Hugh Hefner was ‘obsessed’ with Charles Manson and had home videos of Manson Family, documentary reveals

Hugh Hefner poses at Playboy’s 60th anniversary special event on 16 January 2014 in Los Angeles, California (Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Playboy)
Hugh Hefner poses at Playboy’s 60th anniversary special event on 16 January 2014 in Los Angeles, California (Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Playboy)

Hugh Hefner was “obsessed” with Charles Manson and owned home videos of the Manson Family cult, a new documentary has revealed.

Sondra Theodore, a former Playmate, is one of several interviewees featured in Secrets of Playboy, a new documentary series on A&E re-examining Hefner and the culture he created as founder of Playboy.

Theodore, who dated Hefner from 1976 to 1981, says in the docuseries that Hefner was “fascinated and obsessed” with Manson at the beginning of their relationship.

According to Theodore, Hefner’s fascination had to do with Manson’s ability to surround himself with and earn loyalty from women in the Manson Family.

“[He] couldn’t talk enough about him,” Theodore says. “These women have been in jail for how many years, and when they have a chance to get out, they’re still adoring him, and they will until the day they die? Hef liked that.”

Photographer Sharmagne Leland-St John-Sylbert is featured in the same sequence saying that Hefner’s movie collection included “Manson Family home videos” shot before members of the cult committed a series of murders in 1969.

Ahead of the documentary’s release, the PLBY Group, the company behind the magazine and its related properties, issued an open letter seeking to separate the current Playboy magazine from Hefner, who died in 2017 aged 91.

“We want to reach out to you in light of the forthcoming A&E docuseries that we understand will recount allegations of abhorrent actions by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and others,” the statement reads in part.

“First and foremost, we want to say: we trust and validate women and their stories, and we strongly support the individuals who have come forward to share their experiences. As a brand with sex positivity at its core, we believe safety, security and accountability are paramount, and anything less is inexcusable.”

It adds: “As you know, the Hefner family is no longer associated with Playboy, and today’s Playboy is not Hugh Hefner’s Playboy.”

Secrets of Playboy airs on Mondays at 9am ET/PT. Two episodes aired on Monday (24 January), and an additional episode will air every week until the finale on 21 March. The docuseries is also available on demand and to stream on the A&E app and aetv.com.