I bought a copy of Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison and decided to review it when I realised just how interested everyone else seemed to be! I had naively thought that watching Girls of the Playboy Mansion (originally titled Girls Next Door in the US) was my own dirty little secret – but it turns out a lot of my friends used to watch it too, and lots of them were intrigued to see what secrets Holly spilled in her book!
I initially became interested in the book when I read an article where someone had asked Holly if she was worried about ex co-star Kendra Wilkinson reading what she’d said about her in the book. Holly’s response was something along the lines of “in all the time I knew her, I never once saw her read a book so I think I’m safe.”
What I love about this book is that Holly clearly knows why people will be buying it. She doesn’t go into some self indulgent story of her childhood; she gets straight to the point. A large chunk of the book is taken up with her time living with Hugh Hefner, first as one of seven girlfriends, and then as his main girlfriend.
The book paints Hugh Hefner (or “Hef” as he’s known, seemingly by everyone) as a manipulative, controlling man who delights in setting his girlfriends against each other in a “divide and conquer” sort of way. Meanwhile, the girlfriends are all going out, seeing other boyfriends on the side, sneering at Hef behind his back, and being mean to Holly.
The biggest shock in this book for me was the realisation that neither Holly, Kendra nor Bridget Marquardt were actually paid for the first season of Girls Next Door. When they brought this fact up with the producer from the TV Channel, E!, they were basically told, this is a show about Hef’s girlfriends, not you as people. You’re replaceable. I find it terrifying that in 2005, these women were being basically kept as possessions, treated as nothing more than replaceable arm candy – and a massive TV company was not just allowing it to happen, but helping it to happen! None of these three women earned an income from this massive TV show until season 2 when it became apparent it was a hit. Fast forward a few seasons; Holly, Bridget and Kendra had all left the house, and been replaced by Crystal (now Hef’s wife) and the Shannon twins. Season six, without its original stars, was a massive flop. Seems like they weren’t replaceable after all!
The book goes into Holly’s life after leaving the mansion too, which is interesting – but I hadn’t actually heard of the man she ended up in a relationship with afterwards. He was a magician in Vegas, and she seems to have gone from one abusive, controlling relationship to the other. Even though I’d not heard of the man, this part of the book was still interesting and I’m sure it will ring bells for a lot of people who’ve found themselves in a similar situation.
I did find there were points in this book where it felt a bit like Holly was perhaps holding back part of the truth about what went on. She mentions sex with Hef only once, before she’s even moved into the mansion. There were several points where I found myself thinking, “oh, come on; you must have said something/done something/reacted/whatever” – she seems just a little bit too whiter than white.
There are also a couple of moments that made me cringe, where she tells stories possibly designed to make Kendra look bad – but they actually make Holly look a bit unkind. For example, there’s a bit where they go to a restaurant and Kendra mis-pronounces the word “sake” – the Japanese rice wine. The incident is ostensibly showing how rude Kendra is to the waitress, but it feels a bit unkind to highlight it at all.
Either way, whether she is omitting certain details or not, it’s an incredibly interesting story, made all the more so by the fact Hefner was apparently very unimpressed by her publishing the book.
I found this book incredibly easy to read and hard to put down. Whether Holly Madison has “rewritten history” as Hefner has said, or omitted a few details to make herself look less like… the person we all assume one would be if they went from being all but homeless to living in the Playboy Mansion for several years, it’s still a great read. I’m almost tempted to read Kendra’s book now… probably.
At the time of writing, Down the Rabbit Hole is £11.89 on Amazon UK.
Note: I was not provided with this book for the purposes of review. I reviewed it because I enjoyed it and thought my readers may be interested to know what I thought. All words and opinions are my own!
Thanks for reading.