When you think of Playboy, a few things might come to mind. Hugh Hefner, Bunnies, the mansion, etc. It’s an empire that’s widely known and either adored or criticized worldwide.One former Bunny is opening up about what her experience was like back in the ’70s, and her recollection makes it sound like a pretty magical (but surprisingly strict) era.
Playboy clubs used to be a really big deal back in the day.
They were a chain of nightclubs that were featured in big cities like New York, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, and so on.The very first Playboy club actually opened in Chicago in 1960.
Members of the club, as well as their guests, were served food and drinks from the various Playboy bunnies.
Some of these Bunnies were actually featured in the Playboy Magazine, so you can imagine the appeal.While some clubs are still up and running to this day, several have closed their doors in the last few years.
Back then, becoming a member of the club was just $25.00 a year.
That sounds inexpensive, but with inflation that’s more like a couple hundred dollars a year these days.To be honest, that still doesn’t sound that steep.Members of the club required their plastic Bunny keychain in order to actually gain entrance.
Barbara (Bobbie) Walters worked in the Playboy clubs for five years.
She spent time at both the New York and Miami clubs but admitted that she loved the New York club more.Her story of working at the clubs is definitely an interesting one. She offers so much insight and really brings a new perspective to her career choice.
She explained that the New York club “was pure magic and fantasy.”
“When you walked inside that club, you left the outside world of worry and tribulations. Every minute I spent there was fun. I loved wearing that costume…everything. New York is New York,” she said.
The New York club that she worked at had six floors.
Each floor featured a different theme, from a playmate bar, a disco, a VIP room, and other various nightclubs within the club that featured entertainers.It sounds like a pretty interesting place. No wonder it was so popular.
So how does one go about landing this elusive job?
Well, it’s not as easy as it may seem.Bobbie explained that she was a go-go girl in the discos, and wanted to be an actress. She realized that it was difficult to break into the business, and was having a hard time living at home with her parents.
She happened to be leaving a coffee shop with a friend when she noticed a Playboy Bunny on the cover of a magazine.
She decided right then and there that that’s what she wanted to do. She ventured to New York to find herself a job at the young age of 21.Who else remembers having that kind of freedom to be able to do whatever you’d like at the drop of a hat? It certainly is the dream.
The club was holding auditions the day she showed up, and she competed against hundreds of other girls to get the job.
It was more than just looking beautiful. Bobbie explained that you also had to have “personality” and “a lot of stamina.”She competed against about 200 girls who also shared the same dream. Only 40 or 50 were actually chosen.
For the interview, everybody had to put on the famous Bunny costume and audition in front of the “Bunny Mother” and the general manager.
“The job was tough, because everything a normal waitress did, we had to do on 5-inch heels,” she explained. You definitely had to have enough stamina to keep up with the fast-paced environment.
Because she lived in Jersey, her day was a bit longer than the other girls who lived in town.
She explained that she would start her day at 2 p.m., drive to Manhattan, and arrive at the club to get ready. Everybody had to be on the floor by 7 o’clock.
There were very strict rules the girls had to follow from the “Bunny Manual.” You couldn’t just get yourself ready and head to work.
Before their shifts began, the Bunny Mother always checked them over to make sure everything was correct and in place.
Their outfits had to always be worn properly for every shift.
The cuffs and cufflinks were to be worn a certain way, and they “couldn’t wear any weird hair do’s.”I would have love to see what was considered a “weird hairdo” in the ’70s. I’m sure things changed a lot when the ’80s came along.
The Bunnies had to make sure they were presenting their drinks in a certain way, and know what was in each one.
“You had to look beautiful all the time, your costume had to be clean, you had to keep your weight under control,” Bobbie said.I suppose when you’re a member of the club, you expect a certain standard.
There was also a very strict rule that Bunnies weren’t allowed to date customers.
She explained how big of an issue handing out your number was. “If they saw you giving out your number, you would be fired.””There had to be a certain demeanor in the club; there’s been a lot of things said about the Bunnies, but it’s not true, it was a classy place,” she said.
Funnily enough, Bobbie actually ended up meeting her husband, Jules, at the club. He was 40 years older than she was, though.
They met at the New York club, but never exchanged numbers while she was actually working.
She explained that the first time she met him, he had come in with his wife.
The second time, he was alone. She told him the rules about dating and not giving out numbers, but he was persistent.”He kept coming into the club, trying to make a connection,” she recalled.
She discovered that he also lived in New Jersey, and that’s how they formed a real connection.
She assured us all that she never actually gave out her number while working in the club.”The romance was just wonderful and lasted 33 years until the day he died,” she explained.
She recalled some memorable moments from her time at the club, like when Elton John came in.
She added, “Hugh Hefner loved a jazz pianist called Monty Alexander, and his music would play throughout the club. And that was the atmosphere….it was a man’s place to relax.”
Even though Hugh was often in the club, Bobbie admitted that she never cared enough to actually meet him.
Of course, Hugh was one of the founders of the magazine back in 1953. It makes sense that he would frequent the clubs. I can only imagine that he was constantly surrounded by women and Bunnies.
“I didn’t want to be a centerfold, or any of that. I was happy with what I was doing,” Bobbie explained.
This quote is pretty interesting considering how at the start of the interview she mentioned that the whole reason she applied for the job was because she saw a Playboy Bunny on the cover of the magazine.Somewhere along the way, it seems as though she changed her mind on that idea.
Other celebrities also attended the club from time to time.
People like Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Falk and John Cassavetes would all stop by.”You never knew who would walk into your club and sit at your table,” she said.That sounds like it would be a pretty thrilling part of the job, serving famous people. I’m sure you’d have to be really good at playing it cool.
Bobbie firmly believes that there was and still is nothing wrong with being a Bunny, despite the criticism from some people.
“Iloved it, but this job was not for everyone, it was rough. What I loved most about it was this was my chance to be a star, just putting that costume on, this was my place to show.”
These days, the general consensus is that a Playboy Bunny is pretty old news.
But back in the day, the Chicago club held more than 132,000 members in the last three months of 1961, making it the busiest night club in the world.Things have definitely changed since then.
She explained that in her time, the Bunny was a respected image, and she believes that it still is today.
I’m sure there are a lot of people who still love the idea of a Playboy Bunny, but they definitely aren’t as well-received as they used to be.
She still continues to defend the company to this day, even at 68 years old.
“I will defend until the day I pass that the Playboy Bunny was, and still is politically correct, no matter what others say.”She sounds like she would be one really cool grandma.
“It was such a wonderful time in my life, and the one thing I learned, it never changed me at all,” she explained.
I definitely wish that I was born in this era — everything looks so elegant and seems like it was so fun.
Bobbie actually kept her uniform in a frame, as it reminds her of a wonderful time in her life.
This is such a cool memento. The ’70s really do sound like a better time, and she certainly sheds a new light on that era.
The club that Bobbie worked at opened in 1962, but closed its doors in 1986.
The good news for her is that they’ll be opening back up at the Cachet Boutique Hotel on West 42nd Street in New York.People have their opinions on the reopening, but I think we all know how Bobbie feels about it.
This new club is supposed to be “one of the most chic and sophisticated venues in the world.”
If that’s the case, I would love to visit just to see. Imagine if everybody had to dress like they did in the ’70s? I know that’s not going to be the case, but it sounds so vintage — I’m obsessed.
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