The saying goes, “Behind every great man there’s a great woman”, and Mary O’Connor was just that for Hugh Hefner. For more than 40 years, Mary was the “go to” person for Playboy Mansion staff and all of the bunnies too. Wherever Hugh Hefner went, whatever he needed, Mary was there for him. More than just an assistant or secretary, Mary was the housemother and a very good friend to Hugh, the ladies, and the loving wife to “Captain Bob”.
It was clear to everyone watching The Girls Next Door that Mary was the most loyal woman in Hef’s life. She had seen a lot but said very little and did not pass judgement. She began working at the original Playboy Mansion in Chicago and when Hef moved West, so did she. Fans of The Girls Next Door will remember her as the sweet but tough woman who helped Kendra work on her manners, Bridget schedule her career, and the one person who helped guide Holly through her relationship (and subsequent break-up) with Hef.
I remember watching Mary during the first few seasons and even though she avoided being on camera, her presence was always felt. When the girls knocked on her big wooden door or were summoned to her little office, you knew it was time to get serious. Everyone held her in the highest regard and it was clear that she kept everything running smoothly. In an environment like the Playboy Mansion, things could easily turn into a huge, frat-house-mess, but she presided over everything with class, focus and pulled no punches. She kept the house in order and kept the occupants on track.
One of my favorite moments was when Mary invited the ladies at the mansion to her home for a lovely afternoon of cards.
“Mary O’Connor was Hef’s loyal and trusted personal secretary, social secretary, confidant, executive assistant, housemother, office-wife, and close friend. During the last four decades, Hugh Hefner has operated the Playboy Empire out of her tiny second-floor office, seated on a couch next to her desk. “She gives great phone,” he would lovingly kid about the way she negotiated and carried out his personal wishes and professional business interests. Mary E. O’Connor died Sunday afternoon after a short illness at the age of 84 in Sherman Oaks, California. Mary was surrounded by her brother and close friends at the time of her death.”
Kendra also wrote a touching tribute too.
Hef’s new wife, Crystal Hefner, placed her wedding dress up for auction. Money raised will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Mary’s name.
Even in her passing, her spirit and lessons live on in the lives of everyone she helped. I know she will be missed.