Down The Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison

If you are looking for a tell-all memoir of the Playboy mansion, then this is the book for which you’ve waited. That is, IF you don’t mind an author who has very likely cleansed any negatives that might impact her character and therefore given us a book of half truths. As such, this to me is much more a catty self aggrandizing publicity vehicle rather than a true autobiography. Which isn’t to say that the other people (Hef, the other girlfriends, etc.) in the book should come out smelling like daisies; all the same, by the end it becomes very obvious that this is solely meant to increase her fan base. I’d have to call her the teflon bunny after finishing Down The Rabbit Hole – nothing bad seems to stick to her ever.

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For me, I only knew of Holly Madison from advertisements in Las Vegas for the Peep Show (which were ubiquitous when I visited). But growing up in Los Angeles made me curious about the Playboy mansion mystique and so I grabbed this on an Amazon sale. What I expected was a list of sordid tales in a den of iniquity. What I got was “all the other girls were catty and jealous of me and I really did think I loved Hef” ramblings of a faux doe-eyed lamb among wolves. But in all honesty, I found her remarks of others disingenuous to the point of hypocrisy. What she said wasn’t truth so much as ‘wink wink’ queen bee passive aggressive viciousness. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

The majority of the book takes place in the mansion and mercifully there is very little prequel/growing up. It’s ironic that each of the Playboy girls seems to want to be ‘different than the other sluts/bimbos” (as they are described in the book) at the mansion yet each one is a carbon copy of each other. Even now, Madison is still a bleach blonde despite decrying Hef’s preference for bleach blondes and telling us constantly how she was different.

At the heart of the stories of the women who ended up there (Hef’s girlfriends, bunnies, strays) is a path of ‘easy’ – easy money and security at a steep price. For each, it seems to be easier just to stay and put up with the degradations as long as the money comes in. For Madison’s story, it’s about the social power plays (with Hef, the other girlfriends, her boyfriend) rather than intimacy. That is perhaps counterintuitive considering this is about the empire of sex that Hef built – and her condition of staying at the mansion is to provide it. But other than a brief description of her first time with Hef, all sex talk is quickly dismissed and never mentioned again. Likely, because she wants readers to think of her as a sweet girl next door led astray, rather than someone who engaged regularly in perverse sexual acts (as noted by fellow ‘girlfriends’) for money. That would have conflicted with her message of being a sweet girl in a bad situation. But it means this book skims the reality of her situation there.

Those looking for interesting tidbits about celebrities at the mansion also won’t find it here. The book stays focused on Madison and her interpersonal relationships. Those who watched her TV series will likely find the book interesting since it does give some behind the scenes anecdotes. But again, if you had never seen the TV shows or knew anything about her, you’d think she was a pure angel who never committed a depraved act in her life; yes, she did it all for love.

I am rating this low because I feel like I only got half the picture; I don’t expect autobiographies to be 100% honest – recollections and perspectives preclude that. I do, however, expect the biographies to be more than glossy marketing vehicles that shy away from telling the bad with the good. A really good biography is one that is willing to risk readers hating the writer as much as loving her – has the strengths AND the weaknesses of character included. I just didn’t believe that she was as ‘sweet’ as purported (especially after reading rebuttals from those in the book who were particularly lambasted by Madison). I’m not judging her choices or lifestyle; I am, however, judging the quality of this autobiography and I wasn’t impressed.

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