Reactions from 'The Girls Next Door' to Hugh Hefner's death

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Kendra Wilkinson, Bridget Marquardt, Hugh Hefner, and Holly Madison at Spike TV’s 2nd Annual Guys Choice Awards in 2008. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

When the reality show The Girls Next Door debuted in 2005, it opened the doors to the Playboy Mansion — and the late Hugh Hefner’s eccentric lifestyle with his three live-in girlfriends. The show also brought the Playboy brand to a new audience — women, who were pretty surprisingly the majority of viewers tuning in to see the exploits of the controversial lad mag mogul’s favorite trio of blondes.

None of the original stars of the E! Entertainment Television show — Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson, or Bridget Marquardt — ended up Mrs. Hefner, and after Season 5 they moved on with their lives and spinoffs. The final season featured his new girlfriends, the Shannon twins and Crystal Harris, who later became Crystal Hefner. Following Wednesday’s news that Hef had died from natural causes at the age of 91, loads of stars have reacted, but here we round up those of The Girls Next Door, who had the Playboy founder to thank for their stardom — though that doesn’t mean all of their memories are positive.

Holly: Let’s get right to it because you know this is the one you really want to read. Hef’s “main girlfriend” — whose relationship with him ended in 2008 and she went on to write a headline-grabbing tell-all, Down the Rabbit Hole, talking about how sex with him was miserable — is keeping her lips sealed. (It seems the personality who went on to appear in Holly’s World is following the old adage: If you don’t have anything nice to say…) A publicist for 37-year-old Madison, who married Pasquale Rotella in 2013 and has two kids, tells Yahoo Entertainment, “There won’t be any statement made at the moment.” That alone is telling.

Kendra: The Kendra on Top star, 32, left the show to pursue a relationship with (and ultimately marry) footballer Hank Baskett, but she always maintained a positive relationship with Hef. That’s the takeaway of her statement following his death: “Hef changed my life,” she told the Associated Press. “He made me the person I am today. I couldn’t be more thankful for our friendship and our time together. I will miss him so much, but he will be in my heart forever.” She later posted some tweets, including one that said, “Can’t really put in to words how I really feel. It’s easy to say he will be missed and how much I loved him. There’s a lot more than that.” At no time was Wilkinson’s loyalty to Hef more evident than after Madison’s book came out — and the mom of two publicly feuded with her former roomie, blasting her claims.

Bridget: “So sad but forever grateful for all the wonderful memories and amazing experiences,” Marquardt, 44, tweeted following the news with the hashtags “#RIPHef” “#Playboy.” After moving out of the house, she briefly hosted Bridget’s Sexiest Beaches on Travel Channel, but it was canceled after one season. She kept in touch with both Holly and Kendra, not taking sides in their feud over the book, and also Hefner — until a few years ago. On Australia’s The Morning Show in July, she said, “I was still going back to some of the parties. Occasionally, my boyfriend [Nick Carpenter] I would go back. I was still in touch with Hef — and then we kind of lost contact.”

Crystal: She joined the Girls Next Door in the final season after the original trio moved out, sharing screen time with the Shannon twins. After Hef let Holly get away by not settling down, he did get engaged to Crystal, 31. They called off their first wedding (just days before “I do”), but later tied the knot in 2012 and she remained with him until he died. She hasn’t yet issued a personal statement, but was included in the one released by Cooper Hefner, the Playboy founder’s son, who is also the chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises. After talking about Hefner’s “exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer,” it was noted that he “will be greatly missed by many, including his wife Crystal.”

Hugh Hefner and his wife, Crystal Harris Hefner, attend Playboy Mansion’s annual Halloween bash at the Playboy Mansion in 2014. (Photo: Getty Images)

Kristina and Karissa Shannon: The pair, who were Hef’s last girlfriends before he settled down with Crystal, were “inconsolable” after being contacted with the news of his death. “Our faces are swollen from crying,” the 27-year-olds told website the Blast. “He was everything to us. No matter what happened in our lives he was always number one and ALWAYS had our back. Our love we shared was unconditional something many don’t get to experience in life. He helped us understand who we were. We had enough memories and fun to last forever!” They also shared that they were appearing on Good Morning America — and asked that their social media followers “be respectful and be kind” and refrain from posting anything “negative.”

Kristina Shannon, Hugh Hefner, and Karissa Shannon arrive at the 2012 MusiCares Person of the Year Tribute to Paul McCartney in L.A. on Feb. 10. (Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Hef hadn’t appeared publicly for some time before his death — the most recent photos of him on Getty Images are from May 2016. His son Cooper said that his notorious playboy father didn’t want to be photographed strolling with a walker or fiddling with his hearing aids. However, he still enjoyed visits from his oldest friends for weekly dinners and film screenings.

It was announced on Wednesday night that Hefner died peacefully from natural causes at the Playboy Mansion. He was surrounded by his loved ones.

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