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15 Stimulating Facts About the Playboy Mansion

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

After 45 years overseeing his entertainment empire from the comfortable confines of the opulent Playboy Mansion, Hugh Hefner has become a tenant. Last August, the 90-year-old founder of Playboy magazine sold the property via his Playboy Enterprises to private equity investor Daren Metropoulos for $100 million, with the caveat that Hefner can lease it for $1 million a month.

Metropoulos—whose firm owns the Hostess snack company—is buying more than just a 29-room luxury residence. Throughout the decades, the Mansion has been seen as the ultimate destination for decadence and sexualized socializing. Check out 15 facts about its history, the secret tunnels built for celebrities, and why Mike Tyson won't be attending movie night anytime soon.

1. IT WASN’T THE FIRST PLAYBOY COMPOUND.

When Hugh Hefner produced the first issue of Playboy in 1953, he toiled from a kitchen table in a small Chicago apartment. By 1959, the magazine had become so successful that he was able to take over a Chicago mansion, outfitting it with an indoor basement pool and a bedroom-slash-office with a 100-inch diameter bed; Playboy models and nightclub employees could rent rooms on the third and fourth floors for $50 a month. (No male visitors were allowed.)

After buying the real estate where he built the Los Angeles mansion for $1 million in 1971, Hefner shuttled between both before making a permanent move to the West Coast in 1974. After stints as an art school and student dorm, the Chicago building was converted to a seven-unit condominium in 1993.

2. PLAYBOY ONCE CLAIMED THAT CELEBRITIES USED SECRET TUNNELS FOR VISITS.

The 1970s saw a number of celebrities use the Mansion for decathlons of decadence, but not everyone wanted to be seen coming and going. In late March 2015, Playboy.com, reported that Polaroids and blueprints were discovered detailing an underground network of tunnels running from the property to the homes of famous guests like Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and James Caan. Elaborate design? More like an elaborate hoax: On April 1, 2015, Hef came clean that the "blueprints" were an April Fool's joke.

3. JOHN LENNON ONCE ASSAULTED A PAINTING THERE.

The Mansion doubles as an impressive art gallery for art aficionado Hefner, but one former Beatle wasn’t too appreciative. During a visit to the Mansion in the 1970s, John Lennon allegedly became a little belligerent and extinguished his cigarette into a work by Henri Matisse. Hefner restored the illustration; Lennon was presumably allowed to continue visiting.

4. IT HAS ITS OWN PET CEMETERY.

With both its own zoo license and dozens of pets roaming the Mansion over the years, Hefner thought it would make sense to keep a resting place for animals on the grounds. Many of Hefner’s personal canines have been buried there; so have many of the Mansion’s several monkeys and 50-plus varieties of birds. One tombstone reads, “Teri, Beloved Woolly Monkey.”

5. THE PLACE IS BOOBY-TRAPPED.

In his autobiography, The Unusual Suspect, actor Stephen Baldwin recalled the time that he and Robert Downey, Jr. descended a spiral staircase to hang out with Playmates and possibly indulge in semi-legal substances in the wine cellar. When Downey reached the third-to-last step, he turned to Baldwin and told him not to step on it because it would trigger a silent alarm. The feature might have been a holdover from 1927, when the cellar was in use as a boozy storage room during Prohibition.

6. LUKE WILSON WAS BANNED FROM THE PREMISES.

Actor Luke Wilson admitted to press in 2006 that some modest misdirection while talking to Mansion staff got him “DNAed”—tagged with a Do Not Admit label. Wilson said a Mansion employee asked who he was with one night and Wilson lied by saying it was his brother, Owen: It was actually a friend. Wilson was denied entry for 18 months before he groveled and was allowed back in.

7. SOMETIMES GUESTS WOULD JUST MOVE IN.

The amenities of the Mansion were such that several of Hefner’s guests over the years considered it a staycation. James Caan moved in for a bit in the 1970s; so did Shel Silverstein and Tony Curtis.

8. IT’S HOSTED BOXING EVENTS.

Hefner has opened up the Mansion several times to host professional boxing and mixed martial arts events. Boxers like David Haye, who were accustomed to fighting in front of large Las Vegas crowds, found it slightly disarming to compete in front of just a few hundred spectators, many of them celebrities; Hefner thumbed his nose at women competing, telling The Guardian in 2003 that he had “mixed” emotions about females fighting.

9. HEFNER HAS AN IN-HOUSE BIOGRAPHER.

Chronicling the many seminal moments in Hefner’s life is the duty of Steve Martinez, a full-time archivist who painstakingly updates and maintains the nearly 3000 volumes of scrapbooks kept in the Mansion’s library. Martinez collects photos and information during the week; on weekends, he and Hefner update the books. The volumes begin with portraits of Hefner at six months; the subject has left instructions that the final volumes be filled with his obituaries.

10. THE GROTTO ONCE MADE PEOPLE REALLY SICK.

Hefner has had to endure many jokes over the years about the alleged petri dish that is the grotto, the Mansion’s man-made cave that includes a whirlpool. In April 2011, it stopped being funny: 123 people who visited the attraction over a weekend for a fundraiser became ill, with health officials identifying the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease in the water. Symptoms included fever, headache, cough, and other flu-like ailments.

11. IT EMPLOYS OVER 80 STAFF MEMBERS.

With 21,000 square feet to attend to, there’s no skeleton crew: Playboy employs over 80 full-time workers to tend to the grounds, cook, provide security, and maintain electrical and plumbing services.

12. MIKE TYSON BROKE MANSION RULES.

Hefner takes the Mansion’s regularly-scheduled movie nights very seriously. A lifetime film buff, he has a board of friends curate titles for screenings and has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to disruptions during their running times. Once, Mike Tyson was invited to attend a film. After sinking into a leather couch, he fell asleep, ignoring his phone that kept ringing incessantly. It was Tyson’s first and last invitation to the movies.

13. GUESTS ARE GREETED BY FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER.

Visitors bearing an invitation to the Mansion are brought through iron gates to the entrance, where they announce their presence to a giant rock housing an intercom system. Once inside, guests idle for a bit in the Great Room, a foyer containing several portraits of Hefner and a giant statue of Frankenstein’s monster.

14. HEFNER HAS A CARDBOARD STAND-IN.

When a dinner gathering or party is in full swing and Hefner can’t attend, a life-size cardboard cut-out of him can usually be seen looming over the proceedings.

15. LARRY FLYNT ALMOST BOUGHT IT.

Free speech advocate/Hustler founder Larry Flynt expressed interest in buying the Mansion early in 2016, with plans to convert it into the “Hustler Mansion.” While it’s not known whether a formal offer was ever made, Flynt conveyed through associate Harry Mohney that Hefner would not be welcome to remain. As it stands, Hefner's deal includes being able to remain in residence until his death.

All images courtesy of Getty Images.

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Buying a Cast-Iron Pan Is the Easiest Way to Improve Your Cooking
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You can stock your kitchen with every type of modern slicer, dicer, and immersion circulator you want, but the piece of cooking equipment that comes most highly recommended by chefs has been around for centuries: the cast-iron skillet. Like the name suggests, this essential cooking tool is molded from molten iron and coated with a protective seasoning. The result is a durable, versatile piece of cookware that’s perfect for making everything from dump cakes to sunny-side up eggs.

If you’re used to steel or aluminum frying pans, cooking with cast-iron may sound intimidating. But don’t let horror stories of skillets tarnished by dishwashers or a few hours in the sink turn you off: The metal does require some special knowledge to maintain, but what you get in return is well worth the effort. “You can cook practically anything with it,” Dominique DeVito, author of The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, tells Mental Floss. “It’s definitely a kitchen staple.”

So what is it exactly about cast-iron that entitles it to a spot on your stovetop? Here are some points to consider.

DURABILITY

Iron is prized by engineers for its high-tensile strength, so you can bet it will hold up to whatever you throw at in the kitchen. But the metal does have one crucial weakness home cooks need to be aware of: water. Iron combines easily with oxygen, which is how you get iron oxide or rust. When iron is exposed to water, that liquid mixes with gases in the air to create a weak carbonic acid. The acid corrodes the iron, and the oxygen in the water bonds with the newly dissolved iron and forms iron oxide. While it won’t necessarily poison you, rust isn’t something you want flavoring your dinner.

Fortunately, keeping your skillet rust-free is easy to do. All cast-iron pans need to be seasoned before they’re ready to hit the stove. To season a pan, you can coat it with a thin layer of neutral fat like vegetable oil and heat in the oven. During the frontier days, DIY seasoning was the only option for cast-iron owners, but today most pans come pre-seasoned.

The difference between an unreliable skillet and one that’s built to last usually comes down to the quality of the seasoning. DeVito recommends cast-iron products from Lodge, which has been making cookware in the U.S. since 1896. “They put out a nice finished product that’s consistent and smooth,” she says. “It becomes something that you have an expectation about. I know that every time I go to my Lodge, it’s going to perform.”

But even well-seasoned cast-iron benefits from a little extra care from time to time. Before re-seasoning a skillet, DeVito suggests wiping it clean of any grease or caked-on food that’s left over from whatever you cooked last. Instead of scrubbing it with a soapy sponge, she washes her pan with hot water and a brush. Tough plastic works well for this, as well as chain-link metal that you can use like a hand towel to wipe down the pan. After she cleans it, DeVito likes to dry her cast-iron by placing it over low heat on her gas stovetop for a few minutes. Once it’s dry, she rubs it with a quarter teaspoon of vegetable oil using a paper towel, lets it sit over low heat for a few minutes more, and then wipes off the excess oil with another dry paper towel.

While it may not fit into your regular dishwashing routine, treating cast-iron cookware correctly pays off. A well-maintained pan is tough enough to withstand super high heat, meaning you can start cooking a dish on the stove and finish it in the oven in the same pan. The iron itself will endure any type of utensil you use on it, whether it’s a wooden spoon, metal tongs, or a plastic spatula. And if you ever damage the skillet’s seasoning or allow it to rust, it can be restored without too much trouble. “Ideally, you should be able to hand it down to your kids,” DeVito says.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Cast-iron offers health benefits beyond the nutritional value of the food it cooks. The first is a healthy dose of iron added to your meals. If you have an iron deficiency, like close to 10 million people in the U.S. do, your doctor may recommend incorporating more meat, beans, and leafy greens into your diet. In addition to eating iron-rich foods, you could also try preparing more meals in a cast-iron skillet. As the metal heats up, small amounts of iron leach out and enrich your food. The is especially apparent with acidic, higher-moisture ingredients like applesauce and tomato sauce. The iron you get is definitely not enough to replace dietary iron, but it’s a nice bonus if you’re looking for more ways to sneak the nutrient into your meals.

With cast-iron, you know the only thing being added to your food is an essential mineral. Nonstick Teflon pans, on the other hand, are made from substances that aren’t safe to be eaten. (Though you don’t really need to worry about these chemicals contaminating your food unless you’re really abusing the pan.) If your cast-iron is seasoned well enough, it will produce the same nonstick effects as Teflon without the unwanted chemicals.

And that brings us to the final health benefit: Cooking with cast-iron requires less oil than conventional pans. Because oil is already baked into the cast-iron’s exterior, you don’t have to worry about meat and vegetables getting stuck to the surface. You can either add a small amount of oil or no oil at all so you don’t end up adding more fat to your dinner than necessary.

COOKING QUALITY

Even without the industrial strength and bonus minerals, the cast-iron skillet would still be prized by cooks for the incredible effects it has on food. This is because of the way it reacts to heat. Iron is much thicker and denser than materials like copper and aluminum, so it takes longer to heat up. But once the metal has been heated through, it packs a lot more thermal energy than most metals heated to the same temperature. All that harnessed energy is the key to achieving crisp, golden-brown sears on foods like steak, hamburger patties, eggplant, and scallops.

And just as cast-iron takes a while to get hot, it’s also slow cooling down. That means that once you’ve left your pan to sit over a raging burner or in a screaming-hot oven for long enough, you can trust it to maintain that heat, even after filling it with cold or room-temperature ingredients. The cooling effects food has on other metals is one of the most common culprits that leaves foods pale and flabby rather than brown and crunchy.

Even when a hard sear isn’t your end goal, a cast-iron skillet is often still the best tool for the job. The versatile design makes it a great option for baking, shallow-frying, and sautéeing. A few of the items DeVito likes to cook in her cast-iron include cakes, pies, cornbread, eggs, hash browns, bacon, and vegetables. “I use it for a lot of things, like reheating leftovers and improvising with whatever I have in the fridge,” she says. “You could put a lid on it and cook rice or pasta in there—you really could put almost anything in there.”

COST

With so many desirable qualities, you may expect a cast-iron pan to rank up there with other rite-of-passage kitchen items in terms of price. But it's actually easy to find a cast-iron pan for less than other pans that don’t perform as well or last as long. Lodge, the brand DeVito recommends, has 10-inch skillets available for around $25 on Amazon. You can find fancier cast-iron pans from brands like Le Creuset selling for over $150, but when it comes to this kitchen essential, simplicity is hard to beat.

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Clothes Smelling Less Than Fresh? Try Cleaning Your Washing Machine
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You’re probably not washing your household appliances as often as you should be. (That is, if you ever wash them.) You may think of appliances like your washer and dryer as self-cleaning, being as they’re made to, you know, clean things. But sadly, that’s not the case, as The Washington Post and Lifehacker remind us. If you really want to live your cleanest life, you should be giving your washer and dryer a once-over with bleach periodically to rid them of mold and mildew.

Most dedicated laundry-doers know to clean out the lint trap before each drying cycle, but you may not realize there are other steps in the laundry appliance upkeep process. Like anything else that’s frequently subjected to moisture, washers can accumulate nasty mold and mildew. Some newer models have built-in sanitizer settings, but it’s relatively easy to clean an older washer, too.

For either, you’ll need a quarter-cup of bleach, as household cleaning expert Beth McGee told The Washington Post. If you don’t have a sanitizer setting, just run the washer without clothes or detergent on the hottest setting for the largest load with the bleach. (Some cleaning obsessives recommend vinegar instead.) After the cycle is done, open the washer door and let it air dry. You can use a toothbrush to scrub the parts of the washer that the bleach won’t reach during the wash cycle, like the wells where you pour your detergent and fabric softener or the rubber seals around the door. To cut down on mildew between cleanings, leave the washer door open between laundry days, so the tub can completely dry out.

When it comes to your dryer, you’ll occasionally want to not just remove buildup from the lint trap, but clean the whole dryer vent. The Spruce recommends buying a dryer-vent brush kit to do this, detaching the dryer duct from the appliance (don’t forget to unplug it first) and cleaning out the built-up handfuls of lint. You’ll also need a skinny vacuum head to vacuum out the compartment that houses the lint trap. Doing this periodically can help reduce the risk of fire, so it’s about more than just keeping your clothes smelling fresh.

Most experts recommend cleaning your washer and your dryer once a month to keep both your clothes and your appliances smelling their best. And while we’re on the subject of frequent cleanings, we’d like to remind you that you probably need to wash your hand towels ... like, now.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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