Our New Year's trip to L.A. started off with dinner with old friends, Patti and Jimmy Connors. We went to their favorite restaurant in Brentwood, Toscano's, and it was wonderful. They spent New Year's Day at Oprah's and Jimmy played tennis with Stedman. The hair guru, Paul Mitchell was there with his wife, Eloise. Oprah was going back to Africa on Saturday because she had a class of 7th graders graduating. Sydney Poitier donated a whole library of DVD's for her kids and sent them along.
All along Rodeo Drive, loudspeakers were playing Christmas tunes and they even had Baccarat chandeliers wrapped in gauze, a la Phillippe Starck, at every corner. The Beverly Wilshire remains one of the great hotels of the world -- especially so now, after their gorgeous renovations. With a concierge staff of 14, your every wish is their command. The weather was perfect -- 70s and sunny.
At the Playboy Mansion, it was a Winter Wonderland for New Year's Eve. Everything was white -- the massive tent, the ceiling with all of the oversized sparkly snowflakes and even the white carpet covering the grounds. The transformation from grounds to party tent must've been very impressive to watch. There were huge screens everywhere showing scenes from past parties. It seemed strange to see Hef watching past parties with different women involved and then to have a whole new set of women by his side. But in the Playboy world, time passes quickly, and this all seems normal. Security was very tight as usual. I even heard over a radio when we arrived that there was already a trespasser on the grounds.
There were only about 425 revelers, as this party is typically one of the smallest. For the first time, the invitation attire read "black tie and lingerie." In the past it was always "pajamas and lingerie." A sign of the times? Growing older? I don't know, but everyone came "camera ready!" Most of the young girls were all body painted. The artists there must have had a field day! They were truly works of art. One girl was painted in a Santa bikini and even the fur fringe looked real! Two other women came as snowflakes, and they painted them on themselves.
The guest list was varied and included everyone from B-list actors, past and present Playmates, an A-list astronaut, military men, rappers, porn stars, and everything in between. In other words, it was a gawker's paradise!
Earlier in the day, we had driven by the Mansion while roaming around Bel-Air and noticed an army of catering trucks and server's cars stretching for blocks and blocks near the house. Hef spared no expense and it showed. That evening he was surrounded by his usual pack of blondes. Noticeably absent were Holly and Kendra, but Bridgett was there with her new boyfriend. They were even invited into Hef's VIP area with the twins, but no one seemed to pay her much notice. Even the cameras, which were usually trained on her in the past passed her by this night. It seemed like she was Cinderella after midnight. It was sort of sad, and I don't think I would've come had I been her. I overheard her tell someone that Hef had asked her to "come by for a drink," so she did, even though she was hesitant to do so. In any event, she stayed too late in my opinion and appeared quite tipsy near the end.
The cast of characters included astronaut Buzz Aldrin and his wife (who speaks 7 languages), Andrew Dice Clay, Julie Newmar, Kato Kalin, Jimmy Kimmel, Jose Canseco, Bill Maher, Willie Gault, Martin Landau, Steve Gutenberg, Jon Lovitz, Judge Joe Mathis and Jeffrey Ross.(The A-list celebs like Leonardo DeCaprio prefer the Halloween party where they can come in costume and no one can recognize them. He's been to the last few Halloween parties with his posse in giant oversized masks).
Patti and Jimmy Connor's daughter, Aubree, was there and she is looking more and more gorgeous, just like her mother. She has that same auburn mane of hair and is 5'8 and stunning. The crowd seemed older and more subdued than in year's past, but as it got closer to midnight and the music got ramped up, it became the Playboy party we all know, love and read about.
The food was plentiful --sushi, all types of seafood, multiple carving stations, sweet tables, cheese, you name it, they had it. Even the bartenders were terrific -- just like in the movie "Cocktail," they were flipping bottles behind their backs and generally wowing the women.
The twins were all over Hef and he seemed to be enjoying himself. When I asked him what his New Year's resolution was, he said "to do more of the same!" He looked very dapper in his tux, but older since the last time I saw him. He seems deaf in one ear, which may have been a blessing when the rapper, Baby Bash, performed. Although the crowd seemed to love him, the music wasn't my taste. But the DJ who played after him was fantastic and kept the dance floor packed to the very end.
When the white balloons were dropped at midnight, the crowd went wild. It was so exciting for a couple of girls that I saw them carried out on stretchers. In the grotto, a man had to have the paddles put on him and he too was taken away on a stretcher.
There were Playmates from every era and from all over the country. Delores Del Monte was Playboy's 4th playmate (March 1954). She was a professional pinup model whose photo -- like the famous Marilyn Monroe nude -- was purchased from the John Baumgarth Calendar Co. of Melrose Park, Illinois for $50. Cathy St. George, the August 1982 Playmate was also there and still looks terrific. Cynthia Brimhall was the Playmate for October 1985 in an issue called "The Collector's Edition," the first perfect bound copy. She looks even better now than she did in her centerfold!
It was fun to see all of the past playmates and to observe the new ones. No one throws a party like Playboy and I'm always thrilled to get invited. (One of the playmates even sold her invitation on eBay for $400! The Playboy mystique never seems to die.)
Mary O'Connor was there, Hef's right-hand woman. She has been with him forever and I don't know what he would ever do without her. She knows everyone and everything about Hef and Playboy. She takes no prisoners and is a fantastic and likeable woman. I've been fortunate to know her for 35 years -- ever since I moved into the Chicago Mansion in 1974 as a Bunny from St. Louis.
Just as our trip began with old friends, it ended the same way. On our final night, we went to dinner with Tissy Eggleston and John Kennington to Mr. Chow's and celebrated her New Year's Day birthday. Tissy was a bridesmaid at my wedding 19 years ago and we will always be friends.
Flying back to Chicago at night with all of the beautiful lights of the city below made me realize, as we all know, "there's no place like home."
I hope you all have a healthy and happy 2009!