A Playboy Bunny is a waitress at the Playboy Club. The Playboy Clubs were originally open from 1960 to 1988. The Club re-opened a location The Palms Hotel in Las Vegas from 2006 to 2012. Bunnies wore a costume called a "bunny suit" inspired by the tuxedo-wearing Playboy rabbit mascot, consisting of a corset, bunny ears, a collar, cuffs and a fluffy cottontail.
Origin of name
Bunny's Tavern was named for its original owner, Bernard "Bunny" Fitzsimmons, who opened for business in 1936. Serving daily food specials for a mere thirty-five cents, as well as ten-cent draft beers, Bunny's catered to locals and University of Illinois students alike. One of those students (in the late 1940s) was Hugh Hefner.
Hefner formally acknowledged the origin of the Playboy Bunny in a letter to Bunny's Tavern, which is now framed and on public display in the bar.
The Bunny's Tavern usage of the outfit is considered a variant of Showgirl.
Origin of costume
The costume itself was conceived by Playboy's director of promotions, Victor Lownes, designed by Zelda Wynn Valdes, and subsequently refined by Hugh Hefner. Originally the ears were taller and the ensemble lacked the trademark bow tie, collar, and cuffs. First unveiled publicly in an early episode of Playboy's Penthouse, it made its formal debut at the opening of the first Playboy Club in Chicago on the evening of February 29, 1960.
Behavior and training
The Playboy Bunnies were waitresses who served drinks at Playboy Clubs. There were different types of Bunnies, including the Door Bunny, Cigarette Bunny, Floor Bunny, Playmate Bunny and the Jet Bunnies (specially selected Bunnies that were trained as flight attendants. They served on the Playboy "Big Bunny" Jet). To become a Bunny, women were first carefully chosen and selected from auditions. Then they underwent thorough and strict training before officially becoming a Bunny. Bunnies were required to be able to identify 143 brands of liquor and know how to garnish 20 cocktail variations. Most dating or mingling with customers was forbidden. Customers were also not allowed to touch the Bunnies, and demerits were given if a Bunny's appearance was not properly organized.
A Bunny also had to master the required maneuvers to work. These included the "Bunny Stance", a posture that was required in front of patrons. The Bunny must stand with legs together, back arched and hips tucked under. When the Bunny is resting or while waiting to be of service, she must do the "Bunny Perch". She must sit on the back of a chair, sofa, or railing without sitting too close to a patron. The most famous maneuver of all, the "Bunny Dip", was invented by Kelly Collins, once renowned for being the "Perfect Bunny"; to do the "Bunny Dip" the Bunny gracefully leaned backwards while bending at the knees with the left knee lifted and tucked behind the right leg. This maneuver allowed the Bunny to serve drinks while keeping her low-cut costume in place. Strict regulations were enforced by special workers in the guise of patrons.
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The treatment of Playboy Bunnies was exposed in a piece written by Gloria Steinem and reprinted in her 1983 book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. The article featured a photo of Steinem in Bunny uniform and detailed how women were treated at those clubs. The article was published in 1963 in Show magazine as "A Bunny's Tale" (published in two parts, Part I and Part II.) Steinem has maintained that she is proud of the work she did publicizing the exploitative working conditions of the bunnies and especially the sexual demands made of them, which skirted the edge of the law.
The Playboy Bunny outfit was the first service uniform registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. trademark registration number 0762884). The costume was made from rayon-satin constructed on a merry widow corset. Satin bunny ears, cotton tails, collars with bow ties, cuffs with cuff links, black pantyhose and matching high-heeled shoes completed the outfit. A name tag on a satin rosette was pinned over the right hip bone.
The uniforms were custom made for each Bunny at the club they worked in. Whenever the club was open there was a full-time seamstress on duty. The costumes were stocked in two pieces, the front part being pre-sewn in different bra cup sizes such as B or C cup. The seamstress would match the Bunnies' figure to the correct fitting front and back pieces. Then the two pieces were sewn together to fit each person perfectly.
There was a woman in charge of the Bunnies in each club, called the "Bunny Mother." This was a human resources type of function and a management position. The Bunny Mother was in charge of scheduling work shifts, hiring, firing and training. The Club Manager had only two responsibilities for the Bunnies – floor service and weigh in. Before every shift the Manager would weigh each Bunny. Bunnies could not gain or lose more than one pound (exceptions being made for water retention). Playboy Enterprises required all employees to turn in their costumes at the end of employment and Playboy has some costumes in storage. Occasionally costumes are offered for sale on the Playboy Auction site or eBay. Some of the costumes on eBay may be counterfeit or damaged in some way. The only two on public display are in the collections of The Smithsonian and the Chicago History Museum.
The Bunny suit is also very popular in Japan, where it has lost much of its association with Playboy. In fact it has become associated with sexiness in general; they are referred to as bunny girls (or bunnygirls) and have an association with the female human/animal hybrids common in anime and manga known as kemonomimi. Bunnies should not be confused with Playboy Playmates, women who appear in the centerfold pictorials of Playboy magazine, although a few bunnies went on to become Playmates (see below).
In Brazil, there are no Playboy Clubs, but the magazine has Bunnies who attend its events. The official Bunnies are currently three, and they were also Playmates - both separately, and together in the cover pictorial for the December 2008 edition.
Return of the Bunnies
In 2006, The Palms Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas opened the first new Playboy club in over a quarter-century, located on the 52nd floor of the Fantasy Tower. Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli was chosen to re-design the original Bunny Suit. It closed in 2012.
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Many women who later became famous worked as Playboy Bunnies early in their careers, including:
- Alene Akins, ex-wife of Larry King
- Barbara Bosson
- Dale Bozzio
- Carol Cleveland, actress, Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- Julie Cobb
- Sara Dylan, first wife of Bob Dylan and mother of Jakob Dylan
- Sherilyn Fenn
- Janis Hansen, actress who played Gloria, wife of Felix Unger, on The Odd Couple. Her character's past as a Bunny is talked about in the episode titled "One for the Bunny", which originally aired on March 22, 1974.
- Debbie Harry, a musician and actress.
- Lauren Hutton
- Lynne Moody
- Polly Matzinger, the originator of the danger model of the immune system.
- Patricia Quinn, Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- Dolly Read
- Maria Richwine
- Kathryn Leigh Scott
- Carol Sharkey, U.S. Marine, mother of Jon Bon Jovi.
- Shawn Southwick, present wife of CNN talk show host, Larry King
- Gloria Steinem, became a Bunny as part of an undercover journalistic assignment.
- Eve Stratford
- Susan Sullivan
- B.J. Ward, who would later become a voice actress
- Kimba Wood, a Federal Judge nominated for the post of U.S. Attorney General by Bill Clinton (was only a Playboy Bunny trainee).
- Jacklyn Zeman
Bunnies who became Playmates
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- Helena Antonaccio
- Deanna Baker
- Lannie Balcom
- Kai Brendlinger
- Jessica Burciaga
- Dianne Chandler
- Karen Christy
- Sharon Clark
- June Cochran
- Marilyn Cole
- Candace Collins
- Karla Conway
- Debbie Ellison
- Ava Fabian
- Jennifer Jackson
- Avis Kimble
- Terri Kimball
- Shay Knuth
- China Lee
- Janet Lupo
- Laura Lyons
- Connie Mason
- Avis Miller
- Laura Misch
- Dolly Read
- Patti Reynolds
- Mercy Rooney
- Janis Schmitt
- Heather Van Every
- Carol Vitale
- Delores Wells
- RYAN NAKASHIMA (2006-10-01). "New Playboy club opens in Vegas". Washington Post.
- "Bunny's Tavern". Bunnystavern.com. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- Vinciguerra, Thomas (August 27, 2011). "The Bunny Is Back". The Wall Street Journal.[dead link]
- Steinem, Gloria. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, pg. 29-69. Plume Books, New York City: 1983.
- Steinem, Gloria. "'I Was a Playboy Bunny', excerpted from 'Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions'".
- News, ABC. "Interview With Gloria Steinem". ABCNews.
- Visions Before Midnight ISBN 0-330-26464-8
- "FAQ'S". Explayboybunny.com. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- "HistoryWired: A few of our favorite things". Historywired.si.edu. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- "Costumes". Web.archive.org. 2006-05-25. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- "Larry King's Wikipedia entry", September 28, 2010
- "Mickey Sutphin: Larry King ex-wife number four (note paragraph 5), April 15, 2010". Rightcelebrity.com. 2010-04-15. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- "The Playboy Bunny Is Back In Style," Thomas Vinciguerra, The Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2011.
- Scott, Kathryn Leigh. The Bunny Years. Los Angeles: Pomegranate Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-938817-43-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Playboy Bunnies.|
- Official Playboy Bunnies Website at Playboy
- Ex-Playboy Bunnies Website
- Playboy Bunnies: The Early Years - slideshow by Life magazine
- Playboy Bunnies: Today - slideshow by Life magazine