'A guy jumped into the pool with 30 Bunnies. It wasn't me. It's my one regret in life' - Gavin Caffrey on his night in the Playboy Mansion
For a lot of adolescent boys growing up in Ireland in the 80s and 90s, there were a handful of places you dreamt to be – Wrestlemania, the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, Tony Cascarino’s shoes and the Playboy Mansion.
I think I’m one of the few that can say that last one came true for me.
The opportunity arose in 2005 while visiting LA to cover the launch of the Xbox 360 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) – a three-day games and tech event showcasing the latest consoles and titles.
I’d received an email a few weeks before from Ubisoft inviting me to a party at Hugh Hefner’s babe-laden paradise to celebrate the launch of a game based on the magazine mogul’s empire. They had heard I was going to be in town reporting on E3 and extended an offer. It was no joke and thoughts of playing volleyball with adoring Playboy Bunnies and wooing them with Poison’s hit Every Rose Has Its Thorn on the guitar flooded my consciousness.
My friends were as deliriously excited as I was… it was like the scene in Goodfellas when Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta find out Joe Pesci is to become a ‘made’ man with the mafia: “As far as Jimmy was concerned, with Tommy being made, it was like we were all being made.”
On the day of the party, I wasn’t in my right mind. I fell asleep at the hotel pool only to wake up a nice lobster colour. After applying a few layers of after-sun in the hotel room, I pulverised 100 push-ups and crunched 150 sit-ups – you know, just in case Hugh asked me to go topless.
I boarded a Playboy bus at UCLA which brought us to the mansion. It was dark and the house looked almost medieval when we got there, with its castle turrets and the famous fountain in the courtyard. I couldn’t believe I was here, but I looked like a typical Irish lad on holiday - slightly pissed and large parts of my body glowing bright red… a Play-buachaill, if you will.
Guests were whisked through an archway that led to the grounds at the back – a vast set of gardens that housed the famous ‘Grotto’, swimming pools, water features, a giant marquee, a bar and, of course, lots of girls. But none were naked… or so I thought.
After about 10 minutes talking to a Playboy Bunny in a purple and black corset, I finally realised it was painted on. Admittedly the conversation went downhill from there. In fact, I struggled to think of anything but the lamest things to say. Talking to a naked woman who’s not your girlfriend or wife is a bloody skill… one I had to learn fast.
After a few whiskies, I felt much more relaxed and decided to walk the grounds. The marquee housed a catwalk which the Bunnies bounced along during a type of beauty pageant. Outside, there was gargoyle-carved stonework and monkeys in cages. The inside of the mansion was off limits but I thought I saw Hef in the window of what looked like a library.
I peered into the Grotto and remember reading this was where Mark Hamill from Star Wars met his wife… but there was nor a lightsaber or R2D-cup in sight.
Things did get a bit feisty later on as about 30 Bunnies jumped into a tiny pool. One guy jumped in with them – it wasn’t me. It’s my one regret in life.
Hugh Hefner may be gone but I feel like I got to peer into his world, even if it was a very sanitised version. Who knows, maybe I’ll start up my own Irish Playboy reality TV show – Bunny Ears To The Ground!