“With the creation of the brand, Hefner defined the sexual revolution and allowed for the freedom of sexual expression,” a press release describes the series. “Yet intertwined with the glossy facade of a world that seemingly celebrated women was a more sinister reality that for decades allowed nefarious conduct including sexual assault and drug abuse to flourish, and where prostitution, suicide and even murder lurked in the shadows.”
It continued, “The series explores how the Playboy machine was a powerful force that, at its worst, manipulated women in a toxic environment, silencing their voices, pitting them against one another, and opening the door to sexual predators.”
One such person left in its wake was Hefner’s executive secretary, Bobbie Arnstein. But how did she die?
Arnstein Died of an Apparent Suicide
According to The New York Times, Arnstein died of an apparent suicide in 1975. The publication reported the 34-year-old died “of lethal doses of three prescription drugs in the locked room of a second-class hotel where she was registered under an assumed name.”
Per Timeline, some people in her life claimed she began a depressive episode 10 years prior to her death after crashing a car in Kentucky that resulted in her fiance’s death.
Hefner referred to his late aide as “emotionally troubled” with two previous suicidal incidents, reported The New York Times. However, he pointed to a federal investigation as pushing her over the edge.
In a news conference at the time, documented by the publication, Hefner insisted her death came as a result of a rigorous Federal investigation into narcotics use at the Playboy mansions in Chicago and Los Angeles. The Playboy founder called it “a politically motivated anti‐Playboy witch hunt.”
Arnstein Was Arrested Before Her Death
Before her death, Arnstein was arrested on drug possession charges outside the Playboy’s Chicago mansion, where she resided according to The New York Times.
Along with two men, she was convicted for “conspiring to distribute a half‐pound of cocaine,” the publication revealed. She received “a conditional sentence of 15 years and was free pending an appeal at the time of her death.”
However, she maintained her innocence in a letter found after her death according to The New York Times. Directed to her attorney Keith Stroup, she instead claimed to have “personally only indulged in occasional drug use.”
Described as “disjointed and rambling,” the outlet added that the letter called her famous boss “a staunchly upright, rigorously moral man—and I know him well and he has never been involved in the criminal activity which is being attributed to him now.”
Was There a ‘Contract’ out on her Life?
United States Attorney James R. Thompson rebuffed Hefner’s claims. Instead, he claimed there was a hit on Arnstein’s life, reported The New York Times.
“We don’t conduct headhunting prosecutions,” he said in an interview, according to the outlet. “The notion that we have targeted on Hefner is wrong. I believe firmly that a public servant’s reputation is measured by the quality of his whole work. The notion that I’m out for his scalp because of some political motivation is self‐flattering on his part.”
He instead insisted that he “summoned” Arnstein and Stroup after receiving information from “two reliable separate sources,” that “a contract” was out for her life, the publication reported. He provided no additional details on the supposed hit or the scope of the narcotics investigation.
The A&E docuseries “Secrets of Playboy” premieres on Monday, January 24, 2022, at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times.