with all his girlfriends and now I he is even more disgusting to me. The man wanted to be known as a man who could concur any woman and could have any woman. He never wanted to look weak. Even though he gave his girlfriends lots of money, there were restrictions about what they could spend it on and there were tons of rules on the girlfriends that he really caused a lot of them to lose their self worth and self confidence. It was so bad that Holly started to stutter. Of course why she stayed with him for 7 years I don't know. Any man who thinks he needs to be surrounded by 3-6 girlfriends many decades younger than him is just plain creepy. I did find this a fascinating look behind-the-scenes of what really happens inside the mansion. Who knew Hef doesn't own the mansion but rents the bedrooms.
Profile Image for Britany.
964 reviews417 followers
April 23, 2018
I just can't help myself when it comes to the drama that surrounds Playboy. I fell in love with the TV show "Girls Next Door"- I absolutely loved all three girlfriends (Holly, Kendra, & Bridget) and I think I loved the voyeur aspect of getting a peek into a lifestyle I would never live. Life at the Playboy mansion seemed elaborate, crazy and cool.

Holly narrates her audiobook (which I especially enjoyed) and while the writing came across a little self serving, she doesn't shy away from spilling the tea. She tries desperately to set herself apart from the flagship that made her relevant, and while I appreciate the desire to stand up for herself, I also recognize that you have to be grateful for the opportunities given to you. She highlighted the relationship with Hef was controlling and possessive. She also aimed fire at Kendra and some of the other Playmates involved in her time there. Special attention at the end is given to her brief relationship to Criss Angel (interesting!) and I appreciated the candidness in which she shared her stories. I enjoyed getting to know Holly's story even more and looking forward to see what else she has ahead of her.
Profile Image for Ryan Buckby.
652 reviews88 followers
February 10, 2023
First Read: April 14th 2021
Re-read: February 10th 2023

I won't apologize for the choices I made, because all of them brought me to the wonderful place I am today.

actual rating: 3.5/5

I like many people who grew up during the early 2000s were watching the girls next door and even though i shouldn't have been watching it i did watch a few episodes here and there over the years it was on. Playboy is something that i had heard all throughout my life and seen the magazines in shops, the merchandise that came along with this huge company.

However hearing Holly's side of the story as she was one of Hugh Hefner's longtime girlfriends for seven years it just goes to show how much on tv isn't what it seems. I always found the 'girlfriends' dating hef really strange because i always wondered why they would get with a man who was old enough to be their grandfather but as Holly explains in the book a lot of the girls did it for different reasons whether it was for the good or bad.

Holly really went through so much during her time at the playboy mansion and i feel like she only stayed because she honestly had no where to go so she stuck it out for as long as did and i honestly am surprised she did manage that long. She suffered depression, body issues, anxiety and so many more things during her stay and it has made her stronger person today for what she went through.

This whole make believe thing that was created was hiding the fact that this place was so toxic with the girls ganging up on each other and forming cliques. I'm glad Holly was able to write this book and share her story and side of what happened in that mansion it takes guts for someone to tell their story and i take my hat off to her.

sometimes you try so hard to fit in that you almost forget it’s all an act

At the end of the day i am honestly glad that Holly got away and was able to be successful on her own and have the family that she always wanted during her time at the mansion. I would love to read books from the other two now!
Profile Image for Francesca.
100 reviews101 followers
July 7, 2016
I have so much respect for Holly for being brave enough to write this book. I'm aware that a few other former playmates have written about similar things and have also tried to share the truth about Hefner and I also appreciate that but Holly had the most fame and therefore her stories will reach further out and hopefully reach more girls that may need this knowledge if they find themselves in similar situations. Her memoir was incredibly honest, she owned up to her own naïveté and mistakes and acknowledges them. I've seen some people bashing her for writing this book and saying things like 'if she didn't like it she should've left', well a) those people clearly haven't actually read this book to understand why she stuck it out and b) those people clearly have no understanding of how people get stuck in abusive relationships and, yes, verbal abuse can be just as painful and crippling as physical abuse. This book is one of those examples of people never truly knowing what goes on behind closed doors, while many of us may have had judgements or theories or thoughts about the playboy mansion, none of us actually knew what it's like there or what Hefner is like or what the girls are like. I won't lie and say that I've never had pre-judgements of people but Holly is a prime example of why I do my best not to judge people before I know them or their side of the story. This memoir is incredibly shocking (while maybe not surprising depending on what view you already have of Hefner), moving, and in the end inspirational! The last chapter is genuinely heart-warming and actually made me tear up a bit. So well done Holly, I wish her every bit of luck and happiness in her future.
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