Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion

I talk to author Jennifer Saginor (website, interview, MySpace) Dec. 28, 2006.

Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to become when you grew up?"

Jennifer: "A lawyer. My father [Dr. Mark Saginor] was always argumentative and I was always debating him. I thought that if I went to law school, I'd learn how to argue well and stand up for myself."

Luke: "How do you see yourself? As a writer?"

Jennifer: "A writer, definitely. Before this book, I wrote screenplays. I've been working in the business since college."

Luke: "What triggered you writing this book?"

Jennifer: "I was at odds with my parents. I was really upset. I was very angry at them and I wasn't sure why. I realized that I didn't know how to get along in society. I wasn't taught basic skills. My values were off. I was searching for the truth. I had two self-absorbed parents who neglected their children. I didn't know how parents could bring children into this world and then emotionally abandon them.

"When I was in highschool, I thought everyone was on drugs. I thought everyone was bisexual. I thought everyone had neglectful parents."

"I quit drugs after college. They were an escape from reality. I went to some 12-step meetings."

"I do believe in God. I don't know if I believe in organized religion even though I'm Jewish. I definitely believe I've had someone watching out for me.

"If I didn't believe in something greater than myself, I probably would've committed suicide. If I didn't believe in a higher meaning to life through my writing and trying to reach people and have themes in my writing that raise awareness even subconsciously...

"I'm almost done with my next book -- CHIP Girl. The character falls into running high-stakes celebrity poker games."

Luke: "How did your family react to your book?"

Jennifer: "Poorly. It's annoying because I watered down all their characters. I made them all look human instead of how they really are. My mother almost ran me over in a 2007 Bentley two weeks ago in Beverly Hills. You know it's bad when your own mother almost runs you over in the middle of Beverly Hills.

"She didn't even blink. She didn't even say hi to me.

"I ran into my sister at a hair salon a month ago. I said, 'It's so good to see you. Maybe we can make amends.' She's having children. I thought we did make amends. I called the hair salon [Neil George in Beverly Hills] a couple of weeks later to book a color and they said, 'I'm sorry. We can't accommodate you here. Your mother and sister are better clients than you. They've been here longer. We're sorry but you're going to have to find another hair salon.'

"They're allowed to do it because it's a referral-only place."

"My mother feels like she was a good parent. You'd think that she'd forgive me and understand that I needed to do this for therapeutic reasons... She remarried some multimillionaire and spoils my sister to death and wouldn't even know if I was run over and dead in the street. They give a lot of money to the Jewish Federation and Beit Teshuva (she's on the board). They're big on giving money to strangers.

"My father is upset with me because he says he didn't give out drugs. Out of the whole book, that's it. I didn't want to remind him of the Fox 11 expose two years ago that all my friends saw."

"I feel bad that I don't have any family ties. I don't speak to any of them. My grandfather passed away last year at 97."

Luke: "What does your dad do?"

Jennifer: "He plays poker every day."

"I believe in everything Hef believes in -- free speech, free expression... These girls have a choice about exposing themselves. Overall, Playboy is good. I am not a feminist. My experiences with my parents had nothing to do with Playboy."

Luke: "I find it amazing that you are still invited to parties at the Playboy mansion."

Jennifer: "I portrayed him in a positive light. I've looked up to him my whole life. I've only spoken highly of him. I've always looked at him as a role model. He was always god growing up. That's how everyone looked at him except for the mothers."

Luke: "How do you decide what is right and wrong?"

Jennifer: "I just go with how I feel. I don't really care how other people view me."

Luke: "How do you keep yourself from getting caught up in the Hollywood high life?"

Jennifer: "I'm home writing."

Saginor spent about 20 years in therapy. "I finally realized it just wasn't helping."

Luke: "What is your greatest source of happiness?"

Jennifer: "Being with my dog Bella. She passed away this past year at seven. She was like my child and my best friend. Having that unconditional love from the dog... I've never experienced that. My parents were so self-absorbed."