Illustration by Kathryn Rathke
Illustration: Kathryn Rathke

I’m from a small town: Dupo, Illinois. When I did a centerfold for Playboy, my parents were interviewed to see how they felt about it. They were very broad-minded people. There was blowback from the town, little whispers here and there. But my mother ignored them. And my dad said, “If they would have paid me what they paid Candace, I would have done the centerfold.”

I’ve had so many arguments with so-called feminists. They’ll say, “How in the world could you do it? Hugh Hefner’s exploiting these women.” I’ll say, “The whole point of the feminist movement is that women do exactly what they want.” No one had a gun to my head, and I was lucky to have had the opportunity.

I lived in the Chicago Playboy Mansion for about two years. There was a ballroom, a bowling alley, and a pole to slide down to the underground swimming pool. You’d get 24-hour room service — lobster served on a silver tray at 3 o’clock in the morning. The Rolling Stones stayed there. Bill Cosby, sadly, was always there. And Shel Silverstein used to sit on the edge of the girls’ beds and ask them what they thought of songs he would play. It was so surreal, but I just took it for granted.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m an only child, but I have always lived inside my own head. My world is my world, and it’s not affected by outside influences.

My parents split up when I was 2, and my mother married the town drunk. He would rampage around the living room and scream after coming home from drinking all night. I’d have to call my father, who would threaten to come over. It was just a mess. The only place I could find quiet was in the closet with my books. But you know what? If it wasn’t for my stepfather, I’m almost positive I wouldn’t have the drive I have today. I wanted to make my mother proud so she could hold her head up in that community.

When I was on a modeling assignment in Spain, the agents took me and one of my girlfriends to Salvador Dalí’s house for lunch. He showed us around, and it was so strange, just like his paintings — egg-shaped objects everywhere in the backyard and all this gauze. We sat down to lunch, and his wife at the time came out with this huge Betty Boop bow on her head, her lipstick smeared, with this 20-year-old guy she’d been screwing in the back of the house. We all sat there like it was the Brady family.

I didn’t get married till I was 35. Before that, I was floundering in every direction, looking for happiness in all the wrong places. Chuck and I have had maybe one argument in 30 years. We’re together 24/7. We sit across from each other at a partners’ desk in our den. And all my friends know to never separate us at a dinner party.

My husband and I have about 200 really good books — all first editions, many signed. I started my Harry Potter collection at Sotheby’s. Those books were like nothing I’d ever read before. When seven from J.K. Rowling’s father — presentation copies she dedicated to him for Father’s Day — came up for auction, I said, “We’ve got to go see them.” My hands were shaking when I took hold of one, and I wouldn’t stop talking about it. So Chuck bought three of the books for me for Christmas. I really can’t believe they’re mine.

I’m very outspoken, sometimes to my detriment. Call it pushy, ambitious — whichever, it’s worked for me.

When I was younger, I was very insecure. And it’s funny, because those are the years you are at your peak of looking good. But I feel more confident now than I’ve ever felt in my whole life. I see some women kind of freak out about getting older and go in directions I wouldn’t go. When I look in the mirror, I don’t gag, so I feel happy about that.