Playboy’s Miss October 2010 Claire Sinclair shows her excitement at the podium after Hugh Hefner announced she won Playmate of the Year on Friday at the Palms. Sinclair, 19, is the youngest winner since the 1960s. (Photo courtesy Erik Kabik/Retna/

Playboy’s youngest Playmate of the Year in nearly half a century admits she was in hot water before her coronation.

Word leaked months before Claire Sinclair, 19, was introduced Friday as the face of Playboy for 2011.

“I got in trouble for that,” she acknowledged a few hours before the official announcement at the Palms.

“But I’m not in charge of the broadcasting at E!” she said, sort of squirming in a hotseat next to Hugh Hefner during an interview with Vegas Confidential in a Palms suite.

Sinclair was referring to a slip during her appearance on “Holly’s World” filmed months ago with galpal Holly Madison. E! cable television network kept the scene in and basically scooped Playboy, its partner on the “Girls Next Door” franchise.

I called Madison on Saturday for her perspective on the flap.

“Claire was told she could say it (on the last episode). She would never have brought it up.”

Madison said she heard E! executive producer Kevin Burns “was concerned that Hef was upset about it. Kevin got permission from Hef but everybody forgot about that."

Burns and Hefner have worked together for many years, she said. "Hef just forgot about it."

Personally, said Madison, “I think (the leak) did a lot of good. In the end it brought more attention to Claire and the Playmate of the Year.” It didn’t hurt that ratings for “Holly’s World” took off in the second season, she said, adding they were much higher than “Girls Next Door.”

During the pre-announcement interview Friday, I asked Hefner what separated Sinclair from the competition.

“Part of it, probably, is fairly obvious.”

Meaning, she’s a knockout.

“It is not related,” he said, “in any manner, shape or form for the fact that she happens to be dating my son. The (PMOY) decision preceded the dating.”

He continued, “I think it was obvious to me from very early on because she represents, uh, she has a particular kind of look that is classic and iconic and reminds one very much of the pinups of the past.

“She is kind of a cross between Bettie Page, who was an early Playmate, and Barbie Benton. She is a bigger version of Barbie. Barbie was more petite.”

The effervescent Sinclair laughed and added “New and improved.” She happens to be the spokesmodel for the Bettie Page fashion boutique at Miracle Mile inside Planet Hollywood Resort.

Continuing, Hefner said, “The pictorial is dedicated to and a tribute to the pinup phenomena of the past. It is something you will not forget because it is inspired by a number of the great calendars and pinups from the 40s and 50s.“

Sinclair: “They did a great job of replicating what they used to do back then. It’s amazing how they did that. Steven Wayda, who worked on my shoot, did a sensational job at recreating and making it look like a George Petty IV bargain painting.”

Sinclair wore her gown to the media interviews.

It was designed by The Blondes, who work for Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Katy Perry.

“They’re responsible for all the ridiculous fashions that you see on the runway. They have a very eccentric taste and I love it. And I hope to work with them in the future.”

Hefner said he asked Wayda “to look back at classic pinup art of World War II and immediately after that and use that as the inspiration and he did it beyond anything I could have imagined.

Sinclair interjected, “There’s actually one shot that I am very fond of in the spread that is an exact replica of Bunny Yeager (a former model-turned-pinup photographer). She did majority of the photos that you see of Bettie Page. She’s holding two (jaguars) in the photo of Bettie Page and we replicated it and we did an awesome job.”

There’s another, Hef said, that’s inspired by a George Petty pinup. "It’s a bunny and that George Petty pinup actually hung on my bedroom wall when I was in high school. I have a copy of it in my bedroom now.”

Sinclair said she was under the impression she was the youngest Playmate of the Year.

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia on the Internet, the youngest Playmate of the Year was Donna Michelle, who was 18 when she won it in 1964. Jo Collins (1965) and Christa Speck (1962) both were 19. Collins made headlines later when she married pitcher Bo Belinsky of the Anaheim Angels.

Sinclair turns 20 on May 25.

–NORM CLARKE, Vegas Confidential

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