Barbi Benton (born Barbara Lynn Klein; January 28, 1950) is an American retired model, actress, songwriter, television personality, and singer. She is known for appearing in Playboy magazine, as a four-season regular on the comedy series Hee Haw, and for recording several modestly successful albums in the 1970s. After the birth of her first child in 1986, Benton retired from show business to raise her family.
Barbara Lynn Klein
January 28, 1950
New York City, U.S.
|Occupation||Playboy model, recording artist, actress, interior decorator|
|Partner(s)||Hugh Hefner (1969–1976)|
She grew up in Sacramento and attended Rio Americano High School and took all kinds of lessons – from scuba diving to piano – and even did some "tearoom modeling" while in school. She enrolled into UCLA to become a veterinarian, but had to give up that career option as she could not stand the sight of blood.
At the age of 16, she began to model. Following high school, she attended UCLA, and at age 18 took a job with Playboy to appear on their entertainment show Playboy After Dark. She initially started as an extra on the show, but after host Hugh Hefner fell in love with Benton, her role was quickly elevated to co-host. After recording two episodes, Hefner asked the young co-ed for a date. Upon being asked, she reportedly demurred to the then-42-year-old Hefner: "I don't know, I've never dated anyone over 24 before." To which Hefner replied, "That's all right, neither have I." The two began a relationship that lasted several years, and placed Benton in the center of the Playboy enterprise. Hefner convinced her to change her name from Barbara Klein to the more “marketable” Barbi Benton. She is credited with convincing Hugh Hefner to buy the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills in 1974.
Benton (initially credited as Barbi Klein) appeared on the cover of Playboy four times: July 1969, March 1970, May 1972, and December 1985 and in additional nude photo layouts in the December 1973 and January 1975 issues. Though she was featured in a number of photo-essays, she was never a Playmate of the Month. She landed a spot on television's Hee Haw doing short comedy sketches, and subsequently enjoyed a career as a country singer. She also began acting, and appeared in the West German comedy film The Naughty Cheerleader (1970), before appearing as a featured repeat performer on a number of popular television series, including The Bobby Vinton Show in 1976, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Benton lived with Hefner from 1969 until 1976 and is known for discovering the Playboy Mansion West, where Hefner resided until his death in 2017. Years later, when the television series The Girls Next Door visited her in Aspen, Colorado, she expressed gratitude that the two had remained friends.
Benton left Hee Haw after four seasons to concentrate on a more Hollywood-oriented career. She also starred in the short-lived 1977 ABC-TV comedy series Sugar Time!, about an aspiring female rock group and in films including the slasher Hospital Massacre (1982).
Benton achieved some success as a recording artist. Her record "Brass Buckles" (1975) was a top-five hit on Billboard's country singles chart. Benton has recorded eight albums, the last of which she personally produced in 1979. She also composed the songs, sang them, and played piano. One of her better-known songs was "Ain't That Just the Way" (1976). It was a number one hit in Sweden for 5 weeks, was also a major hit for Lutricia McNeal in 1996, and was recorded by the Dutch singer Patricia Paay under the title Poor Jeremy in 1977.
Benton married real estate developer George Gradow on October 14, 1979. They have two children, Alexander (born August 23, 1986) and Ariana (born July 13, 1988). They divide their time between homes in Aspen and Los Angeles.
|1978||Ain't That Just the Way (No U.S. Release)||—||—|
|1975||"Brass Buckles"||5||—||6||Barbi Benton|
|"Movie Magazine, Stars in Her Eyes"||61||—||—|
|"Roll You Like a Wheel" (with Mickey Gilley)||32||—||19||non-album|
|"Ain't That Just The Way (That Life Goes Down)"||74||—||—||Barbi Benton|
|1976||"Staying Power"||—||108||—||Something New|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
- Playboy After Dark (1968), as herself
- Hee Haw (1969), as herself
- Marcus Welby, M.D. (1972), playing Liz in episode: "We'll Walk Out of Here Together" (episode # 4.3)
- The Midnight Special (1973), as herself
- American Bandstand (1975), guest artist
- McCloud (1975), playing Shannon Forbes in episode "Park Avenue Pirates", performed "Brass Buckles" and "Ain't That Just The Way", in character, during the course of the episode
- Nashville on the road (1975), artist
- The Bobby Vinton Show (1976), as herself
- The Sonny & Cher Show, (1977), as herself
- Sugar Time! (1977), playing Maxx Douglas.
- Fantasy Island:
- as Shirley Russell in episode "Poof, You're a Movie Star" (season 1, 1978)
- as Dee Dee Verona in episodes "The Appointment" and "Mr. Tattoo" (season 2, 1978)
- as Bunny Kelly in episodes "Baby" and "Marathon: Battle of the Sexes" (season 3, 1979)
- as Erica Clark in episodes "Playgirl" and "Smith's Valhalla" (season 3, 1980)
- as Molly Delahanti in episodes "The Love Doctor", "Pleasure Palace" and "Possessed" (season 4, 1980).
- episodes "The Devil and Mr. Roarke", "Ziegfeld Girls" and "Kid Corey Rides Again" (season 5, 1981).
- as Marsha Garnett/Carla Baines in episodes "The Man from Yesterday" and "World's Most Desirable Woman" (season 4, 1981)
- as Courtney/Miss Winslow in episodes "House of Dolls" and "Wuthering Heights" (season 5, 1982)
- The Love Boat:
- as Brigitte in episodes "Computerman", "Parlez-Vous" and "Memories of You" (1978)
- as Kiki Atwood in episode "Marooned, parts 1 and 2" (1978)
- as Lucy in episodes "Not Now, I'm Dying", "Eleanor's Return" and "Too Young to Love" (1979)
- as Cathy Somms in episodes "The Nudist from Sunshine Gardens", "Eye of the Beholder" and "Bugged" (1981)
- America 2Night (1978), as herself, receiving the UBS Lifetime Achievement Award
- The Hollywood Squares (1978) as a guest panelist
- Vega$ (1979), playing Holly in episode "Design For Death" (episode # 2.5)
- The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1980), guest
- Doug Henning's World of Magic V (1980), as an assistant in the "sawing a woman in half" illusion
- When The Whistle Blows (1980), playing Dixie, or Miss Ironworker, in episode "Miss Hard Hat USA" (episode # 1.7)
- Charlie's Angels (1980), playing Toni Green in episode "Island Angels" (episode # 5.5)
- Lobo (1981) playing country singer Kitty Rhinestone in episode "The Cowboy Connection"
- CHiPs (1981) playing Sal in episode "Ponch's Angels, parts 1 and 2" (episodes # 4.14/15)
- Tattletales (1982–84) with playing partner George Gradow
- The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour (1983) as a guest panelist
- Circus of the Stars (1982, 1980, 1979), performer
- Matt Houston (1983) playing Ava Randolph in episode "Purrfect Crime" (episode # 1.13)
- Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (1984) playing Susan Lancaster in episode "Catfight" (episode # 2.4)
- Hammer House of Mystery & Suspense And the Wall Came Tumbling Down (1984) playing Caroline Trent
- Safe at Home (ca 1985) playing Connie Simpson in episode "Old Flame"
- Murder, She Wrote (1986) playing Sue Beth in episode "Murder in the Electric Cathedral" (episode # 2.16)
- Riptide (1986), playing Gina Potter in episode "Playing Hardball" (episode # 3.17)
- Barbi Benton Presents: Best Buns On the Beach (circa 1990), host
- Barbi Benton Presents: Stripper of the Year (circa 1990), host
- Hugh Hefner: Once Upon a Time (1992), as herself
- Playboy: The Party Continues (2000), as herself
- Entertainment Tonight (2002), as herself
- Playboy's 50th Anniversary (2003), as herself
- The Girls Next Door, as herself in "Fight Night" (2005), "Guess Who's Coming to Luncheon?" (2007), "Kickin' Aspen" (2008), and "The Wheel World" (2009)
- The E! True Hollywood Story - Hugh Hefner: Girlfriends, Wives, and Centerfolds (2006), as herself.
- Extreme Cribs: Episode 5 (2011), as herself
- Million Dollar Rooms (2012, HGTV), featuring her "Copper Palace" mansion in Aspen, Colorado
- I Love My Life (1982). This production of the hit 1978 Broadway musical comedy co-starred Barry Williams and was performed in January 1982 as part of the annual theatrical series at the La Mirada Civic Theatre in California. Benton received upbeat reviews for her performance as "Chloe."
- Buchalter, Gail (April 7, 1980). "Former Playmate Barbi Benton Is Heels Over Head in Love with Tycoon George Gradow". People. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
She grew up in Sacramento, where her father was a gynecologist and her mother worked as an investment counselor.
- Eastman, Janet (June 1980). "Barbi: Discussing the Growing Pains of Life After Hef". Orange Coast. 6 (6): 12. ISSN 0279-0483.
- Lambert, Josh (February 24, 2010). "My Son, The Pornographer". Tablet. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
- Hinant, Cindy (Winter 2012). "Grids Next Door". Gnome. 1 (1): 48–53.
The California Mansion, or Playboy Mansion West, is a Tudor Gothic mansion in Los Angeles found by then girlfriend, Barbi Benton.
- Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.
- "A tribute to Barbi Benton".