Express & Star

From West Bromwich pub to Playboy Mansion: Widow of Hugh Hefner releasing tell-all book about 'toxic' life

She's a long way from her humble beginnings living above a once-popular West Bromwich pub.

Crystal with Hugh Hefner

It's six years since Crystal's husband and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died at the age of 91– and now the former Black Country beauty is about to tell her side of the story.

The model is set to reveal the "toxic reality" of the Playboy Mansion in her upcoming memoir 'Only Say Good Things'.

Crystal, now 37 years old, was just 21 when she first met Hefner in the mid-2000s.

Born Crystal Harris in Arizona, she moved to the Ye Olde Rose and Crown on Cape Street in West Bromwich where she lived upstairs at her parents’ pub. The family, including mum Lee Lovitt and dad Ray, later moved to San Diego when she was age eight.

The family left for America in 1991 but Lee’s husband, Ray, died from cancer a year later. After they left the pub it turned to ruin and eventually shut down.

Ye Olde Rose and Crown was the childhood home of Crystal Harris. It has long since closed down.

After meeting 86-year-old Hef, Crystal quit university, where she was a psychology student and the pair started dating.

She soon became one of his many “girlfriends”, travelling the world and attending glamorous Hollywood parties.

Crystal Harris as a child

They were previously due to marry in June 2011, but Crystal called off the engagement when she got cold feet.

Crystal previously said to the New York Post that she was “enthralled” by the “surreal scene”, describing it as "Oh, this is how the other half live".

But it’s only now at 37, she has come to terms with the darker side of her life with Hef in a memoir about her experiences at the Playboy mansion.

The book focuses on the hours of therapy and “deprogramming” Crystal had to undergo after her life with the man who founded the Playboy empire in 1953.

She’s reportedly thrown away all but one of her “bunny girl” outfits, removed her breast implants and spent the past year-and-a-half writing the memoir.

She told The New York Post: “It’s called Only Say Good Things because I had a conversation with Hef and he let me know, ‘Once I go, when I’m gone, please only say good things about me,’”

“I kept that promise for the last five years. After going through a lot of therapy and healing, I realised that I needed to be honest about my time there. The book is about healing from a toxic environment.”

The July 2011 issue of Playboy which made a last-minute addition to the cover after Harris called off her wedding

Shortly after the very first party, Hef called to invite her to move in and be his girlfriend along with the Shannon twins.

At first, Crystal said, she thought, “Wow, I finally belong somewhere and I’m important — by association, but I’m still important. Yeah, it feels good.”

It didn’t take long, though, before “everything kind of unravelled”.

“Everyone was kissing an 80-year-old,” she said.

The widow of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner offers a look at the misogyny of the Playboy mansion, with a glimpse into the final days of one of the most influential men of the 20th century.

The book focuses on how Hef governed the lives of his girlfriends with strict rules on everything from their looks to curfew, and Crystal was forced to compete with other women for her spot in the hierarchy.

She was dubbed a 'runaway bride' by the 86-year-old mogul after she called off their engagement just days before their wedding in June 2011, with 300 guests due to attend. But the pair reconciled and married in a lavish Los Angeles ceremony.

Hef said at the time the didn't care about the 60-year age difference between them.

Crystal was the tycoon's third wife.

Despite the ups and downs, Crystal insisted she was devastated by his death in 2017 and didn’t leave her bedroom for two weeks as she mourned his loss. She was at Hefner’s bedside when he died in 2017, at age 91.

It was a far cry from her earlier life in the Black Country, where a former landlord of the West Bromwich pub said even as a child Crystal was born to entertain.

He said: "Even though Crystal was just a nipper when they were at the pub, she was known for having a belting voice.

"She would join her dad singing. Everyone thought she was amazing. They were known as a very nice family."

He added that punters remembered her father Ray as the "most popular" landlord the pub had ever had.

According to reports, the former Playmate of the Year inherited nothing of his fortune after signing a prenuptial agreement. It is believed that she will be 'looked after' by his family instead, according to reports from the US.

To pre-order Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself visit