Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Name: Barbi Benton
Birthdate: January 1, 1970
Famous Years: 1970-1986
Currently Known For: Semi-Retired Actress
|Networth: $20 Million||Famous For: Playboy Model, Singer, Actress|
January 1, 1970
Playboy Model, Singer, Actress
Playboy magazine might not be as popular as it once was, but the publication that’s been synonymous with adult entertainment has certainly made a lot of stars. One of the more notable from the 1970s was Barbi Benton.
Benton was born on January 28, 1950 in New York City, though she would grow up in California after her family moved there while she was very young. When she was a teenager, Benton got into modeling that helped her make a name for herself, and didn’t have to wait long to get her big break.
That’s because shortly after turning 18 years old, Benton had landed a job with Playboy magazine when they were branching out into television with the series “Playboy After Dark”. Benton had been hired as a background character, but would end up getting a starring role when she started dating Playboy founder Hugh Hefner after just a couple of episodes.
“He came up to ask me what I was so diligently working on,” she said when they met as she was a student at UCLA. “I told him I was studying for school. He liked the fact that I was a co-ed and that I went to UCLA. We were talking about my schooling and what I was studying, and he asked me if I would go out with him. The first thing he asked me was if I would mind if he held my hand.”
At the time, Hefner was 42 years old while Benton was just 18, so it did raise a lot of eyebrows, but most had become accustomed to Hefner’s ways. In addition to the television series, Benton appeared in the magazine several times and branched out beyond Playboy. There had been many television shows that had come calling, including “Hee Haw” in 1969.
Benton and Hefner’s relationship would last for several years before they called it quits in 1976, though it certainly wasn’t the end of Benton’s fame. She would star in several television shows that included “Fantasy Island” and “The Love Boat”, as well as a few films during the 1970s. However, it was a music career that had Benton more interested.
In 1975, Benton would release a pair of albums (called “Barbi Doll” and a self-titled album) that would both reach the top 20 on the US Country charts under the Playboy music label. In 1976 and 1978, she would release albums called “Something New” and “Ain’t That Just the Way”. Benton would release one more album afterward entitled “Kinetic Voyage” in 1988, though her final two albums didn’t reach the charts.
Benton could have had a longer career in show business, but chose to walk away for the most part in the 1980s. After her relationship with Hefner ended, Benton started a relationship with real estate mogul George Gradow. The two would become married in late 1970, and they’ve been together ever since.
Benton wanted to focus on raising her family, as she’s had two children with Gradow throughout the years. She had a son named Alexander that was born in 1986, and a daughter that was born in 1988.
Benton hasn’t vanished from show business completely, though, as she’s been featured in documentaries about Playboy and reality series that include the Hugh Hefner show “The Girls Next Door” that found a lot of success while on the air. Most recently, Benton made an appearance in 2012 on the reality series “Million Dollar Rooms” that showcased her home in Aspen, Colorado where she currently spends her winters.
Even though Benton and Hefner didn’t have a lasting relationship, the two were very friendly following their split up until his death in 2017. Upon his passing, Benton said that “I cried all night. I was a basket case.” After all, she was the one that helped to found the Playboy Mansion that’s become one of the more famous houses in the world.
Benton would meet with Hefner many times, choosing to talk in person as his hearing started to go. When talking about the final time that she met with Hefner, Benton said that “I went up to the Mansion and rather than sit where other people were, he wanted to sit with me privately. When I was there for a party or a small get-together, I never got to talk to (Hefner). So we went to one of the rooms in the Mansion and behind closed doors we had the most amazing conversation about old time. We just had a great talk.”
Now 68 years old, Benton probably isn’t eyeing a full-time return to entertainment even as her children are now in their 30s. That doesn’t mean that she won’t make the occasional appearance on television or talk about the relationship that made her famous. She’s even talked about the impact that Hefner has had with his magazine, saying that he “had a lot to do with women making more money and getting better jobs. He’s had a huge impact on the entire world, and I think that’s for the better.”