Flashback to the first time that I visited the Playboy Mansion circa 2010
The Birds of the Playboy Mansion
Text by Simon Degenhard, photos by Simon Degenhard, Frank S. Todd and Playboy Enterprises, Inc.
First published in Australian Aviary Life magazine, 2010
It was certainly unexpected, but very welcome all the same when by a stroke of luck we found ourselves at the world famous Playboy Mansion. During our recent trip to the United States we were treated to a tour of this beautiful estate and were excited by the opportunity to view the resident bird collection and by that I do mean birds of the feathered kind! Honest! Among other things the Mansion is in fact home to a very nice collection of birds and animals.
Playboy Mansion sits just one block from Sunset Boulevard on the western side of Los Angeles, amongst countless grand estates in the Holmby Hills. It is a prominent feature on the itinerary of the various tours that take tourists around spotting the homes of the rich and famous and for good reason too, as you would be hard pressed to find a more famous residence the world over. Considered more than just a grand estate, the Playboy Mansion is the Hollywood destination, a place that attracts not only Hollywood's hottest celebrities but also radio and television personalities, top professional athletes and of course countless beautiful Playboy Playmates. Being an inclusion on the guest list for one of the six huge parties that Hef throws each year is the ambition of not only the Hollywood locals, but people the world over.
The six parties thrown by Hef each year consist of the New Years Eve black-tie lingerie gala, the Mardi Gras disco party held in February, his birthday party in April, the Fourth of July party, the Midsummer Nights Dream lingerie pyjama party held in August and last but not least the extravagant Halloween bash. Attending any one of these events is by all accounts certainly an unforgettable experience.
The Playboy Mansion is not only a party destination, but also plays host to numerous corporate events including video promotions, online events, sales events and magazine shoots. Various charity events also call the mansion home including the annual Cedars Sinai tennis tournament and fundraisers for organisations including Wildlife Way Station, the Special Olympics and the Nicole Brown Foundation, among others.
Any tour of the Mansion begins by talking into the famous “talking rock” that serves as the intercom through which the Playboy security team is contacted. Upon entering through the front gate a winding driveway, complete with “Playmates at Play” roadside warning sign, leads you to the main house. A prominent feature at the front of the mansion is the large fountain, originally situated in the backyard, it was relocated to the front during the redevelopment of the property in the 1970’s.
From here we were taken across the large manicured front lawn, at the far end of which is the location of an exact replica of Hef’s Hollywood Walk of Fame Star. Hef was awarded his star for his Playboy’s Penthouse and Playboy After Dark productions of the 1950’s and 60’s which were at the time ground breaking television variety shows featuring ‘A’ list celebrities, athletes and writers.
This part of the grounds is also home to the Game House which features numerous Playboy pinball machines, poker, pool and foosball tables and various pieces of nostalgic artwork and colourful neon lights honouring the man himself. There are also a couple of bedrooms, complete with mirrored walls at one end and a room known as the van room at the other. The feature of this room is the cushioned velvet floor and once again mirrored walls.
Continuing through the lush gardens we were taken past the mansions tennis court which has not only been used for regular tournaments but has also at times been transformed into a championship boxing ring, a roller skating rink and is the site of the multi-room haunted house that is erected each year for the huge Halloween Party.
We were then taken past the guest house, which is used to house the various Playmates whilst they are staying at the mansion shooting their centrefolds and pictorials. Off the side of the guest house is the Aviary, a large fully enclosed greenhouse style building that is home to various animals and birds including monkeys, amazon parrots, Keel-billed Toucans, hornbills, lizards and two saltwater aquariums, as well as a large variety of tropical plants.
A bath house is situated across from the Aviary, behind the main house and features large communal shower rooms, restrooms, change rooms, a sauna and a solarium. Underneath the bath house, below ground level you will find a fully equipped gym complete with tanning beds and a steam room.
The large pool and famous Grotto are situated alongside the bath house and are among the most popular places to hang for guests of the various summertime functions. The pool features two waterfalls that run down from the top of the Grotto across the front of two of its entrances. The Grotto features four separate hot tubs, with two being normal depth, one being shallow and the fourth being deep enough to stand in. Waterproof mattresses are also featured here, on three sides of the interior of the Grotto.
Another prominent feature of the mansion grounds is the large Koi pond, surrounded by lush vegetation and featuring a waterfall at the rear, it is a beautiful sight and only serves to enhance this grand estate. The Koi pond is situated in the backyard of the property and this area is also home to various birds including Crowned Cranes, Flamingos, peacocks, geese and ducks among other things. During the day an assortment of tame exotic parrots including Hyacinth, Green-winged and Military Macaws also call this part of the estate home and you will find them perched in different locations throughout the backyard area. Guests are allowed hands on interaction with many of these birds and some individuals have become quite popular with attendees of the various functions held throughout the year in this area of the Mansion.
The bulk of the Playboy Mansion zoological collection is located to the other side of the backyard and includes a large variety of animals and birds, many of which are rare and endangered species. Three of the most popular exhibits within this area of the Mansion are the primate enclosures, the first of which houses Red-handed Tamarins, the second is home to “Coco” the Spider Monkey and the third houses a large colony of very active Squirrel Monkeys. Various African and Asian hornbills, turacos, Nicobar Pigeons, Plush-crested Jays, African Grey Parrots, cockatoos, pheasants, finches and various waterfowl are among the other interesting attractions to be found here. The Playboy Mansion Zoo is not just an animal display and the majority of the animals have been and continue to be bred within the collection on a regular basis. Among the regular yearly breeders are the African Crowned Cranes, the Peafowl and the various waterfowl species. The odd domestic rabbit (a.k.a Playboy Bunny) also calls the mansion’s zoo home.
The Mansion grounds are also home to Southern California’s largest privately owned Redwood grove that features a lighted walkway and numerous bench seats upon which visitors can sit and relax while taking in the peaceful surrounds. In the middle of the two Redwood plantations is the beautifully manicured terraced lawn that runs down to the driveway towards the front gate and offers a great view of the Mansion when looking up from the lower levels. Another interesting aspect of the estate is the fact that the entire grounds are maintained pesticide free; this is made possible with the use of “beneficial insects” such as Ladybugs that are introduced to the garden by the gardening staff on a regular basis throughout the year.
As you can see the Playboy Mansion is more than just Hollywood's hottest party destination and a magnificent residence, it is also home to a world class zoological collection, rare and endangered botanical specimens and not to mention the world renowned Playboy Bunnys!
I would like to extend my thanks to Jerry Jennings and Playboy Mansion head animal keeper, Ishmael Rueda for making our visit to the Mansion possible.
Information booklet supplied by the Playboy Mansion.