Pneumonia Outbreak at the Playboy Mansion: Could It Have Festered in the Grotto? | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Health & Nutrition

Pneumonia Outbreak at the Playboy Mansion: Could It Have Festered in the Grotto?

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Tue, Feb 15, 2011 at 1:08 PM

click to enlarge Girls of the Grotto: Worth subsequent diarrhea?
  • Girls of the Grotto: Worth subsequent diarrhea?
Update: "OK. It Totally Festered at the Grotto."

Updated after the jump: At least one "model" (is that what they're calling 'em these days?) who worked the Febuary 3 Playboy event contracted the bug. VIDEO of her harrowing tale, and more proof it came from the grotto.

Update: The infection count is up to 197 people, according to the Times. Playboy is still hush-hush about whether that toll includes any bunnies. Hey, maybe they're grotto-immune!

So this is gross. And hilarious. And pretty useful, in terms of our archive of Playboy Mansion STD jokes, which was dwindling in the dim light of Hugh Hefner's revived "monogamy."

But this changes everything: Nasty-ass bacteria sweeps Playmate paradise!

As the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday, a group of tech nerds from around the globe congregated at the Playboy Mansion (located in Holmby Hills, within L.A. city limits) earlier this month for their annual DOMAINfest Global conference -- and, in the messy aftermath, dozens have turned up green and vomitous in their respective home countries.

What's the doctor's verdict?

L.A. County health officials are being uber-reserved about declaring an official diagnosis before it's 100 percent verified, as lord knows whose squeaky-clean reputation is at stake, but German news blog DV Mag reports that one Swedish doctor, at least, has identified the bacteria as Legionellosis.

The name alone sends shudders through our groins.

OK, admittedly, the bug is totally sexless. It's more of a lung-dweller, either leading to a mild case of Pontiac Fever (headaches, chills, diarrhea -- kid stuff) or the much more glamorous Legionnaires' disease, a hardcore type of pneumonia.

Which brings us to the scandalous update: At least one attendee (a certain prestigious Markus Schnermann, according to DN Journal) says he has long-standing symptoms of the latter, which could turn deadly, and is being treated with heavy antibiotics.

From Journal editor Ron Jackson, whose ill count had reached 93 people by last Friday:

The sickest victim we are currently aware of - and the only one diagnosed with full blown pneumonia - Markus Schnermann - left a note on Nico Zeifang's Post-Conference Sick List at Facebook today saying, "I still struggle with my pneumonia, waves of fever and very painful coughing. Besides I lost 15 pounds this week. I learned about Legionellosis today and told my doc -- I will see a result of tests on Monday but she changed my medication already to cover this bacteria as well."

Some news outlets are pointing to the mansion's fog machines as a possible habitat for the bacteria, but given our own extensive experience with pneumonia (don't ask), we know it loves warm, damp 'n' cozy water bodies the most.

Don't believe us? Ask Dr. Internet:

There have been several outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease where the cause was traced back to a spa bath. Large numbers of people were infected and quite a number died. You may not have heard of these only because the worst cases occurred in Belgium and the Netherlands. People can be exposed while using a spa bath, but also by just being close enough to it to breath in the fine spray created, e.g. during demonstrations.

Legionella are a particular problem in spa baths because:

• the water is at an optimum temperature for them to grow;

• dirt, dead skin cells etc from the people using them accumulate providing food;

• the piping for the air and water circulation provide a large surface area for the bacteria to grow on; and

• the agitated water forms aerosols and spray via which the bacteria can be breathed in.

Hmmm. Spa bath. Now where would we find one of those around the Mansion? Why, the Grotto, of course! Home to naked chicks making out with each other, drooly guys trying to get in on the action and, from the looks of things, a small colony of totally skeezin' bacteria.

click to enlarge WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia

In LA Weekly cover story "Master of the House of Playboy," we gave a shout-out to the wet-dream corridors of the mansion's notorious pool area:

Parties at the mansion are a hot ticket, fueled by stories of painted ladies and wet, naked encounters in the grotto. Young women are invited to submit photos and apply for free admission, described on the Karma casting site as an "opportunity for beautiful and classy people to attend the most sensational and breathtaking" of events.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health isn't taking interviews, but its press release reads: "An investigation into the cause and extent of illness and into potential sources of exposure is ongoing. Public Health has no information suggesting that this suspected outbreak extends beyond those individuals associated with this conference."

Still, as noted at the Journal, what about all the busgirls who were reportedly working the event? Playboy isn't commenting, but it seems likely that at least a few of their for-hire hotties would have been exposed to the same spray.

Know any buxom Hef types with the sniffles? Probably time for them to go get checked [insert tasteless STD joke here]. Thus proving that it's not just dudes who get the shit end of the stick up at Hefner's geriatric sex kingdom.

Update: ABC7 talks to one fried blonde who says she worked the February 3 event -- then spent the next week in bed with "a really bad headache, a fever between 102 to 103, coughing, body aches and pains." Sounds like a textbook case of the legionellosis to us!

She provides some possible clues to the source of the nastiness:

Because it was cold that night, Rangel says most of the partygoers were concentrated in a large tent.

"It did have fog machines, it had ventilation, there was one part that was blowing in a lot of warm air and I stood right next to it, because I was like, 'Oh, it's warm,'" said Rangel.

Now a week and a half later, with a fistful of medical bills, Rangel says she's sorry she agreed to work the Playboy event. The 31-year-old had hopes it would allow her to network with business leaders, but she ended up spending more time with doctors.

Ba dum tsh!

LA Weekly staff who have been to Mansion (high five!) confirm that its tented areas are attached to the grotto area -- which means that the extremely moist air from the grotto could have easily circulated into the tent o' nerds that fateful night. "Oh, it's warm," indeed...

Anyway, this settles the debate over whether or not the Mansion was to blame for the outbreak, though Playboy is embarrassingly still steadfast in its conviction that "there is no truth in the rumour that anyone caught anything at the Playboy Mansion. Nor is there any evidence. None of the Playboy staff became ill, the deejay was in the middle of the fog and she didn't get ill."

Tell that to poor little Rebecca Rangel, who actually manages to emit a feeble cough during her ABC7 interview:

Ah, the good ol' days, when oral sex wasn't carcinogenic and grottos led to unadulterated sexy time that (generally) didn't result in a bad case of the runs.

Originally posted February 15 at 12:15 p.m.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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