Playboy Mansion ‘Tunnels’ Hoax Fools News Media

Stephen Yagielowicz

LOS ANGELES — In a lesson on due diligence for journalists everywhere, the recent revelation by Playboy that its famous mansion was underlaid by tunnels to celebrity homes, has proven to be a hoax.

While the company’s story did not bear an April 1 post date, it has turned into an April Fool’s joke about the desperation of journalists to fill a 24/7 news cycle, where stories are parroted (and pirated) from site to site, with little to no fact checking getting in the way of daily quotas.

In this example, an article on showcased “a treasure trove of old photos, plans and blueprints,” that reputedly guided builders in their construction of a network of secret hidden tunnels under Los Angeles, which connected the Playboy Mansion with homes of celebrities Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Kirk Douglas and James Caan, which the site says all lived near the mansion during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

“There are no dates on the architectural schematics, but the dates on the Polaroids were from 1977,” the Playboy article states. “We asked if we could see the tunnels. A staff member said, off the record, ‘I heard they were closed up sometime in 1989.’”

Playboy reported that further investigation of the secret tunnel story led to dead ends and “no comments.”

The story was picked up, wrapped up and spread far and wide by everyone from to Vanity Fair, from Esquire to People — and an innumerable range of blogs and other news sites beyond.

The problem is, the story was a hoax — generating numerous headlines for the venerable Playboy brand — while underscoring the dangers of easy newsgathering and the high pressure of competing in today’s endlessly looping news cycles.

Remember, just because you read it on the Internet, that doesn’t make it true!