I downloaded Holly Madison’s Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny out of burning curiosity. In 2005, I was an avid watcher of the E! Reality series The Girls Next Door. At the time, I was enthralled by the frilly, frothy lifestyle that Bridget, Kendra, and Holly seemed to have, and their “unique” relationship with Hef. But as we know, reality TV is far from real. Like everyone else, I wanted to know what really went down at the infamous Playboy Mansion. I stopped following the “Girls” years ago, and was intrigued when Holly published this supposed tell-all about her years at the Mansion and as Hugh Hefner’s “number one girlfriend.” With summer in full swing, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to invest in some salacious reading material.
Obvious disclaimer: There is no literary merit in Down the Rabbit Hole. Nor are there epiphanies about human existence or deep self-reflection and introspection. I went “down the rabbit hole” with the hope of being frivolously entertained, and in that aspect I was not disappointed. The writing itself is decent, whether it is Holly’s or aided by a ghost writer, there is a voice of intelligence and reason. It is frustrating to read about Holly’s string of bad decisions, and how her self-worth was solely based on her looks and affirmation (or lack thereof) from one of the world’s shallowest and most misogynistic men ever. I was appalled to learn (but not necessarily surprised) that the pervy grandpa persona we saw on GND couldn’t have been farther from the truth: Hef was manipulative, sexist, and frankly downright boring. His scathing remarks were offensive and hurtful. Even though Holly “made her bed,” I still empathized with the way she was treated during her Mansion years. I was unsurprised with the catty behavior she described from the other girls, but again, in an atmosphere like that, what would one expect?
Down the Rabbit Hole was a page-swiping read (I have the Kindle version) for the first half of the book. However, once Holly (finally) leaves the Mansion and “breaks up” with Hef, she winds up in Vegas dating Criss Angel, despite his being an obvious douchebag. I suppose I should not be surprised for someone who “dated” Hugh Hefner to have poor taste in men, but it was a little on the annoying side nonetheless. Like many of us though, Holly learns her most important life lessons the hard way, and those mistakes are glaringly obvious to those on the observing end. I was less interested with the Peepshow storyline and how Madison was “taking Vegas by storm,” and developing her own identity as I was with the juicy details of Mansion life. Sadly, it seems that no matter how much Holly wants to dissociate from the Playboy empire, that alone is what forged her identity and made her “famous” in the first place. And let’s be perfectly honest: A sexy, scantily-clad Vegas showgirl isn’t much different from a Playboy Bunny, Playmate, or “girlfriend,” after all. It isn’t as if Madison made a complete life turnaround by volunteering in third world countries or going back to school (although she isn’t as dumb as you’d think!). Her life still centers around working her looks; she just no longer is “kept” by Hefner.
Holly’s journey “down the rabbit hole” and onto the Las Vegas Strip makes for a fluffy summer beach read, but that’s about it. There were a few juicy anecdotes, but by the tail end (another bunny reference!) of the book, it was heavily focused on how determined she was to step out of the Playboy spotlight and forge her own path. (She makes multiple self-comparisons to Marilyn Monroe…As likeable as Holly is, Marilyn Monroe doppelganger she is not.) While it seems that Holly has done well for herself post-Playboy and has found happiness in marriage and with a child (Rainbow!) life at the Playboy Mansion is about what you would expect: one of servitude and misogyny masquerading as luxury and a stepping stone to something “better.”