Three Wise Women

The Girls Next Door bring their gifts to the Playboy Mansion
By ELLEE DEAN  |  December 12, 2007

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DUMB BUNNIES?: (from left) Kendra, Holly, and Bridget.

There’s something beguiling about the girls in The Girls Next Door (E!, Mondays at 10 pm), the Hugh Hefner-created-and-produced reality show about his multiple live-in girlfriends. All three — Holly, Bridget, and Kendra —  are pretty, but not; unique, but not; and dumb bunnies, but not. To each their own stereotypical interest: Bridget likes school; Kendra likes sports; and Holly loves/wants desperately to marry Hugh Hefner. To each their own room: except Holly, who lives in Hefner’s walk-in closet. To each their own Playboy-funded future: Bridget wants to be a voice-actress; Kendra a celebrity rap superstar, clothing designer, massage therapist, and sports announcer; and Holly wants to be Hugh. Holly is Hef’s number-one girl.

Watching the show is like falling down the bunny hole ― everything socially acceptable (monogamy, independence, daywear) is naught. For this reason, I’ve spent nights worrying about Hefner. There he is, an 80-something man living in the Playboy Mansion with the three women above, plus video cameras, fake breasts, and giggles. At one point during Season One, I imagined I saw the horror on ex-girlfriend Barbi Benton’s face (now 57): who are these modern and largely plastic women? And what have they done with Hugh? Couldn’t the man-magnet do better with the rest of his life than this and reality TV? But then I remember episode three of Season Two, “80 Is the New 40” — also the theme for Hefner’s 80th birthday party.

Though he is old — his cadence more like that of an unsteady casino geriatric, less like editor-in-chief of Playboy magazine — Hefner is still having some fun in the vein of his famous brand. Amidst Holly’s ducky chuckle, Bridget’s fairy-dust giggle, and Kendra’s nervous hee-haw, Hefner seems at ease watching WWII-era movies and throwing the occasional Playboy Mansion party. The theme of last night’s Season Four premiere was: Fourth of July meets Iraq meets bikinis on two giant, inflatable slip-and-slides. As Holly dons a tiny bikini to test the novelty of the slip and slide, Bridget’s dad watches from the lawn. As Bridget dons a bunny suit to support the US marines shipping out to war, Kendra reconciles her desire to drink beer with the troops, instead of dressing up. At the end of the episode, we’re treated to a special homecoming: Bridget’s brother returns from Iraq. First stop, the Playboy Mansion.

The day of the homecoming, the girls craft welcome-home signs out of yellow poster board. Women in tight clothes line the driveway, awaiting the hero’s return. The scene is set: Bridget’s hair is crimped. As the limo approaches, tears well in her eyes. Kendra runs to the kitchen to grab a beer for the sergeant. Holly introduces the Sgt. to Hef, who greets his guest in his signature rumpled robe. The guestroom is decorated, complete with an American-flag mobile hung haphazardly in the shower. If this isn’t for real, it’s impeccably produced ― part sex, part kitsch, part Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Even Hefner’s famous lippy smile seems disarmingly real.

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