Barbi Benton

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Barbi Benton
Benton in 1977
Barbara Lynn Klein

(1950-01-28) January 28, 1950 (age 74)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation(s)Playboy model, singer, actress
Years active1968–1986
George Gradow
(m. 1979)
PartnerHugh Hefner (1969–1976)

Barbi Benton (born Barbara Lynn Klein; January 28, 1950)[1][2] is an American retired model, actress, television personality, and singer. She appeared in Playboy magazine, as a regular on the comedy series Hee Haw, and recorded several moderately successful albums in the 1970s. After the birth of her first child in 1986, Benton retired from show business.

Early life[edit]

Benton was born Barbara Lynn Klein in New York City to a Jewish family.[3][4] Her father was a gynecologist and her mother worked as an investment counselor.[1]

She grew up in Sacramento and attended Rio Americano High School. She pursued many interests, including scuba diving and playing piano. She also did tearoom modeling of department store clothes while in school. Benton intended to study to be a veterinarian at UCLA, but decided against that career option after realizing she had an aversion to the sight of blood.[1]


Bill Dana (dark jacket), Don Adams (center), Benton, and Hugh Hefner from the TV program Playboy After Dark

At the age of 16, she began to model. Following high school, while attending UCLA, Benton took a job with Playboy to appear on their entertainment show Playboy After Dark at age 18. She began 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 persuaded her to change her name from Barbara Klein to the more "marketable" Barbi Benton. She is credited with persuading 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 often appeared as a dancer on some of the last series of the Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In shows, 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.[5] 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 five 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.

Personal life[edit]

Benton married real estate developer George Gradow on October 14, 1979.[1] They have two children, Alexander and Ariana. They divide their time between homes in Aspen and Los Angeles. Their Aspen home, known as ”The Copper Palace” was designed by architect Bart Prince[6] and featured on MTV's ’’Extreme Cribs’’.[7]



Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country US
1975 Barbi Doll 17 Playboy
Barbi Benton 18
1976 Something New 39 208
1978 Ain't That Just the Way (No U.S. Release)
1988 Kinetic Voyage Takoma


Year Title Peak positions Album
US Country US
CAN Country
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


Television appearances[edit]

  • Playboy After Dark (1968), as herself
  • Hee Haw (1969), as herself
  • Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, as an occasional fifth season dancer
  • 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 Comedy Hour, (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 2-Night (1978), as herself, receiving the UBS Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 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)
  • The Misadventures of Sheriff 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 and Suspense And the Wall Came Tumbling Down (1984) playing Caroline Trent
  • Safe at Home (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

Theater appearances[edit]

  • 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."[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Buchalter, Gail (April 7, 1980). "Former Playmate Barbi Benton Is Heels Over Head in Love with Tycoon George Gradow". People. Archived from the original on June 23, 2013. Retrieved July 20, 2013. She grew up in Sacramento, where her father was a gynecologist and her mother worked as an investment counselor.
  2. ^ "Today's Birthdays". The Wisconsin State Journal. The Associated Press. January 28, 2020. p. B4. Actress Barbi Benton is 70.
  3. ^ Eastman, Janet (June 1980). "Barbi: Discussing the Growing Pains of Life After Hef". Orange Coast. 6 (6): 12. ISSN 0279-0483.
  4. ^ Lambert, Josh (February 24, 2010). "My Son, The Pornographer". Tablet. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Barbi Benton's Dream House".
  7. ^ "Barbi's dream house gets star treatment". August 5, 2011.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.
  9. ^ "A tribute to Barbi Benton". Retrieved September 15, 2023.

External links[edit]