Holly Madison is one of our own now. No matter your opinion of her, the former reality star, Playboy bunny and Peepshow ingénue is as Vegas as they come. Even married and mothered up, she exudes Vegas, with her classic Rancho Circle home, fake boobs, salacious backstory and fabulous mom dresses. So now that she’s written a memoir, attention must be paid.
Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny (Dey Street Books, $26) is more than it seems. Sure, it’s filled with the requisite Hollywood gossip and looky-loo tidbits. Intentionally or not—nobody knows whether the clear, fluid prose is attributable to Madison or her “collaborator,” former Hollywood Reporter writer Leslie Bruce—Rabbit Hole offers a deep twist on the American Dream. Amid the fluff and the spangles, Madison dives headfirst into more profound topics such as contemporary gender roles, the dangers of consumerism and the saving grace of fame. Here are seven of the more intriguing insights from the book:
Sometimes it’s better to be a hustler. Madison goes to great lengths to distinguish herself from the other girls in the Playboy Mansion—“a motley crew of bottle blondes” who came before Kendra and Bridget. According to Madison, these chicas milk Playboy magnate Hugh Hefner for all he’s worth and then high-class hook on the sly, earning “thousands of dollars a night.” Presenting herself as the ethical one, Madison is faithful to Hef, protective of him, afraid of him and eager to please him. What did this get her? A broken self-image and lingering money problems. Here’s a man who returned Madison’s fidelity and kindness by openly dating other women and manipulating her in countless ways. Seems like those bottle blondes were smarter than they looked.
If you’re a rich old dude, the girls might be faking it. This is the flip side of insight No. 1. Madison goes into just enough detail to satisfy curiosity about what went on in the bedroom with Hefner and his seven girlfriends, but not so much detail as to make you throw up in your mouth. “[The girls] were going through the motions as if they were getting it on or making out with each other,” she writes, “but no one really was. It was just a big façade.”
Be your own damn meal ticket. Even as it’s entertaining, a lot of Madison’s story is really dark. She spends way too much of her life living by somebody else’s rules before she realizes that she has to get it together on her own. From the outside, this detail may seem painfully obvious. But we live in a culture where naïve-virgin-meets-abusive-billionaire is a bestselling fantasy.
Madison writes in a way that creates a lot of empathy, and readers will really root for her. But here is the book’s real cautionary tale: Hef had all the power because he held the keys to a world of wealth and glamour. How did he get those keys? He made them himself. It goes against every romantic trope, but build your own empire, ladies (and gents). Don’t beg for the keys to somebody else’s.
Don’t let anybody take away the things you love. There is a crucial turning point near the beginning of the book. And it’s not the moment when Madison chooses to live in the Mansion on a whim; it’s the moment when she lets Hef bully her into quitting her job at Hooters and giving up a chance to model in its magazine (even though he had no interest at the time in letting her pose in Playboy). “It was a crushing defeat,” she writes, “and it felt like I was saying goodbye to a part of me.” A cult leader couldn’t have assimilated her any better.
If you’re depressed, ask yourself why. Of course, depression can be a serious chemical issue that requires medication, just like diabetes or a thyroid problem. But at times, depression can also be your body’s alarm system telling you that something in your life is wrong and needs to be changed. Having strangled her personality into that of an “ultra-feminine, docile fembot,” Madison eventually becomes depressed. Medication helps her mood, but it doesn’t change her ZIP code.
A reality show can save you. The modern-day fairy godmother goes by the name of E! Network. Readers will shudder to think what would’ve happened to Madison if those reality show producers hadn’t prowled the Mansion grounds and helped make her dreams of fame finally come true with a starring role in The Girls Next Door and eventually her own show, Holly’s World.
Vegas will always be there for you. After a fateful solo trip to Vegas for a photo shoot, the girl next door heads back to Nevada for more bright lights and paparrazi-free neon. Here, she lands the lead role in her own sexy Strip production (Peepshow at Planet Hollywood) and an eventual home. Really, Las Vegas is the unsung hero of this memoir, and once Madison gets past a brief relationship with Criss Angel, all is well in Holly’s world.
Holly Madison Book Signing
Barnes & Noble, 2191 N. Rainbow Blvd., 7 p.m. July 1.
The Good Stuff
A few choice words from Holly Madison’s new memoir
The Magic of Plastic Surgery
“After a few days of recovery where I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, I finally made it to the mall to buy my first post-surgery bra. … I looked at the tag on the lacey white Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels bra: a 34D! The surgeon had told me he couldn’t guarantee what size my breasts would end up being—I had asked for a C cup using a topless photo of a Playmate as inspiration. I couldn’t believe I was a D cup—I was huge!” (Page 17)
Was This in the Job Description?
“This may sound naïve, but I didn’t immediately realize that [the girls in the Playboy Mansion] were actually required to sleep with Hef. Back then, none of the girlfriends talked about it.” (Page 28)
A House of Disrepair
“In passing, the Mansion looks decadent, but when taking the time to truly look at some of the nooks and crannies, it’s amazing how neglected it was. … The carpet must have been older than any of his girlfriends.” (Page 32)
Girlfriends on Parade
“The scene was almost comical as each girl bounced down the Gone With the Wind-esque staircase like a carbon copy of the girl before her: white-ish blond hair in large barrel curls, the skimpiest sparkly dress imaginable and the kind of strappy platform heels you’d expect to see onstage at a strip club.” (Page 33)
Horatio Alger … With Boobs
When asked by reality show producers when she first realized she was beautiful, Holly answered, “I never did discover I was beautiful. I made myself beautiful.” (Page 153)
An Angelic Discovery
“Criss [Angel] could charm the pants off anyone (in some cases … literally), but I was disappointed to learn that, just an inch below the surface, he didn’t appear to be the sharpest tool in the shed.” (Page 250)
Planet Hollywood > Playboy Mansion
“Living at Planet Hollywood [while performing in Peep Show] was absolutely surreal. It felt like all the perks of the Mansion had been rolled up into one luxurious package and dropped squarely at my feet.” (Page 281)
The Bite of the Bunny
“Sure, Playboy got me on television, but it was also because of Playboy that I was taken off television. Many people assume Playboy was my blessing, but most don’t know it was also my curse. Truth be told, I was devastated by the cancellation [of Holly’s World, the E! spinoff to The Girls Next Door]. … I felt like the Giving Tree after the tree was reduced to a stump and had nothing left to give anyone.” (Page 315) – C.M.R.