When I was growing up as a young teen in the nineties the Playboy symbol represented certain things to me: Glamour, beauty, and living in the lap of luxury. Hot girls were the ones who sported the famous bunny image on their t-shirts or dangling from their belly button piercing as a pendant. Playboy was all about flawless torsos, platinum blond hair, and picture perfect smiles that were a part of pretty faces. Girls with the “bunny” title got to hang around the mansion whenever they wanted, lying out by the pool soaking up sun, or lounging in the manmade grotto that looked more like a hedonistic cave of seduction.
The bulk of my fascination probably started when Hugh Hefner allowed the Playboy mansion to be featured on an episode of Cribs. After that, I think it piqued a lot of people’s fascination not only with the brand or the man behind the marquee, but also with the girls who were willing to play a part in a magazine that a number of women call the degradation of the female species. Of course, the women are the ones whose bodies in which the empire of Playboy was built upon, but besides being ogled in the mag or on websites, only the exceptionally famous (or infamous) ones like Marilyn Monroe, Pamela Anderson and Anna Nicole Smith were the ones whose stories that were told and heard to a waiting audience. Anytime there was a special on Hugh Hefner, I watched. I was interested in nearly every part of the Playboy name: the mansions (past and present), the girlfriends (past and present), and the overall history about how the magazine came to be and how it changed over the years.
There are women who hate the image that Playboy depicts; to them, the magazine is nothing more than page after page of exploitation. They see Hugh Hefner as nothing more than a “dirty old man” who takes advantage of young girls who would do anything for money. There are the women who would like nothing better than to see everything Playboy related obliterated from the face of the earth because they believe it takes women more than a few steps back in female liberation. Then there are the women who are torn; they like looking at other women just as much as men do, and they ogle just as much as the men (if not more), and yet they feel as if they are betraying other females when they indulge in the magazine and fantasize about the women inside.
And then there are people like me, male and female, who find the entire thing absolutely alluring, from the history to the beautiful women to the business mind of Hugh Hefner. With any other man (or men) in charge the magazine it would have been completely different: a lot less intellectual, seedy, and instead of the more artistic and quality shots of women being shot, it could have been layouts of raunchy, nether-lips spreading porn stars along with a bunch of porn stills to round out the feature. Yes, you read that right; Playboy isn’t merely a magazine for idiot men who want to look at naked chicks. There have been periods when women were the ones who held the most subscriptions, and it’s been women who have (technically) been its biggest supporters. If women weren’t supporting the magazine, there wouldn’t be tons of women sending their shots into the magazine in order to be featured or buying the magazine or its emblems. How much do you also want to bet that it’s mostly women who tuned in to watch The Girls Next Door when Bridget, Holly, and Kendra were living in the mansion, and who watched The True Hollywood Story of Hugh Hefner.
I’d be lying if I said I never fantasized about being a Playboy model more than a few times. It has nothing to do with me being one of the perfect physical specimens that made the brand what it was, and is, but it had everything to do with imagining the unattainable. How many times have I been working out with one of those bodies in mind, knowing that there was no way on earth I could ever look like any of them unless I stopped eating solid foods for entire four months, and got all kinds of body reshaping done during and after. It’s simply the idea of it. It’s the same approach that some men have to the magazine. They know their wives or girlfriends are never going to look like those women in Playboy, but that doesn’t stop the fantasy from playing a loop in their heads. But those thoughts took place when I was much younger and had a whole different frame of mind. That doesn’t mean I’m going to start attacking Playboy for all it’s worth at this point in my life. Although I wouldn’t even think of posing for the mag, I haven’t thrown any of my old issues away and if I want another subscription or I see something particularly interesting in an issue I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it. I’m comfortable with myself and I’m not an angry female trying to find fault with every single thing I can, and even though that statement would make a lot of other women detest me, it’s simply the truth, and sometimes that’s all certain things boil down to.
After I grew up, there were certain things about Playboy that I didn’t necessarily like, but it was more personal, and in truth, it’s not really worth mentioning. Just because you’ve grown up mentally and emotionally doesn’t mean that everyone else will, and just because you see things in a different way doesn’t mean that you can make everyone else see things the way you do. That’s called being an adult, and understanding that kind of reasoning is how you cope with life and entertainment as a whole at times. In Playboy’s case, there are times when I just feel sorry for some of the girls. I feel sorry for any woman, or man, who are terminally superficial and only believe that physical appearances matter. We’re all guilty of honing in on the beautiful people and wanting to be a part of their circle, or simply wanting to be them at certain times in our lives, but that doesn’t mean that most of us don’t learn that all the beauty eventually fades away, and most times before it does, you realize that you value substance over a person who is just a nice face and body. But it’s more than that. I wouldn’t want someone to only look at me for what I am on the outside; I wouldn’t want my face or my breasts, my hair, or my ass or my legs to be the only part of me that someone seemed to care about. But just because I feel that way, doesn’t mean other women feel that way, and I can’t foist the way I feel onto them. Also, it’s been a long time since I’ve looked a woman who was drop dead gorgeous and thought she had a better life than me or wanted to be her (we’ve all wished that at one point or another). I know better. No one’s life is perfect, and sometimes other people’s versions of “perfect” wouldn’t be yours. At least I can say that for myself. Therefore, I can take Playboy for what it is without envy for the girls or malice at the mag’s content. I can’t say that much for other people.
Gloria Steinem went undercover and wrote a tell-all in show magazine about her experience as waitress Bunny Marie in 1963 she uncovered some dirty little truths about what a woman had to go through in order to be a Bunny in one of the clubs. It wasn’t until 2011 when NBC launched the series The Playboy Club, starring Amber Heard, that I came across an article in Cosmo doing a bit of a recap of what they found to be outrageously demanding for a waitress to endure to be employed by one of the Playboy clubs. There are people who couldn’t wait to see what they’d found so they could have ammunition to bash Hef and the magazine with, but I read it simply out of curiosity. Some of the conditions were over-the-top, while other things I just found myself shaking my head because everything else seemed like a witch hunt to me. I’m going to break down each point and explain why I thought it was outrageous or when I thought they were going overboard trying to find something wrong when it could just be seen as standard.
(Keep in mind that when a woman seeks a job to do with Playboy whether it’s posing for the magazine or in one of the clubs her appearance and attitude play a big part in her attaining and maintaining her position, and there’s no way around that. If that irks you to no end then think about the way Vegas Showgirls and fashion models and even regular waitresses get judged by the same standard and no one really bats an eyelash. HH has a particular standard he wants to maintain and if you don’t like it, don’t support his magazine or any of his other business ventures.)
In the early years, even though they were waitresses, they had to have a pelvic exam performed (and gynecological health confirmed) before reporting to work.
This was just unreasonable for any job to request this kind of information (unless you’re a prostitute, then oh well, I guess I’d understand it…) and after it was made public Hugh Hefner eliminated it from his employment requirements.
If you’ve seen any of the past episodes of The Girls Next Door you may recall Bridget trying to squeeze into one of the Playboy bunny costumes. That wasn’t just an aberration for the show on that particular episode; that’s how those costumes fit (or didn’t).
The costume consisted of an ultra tight, corset-like leotard, also consisting of ears, cuffs, and a tail. They were also encouraged to stuff their tops, using anything from tissues to gym socks to cut up Bunny tails in their tops.
What do I think? I think if you choose to be a waitress in a place where you know your rack probably matters, are you really surprised when you’re encouraged to stuff your top? I mean seriously, there are girls that were dying to work for Hooters so bad they actually got implants. This didn’t seem that crazy of an expectation to me, or maybe it’s the time I’ve grown up in that doesn’t make what he asked them to do seem outlandish. If anything, the demands he made of his waitresses seemed ahead of the times, and it was probably what made his clubs so popular.
Not only did Bunny waitresses have to walk around in 3-inch heels during their shift, but they weren’t allowed to be seen drinking anything in front of customers (which includes water).
There is no way on this green earth I would’ve been able to work there, and those bitches that did deserve a medal or free support hose for the rest of their lives. If they were busted drinking anything it cost them 10 demerits, and if they racked up 100 they were fired. And taking a break was a no-no. They had to learn how to master something called the “Bunny perch”, which meant resting one hip on a banister or learning on the back of a chair.
I would have died.
Forget the fact that they had to watch their weight; their boss watched their weight.
Lili Bee, a Bunny during the late 1970s, said, “A manager looked at me and said, ‘I didn’t know Shamu escaped its tank.’ I was required to weigh in. When they realized I was almost four pounds over my hiring weight of 112, they suspended me for a week.”
How many times have we heard this from women who chose some of the most superficial jobs on the planet and lo and behold, they had asshole bosses from hell commenting on their weight. I don’t know how to feel about this one. On one hand, I’m definitely on her side. Obviously, she wasn’t big, even if she was nearly 116 pounds (whatever man called that “Shamu” weight had to be one of the most miserable shriveled dick people on the planet…and he had terrible eyesight), that’s hardly even a weight most adult women can conceive of being. On the other hand, I sort of view those “Bunny” waitressing jobs almost as if they were, indeed, Vegas Showgirls. The managers had to be sure that the women they were parading before all those guys in suits that were placing orders were the quintessential “perfect” female specimens that Playboy was known for, or there could have been complaints. That’s a part of what those men frequented the clubs for: to look at the waitresses. You’re an idiot if you think otherwise. I’m torn over this one. I don’t think she was wrong or deserved what she got, but at the same time, I understand why those managers had to keep a close eye on the girls’ weight.
Their Bunny position wasn’t just their job, it was their whole identity.
A part of being a Bunny was that they had to introduce themselves as Bunny [insert name here]. They couldn’t have the same name as another Bunny currently employed at the club, and if you did, you had to make up a new name.
Um, is this really weird or wrong? I mean, in French class we changed our names to French ones if we didn’t already have a name rooted in the country and that was the name we were expected to use all semester. Our French teacher made this a requirement. Also, we couldn’t have the same name as anyone else. Don’t say it’s not the same thing, because technically it is, and I don’t remember anyone running to the principal’s office to protest the rights of our teacher infringing on their individual identities. If you think about it, it makes sense to do this in a club when all of the waitresses are wearing identical Bunny costumes and someone wants to make a request for a specific woman to be their waitress, or something along those lines. Wouldn’t that make everyone’s job easier if you don’t have three Maries or five Joans or two Melissas running around and you’re trying to track down a specific one? Kinda makes sense to me.
If you lost “the bunny image”, you probably found yourself out of a job.
Even though they’re kind of hazy on the details of this one, but apparently it became such an issue that they organized a strike on a Saturday night when they knew business at the club could be hurt after it had happened to so many girls.
There’s not really anything to comment on. The gist of it is that they would show up to work and their names would be taken off the schedule for no real reason (according to them). This could have meant anything from gaining too much weight or showing up too late, to—it sounds like—saying the wrong thing to the wrong girl. They could be fired for any reason…like so many of us. The difference between us and them is that generally people find a concrete reason to can us, but they didn’t seem to be offered any. (I’m not going to say it was probably for wearing the wrong color eye shadow, even though I’m thinking it.)
It cost them to work, and their expenses were not reimbursed by the club.
This one I actually looked at rather incredulously because apparently these people didn’t live in the real world where people had regular blue and white collar jobs, and I would think that an educated woman doing an expose would be able to see this objectively, although, I guess not. They had to buy their own makeup (including false eyelashes), tights, and dyed-to-match pumps. BIG WHOOP! Do they know MOST people have to buy their own work uniforms (it’s usually docked out of their checks) and they’re not reimbursed by ANYBODY for that? Nurses buy their own scrubs and sneakers, and those girls who work at fashion magazines who always look so picture perfect have to buy their own makeup and wardrobe as well. I don’t understand why this was on the list. Anyone who has a job has to buy their own clothes to go to work, and women who wear makeup to work, bought it themselves. Anyone should expect wardrobe and makeup that they buy to wear to work to be an out of pocket expense and not to expect to be reimbursed by the company they work for. But apparently, Gloria Steinem (or Anna Davies, who wrote the Cosmo article) thought it was outrageous. I don’t understand their point, personally.
They also were inspected before each shift and if they weren’t deemed “Bunny perfect” (imperfections could be anything from tights with a run to too-pale lipstick to a tail that wasn’t fluffed), they could receive demerits.
I would think that if your appearance was 90% of your job you’d make sure you were on point before you went to work if you knew how you were required to look. If you knew you could receive demerits for those things having not been done, make sure they were done.
With all this talk about being reimbursed for their “expenses” and having to look perfect all the time, nothing was mentioned about how much money those Bunnies actually made. Not a word. How much was their weekly salary? How much did the average Bunny make in tips by the time her shift was over? For all we know they were making three or four times as much as any regular waitress and they were whining about it, or they could have been making the same amount, which still really wouldn’t warrant a “boo hoo” from me because they knew what they signed up for, and if they stayed, then it couldn’t have been too grueling and horrible. If a job as a waitress was that bad at the club, then they should have tried to get a waitressing job somewhere else. I would think that getting hired at a Playboy club would’ve been the hardest position to attain when it came to being a waitress, surely not the easiest. They had choices, they probably wanted to be Bunnies, and that’s what they got. They knew before they applied how much image mattered; there’s no need to complain after you were already working the floor.
They were spied on…
Mary Chipman, a Bunny during the 1970s was quoted as saying, “To ensure we weren’t breaking rules, like dating customers, we were told that men posing as customers would be sent in to watch us,” recalls Chipman. “It was waived if you were asked out by a Playboy exec.” In fact, Steinem wrote, they were encouraged to date those men.
The fact that they were spied on isn’t unheard of. Practically every job spies on their employees to make sure they aren’t breaking the rules. In this case, I guess it was a little special since a lot of it was about dating customers outside of the club, which I’m assuming that they assumed would hurt business if things went sour between one of the girls and a frequent patron. That’s understandable in some ways for the type of business it was. If you work in a store, you have secret shoppers come in that test you, and that sounds like the same thing here. It’s nothing to get in a huff about.
I guess the seedy thing is when they were “encouraged” to date the execs. In other words, they were expected to whore around with the big wigs. This was during a time when most of those women probably got those jobs to try and land a rich boyfriend or husband, so even though this sounds absolutely degrading to a lot of us, this was a goal with some of those women. A feminist is obviously going to be disgusted by this, but a woman who wants a man to take care of her and buy her pretty things and is able to afford her a life of comfort to some degree so she won’t have to work at all isn’t going to care what anyone says in regards to her doing this. While this isn’t something I would engage in, I don’t judge another woman if she chooses to do this. It’s simply not my place.
Husbands and boyfriends were not allowed anywhere near their Bunny when she was at work.
Ever see the movie Coyote Ugly? Same rules apply here; only, there are a lot of clubs and such that enforce this rule and that’s because there are a lot of guys who can’t handle seeing their girlfriend or wife actively flirting with other men even if it is her job. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t be comfortable doing that, especially not for work, and I wouldn’t want the guy I’m with to be comfortable with it either. But I’m not among those who have jobs where I would have to do that (I have in the past to a degree and I couldn’t handle it). A Bunny was supposed to meet her husband or boyfriend at least two blocks away from work after a shift. To me, that’s just common sense. These clubs were about having a good time, not trying to break up a fight, and it was also about fantasy. The men who frequented the club didn’t want to see the primped and primed girl with the 100-watt smile that he’d given a big tip to with her boyfriend or husband; it would pop the big fantasy bubble he had of her, and possibly discontinue his patronage. That rule wasn’t mean or dumb, it was smart.