Rays' Evan Longoria, original Hooters girl Lynne Austin and other Tampa Bay voices on Hugh Hefner's death
From Rays reporter Marc Topkin: The passing of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner meant a little more to 3B Evan Longoria and his wife, Jaime Edmondson, a former model and Playmate who lived adjacent to the Playboy Mansion for several years.
Longoria was impressed with the exotic animals and lavish grounds while attending a 2011 Halloween party at the mansion, though he didn't get to meet Hefner, who died Wednesday. "Jaime was sad, she was a little bit broken up over it (Wednesday)," he said.
"She spent two-three years living there; they had a house across the street called the Bunny House that he also owned. ... She was closer than most to him so she was upset. ... It was awesome to go there. I wish I could have spent a little more time there to see it. ... It's definitely the end of an era. "
Charlotte Jean Lambert, 33, Playboy's Miss October 2014 and a St. Petersburg resident, recalls her family being alright with her interest in Playboy even as a kid.
“When I was little, my parents were huge Playboy fans, and my dad used to keep Playboys under a glass table in our house. And when I was 5, I was like, 'I want to be that girl!'," she said. "And he was like, 'Okay, Charlotte, whatever you want to be.' He was such a lover and advocate of Playboy and feminism and women being who they wanted to be and what they wanted to be, and he never stopped encouraging that dream.”
She remembers her first trip to the Mansion like this: "It was Hef's 80th birthday, and even if you were in Playboy, you had to submit to be accepted to a party. It was probably one of the most amazing, humbling and slightly intimidating experiences of my life. ... I got to sit at Hef's table that night, which, for me, was one of the most amazing moments of my life. ... He was shaking his butt, dancing, and I was dancing next to him, playing around. He's really down to earth."
Marissa Everhart, 26, of North Reddington Beach has appeared in Playboy magazines more than 10 times and appeared on the cover of international editions. She's been to the mansion a handful of times for parties and visits; most recently, a month ago, she took her mom there four a tour, but never met Hef.
"Playboy, ever since I was little, has meant a ton to me. My grandma acutally used to bring over these little magazines with the Girls Next Door -- Kendra, Holly and Bridget -- back in the day, and they were always in their little clothing, and that's where I got the dream to become a playmate. It's always been a huge dream of mine. ... Not only does it open doors in the modeling world, but it has opened many different doors, just because of the name that Playboy has had, and the reputation. It's just such a classy magazine to me."
Chris Jericho, pro wrestler, musician and Tampa resident said this: "You put him up there with a guy like Lorne Michaels or Vince McMahon, somebody who created this worldwide brand out of basically nothing. There's never been another one like him, and there never will be, because there never can be."
JIM DAMASKE | Times
Lynne Austin, the original Hooters Girl, in 2012 at the remodeled original Hooters restaurant.
Lynne Austin, the Plant City native who was the first "Hooters Girl" at the original Hooters restaurant founded in Clearwater and also appeared in Playboy, said she remembered Hef as "a very intelligent conversationalist."
In an interview with the AM Tampa Bay radio show, she recounted being taken by surprise by the offer to appear in Playboy, saying that the restaurant's owner had submitted photos of the Hooters girls in hopes of advertising in the back of the magazine.
"They wrote back and said we don't advertise restaurants but we're interested in the girl. That's how it came about," she said. "I polled everyone, my parents, my friends, and everyone was like 'go for it.' ... I honestly feel pretty blessed to be part of two iconic brands, Hooters, and then Playboy." ... On the day of the shoot, "there's a whole bunch of photographers and assistants and makeup and hair and they say when you're comfortable drop the robe. Those three words are kind of terrifying for someone from Plant City, right? I'm sure the first couple polaroids were like deer in the headlights ... and then after that it just became no big deal, because honestly, in those days, you could probably go on Clearwater Beach and see just as much."