Residents of Aldbury and Tring are mourning the death of one their most flamboyant friends – Playboy impressario Victor Lownes.
The American is perhaps best-known for helping establish Playboy with Hugh Hefner and for running the magazine’s clubs and casinos in the UK throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
He threw 24-hour parties at Stocks, his 14-bedroom Georgian mansion in Aldbury, but he is also remembered as a man who supported the Tring Donkey Derby and handed out Christmas hampers to the elderly. He died last week after a heart attack, aged 88.
“He was a nice guy, always very friendly,” said pub owner Tim O’Gorman, who used to serve Mr Lownes at The Valiant Trooper. “He used to come in both pubs and use the village shop – He was very good to the village.
“You can imagine some of the personalities it brought in when he had parties. As a boy of 18 or 19, I used to sneak into the jacuzzi with the bunny girls, although I know he had a fall-out with Hefner later on.”
Mr Lownes met the Playboy founder in 1954 and he soon became the magazine’s promotion director.
He went on to marry a former Playmate Of The Year - Marilyn ‘Boobs’ Cole from Portsmouth - and they turned Stocks into a country club and conference centre.
Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Tony Curtis and John Cleese were among their guests for raunchy parties at the mansion.
It is said that one party in 1979, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Playboy magazine, involved a fairground, aerobatic displays, and 8,000 bottles of champagne.
“Victor hosted me with a friend to lunch at The Playboy Club where we met racing legend Lester Piggott,” said Richard Halling, who formerly organised the Tring Donkey Derby.
“He was a good friend to the elderly of Aldbury and a great friend to the Tring Donkey Derby organisers.
“He always persuaded three or four bunny girls to grace the event and he held weekend parties at Stocks to coincide with the event.
“Many of his celebrity guests made an appearance on Pound Meadow with Miss World Silvana Suarez joining Red Rum to form the most famous duo ever to visit Tring.
He added: “Thank you Victor – you brought colour to life, showed a generosity of spirit and thought of others.”