Following the conclusion of A&E’s bombshell docuseries, Secrets of Playboy, the latest chapter in Hugh Hefner’s long-overdue reckoning has just dropped with the publication of his former butler’s tell-all memoir. Written by Stefan Tetenbaum, who served as Hefner’s personal butler in the late ’70s and early ’80s, The Dark Secrets of Playboy details Tetenbaum’s experiences at the Playboy mansion, providing a revealing — and potentially damning — glimpse into the Playboy founder’s day to day life.
“My story at the Playboy Mansion West during the peak years [of] 1978-80s was an extraordinary period of Playboy Enterprises’ power and fame,” Tetenbaum told Variety in an exclusive statement. “Working alongside Hefner gave me incredible insight into the daily life and times of such a complex man and the world he created. It was his world — private and hidden.”
The memoir, from Around the Way publishing, is now available digitally on Amazon and Kindle. According to Tetenbaum, it’s been a long time coming. The author, who also appeared in the A&E series, says he initially wrote the book nearly 40 years ago, but publishers at the time balked at Hefner’s power.
“I was not able to publish this book until now because the publishing world could not take a risk with such a giant figure in the media world. Hefner had tremendous power to stop anyone looking to tell this story,” Tetenbaum said in a statement. “No one could believe these hair-raising stories then and a certain group of loyalists to Hefner still can’t believe that this world of power and abusive manipulation was true.”
Indeed, a small army of those loyalists has formed in the wake of the allegations against Hefner and his empire, which include accusations of rape, exploitation and all manner of debauchery either enacted or covered up by the Playboy founder and his inner circle. Ahead of the series’ premiere in January, Hefner’s son, Cooper, took to Twitter to preemptively defend his late father. After it aired, a number of former Playboy employees, bunnies and other insiders also came forward against Hefner’s detractors, penning an open letter in his defense.
But Tetenbaum’s memoir, which he says will explore “the dark underbelly” of Hefner’s world, comes amid a growing shift in attitudes toward the Playboy founder’s legacy. Holly Madison’s 2015 memoir, Down the Rabbit Hole, in which the former girlfriend of Hefner detailed the dark side of her supposedly glamorous life at the Playboy mansion, made her one of the first Playboy insiders in recent memory to come out publicly against Hefner. But while Madison’s book may have effectively kickstarted an ongoing cultural shift in attitudes toward Hefner and Playboy, hers was far from the first memoir to reveal the jaw-dropping realities of life in Hugh Hefner’s orbit. In her 2006 memoir, Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion, Jennifer Saginor details a childhood corrupted by drugs and sex as the daughter of Hefner’s personal friend and doctor. And way back in 1980, Linda Lovelace recalled being encouraged to have sex with a dog for Hefner’s amusement in her memoir, Ordeal.
Until very recently, however, allegations against Hefner and Playboy have held little weight. Tetenbaum attributes the advent of Playboy’s long-awaited cultural reckoning, one that has finally made his memoir publishable, to the Me Too movement. “This book is finally able to be believed because almost all the chapters have unfolded during the last few years,” he said in a statement. “This is a time that the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up era have opened the eyes of many to believe my story in 2022.”
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