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[Another one from the archives.]

Unless you had a VIP ticket, everyone was instructed, via email, to park in a parking garage in Century City.  From there, a shuttle would take us to the mansion.  I get to the parking garage at 9pm, half an hour after check in began.  Quite a few people are there already – mostly men, in groups of three or four.  I don’t want to make eye contact, because I am not ready yet for interaction, but I check them out of the corner of my eye.  Men apparently feel comfortable wearing long pajamas to this kind of party.  Some are wearing robes.  They are all in their mid to late twenties.  No one is over 35.  Everyone, with two exceptions, is white.

All the cars are luxury models, my 1990 Volvo sticking out like an awkward illegitimate child.  I try to ignore the fact that the most recently arrived group of men are watching me as I walk by them, and their Lexus, to the check-in desk.  I try to pretend I am completely unfazed by the fact that I am half-naked as I walk through a parking garage.  I try to act impervious as I get my sparkly pink Playboy bracelet and board the shuttlebus.  I sit by myself and try to look as if I don’t care.

I listen to the conversations happening around me as we snake our way up Beverly Glen and then onto Sunset.  There is a lot of typical LA conversation – auditions, agents, alcohol.  It smells like perfume and cologne.  The energy is heightened.  People are on the prowl for booty.  Fame and cash are taking a back seat tonight.  This evening is about sex.  Men and women are checking each other out, up and down.   Everyone is cruising.  I just stare out the window and watched the mansions go by, on our way to the Playboy mansion.  Big, bigger, biggest.

I am not looking for a date.  I am not looking to get laid.  I am not looking for an excuse to show off my tits.  I am there because I want to watch the action.  I want to see Hef (and Kendra, Bridget, and Holly).  I want to see how this other half parties.  I want to see what the Playboy myth has to offer.  I want to see who else is standing in line to get their piece of the action.  I want to see Paris Hilton and Scott Baio.

Turns out you can apply online for complimentary invites to select Playboy parties.  This one is the annual Playboy Pajama Party.  I didn’t think much of it while filling out the application, absentmindedly selecting a photo to upload, answering a couple questions, and describing which month I’d want to be a Playboy centerfold and why (December because that’s my birthday month, a time of beginnings for the new year ahead and a sense of closure and accomplishment for the year that has come before.  I also said something about the magic of the holidays because, well, I wanted my free ticket).  Then I forgot about the whole thing in less time than I’d taken to fill out the form.

Imagine my surprise when I got an email a couple weeks later that I’d been accepted:

Thank you for your application to attend this year’s Playboy Pajama Party.  Your application has been approved and accepted.  Your ticket is NON-TRANSFERABLE.  Please print out this confirmation and bring it to check-in with your photo ID.  

I didn’t quite believe it.  I contacted Playboy headquarters to confirm, and yes, I’d gotten a complimentary ticket.

This confirmation is to let you know that you are now on our Guest List and your admission fee has been waived.  Please let me know if you have any other questions.  Thank you!

Everyone else could pay $1500, I was going for free – no video cameras please.  I couldn’t say no, even though there was the momentary panic about going solo.  I had taken the whole thing so unseriously, I hadn’t even bothered to try to recruit a companion, and now it was too late.

It was go alone or not go at all.

I tried not to think about the fact that I had no idea what to wear.  I realized, after discarding one idea after another that I was going to look like a prude or a slut.  Bra and undies?  No way, not to a party I’m going to solo.  Long sleeve pajamas?  How bo-ring!  I contemplated several different options (librarian look?  Men’s dress shirt and lacy panties?) before raiding my roommate’s closet in a panic.

She had three different slips which worked, and one which worked perfectly.  Flirty, flowery, short – sexy but not too provocative, neither a prude nor a slut.  I figured I’d fit right in – and fit right in I did.

We finally snake our way up the narrow driveway to be deposited in front of the famous mansion, limos and luxury cars everywhere.  Single file, we disembark, and make our way to the side of the house.  We never enter the mansion, going straight to a tented area set up beside the famous Grotto.  The tented area seems trashy and cheap.  Some girls in bikinis are dancing around poles set up across the grass on small pedestals.  They’re not dancing well. The environment feels far from Playboy fabulous.  The dj is playing Rihanna.  Tables are set up with white chairs around them.  There is a makeshift bar on one end.  It feels like a bar mitzvah.  I move on.

Through the tent, is the Grotto.  Several tables are set up here with lots of food.  There’s hot food, in catering style metal bins, but I can’t imagine eating a plate of proper dinner in my barely there outfit.  Red meat on a stick is not appealing.  There are lots of half naked girls carting around plates of jello shots, and those feel like a good idea, so I have a couple.  I graze on some sushi.  I look around.  No one else is there alone.  People are eating the food, even half-naked girls are managing to balance full dinner plates.  There’s nowhere to sit, so everyone eats standing.  Extraordinarily attractive catering staff wander around with trays of shrimp quesadillas and fried chicken pockets.

Nothing beckons, so I go to the bathroom for lack of something better to do.  There are a couple Playboy-looking girls there (blonde hair, big tits, orange skin), talking about their outfits and which prescription medications they are on.  One has early onset of osteoporosis.  No one is doing cocaine.  They nod at me as I go in and nod again as I go out.  I get a (plastic) cup of water from the open bar.  I am waiting to see how strong the jello shots will be.  (Answer: not very).

I decide it is time to be a little more aggressive.

“Hi,” I say to two tiny and beautiful girls who are standing up against one of the small tables near the bar.  “Mind if I hang out with you guys?  I’m here alone.”

“Not at all,” they both declare enthusiastically, and I notice strong Southern accents.

Turns out these lovely ladies have both flown out from Atlanta specifically for the Playboy party.  They’d arrived the night before and were taking early flights the next day to make it home in time for Mother’s Day.  One girl, we’ll call her Kate, has two children, both under the age of 5.  The other girl, Lindsay, has one.  Kate is married but has chosen not to wear her wedding ring that night.  See, Kate’s wanted to be in Playboy since she was 12, so when she also got a complimentary invite through the same application process I’d used, she got Lindsay to apply, as well.  Of course they flew out to LA for the party.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, the girls told me, and they weren’t going to let it pass them by.  Who knew who’d they meet?  Maybe Hef will spot them — if he shows up.  Whatever happens, they are dressed for it, Kate even apologizes at one point as I walk behind her for her g-string.  Her entire rear end is on display.

The two of them knew how many girls Hef had discovered at his own parties, and they wanted to do everything they could to make it happen, before returning to their families and dental hygienists jobs back East.

Lindsay has no shame, and once some celebrities start turning up, she is on the prowl, telling me that she is going to give Chris Evans a blow job before the end of the night.  She does go and introduce herself to him, but I couldn’t eavesdrop because someone else has introduced himself to me.  He is the editor and publisher of a local magazine, and he is there because he’d done a recent interview with Holly, Bridget, and Kendra.  He is shocked to find out that the three of us had all been invited for free.  His friends come over and we all talk, sampling the chocolate-covered strawberries and mini tiramisu, but it is boring business conversation, about how he sold advertising in exchange for tickets to the party, and I feel like they are there to watch, not to be watched, and so I move on.

I find the girls again, and they tell me how they’d talked to Pauly Shore, and he’d been totally out of it, and wasn’t it sad, while I just look around for Jason Statham, who had recently arrived.  It takes me a while to find him, and at first all I see is Ian Ziering, which makes me appreciate the true B level of the party.  He is wearing a white t-shirt and pajama pants so boring, I can’t remember what they look like as soon as I turn away.  He’s clearly very comfortable as he chats up ladies.  Is he the biggest star here?  Where is Hef?  Jason?  Scott Baio?  Charlie Sheen?

Even Paris Hilton isn’t here, apparently having given up even Playboy in favor of playing Monopoly with her new boyfriend.  Hef still hasn’t made an appearance.  Holly, Bridget, and Kendra are nowhere to be seen.  The girl Ian is with isn’t even that attractive, just a non-descript Hollywood blonde.  I search for Jason, desperate to elevate the evening, however marginally.

I find him by the pool, flanked by two other men, flirting with two Playboy clones, and not very attractive ones, at that.  I realize he is short.  To add insult to injury, he is wearing sunglasses with his black silk robe.  He clearly thinks he is a happening star at a happening party, and for some reason that saddens me.  I decide not to go talk to him after all.

I go back to the tent area.  Maybe if I keep moving, it will create the illusion that more things are going on.  While no one else is wearing sunglasses, most of the men are wearing outfits similar to Jason’s, variations on the long sleeve pajamas / silk robe theme.  Most of the women, by contrast, are wearing the absolute minimum.  There are a lot of corsets, I even hear one man ask a woman if she really slept in that.  She just answers with a withering stare as she struts by.  A lot of bikinis, bras and underwear, some white men’s dress shirts open over black bras and panties.  Some are even topless, just in underwear.  There are garter belts and thigh highs.  Lots of stilettos, which seem a recipe for disaster considering how uneven the stones are around the Grotto.

No one, other than me, seems to be feeling the cold.  The sweater I’d grabbed as an afterthought before leaving the house never comes off my body, and as the night wears on, I can’t bear to leave the tent, where it is marginally warmer than the outdoors.  I don’t know how the other girls are doing it, unless they are all a lot drunker or a lot more motivated to expose.

Making a loop around the tent area, I notice one girl whom I’d spotted before.  She is beautiful and charismatic.  Laughing with a group of friends, she is showing off her perfectly chiseled biceps.  I stare.  The second she is alone, I swoop.

“You have amazing biceps,” I tell her.

“Tennis.” She giggles.  “Or genetics.”

Susannah is an aspiring actress, formerly married to a reality tv star.  She is busy avoiding Ian Ziering because of a one night stand they’d had, after which she blew him off.  She tells me his house reminded her of Portland – but that’s not enough of a reason to date, she explains, laughing.  She asks me what I do.  When she hears I am a writer, she leans in real close, and, her mouth inches from my face, says, “Will you send me something?  I want to produce.  A short film.”  She pauses meaningfully, her eyes staring into mine.  “Something intense.  Dramatic.  A real role.  For me.”

During the pauses between her statements, I notice her eyelashes, and how closely her eyes are set together, and how there is something magnetic about her, despite the ridiculousness of the situation.  She gives me her email.  “Promise me you’ll write.”  She takes hold of my hand between two of hers.  “I’ll be waiting.”

Her hand is so warm, I exclaim about the heat of her skin, especially considering that she is only wearing a pale pink bra and panties with a dangling pale pink garter belt, unattached to any kind of stocking.  “I’m allergic to the cold,” she tells me.  “I’m on medication which keeps me warm.”

I’d never heard that one before, but there was a lot I hadn’t heard before this night.  I am struck at the mention of yet another seemingly healthy, beautiful girl on prescription medication.  I am also amazed at the number of women so eager to parade about half-naked, clearly for the consumption of the far less elegantly dressed men surrounding them, but also quite clearly for their own enjoyment, for the pleasure of their own skin, for the opportunity to taste the Playboy dream, even if only for one night.  You never know when Hef might show up – and clearly he doesn’t even have to be there for these men and women to buy into that dream he still represents.

Hef never showed.  Neither did Scott Baio.