HOW does a quiet, clean-living, modest college student from Oregon’s small-town Twilight zone progress from being thousands of dollars in debt and homeless to finding herself ensconced as the “number one girlfriend” of the world’s most infamous womaniser – all within a matter of months? Inviting herself to move into then-75-year-old Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles is a handy first step, as Holly Madison discovered at the age of 21.
In Down the Rabbit Hole, Madison describes with grit, determination and a remarkable degree of grace and class the events and emotions surrounding her decade-long association with all things Playboy.
This is no titillating, salacious kiss-and-tell tossed together hurriedly by a ghost writer, nor is it a sugar-coated PR branding stunt. Rather, Madison presents a clear-headed, factual and intimate look back over the years of insecurity, intimidation and infighting that characterised life in captivity for the members of Hefner’s harem, revealing her one-time beau as a sly, manipulative, Machiavellian jailer who is mean-fisted both materially and emotionally and actively pits unhappy, bored young women against each other in a never-ending round of high-school-style cattiness. (That, despite Hefner’s immense legal resources as head of the Playboy publishing empire, he did not prevent this book’s release suggests in itself that Madison’s account is accurate.)
She also describes candidly the smoke-and-mirrors tactics that underpin so-called “reality” television; for five years Madison appeared on The Girls Next Door, a carefully manufactured peak into the lives of Hefner’s chosen women, and later had her own primetime show, Holly’s World.
Madison’s story encompasses her experiences outside the mansion’s walls as well, including the challenge of overcoming stereotyping in order to establish an independent stage career.
Does this fairytale-slash-nightmare end on a happy note? It’s well following this Alice in Wonderland-themed adventure with Madison in order to find out.