Jennifer Saginor’s father was Hugh Hefner’s doctor and best friend. In the ’80s, he lived at the Playboy Mansion, where his main job was to give diet pills and boob jobs to all the girls, then have sex with them. Jennifer lived there with him, and while a hired tutor did her homework, Jennifer sampled her dad’s drugs and Hef’s girlfriends.
My childhood was remarkably similar, except that instead of being surrounded by a cream-of-the-crop harem at mansion parties, I spent my youth amidst elderly alcoholic ladies passing out shirtless in our bushes at barbecues. And while I walked in on some random hippies having sex on my bedroom floor when I was six, young Jennifer swam in on John Belushi and a Playmate doing it in the pool. Which is probably why Jennifer’s tell-all daddy book, Playground, was picked up by HarperCollins and mine was published by Soft Skull Press.
We compared notes, a couple of mid-thirties women trained by our strangely compelling, overly naked dads how to seduce pretty women and lie to our mothers. – Lisa Carver
You say Hugh Hefner was the one person who treated you kindly growing up.
He was always gracious and welcoming. He always allowed me to have friends over and gave me free reign of the property. He never tried to keep me away from anything or lure me into anything. He just let me be. And he never got upset with me.
Don’t you think someone needed to get upset with you, young lady?
[laughs] Yeah, probably. Hef was just always really nice, really cheerful. The mansion was a stable environment for me, in this dysfunctional family where I didn’t really have a mother or a father.
Do you think your father might not have gone so far off the deep end if his best friend Hef hadn’t created this artificial culture where women are like food – you eat them up, and there’s always more?
Later, my father got into a different culture of nightclubs and parties up in the Hollywood hills, and that was gross and those guys were disgusting. I never looked at Hef as seedy. He was never in that category. His place was always fun and everyone was in a good mood and it was positive.
A girl named Paulina died in front of you on one last bump of cocaine while sucking some guy off at one of these parties. She was nineteen. You were sixteen or seventeen. You tried to get someone to call 911, but instead “security” took her body off and the party went on. Where did they take her body?
I don’t know. That’s just one of the things I’ll never know.
Did you look for the obituary in the paper?
No. I wasn’t reading the newspaper back then. And there was so much of that going on at the time – so much chaos in my father’s house with all the young girls in and out and the drug use and his mobster girlfriend Vicki. Everything was taken so lightly and loosely. Paulina was just one girl who died.
Your dad was always giving the Playboy girls free plastic surgery. Did he offer it to you?
He would make comments all the time, that I should get my boobs done or, “If you want to go get a spray tan, I know this person who owns a salon.” When I was sixteen, I got my nose done, but it didn’t really work. It wasn’t a fun experience. The doctor was on drugs when he did it, and he messed up my nose.
Was he a friend of your dad’s?
He was probably on your dad’s drugs.
Yeah. So was I. [laughs] But that was the end of [physical alteration] for me. I never cared what I looked like. I thought if I was smart and I aligned myself with the guys. I wouldn’t be put in the category of the stupid girls. I wished that I didn’t have any breasts, not bigger ones.
You write a lot about Carrie Leigh, Hef’s main girlfriend in the ’80s, who was often in the news for her extra-exhibitionist antics, though you had to change names for legal reasons.
I pretty much just refer to her as Kendall in print.
Was she the great love of your life?
She pretty much took the role of my mother. Living in the Playboy Mansion with my father was a surreal world where I could sort of pick out my new, fake mommy.
But you had sex with her.
That’s a weird mommy.
I agree. I was very young. I was fifteen when it started, and she was eight years older. I was starving for affection and attention and nurturing and guidance, and she took on that role and manipulated the situation. I’m sure I filled a void in her as well. We had to meet clandestinely. At the time it seemed like a huge love affair where we struggled to be together against all odds.
Your father forbade the relationship and threatened you. Did Hef ever find out?
I’m not sure.
Do you think Kendall loved Hef and Hef loved her?
I think she was using him, but I think he loved her. All the adoring nicknames and all the affection he showered on her – I think it was real for him.
At the end of the book, you write that you still love your father. Why? Both your parents basically left you to die. You were a teenager having car wrecks and drug addictions, and no one cared.
He loved me, he just had a different way of showing it. He showed his love through materialism and spoiling me and having me sit in the front seat while his girlfriends – these dumb hookers that were always around – sat in the back. He was showing me more respect than he did these girls. I was treated better.
But he was training you purely for his own benefit, wasn’t he? When you told his one nice girlfriend about his other girlfriends, he threw the dictionary at you and made you memorize the definition of loyalty.
He definitely socialized me like a boy.
More like a predator. Your dad showed you how to manipulate people. He’d pick out girls at nightclubs and make you go get their numbers, and you had to feel her out and find the right lie to get her to go with him, whether it was pretending he was going to get her a modeling gig or that he was a broken-hearted new divorcé.
So, were you good at preying on people?
You weren’t? All his hard work training you, and you failed him!
[laughs] I’m still learning to differentiate between how I was socialized and how other, normal people think. It’s difficult for people I’m involved with, because they have to be the recipient of what I went through. I constantly feel like I live with the voices of my mother and father in my head. It’s terrible. I’m still searching for this love that only a parent can give. Meanwhile I’m distrustful and jealous and controlling, always on the defensive. I push people away.
How has your upbringing affected your sex life?
It’s difficult to be intimate. Very difficult. Sex is over here, and being emotionally dependent is over here.
Like, it’s really good not to know somebody’s name.
Do you think you’re bisexual because of your experiences, or were you born bi?
In my case, lacking a mother and needing that kind of connection caused me to keep recreating these maternal figures. And it’s never enough. I’m never satisfied. I’m constantly longing for more affection, more attention. The needs of a child.
Do you feel safest alone in your own home?
Do you have to be totally alone for a while every day, or you’re just really irritable and angry? And you think other people are actually doing something irritating, but in fact it’s just that they’re alive, and in your house.
Definitely. Unbelievable. Where did you get this?
From my shrink. This is how Vietnam vets and people with our kind of dads are. I get really happy around people, and I like them, but I’m about to crawl out of my skin after a couple hours. Which can be exasperating for the people who have to live with me.
It’s good if you’re a writer, that you have to seek out solitude.
Good if you’re a writer. Bad if you’re a human being.
This was sent to me. I have no idea where it came from but it is worth a read. Here’s what living the Playboy fantasy is actually like.