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  • Robert Farago

Only Say Good Things - Book Review

Crystal Hefner spills the beans

Crystal Hefner’s autobiography Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself would have us believe she was desperately unhappy being Hugh Hefner’s “main girlfriend” and wife. The question is…

Did Mrs. Hefner choose her fate or was she the victim of a misogynistic cult leader? Mrs. Hefner makes a compelling case for both.

Let’s be clear…

Crystal Hefner does not say good things about Hugh Hefner. She’s got nothing good to say about the Playboy publisher.

Crystal’s husband comes across as a boring, bombastic, drug-addicted control freak. A man whose passive, passionless sex life belies any notion that he was a ladies’ man. Or, in any sense, a gentleman.

Crystal shows Hef as an ancient, dilapidated has-been lost in a vainglorious past. An emotionally repressed, emotionally abusive monster whose mere presence infested a mould-riddled mansion with vanity, jealousy and, in Crystal’s case, misery.

A tyrant who’d lost even a basic ability to feel empathy, if he’d ever had one.

It never occurred to him to be curious about other people, unless it was for show or in a media interview. He barely seemed interested in his own children. I didn’t think he knew how to love.

Why Crystal?

According to Crystal, Hugh Hefner’s hold on her was “complicated.” Not if we take her at her word.

Crystal’s self-analysis: her beloved father’s death and her impoverished childhood made her a daddy’s girl, ready, willing and able to hook-up with a world-famous octogenarian for a sense of security and the glamorous lifestyle to which her singer/songwriter father aspired.

Did Crystal’s past trauma put her in a cult leader’s crosshairs? Like you read about.

Hugh Hefner Octogenarian Cult Leader

Mrs. Hefner’s tome positions Hugh Hefner as the unquestioned leader of a sycophantic social scene seventy servants strong, powered by a steady stream of surgically-enhanced playmates and playmate wannabes.

Bleached blondes shuffled in and out of Hugh Hefner’s fiefdom like rush hour trains through Grand Central Station.

Some stayed the night; the chosen few decamped to one of four private bedrooms for as long as Hugh Hefner deemed suitable. And not a moment longer.

Women that fell out of favor were banished to a “halfway house” without so much as a Hefnarian fare-thee-well.

“I was terrified,” Crystal writes.

Crystal Hefner Second Class Citizen

Crystal maintains that only big shots got the best of Hugh Hefner, and that such a thing existed.

Unless someone had status, fame, or fortune, he didn’t consider them real people. He could be charming and gracious and attentive, and he could be sharp and cold and uninterested. It depended on who he was with and what they had to offer.

Aspiring Playmates – Hef’s drug of choice – got short shrift.

Hefner doled-out praise and snubs at random – keeping the revolving cast of sexual subalterns constantly craving the Emperor’s attention. Including Crystal.

Any time I was brave enough to bring up a topic of conversation, instead of just responding to whatever he wanted to talk about, I held my breath, because I didn’t know which Hugh Hefner I would get.

What Crystal got was a life dictated by the pajama-clad publisher’s every capricious whim.

Was Crystal Complicit?

While Only Good Things decries the transactional nature of the people surrounding Hef, the author is no less guilty of the same sin.

“I walked into my cage willingly,” Crystal admits.

And did whatever it took to embody the large-breasted sweet-but-vapid girl-next-door archetype Hefner had (for lack of a better word) crystalized.

And ridden all the way to the bank. Just as Crystal had to oil her body and take her turn riding her supine husband’s Viagra-inflated penis.

To avoid infections, I sometimes resorted to anal sex when it was my turn to straddle Hef. I don’t think he could ever tell the difference, and it helped to avoid a host of frontal issues. It wasn’t alway the easiest, but it was the best solution I could think of. The sex had become like everything else in the mansion – part of my job.

So Crystal knowingly acquiesced to Hef’s perversions for a seat at the table. Fair enough, I suppose. But does that mean that Crystal enabled Hefner’s misogyny?

There’s no way to think otherwise. Not only did Crystal play her assigned role, she pimped for Hef, procuring new women for his infamous round bed.

Spotlight on Hugh

Only Say Good Things is a well-constructed, well-written tale of a lonely woman who sacrificed her twenties and early-thirties for a loveless if luxurious lifestyle.

But make no mistake: Hugh Hefner’s the “star” of this book: an emotionally stunted, power-mad publisher with zero respect for the women he claimed to adore.

You might even call him a sex-trafficker…

I had nothing with me. All my belongings were still in the house – everything I had in the world. But I didn’t care. I had to get out, off the property, away, as fast as humanly possible. I stormed down the driveway toward the security gate. I started running. Then I heard his voice over the mansion loudspeaker. “Close the back gate!” he boomed. “If Crystal tries to leave detain her!”

If that anecdote is true, shame on Hugh Hefner. Shame on his enablers, including all of us seduced by “the Playboy lifestyle.”

As for Crystal’s culpability, I’ll say this: just because someone is willingly exploited doesn’t justify the exploitation.

More than that, I’m glad Crystal Hefner waited years to write this book. Regret, like revenge, is a dish best served cold. Taken together, they’re something of a feast.

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