Update: Confirmed, once and for all, by the LA Times:

Health officials identified legionella bacteria in a whirlpool spa at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles during an investigation in February that began when people were sickened after attending a fundraiser.

We're not aware of any other “whirlpool spa” (aka, hot tub) in the mansion's outside party area besides the one in the grotto, so — there you have it. Take heed, kids: Pneumonia loves warm bubbly sexytime just as much as the next bunny.

Originally posted March 1 at 11 a.m.

The Los Angeles County Health Department still won't say exactly what caused at least 200 attendees of a February 3 conference at the Playboy Mansion to fall sick in the days that followed, but the cautious new details it released today directly support our original hypothesis, “Pneumonia Outbreak at the Playboy Mansion: Could It Have Festered in the Grotto?

Here's the Health Department's official statement, which confirms a mysterious Playboy Mansion “water source” as containing Legionella bacteria:

To date, approximately 200 individuals associated with this conference have reported illness with symptoms mostly consisting of fever, chills, general discomfort (malaise) and some cough.

In the course of its ongoing investigation, Public Health has identified Legionella bacteria in a sample taken from a water source at the Playboy Mansion, where a social event connected with the conference occurred. This does not however confirm Legionella as the source of the illness, as Legionella bacteria are commonly found in moist or wet environments. “We are still considering several possible causes of illness,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer.

All department officials will tell us is that the statement was released “just to answer questions… We've been receiving questions.” But the Legionella is obviously considered a significant discovery, as we know how stingy they are with their media updates.

Back in February, DN Journal was reporting that at least two attendees of the DomainFest conference had been diagnosed with a type of pneumonia called Legionnaires' disease, which can develop from Legionella bacteria, and ABC News raised that number to four. The rest had symptoms that lined up with Pontiac fever, another possible outcome of a Legionella infection.

ABC also interviewed a Playboy hire who had been working the event, who said innocently: “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.'” From the Weekly's original piece:

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…

The Los Angeles Times is still shying from the grotto theory, instead playing it safe with a cute historical blurb on Legionnaire's Disease that looks suspiciously Web MD-ed, but we're sticking to our original hunch: Totally festered in the grotto.

Poor grotto. What was once so sexy seems now so… damp and mildewed. Almost Gollum-like. In honor of its sexier side, a brief YouTube tribute:


LA Weekly