The Gothic Tudor was one of many estates built for Los Angeles’ wealthy class during the boom years of the 1920s, an ornate European revival sitting slightly out of place in a Westside canyon.
But in the 1970s, Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner saw the Holmby Hills home as a chance to create a hedonistic headquarters for a business that peddled photos of nude women and a sexually liberated lifestyle that would spark decades of debate.
During the height of its popularity, the Playboy Mansion was perhaps L.A.’s most famous home. Attending one of Hefner’s parties was a sign of status, where one could rub elbows with celebrities, Playboy “Bunnies” and the host himself, often dressed in his trademark pajamas.
The fortunes of Playboy waned over the years, and the free sex ethos that the mansion symbolized eventually became viewed by many as cruelly exploitative of women and reckless in an era of AIDS.
But Hefner remained behind the mansion’s gates until the very end, even after he sold it last year for $100 million. It was there that he died Wednesday at age 91.
It’s unclear what will become of the estate now — or even whether there can be a Playboy Mansion without Hefner.
Recent visitors have been quick to point out the mansion tended to trade on its risqué reputation more than live up to it.
It became a popular spot for both private parties and political and charity fundraisers. In 2005, the mansion was the setting for an E! reality show in which Hefner lived with three much younger companions.
But there were periodic reminders of its darker past. Women came forward with stories of cruel behavior and a blatantly sexist culture. The mansion was back in the news in 2014 when a woman claimed Bill Cosby molested her during a party there in 1974.
For some, a visit to the mansion was an official introduction to…