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This Is Why Playboy Bunnies Are Feuding Over Hugh Hefner Allegations

A new docuseries has led to a rift among those who were close to the late publisher.

Over the past few weeks, the A&E docuseries Secrets of Playboy has been the source of several bombshell claims about Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner and life in his Playboy Mansion and clubs, particularly for women. But while some individuals have shared their painful recollections about their dealings with the late pop culture figure, others have spoken out in support of Hefner's memory, even going so far as to harass the former—and call them liars. In a new interview with The Los Angeles TimesPJ Masten, a 71-year-old former Playboy Club "Bunny Mother," claims that she's received insulting and threatening messages from other Playboy Bunnies for what she says in the documentary. Read on to find out more about the rift within the Playboy community and why Masten says she's "frightened of these vicious women."

RELATED: Holly Madison Says She Feared Hugh Hefner Would Blackmail Her If She Left Him.

Masten makes some serious allegations in the documentary.

PJ Masten in "Secrets of Playboy"

Masten, a former Playboy Bunny, became a Bunny Mother for the women living in the mansion in 1975, after being injured in an accident. She makes many disturbing claims in Secrets of Playboy, including that she and other Bunny Mothers were instructed to report changes they observed in the bodies of the Bunnies and that not only was it a frequent occurrence for women to be harassed and assaulted on Playboy properties and by its clients, but that Hefner was complicit in covering up those assaults. (Other interviewees claim that Hefner himself was controlling and abusive.) While she wasn't allowed to take any women in her care to the hospital, Masten was meant to calm them down. "My job was to pick up the pieces," Masten says in the doc, via Insider.

She says she's received backlash from fellow former Bunnies.

Hugh Hefner and Playboy Bunnies in 1970
Victor Crawshaw/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Masten told the LA Times that she's received death threats and harassment on social media since her claims became public. "It's all from Bunnies," she said. "These are 85-year-old women running around with their bunny ears on, and I'm bursting their bubble. Being a Bunny was the best experience of my life. It was a great sorority of sisters. But the filth and language they're attacking me with? I'm frightened of these vicious women."

Another woman who alleges abusive activities by Hefner in the documentary, his ex-girlfriend Sandra Theodore, told the newspaper that her own children didn't understand why she began speaking out in recent years since she had come to look at her Playboy past in a different light. She also explained that she feels vulnerable when she's out in public. "I don't think anybody wants this kind of fame. Why would I throw myself under the train and expose things that are so humiliating and embarrassing?" Theodore said.

Hefner's supporters sprang to his defense.

Hugh Hefner in 2008

Hefner died in 2017, but Playboy and his supporters have spoken out in response to the allegations in the docuseries and the docuseries itself.

Ahead of the series premiering, Playboy posted an open letter that states, in part, "We trust and validate women and their stories, and we strongly support the individuals who have come forward to share their experiences." The letter also notes that the Hefner family no longer has any involvement in the publication, adding, "Today, our organization is run by a workforce that is more than 80 percent female, and together we are building upon the aspects of our legacy that have made a positive impact, including serving as a platform for free expression and a convener of safe conversations on sex, inclusion and freedom."

But there are those who have been vehement in their defense of Hefner's legacy. In January, his son, Cooper Hefner tweeted, "These salacious stories are a case study of regret becoming revenge," which is a common talking point among those who believe that the accusers are attacking the free way of life Playboy purported to promote. He also facilitated the circulation of another open letter—this one signed by hundreds of Hefner's friends and colleagues, along with many former Bunnies.

"From all we know of Hef, he was a person of upstanding character, exceptional kindness, and dedication to free thought," the letter reads, in part, as reported by People. "He demonstrated a commitment to living an honest life beyond everything else … I proudly sign this letter in recognition of Hugh Hefner's character amid unfounded allegations in the A&E show."

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The director denies accusations of bias.

Sheila Levell, Hugh Hefner, and Holly Madison in 2003
Robert Mora/Getty Images

Some of Hefner's defenders have accused Secrets of Playboy director Alexandra Dean of setting out to paint a negative picture of the publisher. The Playboy founder's friend and former social secretary Alison Reynolds was interviewed for the docuseries and now regrets it, claiming to the LA Times that all that was left of her lengthy conversations on camera were "little snippets making me out like I'm some dumb [expletive]."

"I wanted to throw something at the television when I saw that first hour… " she said. "I told the director … [Hefner] was a gentleman. If you didn't want to have sex with him, that was fine. There were plenty of other girls who did.' I told her I hope I never see her again. I hate this woman for what she has done to Hef."

"I didn't cut anyone from the series because they had more positive recollections," Dean told the publication. "I did include many supportive voices but also included the stories of abuse that kept surfacing, sometimes from women who wanted me to know the truth but did not want to go on camera. It's also important to note there were negative stories we chose not to include because they did not meet our standards for reporting."

RELATED: Holly Madison Says Anyone Moving into the Playboy Mansion Had to Do This.

Sage Young
Sage Young is the Deputy Entertainment Editor at Best Life, expanding and honing our coverage in this vertical by managing a team of industry-obsessed writers. Read more
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