50 years of Playboy Club
The iconic venue celebrates half a century of sex appeal and bunny ears
Thu, Jun 10, 2010 (2:47 p.m.)
Courtesy of Playboy
In the nightclub industry, venues come and go as quickly as the fashion trends of the partiers who crowd their dance floors. When a club lasts a decade, it’s impressive. When it can survive half a century, it’s damn near historic.
Tonight, Playboy Club at the Palms will celebrate 50 years of Playboy Clubs around the world as part of the nightclub chain’s wide-reaching anniversary party touching down at 50 clubs in 50 cities. Of course, celebrating in a venue where the servers actually are dressed in the iconic bunny suit is the most authentic way to mark the occasion. Even if you can’t make it to the party, Playboy Club’s satin-clad history is a fascinating story. In honor of its 50th, we offer a look back at the iconic venue and its cast of bunnies — on ski slopes, in the friendly skies and on top of the Palms.
1960: Hugh Hefner opened the first Playboy Club on Feb. 17 in downtown Chicago. The first version of the bunny costume came in 10 colors of satin with giant satin ears and a tail made of nylon yarn. Bunnies paired the corseted costume with four-inch satin heels dyed to match their outfits. More than 50,000 people became keyholders during the club’s first year. If members touched the Bunnies — a cardinal sin at Playboy Club — they were escorted out.
1962: Playboy Club opened a location in New York and gave the original costume an update for its new home. Under the guidance of French seamstress Renee Blot, the bunny uniform downsized in the ear department, added a bow tie and cuffs and grew in the bust. Foam rubber padding was used to fill out the bodice, which came in only two sizes – 34D and 36D. A new move was also added to the bunny repertoire. Created by “Bunny Father” Keith Hefner, the Bunny Dip was a knee-bend serving technique that let bunnies serve drinks without falling out of their bodices.
1963: No bunnies in Boston. In the process of opening a Playboy Club in Boston, Hef was turned down for a liquor license after officials caught a glimpse of the bunny costume.
1965: Playboy Club headed to the Caribbean, opening a club in Jamaica in 1965. Bunnies wore bikini uniforms complete with ears and tail.
1966: Playboy Club membership hit the 500,000 mark.
1968: Better known now as Blondie’s lead singer, Debbie Harry worked as bunny in New York in 1968, well before becoming famous for her new-wave punk band. The fashion of the late ’60s also made its way into the Playboy Club. Bold prints inspired by designer Emilio Pucci began to grace the classic costume, as well as a “Wonder Bread” design with polka dots in red, yellow and blue.
1969: A new, fluffier bunny tail made of white fake fur debuted in 1969. The Bunny Manual was very clear on the tail’s importance: “Always remember, your proudest possession is your Bunny tail. You must make sure it is white and fluffy.”
1969: Bunnies also branched out this year. With a resort opening in the New Jersey hills, bunnies worked on the ski slopes and tennis courts, all while maintaining the sex appeal and charm of the original Playboy Bunny. Snow bunnies were not required to ski in their corsets, although they did wear the signature ears.
1970: Enter The Big Bunny. Painted with the iconic rabbit head, Playboy’s DC-9 was the most expensive private plane of its day. Touted as a “flying bachelor pad,” the plane included a galley kitchen, wet bar, sleeping quarters for 16, Hefner’s personal suite and, of course, Jet Bunnies carefully selected to serve as hostesses to the publisher and his VIPs. Jet Bunnies performed their duties in black mini-dresses with white silk aviator’s scarves emblazoned with the rabbit-head logo.
Playboy Clubs weren’t opened only in large cities. In the U.S., clubs opened in Lansing, Mich.; Omaha, Neb.; and Des Moines, Iowa. Internationally, Playboy boasted clubs in the Philippines, Japan, England and the Bahamas.
1980: Playboy Club LA added a cabaret to its offerings and with it new risqué costumes designed Trashy Lingerie.
1986: On February 29, 26 years and 12 days after it opened, the original Playboy Club closed in Chicago.
1988: The last of the original Playboy Clubs closed in Lansing, Michigan.
1991: The last international Playboy Club closed in Manila.
2006: After 15 years on hiatus, a new Playboy Club opened at the Palms offering dancing, gaming and incredible Strip views. For its new location, Hef tapped designer Roberto Cavalli to refashion the bunny uniform.
2007: In the November issue of Playboy, the magazine ran an eight-page bunny pictorial — its first in almost 20 years — shot in the Palms Club and the Hugh Hefner Sky Villa.
2010: Playboy Club celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a no fewer than 50 parties in 50 different cities around the world from Shanghai to Athens to Houston. Even previously prude Boston is getting in on the party. Vegas celebrates June 10 with a bash featuring Holly Madison as a guest bunny dealer and a Miss 50 competition judged by Carrot Top and George Wallace.