Main Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion

Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion

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When this beach bunny caught the eye of Hugh Hefner at an L.A. nightclub, Izabella St. James was looking for a fun break from studying for the bar. As the latest Girlfriend of the Playboy founder, her “break” lasted two years, but life behind the gates of the Playboy Mansion was anything but fun. Sure there were parties, presents, puppies, and plastic surgery; but there was also a curfew, a strict regimen of who sits where on movie night, limited contact with the outside world, and a sex life that was anything but wild and crazy.

While the E! reality show, The Girls Next Door, has been a ratings hit, each of the three Playboy Bunnies in the series has since left the Mansion in newsworthy ways: one is engaged to a football player, and Hugh’s “main” Girlfriend has finally understood that there would be no fairy-tale marriage and family with the man she literally transformed her life for. Izabella was there to witness how each of these relationships formed, where each Girlfriend fell in the pecking—and bed—order, and when, exactly, the fabled life turned shabby and cheap.

From catfights to sneaking in boyfriends, from high-profile guests in the Grotto to the bizarre rituals of the octogenarian at the center of the sexual revolution, Bunny Tales is compulsively readable and endlessly entertaining!

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Table of Contents

Title Page



1: Made in Poland

2: Canada, Eh .

3: Legally Blonde .

4: Hanging with Hef .

5: The Crib.

6: The Blonde Boob Brigade .

7: The Fabulous Life

8: The Booty.

9: Hef. - A Portrait of the Playboy as an Old Man

10: Desperate Housemates.

11: In Da Clubs .

12: How to Make Love like a Rabbit .

13: Boys, Boys, Boys.

14: What Happens in the Grotto...

15: House Parties.

New Year’s Eve Party

Mardi Gras Party

Hef’s Birthday Party

Midsummer Night’s Dream Party

Halloween Party

16: Bunny 101.

17: Playmates at Play.

18: Fiftieth Anniversary of Playboy.

19: Bunny Trap.

20: Fear and Loathing in Holmby Hills

21: Post-Bunnydom.



Copyright Page

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent, to cover up for the guilty, and to give privacy to those who do not seek public scrutiny.

To Justin


“ And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats,

None knew so well as I:

For he who lives more lives than one

More deaths than one must die.”

—Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol

There I was, in torn-up jeans and white cotton shirt, with frizzy hair and sun-kissed skin. I had spent all day at the beach watching a shoot for the popular television show The O. C. Now I was sitting at a chic restaurant looking forward to some sushi and sake, when I suddenly felt someone’s eyes burning into my flesh. I looked over and saw a good-looking man staring at me. He was smiling. I politely smiled back and turned away. Then it hit me. Oh my God! I knew him. The whole world knew him. He is one of the few elite actors who are members of the exclusive $20 million-a-movie club. There he was, famous star and still staring and still smiling at me. All of a sudden I became aware of my beach bum look and snuck off to the bathroom right past his table. I reapplied some lip gloss, as if that would make al; l the difference, and began walking back as nonchalantly as possible. He stopped me. He told me I was astounding—interesting choice of word, but nonetheless flattering. I tried to be witty, but I don’t know what I said. It’s all a blur.

I went back to my table and asked the waiter to hurry with that sake. It’s not like I had a crush on this man, the way we all tend to with certain celebrities; I had never really thought much about him. But there was something about him, the intensity of his eyes. I found him very attractive in person, more so than I ever imagined from his movies. My skin was tingling and I had butterflies in my stomach. He told me he would sit there and stare at me all night, and he certainly kept his promise. He called me the next day. He surprised me with his warmth, his spirituality, and his intelligence. We talked about everything. It was perfect.

And then it happened. He found out I had once lived at the Playboy Mansion. He was livid. I was guilty without having a chance to be proven innocent; he automatically convicted me of all of the indecencies anyone could have possibly committed. He questioned his own intuition because it led him to care about me. I told him that his intuition was just fine; his feelings were based on my character, my heart, my soul, and not based on the circumstances of my life or the adventures I may have experienced. I was still the same good person. He told me he had such hopes for us and had not felt this way about a woman in many years. It amazed me that he was willing to throw it away just because I had lived at the Playboy Mansion. But he was angry and couldn’t get past it. He was furious because he liked me, and apparently he felt I ruined our chance to be together. I could not be in his world because I was tainted by Playboy. Once people learned of our association, my past would suddenly become his reality, and he could not deal with that. He didn’t want to deal with that. I was devastated. For the first time I felt guilty, and I didn’t even know why. There was nothing I could say. It was the most suffocating, frustrating, belittling feeling to have to defend myself against accusations that were not valid, that were not only superficial but also inaccurate. My heart was broken.

I had been lucky enough not to be faced with other people’s prejudices or stereotypes, and their anger or hatered had never been directed at me. I suppose that gave me a false sense of security; I never anticipated what was to come, and when it came, it struck like lightning. This actor told me I had obviously made some compromises in my past. He told me I had to realize and admit that living at the Mansion was not good for me. Initially I tried to be logical. He simply had it all wrong, and it was up to me to enlighten him. I had only lived at the Playboy Mansion; I didn’t commit a crime! Bill Clinton, the leader of the free world, received a blow job from an intern in the Oval Office, and people got over it. Hugh Grant was caught with a prostitute, and people forgot. Winona Ryder got caught shoplifting; we moved on. Paris Hilton had a porno out, and a month later she was hosting a teen awards show. I didn’t do any of that! I simply dated and lived with Hugh Hefner. Is that really so bad? If I say that I moved into the Playboy Mansion—the ultimate playground for consenting adults—just for fun, then I may be viewed as an irresponsible, docile blonde. If I say that all the girls there had their own plans and were nobody’s fools, then we’ll be labeled gold-diggers who used Hef. It seemed like a lose-lose situation. We all make decisions and sometimes they are mistakes. Hopefully we do not make the same mistakes, but we try to learn from the old ones and become better people.

After a few days, my self-doubt and ambivalence about his feelings turned to anger. How dare he? How dare he attack me without knowing anything about the situation? The rage deep within me surfaced. I was not going to allow anyone to talk me into feelings I did not have. After the storm came the calm, long-awaited moment of clarity: my experience of living at the Playboy Mansion was not a compromise. It was me letting go of the steering wheel. It was me allowing myself to be the total opposite of who I really am, to explore life, freedom, and self. All of us at one point or another have imagined what it would be like to live a different life than the one we have. But how many of us actually get the chance to do something completely out of the ordinary in our lives? I did. Yes, I was scared, so very scared to let go of everything I knew, to risk my present and my future. I just opened myself up to the experience, good or bad, right or wrong. It was a conflict between the path I had planned and the path less traveled by, between the right and left side of the brain. I knew I was strong enough not to do anything I did not want to, so I surrendered to the experience.

I believe that to genuinely understand another human being, one must understand where he or she came from. Where I come from has had a tremendous impact on who I became and the decisions I made in my life. My roots are inextricably woven into the fabric of my life, even the most unlikely and unexpected parts. I knew I had to write this book. I could not let this happen again. When I told this movie star I was writing a memoir, he advised me not to do it. In his view, everyone would forever view me as a Playboy Bunny. Did I want that? When I told him it would be cathartic for me to write this, he was still thinking about the way it would impact him. I realized he was motivated not by my actions, but by how they would reflect on his own reputation. He said writing a book may jeopardize my chances with other celebrities in the future. I was disappointed; so lost was his own identity, so lost was his loyalty to his real feelings, that it never occurred to him that I would not want to be with someone—celebrity or not—who prejudges me. I knew he was a victim of his fame and a slave to his image, and there was nothing I could do about that. But I could answer the countless questions I was confronted with on a daily basis about life at the Playboy Mansion with Hef. I could finally set the record straight.

Did I really ruin my life? You be the judge.

1: Made in Poland

“Though the Poles were doomed to live in the battlegrounds of Eastern Europe and to fight in many historic conflicts, they were as robust and zestful in the pursuit of pleasure and grandeur as they were valiant in warfare. And no invader has ever conquered the heart of Poland, that spirit which is the inheritance of sons and daughters, the private passion of families and the ancient, unbreakable tie to all those who came before....”

—James A. Michener

How did I find myself at the Playboy Mansion? I can still envision that little girl, with pigtails and freckles on her nose, living in Poland and dreaming of America. Back then, I tried to imagine what it would be like to live in this magical place called Hollywood. But never would I have imagined that I would one day be dating the iconic and hedonistic Hugh Hefner and living in his famous Mansion. From living behind the chains of Communism to partying behind the velvet ropes of Hef ’s exclusive entourage, it has been a long road.

I was born in the beautiful city of Krakow located in southern Poland, an ancient royal city famous for its architectural beauty and cultural heritage. Krakow’s historic center houses the largest medieval square in Europe and the impressive Wawel Castle. A city on UNESCO’s World Natural and Cultural Heritage list, Krakow is a vibrant, charming, and historically significant center of central and eastern European culture. The entire country of Poland is beautiful—the golden sand of the Baltic Sea’s coastal beaches, the lakes of Mazury, the green wilderness of Bieszczady, the Tatra mountains, and the delightful charm of Poland’s historic cities. Poland is a uniquely fascinating country, with its scenic landscapes and the romantic tales of medieval knights and battles, kings and splendid castles, contrasted by the dark horrors and destruction of World War II, its determined stand against Communism, and today’s modern outlook and booming economy.

Immersed in its turbulent history, the passion and character of Poland is resilient, and the people are spirited, warm, and welcoming. The hospitality of Polish people is legendary; pleasing your guest is a high honor and requirement in Polish homes. The principle of “what’s ours is yours” is strictly followed. Poles are very family-oriented, and the family unit includes members of the extended family. As parents age, they often live with their children and grandchildren. Children are raised to honor and respect the elderly. Polish people have many beautiful traditions that are hundreds of years old; they are highly valued and maintained.

Poland is the proud homeland of Pope John Paul II, who was Archbishop of Krakow before he became Pope; Nicolaus Copernicus, the astronomer who developed the sun-centered view of the solar system; and Marie Sklodowska-Curie, who discovered radium, paved the way for nuclear physics and cancer therapy, and was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize and the first person to receive two Nobel Prizes. The Poles also have a strong musical and artistic sense of identity. Poland inspired its favorite musical son, composer and pianist Frederic Chopin. Few people realize that the land also produced Joseph Conrad; this popular English author of seafaring novels such as Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness was actually Józef Korzeniowski, born of Polish parents.

Poland is also the birthplace of men who fought for American freedom, such as Casimir Pulaski and Thaddeus Kosciuszko. Kosciuszko, one of Poland’s greatest heroes and patriots, fought for freedom with the American Revolutionary Army. Kosciuszko distinguished himself by building and fortifying West Point and became engineer of the Southern Army. In 1783, the U.S. Congress offered him citizenship, land, a pension, and the rank of brigadier general. His indomitable devotion to the cause of freedom made him a symbol of the pursuit of freedom everywhere. Pulaski came to America in 1777 to fight in the war for independence and, as a cavalry general, won distinction in numerous campaigns. Mortally wounded in the Battle of Savannah, he left behind him a cavalry unit that became the nucleus for future squadrons and earned him the title “Father of the American Cavalry.” In recognition for his services, numerous towns, schools, highways, and bridges in the United States were named after him.

Poland has a remarkable history of heroism and tragedy. It was the country most devastated by World War II in eastern Europe, losing about a quarter of its population and almost its entire Jewish community. Although blessed in its geographical location, Poland has been unfortunate in its political implications. Situated in the heart of Europe, between Germany and Russia, Poland has always been vulnerable. Poland was the first victim of World War II, which began when Poland was blitzkrieged by the Nazis from the west and later by the Russians who attacked it from the east. Having no natural borders from its aggressive neighbors, Poland had no chance. The aftermath of the war greatly influenced the character of the country. Former Jewish centers in the cities and the stark concentration camps where the Nazis carried out their extermination atrocities, remain as the most stirring reminders of the nation’s tragedies. Poland is home to some of the world’s most horrific places, including Oswiecim, more commonly known as Auschwitz. Cities destroyed by the war had to be rebuilt from scratch, and the many meticulously restored historic buildings and historic old towns are testimony to the pride and determination of a strong and durable nation.

The war is not just a painful distant memory; it is deeply embedded in my family’s history. My dad was born in 1939, the first year of WWII, and his childhood was marred by the terrors and hard times of the war. His family lived on the eastern frontlines of the war in Poland, where the Russian troops were trying to push the Germans back west. Both sides shot anyone or anything that moved, and thousands of Poles were getting killed in the crossfire. My dad’s family home was shot at, their only cow was killed, and when the house caught fire, the family horse burnt alive inside as they had no time to free it, barely escaping death themselves. My dad was just a baby, and his father carried him on his back as the family walked for days, over 20 miles in distance to places of safety. He remembers that during the day the people would hide in the forests, and at night they would keep walking to get away from the frontlines. People clustered near streams so they and any animals they were able to bring with them had water to drink. He remembers that many times guns were fired on those gathered, and the waters of the streams turned crimson with blood. When the refugees reached distant towns, strangers took them in and gave them a place on the floor to sleep. They had to beg for food because, when they ran from their homes, there was no time to pack money or food; a minute could be the difference between life and death. My father’s desperate situation didn’t end with the fight for the frontlines; one of his brothers was killed after trying to clear a local field of landmines. My grandmother, Marianna, died early after the hardships of war took their toll on her, and I never got to meet her.

The war was just as poignant in my mother’s life. While my father was born into the hellish time of war, my mother was born a few years after it ended, when the devastated country was struggling to rebuild. My maternal grandfather, Jozef, had been arrested and sent to Auschwitz for protecting and helping Jewish people during the war. He spent more than two years being overworked and tortured at the camp. He managed to survive, but when he returned home he was a ghost of the man he used to be. My grandmother was left to take care of five children and an entire farm on her own. She worked harder than any woman I ever knew. My mom taught me to respect my elders, and I loved my grandma very much. When I was a little girl, I used to make her cards for Women’s Day (a European holiday honoring all women), her birthday, and any other occasion. I remember that she always managed to stash away a little bit of money for me so that I could buy myself something I really wanted. I never met my maternal grandfather, though; when my mom was a teenager, he died from the never-ending chronic conditions he developed in Auschwitz. War and its consequences pervaded my identity and life.

It was this shadow of World War II in which I grew up. Not only was the war and its legacy a nightmare carved into the nation’s consciousness, but the war had also left our nation at the disposal of our enemy. The Iron Curtain had fallen, and Poles found themselves on the wrong side of it. It was not the side people wanted to be on. We belonged to the Communist bloc, but wanted nothing more than to be on the other side. I remember being keenly aware, even as a child, of the injustice that befell my country. As a way of protesting, I refused to learn Russian, even though it was eventually a required subject in school. I watched the television, looking up to the American president Ronald Reagan, and longed for him to be the president of my country. I admired Margaret Thatcher; she was one of my first role models, an attorney and female leader—she was one of my inspirations to pursue a legal career later on in life. I couldn’t help but feel our predicament was unfair; why did my country get invaded by Hitler first? Why didn’t anyone help, and why did the West allow us to fall under Communist rule? These are not the usual questions a child under the age of ten struggles with, but I did. I think the fact that the realities of the world were the realities of my childhood made me grow up and mature more quickly. But that was not all; I had promised myself that when I grew up, I would not be a victim of circumstance or location. I was going to take control of my life one day; I intended to live in freedom, like others, and experience all that life has to offer. When I met Hugh Hefner, he embodied all of the freedom and fantasies I envisioned as a little girl.

As if having to come to terms with historical past was not complicated enough, having to deal with the reality of Communism was no picnic either. What was Communism? Technically speaking, the government, in the name of the people, owned the factories, farms, mines, and other means of production. People could no longer own their own profit-making businesses and farms, as in the capitalist system. Government economic planners decided what and how much should be produced each year, what the prices should be, and what wages should be paid to the workers. Although the government guaranteed everyone the right to work, the wages were low. Heavy industry such as steel making and coal mining was emphasized. Consumer goods like automobiles, clothing, and TVs became scarce and expensive. Pollution became a major problem, but environmental problems were largely ignored. Housing, built mainly by the government or group cooperatives, was always in short supply. Often, two or three generations of a family lived in a threeroom apartment. Newlyweds usually had to wait years for a small apartment of their own. But everyone had a home; homelessness was not a problem. Long lines were a part of daily life, when oranges or bananas appeared at the local grocery store once every few months, the lines went on for blocks. Every day, women would go from shop to shop to get items. Even when in stock, there was little variety of goods. Often there was only one type of laundry soap, one flavor of ice cream, and one kind of coffee.

My father held a high position at the largest steel plant in the country, Huta Katowice, and he earned a good salary. My family had a very good life in comparison to most people. We had our own spacious apartment, a big garden, and we had a car, which was a luxury at that time. My mom had an economics degree from college but was able to stay home and take care of me until I was about seven years old. I am an only child, and my parents spoiled me. Despite the shortages in Poland, I had dozens of dolls, a doll carriage, and a miniature piano; I had a snack bar in my room full of sweets and everything else a child could wish for. I was so loved that I could not imagine sharing the love my parents gave me with anyone else; when my relatives asked if I wanted a cute little brother or sister to play with, I hysterically screamed “No!” Now as an adult, I wish I had a sister or brother to go through life with because nothing is more important to me than family.

As a child, I spent part of my summer vacations visiting my aunt Stasia, my father’s sister, who lived in a charming village called Makowiska in southeastern Poland. She, my uncle, and my cousin Adam lived in a great country house with a working farm. They had a barn and every farm animal there is; it was there that I befriended chickens, cows, pigs, horses, and bunnies—of course, bunnies were my favorite. When I lived at the Mansion and saw all the bunnies running around, it definitely took me back in time to my childhood. At five years old, I decided to become vegetarian because I simply could not eat my friends. Every dinner was torture for me as my father would not let me leave the table until I finished my meal, and meat was always the only thing left on my plate. Luckily for me, we had a table that had a middle extension and it provided a perfect place for me to stash my meat and throw it out later. I would also resort to throwing it out the window as soon as my mom was not looking, and when we got my dog Nuka, she would camp at my feet, and I would sneak it all off to her. I also hated eggs, milk, and anything else that came from animals. I have carried that love of all animals with me my entire life. Though I have eased my dietary restrictions, animal welfare and protection has become one of the most important causes for me.

I realize just how very lucky I was and am, having two parents who love me very much and who took care of me my entire life. My parents would do anything for me and have worked hard all their lives so that I could have a better life and a brighter future. My mom is my best friend. She is kind, gentle, and caring. She has always supported me and my decisions, even if it meant she had to make sacrifices for me to realize my dreams.

My father is a hard-working, dedicated man. And though I always knew he loved me, he was the disciplinarian, and he wasn’t afraid to take off his belt to teach me a lesson. But I rarely got into trouble; I was a straight-A student. I was responsible and polite. I was also raised as a good Catholic girl. Poland is a predominantly Catholic country, and has a sense of nationhood to which the Catholic Church is fundamental. At a time when people had very little, religion provided faith, strength, and hope. Religion offered meaning in life and beautiful traditions in Polish culture. Valor and patient endurance of the Polish people prevailed through Communism, thanks to a faith that matured in trial and hardship. Back when the country was cut off from the free world, Poland relied on its extraordinary religious faith. The fact that his holiness Pope John Paul II was Polish was extremely significant to me and all Poles. He was the link between us and God. He was this amazing man who spoke so many languages and traveled all over the world feeling at home wherever he went. I idolized him. He was my inspiration. I saw him as a child when he came back to visit Krakow. To me he is the greatest Pole who ever lived.

My parents always taught me about the world and encouraged me to learn. My father would go around the house quoting Adam Mickiewicz, Poland’s most famous poet and the leader of Polish romanticism, who wrote many masterpieces, including Pan Tadeusz, which have been translated into several languages. As a child I could recite poems by Julian Tuwim and Jan Brzechwa. As I got a little older my father encouraged me to read books by Henryk Sienkiewicz, a Polish novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature whose works have been published in fifty languages. Among Sienkiewicz’s most famous novels is the widely translated and filmed Quo Vadis, a story set in the times of the Roman emperor Nero, which became the number one worldwide best-selling novel of all time. One of the positive things about Communism was that all education, from elementary school through college, was free. The government in most eastern European countries required all children to attend school until age sixteen. By the 1980s, illiteracy had been eliminated in most eastern European countries.

Having a car allowed us the privilege of travel. My parents have a saying that I was “born on the road” because ever since I was a baby, we were always going on trips. We traveled all around eastern Europe. At an early age I had the advantage of spending summer holidays on the Black Sea coasts of Romania and Bulgaria and exploring Hungary, Russia, and East Germany. Our journeys were restricted to eastern European countries because travel to western Europe was not permitted: most people who got the chance to go “west” would not return. We would arrive home from these trips with unique souvenirs, cute clothes, and school supplies that other children simply did not have.

Although the trips abroad were a blessing, they were often marred with some Soviet encounter. Waiting to pass through the Polish-Soviet border usually took hours. Once at the border they searched the car, intimidated everyone, and made sure it was as unbearable as it could be. Often the return trips were even worse because they questioned what you were bringing back, often subjecting people to body and cavity searches to make sure they weren’t bringing in gold. If they found gold on you, they would take apart your entire car, and I mean into pieces. Going through the Soviet border was like going through the gates of hell. I remember being terribly scared as a little child and just trying to sit as still as I could.

Martial law was imposed in Poland by the Communist government on December 13, 1981, to prevent democratic movements such as Solidarity from gaining popularity. Many democratic leaders were imprisoned. The borders were sealed, airports were closed, and access to major cities was restricted. Travel between cities required permission. Curfew was imposed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Telephone lines were disconnected. Mail was subject to censorship. All TV and radio transmissions were suspended (except one government TV channel and one government radio station). Classes in schools and at universities were suspended. Once, after we passed the Soviet border, we were stopped by the police, who berated my parents for going on a holiday; they screamed that my parents should get back to their jobs instead of going on a vacation. My parents were scared, and I just sat curled up in the backseat as quiet as I could, praying that these people would go away.

I suppose the idea of escaping Poland was born out of a desire to change the status quo. Although my parents had good jobs, they were pretty much at the top of where they could go in their careers without having to join the Communist Party. In reality, only the minority of Polish people were members of the Communist Party, though they held almost every important government post and enjoyed many privileges such as better housing and special access to western consumer goods. Most Polish people, however, had no choice but to conform to life under Communism. My mom had other ideas; she had dreams of a better, different life. I don’t think she knows just how much I admire and respect her for making that decision, for taking that risk. She was my first hero, and she is still my greatest hero.

Things got worse in the mid-1980s; people were scared that the Soviet Union would send its army to invade Poland and the country would become another Soviet satellite. Life was uncertain from day to day, and my parents were scared. Under the Communist system, the “collective interest” of the people, as determined by the Communist party, overcame any claims to individual rights. The government harshly suppressed freedom of speech, press, and assembly. The government licensed newspapers, other media, and even churches in order to control them. The practice of religion was discouraged. The courts vigorously prosecuted anyone dissenting against Communist-Party rule. At my father’s work, when anti-Communist messages were written on the walls, my father was pressured to find out and reveal the names of the perpetrators. My dad was threatened with losing his job and his freedom if he did not collaborate with the Communists. But my father was not only an honorable man, but he also could not betray anyone. He was also a member of the Solidarity movement.

Even though travel to western Europe was restricted, it was possible to get a visa if you knew someone with connections. Luckily, my mom was a resourceful person and had such connections. We were able to get permission to go on a bus trip to Greece. My parents planned that we would go to Greece, and when we got to Athens, we would stay behind and apply for a visa to immigrate to North America. We could tell no one except our closest family. We couldn’t sell any of our possessions before the trip because it would raise suspicion. Our extended family was present the day we left, and they were instructed to share the possessions we had to leave behind. Our car, our furniture, our souvenirs, and all our mementos were given away for free. We weren’t able to bring very much money with us because if had it been discovered by the border patrol, it would indicate our plan to leave the country.

I was eleven years old, and I do not remember the planning of the trip or packing for it, but I vividly remember leaving my apartment, and in particular, saying good-bye to my beloved dog Nuka. As we were stepping out of our home, she followed me, happily wagging her tail. I turned around and held her in my arms one last time. With tears pouring down my cheeks, I grabbed some of her fur in my hand in a desperate attempt to take a piece of her with me. She was the first dog I ever had. My father took me to a local farmer’s market one cold morning, and I spotted a small box with a few puppies in it. They were so little and cold that I needed to do something. I noticed a tiny black fur ball looking at me and trying to get out. I picked her up and never put her back in. I immediately put her inside my winter coat, and she made herself comfortable somewhere in my sleeve. My dad bought her for me and I named her Nuka, after a small black orphaned bear from a popular Japanese cartoon at the time. I waited anxiously all day until my mom came home from work to see if I could keep her. Once my mom saw her, she fell in love, and Nuka quickly became a loved member of our family.

I could not stop crying as we made our way to the bus. My mom told me I could not cry because my sorrowful behavior would imply something more than going on a holiday. But when I looked back at our house, I could see my family on the balcony and I could see my dog’s little head between the balcony railings; she was looking in my direction. It broke my heart, and I still cannot get through this memory without crying. She knew we were leaving her, and it killed me inside. My mom told me and I truly believed that we could come back soon and get the dog. The first time we returned to Poland was in 1990, and no one knew where the dog was. She was supposed to stay with my uncle, but he gave her to someone else because she chased his chickens. It was the first time in my life that I felt I failed someone. I could not find her, but I had to believe in my heart that wherever she was, she was loved and taken care of; who could deny such a beautiful, sweet, and loving dog? As for our belongings, they seemed to have disappeared. Some of the souvenirs had been scattered among family members, and I was able to retrieve a few mementos of my childhood. My vast collection of toys, which remained in a perfect state over all the years I had them, was gone without a trace. It does hurt me that my family never thought of putting aside and preserving a couple of dolls or teddy bears, or the countless handmade cards I had made for my parents over the years. It’s a very sad feeling to know that the first eleven years of your life did not leave a trace.

The year we spent living in Athens was both fantastic and difficult. The only money we were able to bring with us from Poland quickly ran out and my parents had to find jobs. After living in a hotel for about a month, we moved into a very shabby apartment with a few pieces of furniture. There were many times my father wanted to go back to Poland, because running out of money and working in positions well below his qualifications was very difficult for him. My mom believed it was worth the sacrifice. She was the rock that carried us through. I, on the other hand, was having a blast.

I attended school, where I learned Greek and a few words in English. I met new friends, both Greek and other immigrant children from all over the world. My parents worked, and I had to fend for myself. After school I explored the city with my friends. At eleven years old, I was taking the buses by myself, going to new neighborhoods, and often getting lost but always finding my way home. I would buy myself a souvlaki for lunch and go on adventures every day; Mount Likavitos, the zoo, and I never tired of watching the change of guard at the Parliament building. I learned Greek mythology and went to the Acropolis whenever I could. I was fluent in Greek in no time. I loved the spirit of Greece and really enjoyed living there. I appreciate the people and the culture and fondly remember that time.

I had a paradoxical childhood; I was a happy and loved child who lived in a country suffocated by Communism and longed for a different life. My mother showed me not to be afraid to take life into my own hands. Throughout the years, when I have found myself unsatisfied with the status quo, I have drawn on my childhood for strength to make changes. My mom also taught me about taking chances in life. My parents sacrificed everything; they gave up their careers, the support and love of their families, and left all of their material possessions. They did that so that I could have opportunities they did not have or those that I would not have had, had we remained in Poland.

I am sure the last thing my parents expected was for me to move into the Playboy Mansion; I did not expect that of myself. But that was what fate brought my way, and I responded to the invitation the same way I had to other new experiences—I was intrigued. I welcomed the experience. I always feel that if I am not receptive to life and all that it has to offer, I am not taking advantage of the gift of freedom my parents gave me.

2: Canada, Eh .

“I’m not a lumberjack, or a fur trader. I don’t live in an igloo or eat blubber, or own a dogsled. And I don’t know Jimmy, Sally or Suzy from Canada, although I’m certain they’re really, really nice.”

—Molson Canadian Campaign

After about a year in Greece, our application to immigrate to Canada was approved. We were informed that they were sending us to British Columbia. If it seems surprising to you that we would move to a place someone else chose for us, it seems just as astounding to me as I write this. We didn’t have a choice as to where in Canada we were going; I think the Canadian government sends people to areas that need to be populated. My parents had heard that British Columbia was very beautiful, and so we were excited. After a flight that seemed to last for an eternity, we finally arrived in Prince George, in interior British Columbia. We were greeted by some Polish people who lived there, and then we were taken to a hotel. After a few days, they helped us find an apartment. Arriving in Prince George was a major culture shock for us. In Poland we lived in a beautiful historic city, then we lived in ancient Athens bustling with life, and now we had found ourselves in a small lumber town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Undeterred, my parents began taking English lessons, and I was sent to school. Mind you I only knew about ten words in English, such as “orange” and “pencil,” and I knew the days of the week, but I had learned to say them with a heavy British accent, so people in Prince George had no idea what I was saying. But again, I adapted. I made friends and learned English, my third language, quickly and even won the spelling bee in my school; I may not have know what those words meant, but I sure could spell them!

I enjoyed the novelty of living in a place where grizzly bears and moose frequented people’s backyards and where a person didn’t go buy a Christmas tree but went to chop it down himself, almost drowning in the snow on his quest for the perfect tree. But the one thing I was disappointed about was that I did not see American Indians with long hair riding horses everywhere. I had read novels about American Indians and fell in love with their culture and way of life. I had a romanticized notion that they still lived in tepees and wore traditional clothes and that I would fall in love with a chief ’s son—yes, Dances with Wolves is one of my favorite movies. My naiveté may seem silly to Americans, but I grew up in a country that was ninety-nine percent homogenous. Until we moved to Athens, I had seen only one African person. He was the only black man in our town, and when he walked by, I would stare at him in awe. He was married to a Polish woman, and they had the most gorgeous children. We called them mulatto, and for me, that word stood for beautiful skin and exotic features. I always wished I had their tan skin. I grew up without any concept or notion of racism. I had no idea that in other parts of the world, people judged each other based on the color of their skin. To me, anyone with a different color of skin was exotic and fascinating, and I longed to meet them and learn about their culture. I never knew what a tremendously different world awaited me.

Just when I was getting settled in my new life in Prince George, my parents announced that we were moving again. I was sad to leave my new friends and my beautiful, wild surroundings. But they saw no future for them in this charming, but sleepy, lumber town; there were few jobs and none of the opportunities they were looking for. They came to Canada to build a new life, to pursue a dream, and they could not stop until they had the opportunity. The plan was to move to Toronto in the province of Ontario, in eastern Canada, because it has a lot of industry, jobs, and growth. So with some money they saved from any odd jobs they could get, my parents bought a van. It was an old white van with only two seats, the driver and passenger. We packed the van with the few belongings we had acquired and embarked on a trip across Canada, the second largest country in the world. Through the natural beauty of British Columbia, the spectacular Rockies of Alberta, the never-ending prairies and plains of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, to the Great Lakes surrounding Ontario, it was an incredible trip—even though I had no seat and was squashed among the furniture in the back. We had never been to Toronto, nor did we have a place to stay there; we just went. This was the spirit that was passed on to me by my parents, this fearlessness, the ability to take a risk and pursue the unknown in hopes of bettering your life. That courageous spirit has been with me all of my life.

We eventually settled in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, about an hour southwest of Toronto. Kitchener is famous for having the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany. Each year tourists from all over Canada and the United States flock to the town to drink beer, eat sausages with sauerkraut, and sing. Another claim to fame for K—W, as we call it, was that former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis grew up there (he was born in Jamaica and now lives in the United Kingdom) and attended a high school two minutes from my house. When I met him years later at the Playboy Mansion, the first thing I told him was that we had a Kitchener connection and he got a kick out of that. It was a wonderful place to spend my teenage years. A town made up of family-oriented suburbs and home to two good colleges, it was safe and friendly. My friends like to remind me that I was the new girl in school who showed up at Monsignor Haller Elementary School in the last grade, wearing a short jean skirt and a Garfield sweatshirt, and caught the attention of male classmates. All I remember was being conscious of the way I spoke English and wanting to make new friends—I didn’t care about the boys. I was also somewhat anxious about starting grade eight when I had never attended grade five, six or seven—the years I had missed when we were busy moving around the world. Luckily, the Communist-dictated school curriculum in Poland was so comprehensive and at such an advanced level that I was not behind at all despite the years I had missed. In addition, I had begun learning my fourth language, French. I hadn’t realized Canada had two official languages, but when you already speak three languages, what’s another one?

I attended Resurrection Catholic Secondary School, a beautiful new school with wonderful teachers, where I wore the classic uniform of a kilt, white shirt, and black knee-highs. I had a tight-knit group of girlfriends without whom I would not have survived the turmoil of teenage years. Besides playing on the soccer team after school, note-passing and gossiping about boys were our favorite school activities. I was the last one of my friends to lose my virginity. I felt so left out when, during our lunch hour, they would talk about their experiences and compare notes.

I had been waiting for the perfect guy, my first love. And then it happened. His name was Deon. He was a skater boy, with a long mohawk who listened to Metallica and wore Sex Pistols shirts. He dropped out of school, but he was gorgeous and I loved him. My dad was not crazy about him, but we found ways to see each other. I wanted him to be The One. One night when my friend Pamela was sleeping over at my house, we snuck out at around midnight in the dead of winter and walked to his house, which was a few miles away. We brought my mom’s butter knives for protection, a fact that still gives us a good laugh. It took us more than an hour in freezing temperatures to get there, but when I got to his house, it was he who wasn’t ready, although he was not a virgin. Ironically, he liked me too much to have sex with me. Soon after that he moved to British Columbia, and I had to move on, but I always regretted that he wasn’t the one. I decided that I could not wait until someone “special” came around again—that could take years! Out at the all-ages night club my friends and I used to go to, I met a boy who was a great dancer. The way all of the girls liked him and cheered for him made him the hot commodity. His name was Joey and he was another bad boy type; I decided he was going to be the one. Not more than a month after we started dating, I snuck off to his house and we did it. He didn’t know it was my first time because frankly, I was too cool to admit it, and he was too immature to notice. I told him Deon had been the first, because in my heart, he was. And that was that. We were driving somewhere when I broke the news to my mom; I had always been honest with her and I could not keep the secret to myself. It was the first time she had been disappointed in me. I hated to hurt or disappoint her, but I learned then that there would be times in my life when I would have to make my own decisions and not always please everyone.

During the rest of my high school years, I dated several guys, but I was highly selective as to whom I became sexually involved with; I was more preoccupied with my grades. Boys were a fun distraction, but school and learning were my passion.

I graduated high school with an academic excellence award for an average above ninety percent, as well as a special award in geography and other achievement awards. My friends were surprised; they didn’t know I was such a nerd, but I loved learning and I loved school. Ever since I was a little girl, my family and I had thought that I was going to grow up to become a doctor. My dad never missed an opportunity to give me some early practice by having me bandage his finger or anything else that I was capable of doing. This dream came to a crushing end when, in my high school science class, I was unable to dissect a frog, let alone graduate onto dissecting the baby pig. I wasn’t even able to lay it out on the table and consider the idea. I left my class and took a zero on the assignment. That was it for me. I realized I could not be a doctor. That left me with the only other traditionally prestigious and respectable profession: I decided to become a lawyer.

Although there were two universities in town, I didn’t even bother applying to them. Kitchener was a great place to spend my adolescence and a great place to raise a family, but at eighteen, I had outgrown it and I was itching to get out of there. I longed for more culture and new, diverse experiences. In the past, it had been my parents who moved around until they found a place where they could build their life; now it was my turn to look for a place of my own. I researched Canadian universities and found out that McGill University in Montreal was rated the number one school that year. With my grades, I could go anywhere. I turned down scholarships at other schools and chose to attend the esteemed McGill in French-speaking Montreal in the province of Quebec. I was not afraid to go to a city I had never seen and where I did not know a soul; after all, I had done it before, albeit not alone. I was sad to leave my mom. She is my best friend, and our bond and our love is so strong that I didn’t know if I would survive being away from her. It broke my heart to live so far from my parents, but I had to do it for myself; I had to grow up, have responsibilities, have the freedom to develop my own character. My parents drove me to Montreal and helped me settle in at my all-girl residence. I cried when they left. I missed my mom so much, but we spoke every day on the phone, a custom that continues to this day no matter where we are in the world.

Everyone always says your college year are the best years of your life, and they are right. My time at McGill was the absolute best time of my life. Founded in 1821, McGill is widely regarded as the “Canadian Harvard.” William Shatner of Star Trek fame graduated from the school in 1952 with a bachelor of commerce; there is a social activities building named after him. I was attracted not only by the prestige of the university, but also by the beauty and joie de vivre of Montreal. People really enjoy life there, not just amazing summer events like the jazz festival, comedy festival, and the Grand Prix, but every single day—even in very cold weather. I loved the school, and I adore the city.

My first year at McGill, I met three of my best friends. Laura and Gena had lived with me at the all-girls residence. My first memory of us going out together was on my birthday; we went to a male strip club. We were 18 years old and without parental supervision for the first time. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but Laura and I had a great time giggling with embarrassment. Our second year, the three of us moved into a beautiful two-story townhouse on Durocher Street. We would sit at the kitchen window and philosophize about life, God, and everything else as we watched the world, especially the boys, go by. We were legends in the “McGill Ghetto,” as the school neighborhood was called, three tall (at 5-foot-7, I was the shortest) blondes living together.

My third best friend at McGill was Niki, a tall beautiful brunette, a cross between Cindy Crawford and Geena Davis. She was the first person I met at McGill on my first day. I was lost and looking for orientation. Despite being new there herself, she was calm and collected and showed me where to go. After that I saw her in several of my classes, as we were both Poli Sci majors, and we became friends. She was Greek, and that only made me like her more. Her mom makes the most delicious almond powder cookies, and I was lucky enough to receive a couple of deliveries. I remember Niki and I always grabbing coffee before our political theory class, discussing how we should go to Los Angeles and become soap opera stars as we waited for the lecture to begin. That was always our Plan B. One day, I convinced her to join the U.N. club and introduced her to my friend Guy, a cadet from West Point, since I was dating another cadet at the time. I had met them at a conference I attended at Yale. I was responsible for a long and complicated romance between the two, causing her a lot of heartbreak and confusion. But she never held it against me. She was the more responsible one; she looked out for me. I was the one who was always getting myself involved in boy intrigues and waiting until the night before to write a thirty-page research paper. I always waited until the last minute, staring at the heap of books that awaited my attention—it was then that I became inspired. I even had the procrastinator’s creed poster on my wall “I shall always begin, start, initiate, take the first step, and/or write the first word, when I get around to it.” There was a method to my madness however, as I always managed to pull it off and get an A.

My roommates and I had a party at our house once, and all but two of our guests were men. We didn’t know how to deal with it, so we got drunk. First year of college was a year of many experiences. We got cheap “Baby Duck” wine at the local deppaneur (the “dep” is like a family-owned 7-Eleven or convenience store, and can be found only in the province of Quebec), which was great because we were eighteen years old; the drinking age in Ontario where I lived is nineteen, and you can purchase alcohol only in special government-operated stores, the accurately-called Beer Store and Liquor Store. Not at all like in the States, where in some states you can purchase alcohol at a grocery or drug store. This opened a whole new world of trouble for my friends and I: the first time we got drunk; the first time we threw up in public; and the first time we woke up and didn’t know where we were exactly, only to run as fast as we could to our 7 a.m. Spanish class, whose teacher was not amused by our appearance.

It was also a time of experimentation, the first time I smoked pot and laughed hysterically while bingeing simultaneously on Doritos and Tim Horton’s doughnuts. Our experience with psychedelic mushrooms was at a party, where we sat paralyzed, staring at everyone, completely convinced that the girl in front of us was a peacock, and our friend’s new date looked like an oversized gnome, and in fact we even told him we thought so. College was a time for growth, but also fun. There were ski trips that never saw any skiing and a great trip to Laura’s native Bahamas; there was the time I worked as a shooter girl at a nightclub called Angel’s, where guys bought me more shots than they bought themselves, and many other fantastic memories.

There was never a shortage of men in our lives. It was during my second year that I met and dated Keith McPhail. He was a gorgeous, fun, loving person. I remember I was shopping for a watch of gold and silver so that I could wear it with both types of jewelry. A few days before my birthday, Keith called me from a party—it was 3 a.m. He said he had something he wanted to give me and was coming over. I protested. I was in Montreal, and he was in London, Ontario. It was a nine-hour drive! He showed up ten hours later to give me the beautiful, expensive watch with a gold and silver bracelet, that he had bought me. He was outgoing and adventurous; he was training to become a pilot. We broke up because of the demands of my studies and his training, but we became best friends. He visited me many times afterward, flying himself and even my friends to Montreal. He always told me he would come back for me one day with a big diamond and ask me to marry him.

After Keith, I dated mostly athletes—football players, to be exact. One in particular affected my life for a long time. Ryan was a quarterback at the University of Waterloo, and I met him when I was home for the summer. We had an instant attraction and spent a fun few weeks together until I had to leave for McGill. I thought we would continue in a long-distance relationship, and we did for a while. Our relationship was so intense that he drove nine hours just to be with me for a couple of hours. With the distance between us, we slowly grew apart, and then I found out he was seeing an older girl at Waterloo; he needed someone who was there to take care of him during football season. I was upset but I had to let it go. I had met someone new as well. Sean was a great guy. I only wanted to be friends with him at first, but he was such a wonderful person that I decided to give the relationship a chance. He was a caring person; he brought me food, took me out, and did amazingly kind and romantic things to make me happy. He was always there for me unconditionally.

But I was too immature to appreciate him. Every time I went home, I saw Ryan. It could not be avoided because he worked as a bouncer and bartender at the bar my friends and I always hung out at when I came home, Loose Change Louis. We just couldn’t resist each other. I had never had this illogical, intense desire for anyone and never felt the way I did when I was with him. I did not understand why; I hated myself but I couldn’t stop it. I loved Sean, but I was attracted to Ryan and there was no middle ground. Ryan had a girlfriend as well. We had an ongoing affair for more than two years, which ended very badly for everyone involved. Sean found out and called Ryan’s girlfriend to tell her what was going on. It was brutal. I was confused; I didn’t understand why I allowed it to happen. I learned a painful but valuable lesson about love and lust. I swore off men. I didn’t even look at guys for more than a year.

Despite all the fun I was having, it was at McGill that I found my intellectual footing. I started off with a double major in history and political science, but after two years, I found it too restricting. I had taken a couple of literature and philosophy courses and wanted to explore other subjects. I wanted to be a well-rounded person; I didn’t want to just know history or just know politics. McGill had the perfect major for me: humanistic studies. This major allowed me to continue my studies of Spanish, philosophy, geography, and classical music. I developed a love for English literature, Baroque art and classical music. I also studied American history and fell in love with the principles and ideals upon which the United States of America was founded. I also longed to take some drama classes, but I put them off. My main extracurricular activity was the model U.N. club. I went on delegations to Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, and the real U.N. in New York City. I was an internationalist and an idealist. Having been raised in Poland, Greece, and Canada, I felt like I was a child of the world. I dreamed of being a diplomat, with the ultimate goal of becoming an ambassador. I decided to become a lawyer specializing in international affairs.

But school was not the only place I learned; life provided the most challenging tests and taught me the hardest lessons. My very last semester at McGill, I went to Kitchener-Waterloo for spring break, and when I arrived back in my apartment, I had several messages on my answering machine. My friend Pamela asked me to call her immediately, and I knew something was wrong. She told me that Keith, my former boyfriend and one of my best friends, was in a plane crash and was dead. I didn’t believe it. There must have been a mistake. I felt paralyzed. I have known people who had died but never anyone so young and so vibrant, and so close to me. He was flying a plane with his girlfriend as the passenger, and I guess it was a snowy night in Maine. It was determined that for some reason he thought he was flying at a higher altitude than he really was and he crashed into a mountainside just a few miles from the airport. I spent the night crying, and when morning came, I went right back to Kitchener for the funeral. As much as I was hurting, I knew his family was hurting more. I wrote a poem about Keith, for his family and for myself, and I bought some flowers and spent some time with his family the night before the funeral. I went back to school afterward, but I was not the same person. There is a song titled “Surrounded” by Chantal Kreviazuk, which Pamela turned me onto, that reminds me of Keith: “I was there when you shone as bright as Bethlehem from afar, I was there when you were young and strong and perverted and everything that makes a young man a star, oh you were a star.” Whenever I fly, and I frequently do, I think of him. I’m scared of turbulence, so I speak to Keith and ask him to keep me safe. He is my guardian angel in the skies.

Just when I thought things could not get worse, the ice storm of 1998 arrived with a vengeance. Freezing rain, snow, and ice pellets pounded the region for five days. There was no power in the city of Montreal and all over Quebec and Ontario as power lines and trees were falling, brought down by the weight of the ice that covered them. Huge icicles were falling off buildings and would surely kill a person had they hit him on the head; I missed such a fate by a couple of feet. There were at least twenty-five deaths, many from hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning because people used whatever they could to stay warm. Because there was no power, many students used candles for light, and when the frat boys next door to my building forgot to blow them out, my apartment almost burned down. I stood in the freezing cold, watching the brave firefighters battle the fire, as I cried and prayed to God to save the few belongings I had, particularly my books and my assignments. The next day, I asked Sean to drive me home to my parents’ house in Ontario. I had had enough of winter forever.

A few weeks later, the day before my first exam, I found out that my grandmother had died in Poland. I loved my grandmother very much, but I knew that my grief did not compare to what my mom was going through. My mom was devastated that she was not there with her own mother in her last moments. She felt guilty about leaving Poland and leaving her mother behind. When we left, her plan was to bring my grandma over to Canada. But my grandmother had a life in Poland, and at her age, she did not want to leave behind everything she knew. Plus her high blood pressure and heart condition presented a serious danger for flying overseas. At the time of my grandmother’s death, my mom was very sick with a severe back injury. Any type of movement was painful for her, and she was taking strong pain medication. Immediately I wanted to blow off my exams and travel to the funeral with her. When I found out that if I went, I would have to retake some of my courses and that it would delay my graduation, my mom told me I had to stay at school and finish my semester. It was heartbreaking for me not to go to my grandmother’s funeral and be there for my mom through her emotional and physical pain. I should have gone; I was unable to study anyway and barely made it through my exams.

The trauma of Keith’s death and my grandmother’s death made me contemplate my life more closely. I became acutely aware of the unpredictability of life and decided that although I loved studying and burying myself in books, there was more for me to see, experience, and enjoy. My soul needed uplifting, and my body longed for sunshine. My focus changed; I was determined to combine my educational goals with a more relaxed quality of life. I needed a change of scenery, to re-energize my body and my soul. When I was looking at law schools, the lifestyle they provided became just as important as their academic credentials.

Having been in Montreal during the 1995 Quebec Referendum (a public vote to decide whether Quebec would separate from the rest of Canada and pursue a path toward independence and sovereignty; the motion was narrowly defeated by a 50.58-to-49.42 percent margin), I became disillusioned with Canadian politics. Despite the fact that I loved Montreal, the severity of winter had worn me out. The ice storm of 1998 solidified my belief that my future lay south—way south—of the border. I was dreaming of a nice warm place to attend law school. I was California dreamin’. Despite my longtime desire to attend Georgetown University, I applied to two schools in California based solely on their location and the quality of life they provided. Pepperdine University in Malibu was the first to send me a letter of acceptance. Having never been to Los Angeles, I thought it would be a good idea to see the school and check out the city. As I drove by the ocean, down the Pacific Coast Highway, I fell in love before we even reached the “Malibu: 27 miles of scenic beauty” sign. I got this feeling inside, like I was home. The only thing left to do was apply for a school loan. My parents had paid for the majority of my education at McGill, but that was impossible with a private American school; it was just too expensive. There was only one lender in the United States or Canada that was willing to lend money to Canadian students to attend a professional school in the States. And though the interest rate was high and the conditions strict, I signed on the dotted line, with my parents as co-signors, happy to have the chance to fulfill my dream.

The only reservation I had about moving to California was the fact that I would be so far from my parents, particularly my mom. She was very sad that I was leaving her again, but at the same time, she was proud of me and thought I was so brave. It was really hard for me to leave her again and go further than before. But I saw this as an opportunity to change my life and eventually change the lives of my parents. I thought that if I moved to California and established my life there, I would help my parents move there so that they might enjoy the nice weather in their older years. I have always looked forward to the day when I will be able to take care of them and repay them for all that they have done for me. Everyone has something that drives them forward. Gratitude and love for my parents has always been my driving force.

My parents were incredible about the move; a month before school started, they surprised me by buying me a brand-new car. We packed it up and drove across the continent again, but this time it was to the United States: past the Great Lakes states, through the rolling green hills of Iowa, the plains of Nebraska, the splendid mountains of Colorado, the hellish heat of Utah, to the much awaited Pacific Ocean. It was quite a trip, a passage to a new life. When we got to Malibu, my parents continued to amaze me. They bought me the furniture I needed and bought me food and all the necessities. All too soon, they had to fly back home. After I dropped them off at the airport, I stopped at a nearby beach, sat down on the sand, and watched the planes fly up into the sky, wondering if one of the planes was theirs. I couldn’t hold back my tears. I was choked up with feelings of gratitude, love, and guilt. I missed them already. I felt alone. But I did not dare allow myself any pity—after all, this was my choice. I had to be strong like my mom. I got up, took a deep breath, and entered my new life.

3: Legally Blonde .

“Law school is for people who are boring, and ugly, and serious. And you, Button, are none of those things.”

—Elle Woods’ father in Legally Blonde

When I started law school, I was full of enthusiasm, energy, and hope. Everyone warned me ahead of time that the first year of law school is tough. It ’s a time when the school tries to weed out the weak—survival of the fittest. And indeed, a few people did not return for the second year. For me, the first year was a mix of satisfaction and disappointment. I had a couple of professors who inspired me with their passion for the subjects they taught, and those became my favorite subjects and the ones I did the best in. But the majority of the classes were uneventful; I learned what I had to but without any inspiration. And of course there were a few classes I absolutely hated. It wasn’t because of the subject; it was because of the professors who taught them. In law school, subjects are taught using the Socratic method, which is a technique of teaching in which the professor asks leading questions to stimulate rational thinking and elicit answers. However, some professors used it as a weapon to break students down and intimidate and humiliate them. Perhaps what they were hoping for was that we would be so afraid of not knowing the answer that we would try harder and be prepared. All it did for me was make me dislike the teacher, not care about the subject, and resent the fact that I was paying thousands of dollars to get verbally “abused.” But I loved the law and all that it stood for, and I remained hopeful that things would get better the following year, when I would be able to take some courses in international law.

When I moved to California, I had not had a boyfriend in a long time; it was self-imposed singledom after the Ryan-Sean heartbreak. I was looking forward to meeting some hot Malibu surfers. The movie Point Break flashed in my mind, and I imagined tan, muscular boys with long blond hair. I was curious to see what the boys in law school would look like, but I certainly did not have high expectations: lawyers aren’t known to be lookers. On our first day of school, the dean asked us to look around, announcing that it was very possible that our future husbands or wives were in this school. I couldn’t help but laugh. Pepperdine actually did have more than the average number of good-looking people; maybe it’s the oceanfront location of the school and proximity to Hollywood that attracts many beautiful types. Despite the fact that there were a few cute boys around, I was uninterested.

Then one day as I was leaving school, I noticed a leg. The leg had a huge tattoo on its side, almost from the knee to the ankle. I was surprised to see anyone in law school with a tattoo, let alone one so visible. I tried to see the guy, but he was reading the Wall Street Journal. I couldn’t see his face but I could tell he was tall, well built, and had funky hair (for a law student). I found it amusing. Only in L.A. can you find a hot tattooed guy who is presumably intelligent. A couple of days later, I saw a guy in the atrium looking at me, and I realized it was the tattooed-leg guy. I thought he was cute but didn’t think too much of it. There was already a guy in my class who was pursuing me, and I was trying to figure out how to handle that situation. A few days later we had a school bar night at a place called Rix in Santa Monica. As I sat there with my friends, I noticed a tall guy walking into the place; his spiky hair stuck above the crowd. I realized it was “tattoo boy,” but I still couldn’t tell what he looked like because he was wearing those yellow-lens glasses people wore at the time. After a few minutes, a new friend of mine, the wild red-haired Johnny from New York City, came up to me and wanted to introduce me to his friend. “I’m Justin,” said Tattoo Boy. “Hi Justin, I’m Izabella. Do you have some sort of a medical problem that requires you to wear yellow-lens sunglasses indoors?” I couldn’t help myself because I already knew he was interested since he clearly asked his friend to introduce us. He didn’t say a word, just stood there and stared. Later I gave Johnny my phone number. The next day, the phone rang and it was Justin. I was surprised; he didn’t even wait the customary two days. From then on, he called me every day. “So are there a lot of moose in Canada?” he would ask. “Yes, in fact I used to ride moose to school everyday from the igloo where I lived, eh,” I replied. This was usually followed by an extended discussion on whether Canadians say “aboot” versus “about”—and for the record, no one says “aboot.” He teased me, but I knew it was only because he liked me, the way boys in kindergarten pulled girls’ pigtails as a show of affection. And although I did not realize it at the time, he was growing on me. A couple of days later, he called me from outside of my apartment, saying he had some time before his evening class started and he was coming over. His call woke me from a nap, so I answered the door wearing a pair of old oversized floral pajama pants and a tank top. After we hung out watching TV for a bit, he realized he was too late for class and was just going to have to spend the rest of the evening with me. I realized he had planned the whole thing! He never wanted to go to class, class was just an excuse to come over and “kill some time.” That night we drank cheap wine and played Trivial Pursuit until my roommate and Justin started cheating. I threw a dignified fit and locked myself in my room refusing to come out, but he wouldn’t leave. I finally came out of my room, and he apologized and asked for a rematch. I agreed, we kissed, and he left. And that is how we fell in love.

Although I initially didn’t think he was my type, mainly because of his tattoos, as I learned more about Justin, I began to see serious potential for a boyfriend. I was happy to find a guy I was attracted to, had great chemistry with, and was also kind, funny, and my intellectual equal. There was also a sensitivity and vulnerability in him that drew me in. Justin learned early on that life is short and we must live each day to the fullest, not worrying about what others say. He almost died when he was 16 years old, when he was struck by a drunk driver while riding a motorcycle with his friend. His friend walked away with minor scratches, but Justin’s leg had been shattered. He was airlifted to a hospital, and doctors did not think he would make it. But he did and had multiple surgeries on his knee and hip and spent months in the hospital. He was one of the youngest people in the United States to ever have a hip replacement. The driver who hit him had no insurance; Justin did not get a cent from him. But he never feels sorry for himself, never cries about life being unfair, and never complains about the physical pain that I know he struggles with all the time. Although proudly and fiercely American, Justin is open to other cultures and traditions, even though he has not traveled that extensively, and that was important to me. Although he likes to teasingly say “eh” and “aboot,” he loves going to Canada, finds the people warm and friendly, the country beautiful, and Tim Horton’s tim-bits delicious. He also eagerly learned many Polish traditions and even a few words in Polish. Most importantly, Justin had tremendous respect for my parents and always treated them with kindness and affection and understood how much they mean to me. I fell in love with his strength, dignity, realism, and kindness.

It wasn’t easy having a relationship with him, though. As I found out, he was a hot commodity on the law school meat market. Girls shamelessly pursued him despite knowing we were together. One girl asked a professor to pass Justin an invitation to her party that weekend. Curiously, I wasn’t invited nor were many girls at all. He ended up going to the party with some friends. He didn’t stay long, and we all met up at a local bar afterward. She came there as well and saw us together. That night when I got home, I noticed the smell of burnt rubber. I circled my car to discover that it had been vandalized. Someone had ripped off my windshield wipers and stuck them in my exhaust pipe. My gut told me it was that girl. She had left the bar a few minutes before I did. She wanted my boyfriend and went to great lengths to invite him to her party. I am sure she wasn’t happy when he came to meet me and spent the rest of the night by my side. Years later when I became friends with a girl who had been her best friend at the time, she told me that it was something that this girl was capable of doing.

I was really upset. I had had the car for only five months and my parents had worked so hard to be able to get it for me. How dare she, or anyone for that matter, lay a hand on something that did not belong to her? Furthermore, she was a law student; I could ruin her if I could prove she did it. Instead I let it go. It was the end of the semester, finals were coming up, and I did not want to create a big issue, particularly since I could not prove it. I basically took it out on Justin. I told him I was not going to date him if it meant he was going to allow some bug-eyed girl to mess with me or my property. He finally confronted her one day, about four months later, as she walked out of class. She acted like she didn’t know what he was talking about. I didn’t care at this point; I was glad he did it, but it was too little too late.

At the end of the semester, I yearned to get away, but I had to plan my summer wisely, because when you graduate law school and look for a job, you must account for how the summers were spent. Since there was not a major international law market in Los Angeles, I became interested in pursuing an internship in entertainment law. Justin had given me a list of Pepperdine alumni who worked in the entertainment industry as possible contacts. The only one that piqued my interest was a guy who worked for Playboy. I imagined it would be fun and exciting to work for a magazine—at the time I didn’t know that it wasn’t the magazine part of the company. I sent him my resume and we arranged an interview. It went very well, and he said he would give me a call in a few days.

However, in the meantime, I decided that I needed a change of scenery. I wanted to travel, but I had to use my time sensibly. I came up with the perfect solution: study abroad! I wanted to go somewhere I had never been, and Spain was the perfect answer because I could also improve my Spanish skills. I applied for another school loan to go; I didn’t need additional loans but I figured if the extra courses helped me graduate a semester early, then it would all even out. I signed up to study in Madrid for two months and decided to follow that up with a two-week vacation in Italy. I asked Justin if he wanted to come. He had never been anywhere outside of the United States besides Brazil, but if I was going to be serious with a man, he had to be cultured. And that meant he had to travel, learn, and explore. We spent the summer living in Madrid. We grew to love our daily café Americano and a Napolitano for breakfast; for lunch we had jamón con queso, and in the evenings we walked around sampling delicious tapas such as croquettas and stuffed mushrooms and shrimp sautéed in garlic. We also appreciated the spirit and customs of the Spanish people. We traveled to Barcelona, Sevilla, and Ibiza, and in the process, we fell in love with Spain. We went to Italy afterward, where we met my mom and got to see the Pope in his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, followed by Florence, Venice, and Rimini. But Justin and I were not used to spending so much time together, especially under the stress and fatigue of constant travel; at the end of the trip, we were ready to kill each other.

Despite my rigorous study schedule at law school, it didn’t take long for me to become a bona fide Malibu beach bunny. I went to the beach all the time, lugging my huge law books. I quickly adapted to the local style—the Uggs, the boy-beaters, the short jean skirts. And every weekend, I’d go out to Hollywood and all the hottest clubs. The social atmosphere in law school was not the greatest. Law school is very competitive. There is an enormous amount of intellectual snobbery; everyone thinks he or she is the smartest. And heaven forbid others perceive you as attractive; one cannot be good-looking and smart. People do not like that and will resent you. And there I was, like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, with my blonde hair, pink tank tops, and low-rider jeans. I walked away from law school with only a couple of friends, and that is because they are both confident good-looking women who do not define themselves solely by their intellectual ability, but actually have some personality as well. One of those girls was Vivian; she was a lot like me, and we bonded over our blondeness, our boobs, and our preference for “bad boy” types. It was with her that I first met Hef.

If you had told me then that a year and a half later I would be a member of Hef ’s “party posse” and live at his Mansion, I would have laughed. But more importantly, I would have been insulted. It was 2000, and I had just started my second year at Pepperdine. To kick off the new semester, my friends and I went to the hot club of the moment—the Sunset Room in Hollywood. I had met one of the owners, Chris Breed, a good-looking Brit who was always welcoming and gracious toward me and my friends. Sunset Room consisted of an elegant restaurant as well as a nightclub, with a large dance floor surrounded by private tables and a bar. In the back, by a beautiful saltwater aquarium, was the passageway to the VIP section. That section included about five cushy booths and another bar, as well as an outdoor section (for the smokers) with another five covered cabanas. I had casually chatted with several celebrities there in the past: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Leonardo DiCaprio. You never knew who you would run into. As we made our way to the VIP room, we noticed Hugh Hefner sitting at a booth with a platinum blonde on either side of him and another older man. Despite the fact that I grew up in Communist Poland and various parts of Canada, I knew who Hugh Hefner was. First, because of his association with Canadian Pamela Anderson—she became famous by being a Playboy Playmate. Secondly, since I moved to L.A., I saw Hef and his troupe of gorgeous blondes frequently featured on TV. My friend Vivian wanted to go say hello, but I was a bit hesitant. I could see all these girls going up to Hef, and I found it more than a little embarrassing. I was intrigued by Hef and attracted to him in a way that I did not understand. What would I say to him? I guess I could tell him I almost interned at Playboy. I didn’t realize then that Hef worked from home and never went to the Playboy offices. When Vivian announced she was going to speak with him, I reluctantly went with her.

The older man sitting with Hef made small talk with us and invited us to sit in the booth. This was Doc—Dr. Mark Saginor, otherwise known in Hollywood as “Dr. Feelgood,” Hef’s personal physician and one of his closest friends. Later, we would learn that Doc also treats the girls in Hef’s posse for their assorted medical needs. Hef was very polite and very sweet. He looked at us with a warm smile, making us feel welcome at his table. He was relaxed, drinking his Jack and Coke, with Buffy Tyler and Katie Lohmann sitting at his side, doting on him. He was wearing a black suit and a pink shirt with a white collar and cuffs. I was fascinated with him and the girls. A million questions ran through my mind as I sat there observing them: Were these girls just props? Did they sleep with him? What was their life like? Did he love them? I wanted to talk to the girls, but they seemed in a world of their own. After a couple of drinks, Doc asked us for our phone numbers and invited us to a “Fun in the Sun” party at the Playboy Mansion the following Sunday afternoon. We had no idea what that meant exactly, but we reasoned that if any fun was going to be held in the sun, then it couldn’t be too bad.

When I woke up the next day, I remembered the invite to the Mansion and I was nervously excited. The very first time I came to Los Angeles to visit Pepperdine School of Law, my ex-boyfriend Sean and I were driving down Sunset Boulevard when we noticed a Star Maps sign at the corner of the street. We decided to pull over and buy a map for fun. The street corner happened to be Charing Cross Road, and the man selling the map informed us that the Playboy Mansion was just down the street. We had to drive by it. We stopped and took a quick glance at the gates. I wondered what was going on inside, imagining all sort of debauchery. Sean suggested that I walk up to the gate and see if they would let me in to see Hef. “No way, that’s embarrassing. Plus I am not sure I want to see what’s inside,” I said. My only contact with Playboy magazine was when Sean and I were driving from college in Montreal to my parent’s house in Kitchener, and out of boredom and curiosity I picked up a Playboy at the gas station. It was the fortieth anniversary issue and it contained the one hundred stars of the century. I was simply curious about their choices. Sean had always told me I should be a Playmate. Even when I was at McGill, guys used to call me Pam Anderson’s little sister, which was silly because we look nothing alike, but the Pam phenomenon was so big in Canada that any girl with blonde hair and boobs was always compared to her.

That Sunday, as Vivian and I drove to the famous 10236 Charing Cross Road address (guaranteed to be on any quality Star Map), we had no idea what to expect. As we approached the gate, a voice coming out of a huge rock asked us who we were and confirmed we were on the list of invitees. As the gates opened and we drove up the winding road, the bright yellow “Caution: Playmates at Play” sign welcoming us, we were guided through the main door of the house into the backyard. There we were greeted by nothing short of paradise: a sprawling green lawn with free-range exotic birds, a pond with ducks, a beautiful pool with a waterfall and nature’s truest bounty—sexy girls frolicking in the sun, talking, swimming, playing volleyball. I didn’t see anything too crazy; I had imagined I might see naked people prancing around or making out in the deep dark corners of the Mansion, but it was not like that at all. It was surprisingly civilized and tame. At one corner of the pool, Hef sat playing backgammon with two friends, one of whom was Doc. We went over to say hello. As we were walking away, I recognized his Girlfriend and Playmate Buffy Tyler and sat down to speak with her. I thought she was very cool and friendly. I asked her if she lived at the Mansion, and she told me that she and Katie Lohmann shared a room. I asked what it was like, and she told me she was having a lot of fun. I had many more questions, but I didn’t want to drill her; I thought she was nice enough to answer any of the questions in the first place.

As Vivian and I stood there taking in the surroundings, we were approached by Jenny—the lady who is in charge of Mansion party invitations—and she took down our information and then took our photos. We got some towels and lay out on the lawn, close to the pool. We just observed these fascinating new surroundings. We also kept visiting the bar, where the bartenders made fresh fruit smoothies and you could order food from the menu du jour. When at the bar, I noticed one of Hef’s Girlfriends surrounded by a group of wanna-be Girlfriends. I smiled at her, and she came over to tell me I was pretty. I was flattered by the unexpected comment. At that moment I would have never guessed, in a million years, that this girl and I would be roommates at the Mansion one day and have many adventures together. As evening approached, everyone was slowly leaving to change for dinner. Vivian wanted to stay for the dinner and movie, but I kept worrying about all of the homework that awaited me at home. I also did not want to create additional problems between Justin and I; he was already not too thrilled about my going to the Mansion, and I didn’t want to make things worse by staying there until late at night. Vivian and I ended up leaving before dinner. I had a good time that day, but I didn’t think I would go back to the Fun in the Sun for a long time; it wasn’t worth fighting over with Justin.

This first experience was followed by invitations to all of the Mansion parties. Although I went and was fascinated by the whole Hef party posse scene, I kept my distance from him. Between schoolwork, my relationship with Justin, and going out with my friends, I had no time for anything else. After attending a couple of Mansion parties, I began receiving regular phone calls from Jenny at the Mansion inviting me to come back on Sundays for Fun in the Sun, which was a weekly thing. The problem was that Vivian was not invited to Fun in the Sun, though she was receiving the invites to other parties. I felt really bad about that and, although she constantly told me we should call them and see if we could go over, I never told her I was already invited to them. I was not going to go alone, and I certainly did not want to hurt my friend’s feelings, so I just ignored the whole thing. I was perfectly satisfied only attending the parties at the Playboy Mansion.

As for school, I was finally able to take some international law courses and think about my eventual career in law. I began working for one of my professors, Professor Mendoza, assisting him in writing a book about international business transactions. I became efficient at doing research, learned a lot about writing a book, and was able to make some extra money to help pay my bills. He was a great professor, and I am grateful for the experience. However, I was coming to the gradual realization that I was not going to be able to carry out my dreams of becoming an international lawyer as originally planned. It was very likely that I would have to continue my studies with a master’s degree and potentially move back to the East Coast, where the international law curriculum was broader. It was probable that I would have to spend some additional years in academia, researching and writing before I actually got to handle the type of cases I was interested in. This was discouraging to me. I really wanted to go out into the world and have a break from studying, at least for a while. I did not know what other area of law I could practice. For the first time in my educational career, the future was not clearly laid out for me.

After my second year, I felt very tired. Justin and I had been arguing a lot, and he would be spending the summer studying and taking the bar exam. I knew he would be more stressed out than ever, and I did not want to be around for that. I wanted to travel again, and it had been several years since I had been to Poland. But I could not waste a summer traveling frivolously, nor did I have any money to do so. I realized that if I could study in Poland, I could graduate a semester early, and I could get school loans to cover my trip. I found the ideal program via Catholic University, which would allow me to take international law courses in Krakow, Poland. It was a perfect opportunity to earn credits and spend time with my family. I had the fortune to study at Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe. It was founded by King Casimir the Great in 1364. Among its most famous alumni are Nicolas Copernicus and the late Pope John Paul II. And its law faculty is regarded as one of the finest in central Europe. It was incredibly inspiring.

After class each day that summer, I went to quaint little cafés to do my homework and explored the city as much as I could. On the weekends the students were able to go on trips. We saw the Royal Salt Mine at Wieliczka, which is like a vast underground city. The historic salt mine is the only site in the world where mining has continued since the thirteenth century. It consists of nine levels going down to a depth of 358 yards and has 186 miles of galleries with works of art, altars, and statues sculpted in the salt, turning a trip down there into a fascinating pilgrimage into the past of a major industrial undertaking. Beneath the mine itself are numerous churches, chapels, and rooms for leisure activities. It is a fascinating underground world where everything is made out of salt; for example, the main cathedral has walls covered with salt sculptures of saints and scenes from the Bible, the altar is made of salt, even the chandeliers are made of salt. Sometimes the room is used for weddings. Wieliczka Salt Mine was entered into UNESCO’s first World List of Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1978. I was a little hesitant to go so far under the earth, but it was a fascinating one-of-a-kind experience.

However, the most memorable trip I took that summer was to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Even though I had lived about thirty minutes from it for ten years of my life, I had never been there. It is not a place a child longs to visit. But now in adulthood, I was ready. Not only was it historically and culturally significant to me to visit this place, but it was also personal. It was painful to see the camp, and absolutely heartbreaking to know that my own grandfather had been there. It was such an overwhelming experience that I couldn’t find a place within myself to store what I saw and what I felt that day. I had nightmares for several days. I took pictures that day, though I don’t know why; I can’t bear to look at them. I suppose I needed to prove to myself that what I saw was real. I know I will have to go back one day, to share this experience with others. I think everyone should go there so that the horrors of the past will never be repeated. It’s a truly overwhelming look at one of history’s blackest eras.

Justin called me several times that summer, and it was nice to hear his voice. Despite the fact that we were on a break and I did not know what the future held, I missed him. He was my best friend, and it was hard not to speak to him and share all of my experiences with him. I knew that no matter what happened when I got back to L.A., he would be a part of my life. I didn’t get involved with anyone that summer; I took the time to be by myself, explore Polish culture, reconnect with family, and figure out what I wanted to do next. Being in Poland on my own and having the time to think, I decided I was not ready to jump back into a relationship with him. There were many things that needed to be worked out first, and I wanted some alone time to establish a life that wasn’t so reliant on his presence. I came to L.A. to do so many things and I fell in love with him before I had the chance to enjoy the city on my own terms. Now was the time to start fresh. I also thought about Hef and the Mansion from time to time and decided I would go to Fun in the Sun again, now that I did not have the restraints of a relationship. I kept receiving invitations to Mansion parties while I was gone, and I looked forward to going to a party when I got back. That was about the extent of my plans in regard to Hef. I never imagined what the future would bring. I looked forward to being independent, but I drew a certain comfort from the fact that Justin was there for me. I knew that he would be close by, and like I always tell myself, if it is meant to be, it will be.

4: Hanging with Hef .

“I couldn’t help it. I can resist everything except temptation.”

—Oscar Wilde

I came back to Los Angeles refreshed and anxious to finish my last semester in law school. In September 2001, right at the beginning of the school year, my friend Niki came to visit me from Toronto. And just as I had done the year before, Niki, Justin and I went out to celebrate her trip and the last semester of my law school career. In a bizarre twist, what happened a year before repeated itself; I ran into Hef again. Not only once but twice that same week: on Wednesday at the Hollywood club Las Palmas (now LAX) and then on Friday at another club called Barfly. Was this fate? After a couple of drinks, I decided to go up and say hi to him. Justin and I became close when I returned that fall, but we did not get back into a relationship. I got my own apartment and he stayed over a lot; we were going to hang out and see where things went. That night, even Justin encouraged me to go say hi to Hef, and so I did. Hef seemed to remember me and was very happy to talk to me; he immediately invited me to come out with him and his girls the following Friday. The next day, I received a call from his assistant, Mary, who invited me to Barfly with Hef and his Girlfriends. After accepting, I was instructed to arrive at the Mansion at 10 p.m., and we would be departing around 10:30. I was still hesitant; I kept changing my mind until the moment I walked out of my door. What would I wear? Would the other girls be friendly? But in the end, my curiosity won out. And you know what they say about curiosity.

That night, although I didn’t know it, I was being recruited. I had a couple of the Girlfriends come up to me and tell me how much fun they were having, how much money they made, and what a great opportunity it was to live at the Mansion. I was told that Hef was interested in me and that I should give it a chance. It sounded almost too good to be true. Then I was told about “the bedroom.” After the club, they all go and party in Hef ’s room. I didn’t have to “do” anything at all; it was just a lot of fun. An alarm went off in my brain. I definitely did not want to go to Hef ’s bedroom, fun or not.

I didn’t know him. I don’t even kiss on the first date, let alone go to someone’s bedroom. And was this even a date?

I got out of the limo in front of the Mansion, thanked Hef for the night, got into my car, and went home as fast I could. A few days later, the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred. Like the rest of the country, I was devastated, stunned, and scared. To my surprise, I received a personal call from Hef, asking me to go out with them. I told him I couldn’t, considering what had just happened, and expressed mild disappointment that he would consider going out at a time like this. He seemed taken aback by my tone and mumbled something about how “life must go on.” I agreed that life must go on, but it was much too soon. Later I came to realize that rain, snow, blackout, or any other natural disaster—Hef would still want to go out. Why? So he could have an after-party in his room.

After that, Hef kept on inviting me out and I went out with them several more times, but it was all very casual. Although I found Hef to be very nice and interesting and I always had a good time with him and the girls, I had no plans to get seriously involved with Hef. He invited me to be part of his group, an honor of sorts, at the Mansion’s annual Halloween party and even offered to pay for my costume and gave me a makeup and hair allowance. I received a check from one of Hef ’s assistants. I ended up going shopping with Holly, who was the new girl at the Mansion. It seemed to me that the other girls were not friendly with her and I wanted to befriend Holly. The party was great; it was so much fun being part of Hef ’s group. I was beginning to imagine myself as part of the party posse, but I disregarded such thoughts for two reasons: I was still in law school, and there was the bedroom issue. I heard from a model that had been hanging out with Hef for a few months that some of the girls had herpes, and it freaked me out. I never had any diseases, and I wanted to stay as far away from them as possible. After the party, I kept receiving calls from Mary; she is the one who calls to ask girls out on Hef ’s behalf. He rarely calls girls himself. Hef employs an elaborate system of procurement to keep the pipeline filled with willing nubile women. There’s a guy named Ron—short, with red hair and a beard—who is always out at clubs cruising for talent and trying to bring new girls into Hef ’s circle. The ones Hef isn’t interested in, Ron tries to date himself. I always see him with his Playboy Mansion notepad in hand to impress the girls and to appear legit, which cracks me up, but I like him; he’s a nice person. But Mary has been with Hef forever—she was the house manager at the Chicago Playboy Mansion and has worked for him for decades. It never ceased to amaze me that she would care so much to get Hef the girl that he wanted, that she tried so hard to make him happy and really cared about his sex life and how he was treated. She and Hef have a very special, interesting, peculiar relationship. In my opinion, it is she who runs the Mansion. And so she kept calling and inviting me to go out with Hef, but I always told her that it was my last semester in law school, and exams were around the corner, and I couldn’t go out right now, but I would when I was done. I guess I wanted to keep the option open.

By the end of December, I was done with all of my exams, and although my graduation ceremony was not until June, I was officially finished with law school. To start working as an attorney, I needed my license, and to get the license, I had to pass the Bar exam. Without even taking a minute to think about what I should do next, I signed up to take the Bar exam in February and borrowed $3,000 from my parents for a review class. I spent Christmas in Canada with my family, and when I returned, my friend Vivian and I attended the New Year’s Eve party at the Mansion. I received a warm welcome from Hef and spent the night partying with him and the girls. I had a great time. I noticed that some of the old Girlfriends were gone and that there were a few new girls “trying out”. As I sat there looking at them, I tried to envision being part of the group. Could I do this?

After the party, Hef called and invited me to come out with him and the girls now that I was done with school. Little did he know that this time of preparation for the Bar is much more intense than actually being in school; everyone who was studying for the Bar exam lived, breathed, and dreamed it. It requires your full attention and all of your time. You start with a few hours in class every morning, followed by an entire day of exercises and memorization. But I felt like I needed a break from the mental strain and loneliness (I can only study alone) of preparing for the exam. During the week I attended the review class, and on the weekends, I went out with Hef. I knew I was treading on dangerous ground, but I decided to give it a shot and see what happened. And what happened was that I had a blast! I became good friends with a couple of the girls who were also new to the scene, and that changed the dynamic for me.

Although we had nothing in common, Emma and I hit it off immediately. She is from England, a former Page Three girl (a woman who models topless for photographs published on page three of the U.K. tabloid The Sun). She had a pretty tough life; a high school dropout, she had a baby at seventeen and was struggling to make ends meet as an exotic dancer and model. She met a nice man who helped her out; he wanted to come to America, so they got married and he brought her and her son with him. When she first got to Los Angeles, she started doing B movies. When she met Hef, she was having a hard time paying rent. She had tested for Playboy magazine before, but despite being very photogenic, in my opinion, did not get approved. She was hoping to become a Girlfriend because of the money and work opportunities with Playboy it could bring her. Although our lives had been completely different, I liked Emma. I realized that, though I was not as bad as other people in law school, I was also a bit of an intellectual snob. I would not date anyone who was not as educated as I was, or befriend women who relied on their looks, or men, to get by in life. The feminist in me regarded that as pathetic. But life at the Mansion forcibly exposed me to a wide variety of characters, and I became more open-minded. Because of my friendship with Emma, I learned how to be less judgmental about people and the things they do in life to survive. I loved her sense of humor and upbeat personality. I like all accents in general but I have a particular liking for the Queen’s English. I loved the way she spoke; her swear words were particularly amusing. Before I knew it I was going around saying “bloody hell” and “bollocks” as if I had grown up saying it. No matter how bad my mood was, there were certain words she could always say to make me laugh such as the word guilty, which she pronounced “gui-ee,” or when she ordered “tos-ee-os” (Tostitos) and salsa. Emma and I had a lot of fun together; we would drink and dance at the clubs. We were also both in the same initial stages of our relationship with Hef, although she knew she wanted to move in and I still wasn’t sure about it. My friendship with her influenced my eventual decisions regarding moving in, living at the Mansion, and even moving out. Now I had a few friends who were entering this foreign world of Playboy with me; we shared our concerns, our fears, and our hopes. The experience was now beyond hanging out with Hef; it became about having fun wi