About rockmommyct

I am a mother, writer, rock and roll musician, and guitar teacher.

How Ex-Playboy Girlfriend Holly Madison’s Memoir Sucked me “Down the Rabbit Hole”

It may come to a surprise to some of my fellow moms, but I was a HUGE fan of “Girls Next Door,” the reality TV show centered on the day-to-day lives of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner (aka “Hef”) and his three live-in girlfriends — Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson. DownTheRabbitHole Cover

While I didn’t watch the show, which aired 2005-2009, regularly, when I did, I found it to be a fun, fluffy, wonderful guilty pleasure — an inside peek at a life I might’ve lived had I been just a shade blonder, gotten a boob job, and high tailed it to Los Angeles in my late teens.

As I watched each episode, I found myself increasingly drawn to Girlfriend #1 Holly Madison — formerly Holly Sue Cullen — who grew up in Oregon and Alaska. While the most serious-toned of the three blonde girlfriends, she was also the only one who seemed to aspire to having a family as well as a career. Beautiful and humble, Holly stood out from over-the-top bubbly Bridget and air-headed Kendra as someone I would enjoy spending time with over a cup of coffee.

So when I finally laid my hands on Holly Madison’s “Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny” on June 23, I simply could not put it down. I finished it in one week. This is a huge accomplishment considering I am raising two toddler sons. (I can barely find time to clean my kitchen most days, let alone read a memoir!)

There are two reasons the book sucked me in from the first page: one, it offered extraordinary insight into the inner workings of one of the most fascinating and salacious lifestyles. I found myself riveted by the descriptions of the rooms (“downscale” touches like Johnson’s baby oil in the poolside washrooms; puppy urine stains on the mansion’s staircases); the ladies who inhabited them (like the girlfriend who solicited other girlfriends for a high-end prostitution ring); and the conversations (such as Hef’s condescending way of explaining old movie plot lines or throwing a fit over Holly wearing red lipstick).

The other reason was that it struck a raw nerve in me. I’m no Playmate or pageant queen (though I was “Miss Nina” at the Baltimore Columbus Day Parade in 1992 and once runway-modeled Uzbekistani clothing for a festival in Washington, D.C.). Still, I know what it’s like to be valued for your looks, or to feel like your best asset is your beauty, a temporary gift.

Being a girlfriend to an old dude like Hef isn’t glamorous, and Holly’s memoir confirms that. Her descriptions of the post-nightclub sex orgies, in particular, are wince-worthy. And while Holly does acknowledge the perks of the Playboy girlfriend lifestyle — like a $1,000-a-week clothing budget — she spares Hef little mercy when she spotlights the ulterior motives behind his seemingly kind, friendly demeanor.

Among other things, the Playboy founder, who is now 89 to Holly’s 35, had a primary interest in keeping up an image that other men would envy. He couldn’t go without a girlfriend for even one day. In reality, says Holly, he threw immature temper tantrums and would play the girlfriends against each other (for example, by complimenting Kendra’s red lipstick just a few years after lambasting Holly for wearing it). The details are so rich and believable that I think it would be difficult for anyone to discredit her (though Kendra, perhaps out of jealousy, is trying).

One might wonder, then, how smart women like Holly or bestie Bridget (who apparently has a master’s degree) would put up with the Hef monster for years on end. Was the prospect of fame really that alluring? If we believe Holly, the answer is yes: Hef always dangled the possibility of better things — a monogamous relationship, a Playboy centerfold spread — just close enough to keep the girls loyal:

“I had to believe that there was a greater purpose for the choices I had made: whether it was to help advance my career or whether it was truly for love,” writes Madison. “And depending on the month, the week, and sometimes even the hour of the day, I would waffle back and forth between precisely why I was living a life as nothing more than ‘Girlfriend Number One’ to a man who was old enough to be my grandfather. I didn’t want to admit that I had sold a bit of my soul for the chance at fame.”

If Holly’s intent was to make me angrier at the double standards imposed on women, then she was successful. By the end of the 405-page read, I found myself almost teary-eyed, cheering on the new mom as a modern-day example of courage, strength, and beauty.

The only thing I’m still bothered by is that the tone of “Down the Rabbit Hole” is about 85% anger and 15% gratitude. Let’s not forget that being Hef’s main squeeze afforded Holly all kinds of opportunities, from celebrity status to the funds to pay off her $7,000 breast implants. Were it not for Hef and the lucky chance that reality TV would take off and make her a household name via “Girls Next Door,” Holly would have probably have left L.A. a long time ago, like most of her friends.

Unfortunately, for far too many women, fame and opportunity comes at great personal cost, whether it’s the woman who stalls childbearing to further her career (only to discover fertility challenges later on), or the woman who must pretend to be turned on by an 80-year-old man in order to have any chance at making more than a waitress’ wage.

And while Holly got her happy-ever-after ending, most women need more than a great pair of fake tits and blonde hair to elevate their careers.

I would love to see the day where a female magazine mogul were wealthy and powerful enough to afford and attract seven 20-something boyfriends. But would anyone watch a show about it? While many men are inspired by the idea of having a harem of young things to cater to their every whim, most women I know need their lady heroes to overcome major challenges and rise above, just like Holly did when she said “screw you” to mansion life.

Ragnar Relay: I did it!

I’m not the best when it comes to team sports. Sure, I played softball and soccer in high school, but when the balls came to me, I’d clam up, get freaked out by the pressure to perform, and just suck. Cross-country and track were more consistent with my independent free-spirited personality, and I excelled in those.

So when I was asked to run the Ragnar Relay in Cape Cod, I enthusiastically signed up. After all, if I’m not doing big things now, in my 30s, before my body really starts to deteriorate, then, when?

The pressure to train wasn’t so intense, or at least not as intense as it was in high school. After all, I was going for the bucket list, not the college scholarship. But finding time to train, to run for hours and hours, was much more difficult than I imagined. The last time I ran a race of any substance, a 13-miler in 2011, I ran whenever and wherever I wanted. Now, I am a mom to two little guys. If one of them is sick, I might miss a workout. Also, I have to run during specific time slots, and balance that “free time” with all my other work and home obligations.

Another big challenge was the lack of sleep. I never sleep before big races, ever (not even the Marine Corps Marathon), and I’ve gone DAYS without more than a few hours of sleep. But the prospect of running a race that is practically built on the premise of getting no sleep (just “rest” on the hard ass floor of an ice hockey rink or a tent) was almost too much to bear. I almost bailed the night before.

But then I remembered that my friends were counting on me. Specifically, my mom pal Heidi, who I’ve always wanted to run with, had flown to Boston to be one of 12, and my friends Sean (also Zack’s best friend) and Kat would be there. So I did it. I got up early, nursed little Logan, and hopped in “Van 1,” my home for the next day and a half.

After what seemed like endless hours of waiting, I finally got to run my leg, Leg 6, the last of my van. I did 4.2 miles, averaging about 8:45 minutes per mile. And then, we were done! Off to a random Italian restaurant that is probably responsible for the 4 pounds I’ve gained over the last month (I wish I was kidding). Lesson learned: If you want to lose weight while running, don’t also eat more. And don’t cut out nursing (or in my case, 50% of nursing).

The hardest runs, but by far the most interesting and euphoric, were the night runs. Leg 6 kicked off at about 4:15 a.m. in stunning, idyllic Hyannis, Massachusetts. The dusk was my backdrop as I ran past lovely streams of water, lighthouses, and residential neighborhoods. 5.5 miles passed, and Van 1 moved on to a campsite.

Our van finished at about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, almost 24 hours after we kicked off the race. It would’ve been nice to stay with the rest of “Blood Sweat and Beers” team but the exhaustion was kicking my ass. Little did I know the one day I’m allowed to sleep in, Mother’s Day, would be met with a 2.75-year-old toddler in underwear ready to potty train at 7 a.m. But that’s OK. One day, when Nathan’s older, perhaps in college, I’ll long for the little guy in the diapers. Being a mom is the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m so grateful for it every day. And I’m also grateful I can still run an 8-something mile. Not sure how much longer I’ll be able to do that, but I’m relishing every moment and every footstep. headlamp selfie

Waiting to Launch

The Delta Sky Lounge isn’t the worst place to spend time while waiting for your flight. But today, as I stew in the aftermath of an overbooked plane and not being able to take off at 7a.m., it feels a bit stuffy. Then again, that could be all the Republicans fresh off the NRA Convention. Unfortunately, it’s not the AmEx lounge in Laguardia. Not even close.

I just hope we can get home safely, to my little boys. I had a lovely time in Nashville with my husband and friends, but it’s time to go home. I wish I had my computer! Going on a vacation trip means I didn’t bring it, so now I don’t know what to do with myself — I can’t really make too many edits to my novel and I can’t work. All I can do is blog, make photo albums on Facebook, watch videos of my kids, and catch up on the Hillary Clinton news.

I hope today gets better soon!

East Village Rocker Mama ReW Takes On ‘Mainstream’ Fashion in TLC Show

Sometimes it can take years before a local musician gets her big moment. For “ReW” Starr, there have been lots of “moments” — getting her song on a major network TV show, launching a local Internet Radio show (ReW & WhO?) that garnered national attention — but perhaps none as big as this: The NYC-bred starlet and mom of two recently scored a spot on the TLC show, “Love, Lust or Run” and is now in the running for the Q104.3 Hottest Mom contest (you can vote for her starting TODAY, April 2!).

Rockmommy recently sat down with Rew (who likes to spell her name with a mix of capital and lower-case letters), to learn more about the TLC experience, and what it was like to revamp her signature punk-rock mama look. Here, she tells us about her TV stint and more.
RM: You recently appeared on the TLC show, “Love, Lust or  Run.” How did you land that? Why did you decide to go on in the first place?
Rew: I landed the TLC show from an ad off Craigslist. I saw something asking “Are you stuck in the 80’s” and duh … it was a no brainer. I had no idea what it was for and there were about three castings so I kept thinking I didn’t make it and BOOM … I was one of the first season ‘make unders’ on Love, Lust or Run! They are now in Season 2, and I probably wouldn’t make the cut this round!!! I went because I actually had a vision of being a ‘sophisticated’ version of myself … like in the classy Cyndi Lauper, Courtney Love ‘couture’ versions. They always have the best hair and clothes. Instead, well, I got a part on a soap opera.
RM: How does your personal taste in fashion reflect your style of music?
Rew: My personal taste in fashion reflects ME so I believe it reflects a colorful expressive style of music. I am addicted to glitter so I suppose any music that has that sparkle to it reflects my wardrobe! A little rough around the edges too, of course. I am always out of the lines and forever Johnny Cash BLACK!
RM: Some people say that how you dress is a reflection of who you are.  If friends could describe you in three words, what would they be?
Rew: Quirky, Rockstar, KooL
RM: Were you happy with the results of the “makeover?” Why or why not?
Rew: I was not happy with the result. All i wanted was hair extensions and long hair (I have a Rapunzel obsession) and they cut it ALL off and gave me hair I can only gag at. I was so sad. The clothes, who cares! The make up was kind of yuck but the HAIR just broke me. Still, the experience of everything was FANTASTIC. I LOVE Stacy London and the crew was amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything — it was a GREAT adventure and I am forever grateful.
RM: Have you adapted your personal fashion style at all since the airing of the TLC show?
Rew: I kind of merged the two, but probably lean more toward my usual style. I was using hair extensions for awhile so i could look in the mirror and now that the hair is starting to grow I am OK. I kept the color they gave me, which is my natural color, so I don’t have roots to deal with right now..  I just want my hair to grow so I’m gonna be patient & not damage it for awhile. The clothes, well I used the dress once for an audition I had as a business woman!! I have kept off some bracelets that were on me for years & am wearing less jewels..sometimez….
RM: You’ve had your radio show ReW & WhO? for a long time! How are things going with that?
Rew: ReW & WhO? keeps going strong. This show I feel chose me since I never set out to be a Web show host or producer. As you know I was asked to be a cohost and then the host quit and it landed in my lap. I feel the show has its own life and I simply manage it. It surely takes over my life because to have a weekly show with soo many guests every week and a once a month in Brooklyn is VERY TIME consuming. We have visions and dreams for the show and we are always  praying for a fairy God sponsor to get us to the next level. Every week we walk away SOOO inspired by all the FABULOUS people out there in this world.
See Rew perform Live: 
Fri., Apr 24: w/ band at Sidewalk Cafe (NYC)
Sun., May 3: w/ band at Otto’s Shrunken Head (NYC)
Mon., May 11: w/ band at Cobra in Williamsburg (Brooklyn)
Sat., May 16: at a festival in New Jersey
See all upcoming dates online at www.ReWandWhO.com

I Finished my First Novel!

Ladies and gentlemen (sorry — my brain is fried and I have daycare pickup in, like, three minutes so that’s the best I can do), my novel is FINISHED! But to be clear, I’ve just finished writing it. Of course, there is the self-whipping, I mean editing, phase, then the beta reading and revision phase, but the writing is done. DONE! I am so excited and haven’t been this excited since Logan was born (and before that, Nathan’s birth). So, yeah, that means this Rockmommy blog is a little bare. And it will probably be a little bare-isn in April too save for an exciting Q&A I’m planning with a local rock mommy hero. But for now, I’ve accomplished another big one on my bucket list. Now, all I need to do is run that 200-mile relay and record a full-length album (oh yeah, and be an excellent mom, hahaha!).

Between Snow Days and Sick Days, It’s Tough to Catch a Break!

For the entire month of February, our part of Connecticut has worn a thick blanket of white show atop its grassy yards and park fields. It’s lovely, as snow always is. Nathan and I built two snowmen. But after the first major storm in January, there was hardly a pause for melting before the next storm was underway. And now, as we inch toward March, I realize I haven’t seen grass in weeks.

It stormed once a week for, like, an entire month. Really, I don’t remember how long it’s been that things were snow-free. It’s all a big, white, snow blur. All I know is that I’ve had to keep the boys home almost every Monday since mid-January, which has made it harder to accept freelance work and teach lessons. I’ve even had to quit a couple of gigs because, as a mom of two toddlers who stays home with them on snow days, I just don’t have the energy to work late into the night when school is closed. Just because it snows doesn’t mean there isn’t laundry to do/fold, dishes to wash, or food to cook.

Then finally, as the threat of new snow and snow days seemed to subside, both my kids came down with a stomach bug. Nathan’s lasted less than a day, but poor little Logan had his for a few of them (no, I still haven’t weaned him off the breast — but in this case that was a good thing!). What that meant for mommy: Keeping both boys home from school on Monday, a day originally intended for working, not watching “Frozen.”

Now (knock on wood), everyone is better. I’m heading out to teach a lesson, and I’ve got some great assignments lined up. The novel is back on (and I finally finished Part 3).

Here’s to warmer days ahead — and by warmer I mean anything over 20 degrees and no snow!