"There’s bells ringing and people running down the corridor. As we left the bathroom, it burst into flames": That time Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards almost burned down the Playboy Mansion

Keith Richards and the Playboy Mansion
(Image credit: Graham Wiltshire/Getty Images, Robert Mora/Getty Images)

If there's one man that's been there and done it all, it's the death-defying, rock'n'roll trailblazer Keith Richards, legendary guitarist of The Rolling Stones. 

While his lengthy career has provided countless stories of wild excursions and rock star excess, as told in his autobiography Life, released in 2010, one memorable tale that is less well known is the time he set fire to the original Playboy Mansion.

In 1972, the band were travelling across the US on the The Rolling Stones American Tour, otherwise referred to as the "Stones Touring Party". During the notorious trek, the rockers would play three nights in Chicago at the International Amphitheatre and set up camp at the star-studded Playboy Mansion - originally situated in Chicago before being relocated to Los Angeles - where they'd take advantage of the copious amounts of drugs, drinks and women provided to them.

Recalling the moment in his aforementioned memoir, Richards explained: “[Saxophonist] Bobby [Keys] and I played it a little far when we set fire to the bathroom. Well, we didn’t, the dope did. Not our fault. Bobby and I were just sitting in the john, comfortable, nice john, sitting on the floor, and we’ve got the doc’s bag and we’re just smorgasbording.”

He continued: “‘I wonder what these do?’ Bong. And at a certain point… talk about hazy, or foggy, Bobby says, ‘It’s smoky in here.’ And I’m looking at Bobby and can’t see him. And the drapes are smouldering away; everything was just about to go off big-time…"

Writing about what happened next, Richards continued: "There was a thumping on the door, waiters and guys in black suits bringing buckets of water. They get the door open and we’re sitting on the floor, our pupils very pinned. I said, ‘We could have done that ourselves. How dare you burst in on our private affair?’“.

Richards revisited the incident during a 2016 interview with Q magazine, noting: “Bobby and I stashed ourselves in this john and were trying everything from the doctor’s bag. Somewhere a fire started. There’s bells ringing and people running down the corridor. As we left the bathroom, it burst into flames.”

While the Playboy Mansion in Chicago survived the accident with no serious damage, Hugh Hefner would soon set his sights on a new location for the magazine's headquarters, and re-establish his famous home in Los Angeles.

Liz Scarlett

Liz works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. Prior to joining Louder as a full time staff writer, she completed a Diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and received a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music Journalism. She enjoys writing about anything from neo-glam rock to stoner, doom and progressive metal, and loves celebrating women in music.