Something Old, Something New
by Abby Aguirre February 28, 2011
There are May-December marriages, and then there is Crystal Harris and Hugh Hefner, twenty-four and eighty-four, respectively, whose engagement, when it was announced by Hefner on Christmas Eve, via Twitter, attracted particular interest. The founder of Playboy told his hundreds of thousands of followers that he gave Harris, 2009’s Miss December, “a ring,” leaving open the question of what sort of ring it was.
“He did it on purpose,” Harris said on a recent Monday morning. “Once he had everyone, like, hanging for a day, he wrote, ‘To clear things up, the ring I gave Crystal was an engagement ring.’ ” Harris, who wore a black tank top, a white miniskirt, and black boots, was sitting at a glass table in a small room off the Playboy Mansion’s kitchen, eating scrambled egg whites before a day of bridal errands. “And then all of a sudden it was everywhere,” she said. “I had, like, fans in Sweden, Slovakia, Russia—everywhere.”
A little more than two years ago, Harris was a senior at San Diego State University. She and a friend drove up to the mansion for a Halloween party, where, dressed as a French maid, she caught Hefner’s eye. Two weeks later, she quit school and moved into the mansion. “I was a psychology major, and I didn’t want to be a psychologist,” she said. “I thought it would be cool to come up here and just, you know, hang with Hef. School will always be there, I guess.”
She starred in the following season of “The Girls Next Door,” a reality show about the women who live at the mansion. In her December centerfold, she wore a black bowler hat, a sprig of holly tucked in its band. (Turn-ons: “Real-life Prince Charmings.” Turn-offs: “Muscle heads with too much hair product.”) She is recording an album, developing a makeup brand, and designing a line of workout clothes. She tweets frequently. (Twitter bio: “Entrepreneur/Playmate/Hefs girl.”)
It was Harris who set up Hefner’s Twitter account. At first, Hefner wrote his messages on paper, counting the characters himself, and Harris would tweet them. Now he uses an iPad.
The marriage proposal was not wholly a surprise. The subject had been discussed the previous summer. “He asked me, ‘If I were to ask you to marry me, would you say yes?’ And I said, ‘Of course,’ ” she said. “So then Hef’s secretaries measured my ring finger.” Coming after the departure of Hefner’s other two girlfriends, the identical twins Karissa and Kristina Shannon, the announcement elicited an additional line of speculation: Was Hugh Hefner in a monogamous relationship?
“Yeah, it’s just us,” Harris said. “I mean, Hef has, like, had sex with a lot of people throughout the years, and that’s not important to him anymore.”
Harris recently shot a second Playboy spread. “It’s kind of just a romantic, roaming-around-the-mansion type thing.” It will be published this June, which is also when the wedding will take place.
A little after noon, Harris arrived at Panache, a bridal salon in Beverly Hills. Two dresses, both by the designer Romona Keveza, had been sent from New York. A saleswoman accompanied Harris into a dressing room. Kellie Olisky, a Playboy publicist and default wedding planner, was sitting in a red velvet chair, typing e-mails on a Droid.
The first dress—blush pink, strapless, and mermaid-like, with silk-organza rosettes on the lower part—drew gasps. Harris spun around on a pedestal surrounded by mirrors.
“Do you want to walk down the runway?” a saleswoman asked, pointing to a raised red carpet that led to another set of mirrors. “You can see yourself from a distance.”
The second dress—ivory, strapless, with a fuller bell at the bottom—did not draw the same level of gasps. “I like the other one,” Harris said.
She considered a possible reception dress and four bridesmaid dresses. (“One sister is in Idaho,” Olisky said. “She might need a sleeve.”) The palette was to be low-key. “We want to have everything very muted—on the tablecloths, silver and white, and maybe a blush underlay,” Olisky said. “That way, it stays very romantic.”
Next stop: Hansen Cakes, on Fairfax. On the street, a window belonging to a different bakery briefly caught Harris’s attention. It displayed a cake in the shape of breasts in a push-up bra. “Wait, do we want a boob cake?” she said. Inside the Hansen Cakes showroom, cake replicas stood on banquet tables. Decisions on shape were made swiftly: round rather than square; four tiers rather than three; stacked layers rather than columns. Choosing a filling was trickier.
“Strawberry’s good,” Harris said. “Like, cake that has strawberries in it? So good. And Hef likes that kind, too. He eats the same thing every day. He has chicken-noodle soup every day at five o’clock.”
“Lipton’s,” Olisky said.
It was decided that white-chocolate shavings, an echo of the rosettes on the dress, would make the best cake décor. “The whole theme of it is going to be very romantic,” Olisky said.
While Olisky took pictures of Harris eating forkfuls of cake, Monique Hansen, the shop’s owner, put a few pieces in a box for the groom. “I’ve been selling Hef cakes for years,” she said. “Hef’s had a lot of cake.” ♦
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