A Playboy Bunny is a waitress at a Playboy Club. Bunnies at the original Playboy Clubs that operated between 1960 and 1988 were selected through auditions, received a standardized training, and wore a costume called a "bunny suit" inspired by the tuxedo-wearing Playboy rabbit mascot, consisting of a strapless corset teddy, bunny ears, black pantyhose, a bow tie, a collar, cuffs and a fluffy cottontail. More recent Playboy Clubs have also featured Bunnies, in some cases with redesigned costumes based on the original bunny suit.
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.
The original Playboy Bunny costume was created by the mother of Ilse Taurins, a Latvian emigre who was dating one of the Playboy Club co-founders at the time, Victor Lownes lll. Ms. Taurins had suggested a costume modeled on the Playboy Magazine trademark, a rabbit or bunny. She had her mother, who was a seamstress, make up a prototype, which was then reviewed at a meeting attended by Hugh Hefner, Victor Lownes and Playboy illustrator LeRoy Neiman.
At first, the outfit was underwhelming, looking much like a one piece swimsuit, with a white yarn puff tail and a headband with bunny ears. However, Hefner reportedly saw promise in it, and suggested modifications to make it more visually appealling, such as cutting the leg much higher on the hip, exposing more of the wearer's leg and sharpening the v-shape of the costume. For mass production, the costume was manufactured for the Playboy Clubs by the Chicago-based Kabo Corset Company, and was based upon a "merry widow" style of corset within their line.
Later, in 1962, French fashion designer Renee Blot was retained to refine the design, and her revisions included making the ears smaller, and adding a collar with bow tie and cuffs with rabbit-head cufflinks, and a satin rosette with the bunny's name, worn on the hip. The original costumes were made in 12 colours of rayon satin. Several years later, Playboy engaged a prominent manufacturer of lingerie and swimwear to create a modified bunny costume that used washable stretch knit fabrics, allowing for costumes in vibrant prints as well as solid colors. The standard stockings also evolved from fishnet material to a special sheer pantyhose style supplied by Danskin. Bunnies wore two pair of these sheer stockings, one taupe toned over which was another pair in black.
Since 2013, a story has circulated attributing the original design of the Playboy bunny costume to New York fashion designer Zelda Wynn Valdes. However, there is no evidence to support this, and this contradicts the origin recounted in much earlier publications such as the books "Big Bunny" by Joe Goldberg (1967) and "The Bunny Years" by Kathryn Leigh Scott (1998).
The bunny costume became a powerful symbol of the Playboy Clubs, and it was also the first commercial uniform to be registered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. trademark registration number 0762884).
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.
The costume was made from rayon-satin constructed on a strapless merry widow corset teddy. Satin bunny ears, cotton tails, collars with bow ties, cuffs with cuff links, black sheer to waist 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 in which they worked. 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.
Reception and review
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". 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 costume is popular in Japan, where it has lost much of its association with Playboy and is accordingly referred to simply as the "bunny suit" or "bunny girl outfit". It is commonly featured in manga and anime; notable examples of characters who have been depicted wearing it include Haruhi Suzumiya, Kallen Stadtfeld of Code Geass, Bulma of Dragon Ball, and the unnamed protagonist of the Daicon III and IV Opening Animations. The suit is also popularly depicted in anime and manga fan art and merchandise, even for characters who are never seen wearing it in official works. While bunny suits are most frequently worn by female characters, they are occasionally worn by men, usually for comic effect.
In Brazil, there are no Playboy Clubs, but Playboy's Brazilian division 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.
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 and vice-versa (see below).
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.
Women who became famous and worked as Playboy Bunnies in their careers include:
- Alene Akins, ex-wife of Larry King
- Barbara Bosson, actress known for her role on Hill Street Blues
- Dale Bozzio, rock singer and musician
- Carol Cleveland, actress, Monty Python's Flying Circus
- Julie Cobb, actress
- Sherilyn Fenn, (was only a Playboy Bunny trainee) film and television actress
- 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 "One for the Bunny", originally aired on March 22, 1974.
- Debbie Harry, musician and actress. ("The girls there were part of the entertainment; part of the sort of mystique, the excitement, the naughtiness of it," she recalled. "But on the inside of that job, the girls were treated very, very well. There was a lot of benefits: health benefits, job security, good salary, good money. It was a very sought-after kind of job.")
- Lauren Hutton, model and actress
- Lynne Moody, actress known for Roots
- Polly Matzinger, the originator of the danger model of the immune system
- Patricia Quinn, Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
- Dolly Martin, Playboy model and actress
- Maria Richwine, actress and first Latina Bunny
- Kathryn Leigh Scott, actress
- Carol Sharkey, U.S. Marine, mother of Jon Bon Jovi
- Gloria Steinem, became a Bunny as part of an undercover journalistic assignment
- Eve Stratford
- Susan Sullivan, actress
- B.J. Ward, who would later become a voice actress
- Kimba Wood (a Playboy Bunny trainee), a United States federal judge nominated for the post of U.S. Attorney General by Bill Clinton.
- Jacklyn Zeman, actress known for her role on General Hospital
- Tove Lill, Miss Norway and Mrs Universe who later became a Playboy Playmate and a bunny, also living with Hugh Hefner at The Playboy Mansion
- Bunnies who were also Playboy Playmates
- Helena Antonaccio
- Deanna Baker
- Lannie Balcom
- Kai Brendlinger
- Jessica Burciaga
- Dianne Chandler
- Karen Christy
- Sharon Clark
- June Cochran
- Marilyn Cole
- Candace Collins
- Debbie Ellison
- Ava Fabian
- Jennifer Jackson
- Terri Kimball
- Avis Kimble
- Shay Knuth
- China Lee
- Janet Lupo
- Laura Lyons
- Connie Mason
- Avis Miller
- Laura Misch
- Kara Monaco
- Dolly Read
- Patti Reynolds
- Mercy Rooney
- Janis Schmitt
- Dorothy Stratten
- Heather Van Every
- Carol Vitale
- Delores Wells
- RYAN NAKASHIMA (2006-10-01). "New Playboy club opens in Vegas". Washington Post.
- "Playboy bounces back into London". UK Construction magazine. 13 October 2011. Archived from the original on 21 October 2011.
- "India Gets Ready for First Playboy Club". CNN. December 21, 2012.
- "Bunny's Tavern". Bunnystavern.com. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- Goldberg, Joe, Big Bunny: The Inside Sory of Playboy, Ballantine Books, New York, 1967.
- Handy, Bruce, May 2011, "A Bunny Thing Happened: An Oral History of the Playboy Clubs", Vanity Fair.
- Scott, Kathryn Leigh, The Bunny Years, Pomegranate Press, New York, 1998, pp.54-55. ISBN 978-0-9388-1743-7
- Candace Jordan (4 March 2017). "Woman's History Month: The designer behind the iconic Playboy Bunny costume". Chicagonow.com. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
- Julee Wilson (7 February 2013). "Zelda Wynn Valdes: Black Fashion Designer Who Created The Playboy Bunny Outfit (PHOTOS)". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
- Dominique Norman (10 May 2017). "The Influential Designer Behind the Playboy Bunny Uniform". Observer.com. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
- "Aldbury: Be here now". Hertfordshire Life. Archived from the original on 3 May 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
- "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. Archived from the original on May 25, 2006. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- Steinem, Gloria. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, pg. 29-69. Plume Books, New York City: 1983.
- Published in two parts, Part I and Part II.
- Steinem, Gloria. "'I Was a Playboy Bunny', excerpted from 'Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions'" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-27.
- "Interview With Gloria Steinem". ABC News.
- Visions Before Midnight. ISBN 0-330-26464-8.
- "Larry King divorces Shawn Southwick: Meet the TV icon's slew of ex-wives". Daily News. April 16, 2010. p. 4 of 25.
- Kaufman, Joanne (November 16, 1987). "In the Market for Bitter Fruit? Hooperman's Barbara Bosson Seems Always to Harvest a Bumper Crop". People. 28 (20). Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Deirdre Donahue "They May Be Missing Persons, but Terry and Dale Bozzio Have Found Each Other" People Magazine Vol. 22 No. 22 November 26, 1984
- Suddath, Claire; Sun, Feifei; Cruz, Gilbert; Rawlings, Nate; Romero, Frances (3 June 2011). "Top 9 Successful Ex–Playboy Bunnies". Time. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Clark, Mark (2012). Star Trek FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the First Voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Applause Theatre & Cinema. ISBN 9781557839633. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- "Sherilyn Fenn Biography". rottentomatoes.com. Flixster, Inc. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Anders, Marcel (June 2014). "I was criticised for being too sexual. But it was innocent compared to today". Classic Rock #197. p. 54.
- "Playboy Holds Bunny Hunt In Asia". www.radaronline.com. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- DREIFUS, CLAUDIA (June 16, 1998). "A Conversation With Polly Matzinger; Blazing an Unconventional Trail to a New Theory of Immunity". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Carlos, Al (December 30, 2010). "FIRST PERSON: Maria Richwine: Latina Playboy Bunny Turned Actress". La Prensa San Diego. La Prensa San Diego. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- ROHAN, VIRGINIA (September 25, 2011). "Leonia mom looks back on life as Playboy bunny". northjersey.com. North Jersey Media Group. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- "B.J. Ward". metacritic.com. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Saltonstall, David (August 6, 1995). "Quite An 'Other Woman': Brilliant Judge'll Survive Steamy Divorce Scandal". New York Daily News. Retrieved Aug 28, 2013.
- Vinciguerra, Thomas (August 27, 2011). "The Playboy Bunny Is Back In Style". The Wall Street Journal.
- Goldberg, Joe, Big Bunny: The Inside Sory of Playboy, Ballantine Books, New York, 1967.
- Scott, Kathryn Leigh. The Bunny Years. Los Angeles: Pomegranate Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-938817-43-7.
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