the provocative cotton tail must be clean and sprightly
December 15, 2009 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Vintage Playboy bunny clips offer a fascinating window on women, men, sex, and the swinging 60s
1964 Opening of the Hollywood Playboy Club part 1, part 2
1966: British bunnies being trained
1967: CBC Montreal - interviews with Bunny Sonia and Hugh Hefner
The Bunny Years

The Bunny Manual - Detroit training booklet, 1968-69
Life photo feature: The Early Years

Of course, there were critics of the bunny lifestyle. Young journalist Gloria Steinem went underground as a bunny to get the scoop:
I Was a Playboy Bunny
Gloria Steinem 1968
Playboy club footage
Feminist criticisms
1985 - Hugh and Christie Hefner Defend Their Empire from the Sting in Gloria Steinem's Bunny's Tale

The Playboy Bunny in Pop Culture
Penny Marshall and Carrie Fisher in bunny training - excerpt from Laverne & Shirley
Bewitched - A Bunny for Tabitha
The Odd Couple - One for the Bunny

More bunny trivia can be found on the Ex-Playboy Bunnies site, where you can find bunny bios, bunnies that went on to fame, a '60s recruitment brochure, and more.
posted by madamjujujive (28 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
This seems like a good place to put Laurie Anderson's PSA about Playboy Bunnies
posted by hippybear at 6:53 PM on December 15, 2009 [14 favorites]

Wish I could favorite this twice.

Great post.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:00 PM on December 15, 2009

God that guy in the Gloria Steinem clip is a tool.
posted by nola at 7:05 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Back in those days we men wore a cod piece and the young ladies wore a bodkin under their bodice. It was a bonny time
posted by tkchrist at 7:15 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sweet post... !!!!
At the age of 20,1968, I was a guest at the playboy club in Miami Beach... The highlight of my young life!
posted by HuronBob at 7:18 PM on December 15, 2009

Notable women who were Playboy Bunnies. Huh. Who knew?
posted by jquinby at 7:27 PM on December 15, 2009

Anybody else feel like throttling the 'hip' CBC reporter in the Steinem '68 interview?
posted by leotrotsky at 7:31 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fuck from "I Was a Playboy Bunny," among other thing:

The apartment of Vic Lownes is used for Playboy's promotional parties in New York, just as Hugh Hefner's house is used in Chicago ... When we go to such parties, we are not allowed to bring men. "Not even husbands?" the magician's assistant asked. "Absolutely no men," said Sheralee. "But of course you don't have to go if you don't want to."

And they checked them for STDs, its like the Playboy Clubs existed for no other reason but to keep a bunch of horny executives knee deep in women. How far we come, no more of this foot stomping "no men allowed" bullshit, our horny executive just whip it out and start jacking it in front of female journalists. How far we've come (no pun intended).
posted by geoff. at 7:34 PM on December 15, 2009

Young journalist Gloria Steinem went underground as a bunny...

Well, underground is where bunnies should go.

Seriously, this is an amazing post - so much great stuff!

Notable women who were Playboy Bunnies. Huh. Who knew?

On of the women on that list is ithe iconic Dolly Read, who went on to star in Russ Meyer's 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls' and to marry Dick Martin from 'Laugh-In'. She is also one of the two women being interviewed at the start of the 'British Bunnies' report. I love how she's all cute and giggly, but briefly turns cool and tough when she says she got 5000 bucks for posing in Playboy. She was a natural for a Russ Meyer movie. And appropriately enough, she was born in Bristol.

I can't believe I've never seen that Laverne and Shirley thing before. Carrie Fisher dressed as a Playboy bunny? How is that not the most famous thing on the whole internet?
posted by eatyourcellphone at 7:38 PM on December 15, 2009

God that guy in the Gloria Steinem clip is a tool.

I was watching that whole clip and thinking the same thing. However I read up on him a little bit and his background is sort of interesting. Not that he wasn't sort of wincingly.... weird about Gloria Steinem [really, ironing during an interview?] but he seems like a generally accomplished and respectable guy.
posted by jessamyn at 8:05 PM on December 15, 2009

I've been catching up on Mad Men, and during the first clip (the opening of the Playboy club) I sort of expected to see Pete Campbell leering in the background...
posted by jokeefe at 8:26 PM on December 15, 2009

The CBC clip-- that's Moses Znaimer! He went on to found MuchMusic (Canada's answer to MTV).
posted by jokeefe at 8:29 PM on December 15, 2009

Oh, Jesus, it's Moses. Yeah, he's a tool in that clip, but I wonder about the CBC tools behind the scenes, too. Unironic addendum: Znaimer's Citytv also brought Toronto free soft porn via cable or rabbit ears on Friday nights in the 70s.
posted by maudlin at 8:30 PM on December 15, 2009

Ha ha ha, it's Moses Znaimer! I did not expect that to be the person everyone in the early thread was complaining about.

"Someone's described you as, y'know, a chick with the good vibrations...."
posted by painquale at 10:55 PM on December 15, 2009

Oops, sorry: "... a chick with a good sense of the vibrations." Well, that makes it sound a lot less stupid (y'know).
posted by painquale at 10:57 PM on December 15, 2009

At the age of 20,1968

Man, you're old.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 5:51 AM on December 16, 2009

Man, this is one of those "The past is an alien planet" things, isn't it?
posted by The Whelk at 6:57 AM on December 16, 2009

its like the Playboy Clubs existed for no other reason but to keep a bunch of horny executives knee deep in women.

Erm... what other purpose could they possibly have?
posted by jokeefe at 7:02 AM on December 16, 2009

Man, this is one of those "The past is an alien planet" things, isn't it?

Well, yes, and no. I'm not going to watch the "feminist criticisms" link, for example, because I was 12 years old in 1971 and it's... upsetting. I have no wish to relive the open contempt and ridicule that was doled out to even the most mildly feminist ideas at that time.
posted by jokeefe at 7:08 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is fascinating! Excellent post.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:06 AM on December 16, 2009

I really enjoyed these videos as artifacts because they crystallized for me how far women have come and how much the feminist movement has benefited both sexes over the course of my life.

I was just a young girl when the bunny phenomena began, but I remember well this sex kitten era since it occurred in my formative years. Imagine having Barbie dolls and Playboy bunnies popularized as the quintessential female forms. Yikes.

The bunnies were little more than semi-naked waitresses, yet as the videos indicated, many saw them as prestigious and high paying jobs. That says less about how "good" these jobs were and more about how poor and how few the alternatives were for women. This was sadly an era in which being a nun was sometimes considered a career option for smart women because the church would pay for nuns to get PhDs. At the time, all newspaper classified ads separated jobs into male and female categories. Typically, the so-called male job listings extended for pages and the female job listings might be a column with a narrow range of postings: secretaries, nurses, kindergarten teachers, seamstresses. Sex-segregated help wanted ads weren't eliminated until 1973 when he Supreme Court upheld an EEOC ban that had largely been ignored for years. I heard Eleanor Smeal talk about this once in the 90s and she said that at the time, the idea of fighting to eliminate sex segregated job ads was considered an extremely radical stance - marriages were broken up over it.

I am grateful to have lived through and been a part of many of these cultural changes for women. I even see a difference between my view of things and those of my sisters, who are between 4 and 10 years older than me and who were more indoctrinated in the late 50s and early 60s cultural perceptions of women.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:55 AM on December 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

In what way do you mean "women have come far"? Gonzo torture porn seems to be the exact opposite of "progress".
posted by bravelittletoaster at 12:41 PM on December 16, 2009

I don't think the sum total has improved, is what I was trying to get at. While it is a morale booster to consider the progess feminists have made towards equality, the constant reminders to my fucktoy class effectively neutralizes that feeling.

The overall feeling I'm left with is that sexism is never actually going to end, equality will always only be something we strive for. Women do not deserve a never-ending battle in a war which we did not start.

posted by bravelittletoaster at 1:21 PM on December 16, 2009

And really, I do not care how the abusing class is affected or not affected when they stop abusing. To continually appeal to the selfish nature of man "hey feminism benefits you too!" in order to get them to cease, merely acknowledges that the nature of man is selfish and without compassion for those who he claims to love.

A sincerely humane class of people would bend over backwards to insure those they claim to love are treated justly -- no selfish appear to their baser instincts would be required, as feminists must do repeatedly.
posted by bravelittletoaster at 1:40 PM on December 16, 2009

If gonzo torture porn is as much a part of the current cultural mainstream as Playboy bunnies and limited job opportunies for women were in the late 60's, it has certainly escaped my notice. I'm not trying to imply that violent extremist porn is a non-issue, but I think it's a separate issue within the context of this particular discussion.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:54 PM on December 16, 2009

bravelittletoaster, I'm sorry that you are not more hopeful. Sometimes I can be very discouraged, too. For example, lately, I have been very discouraged because I thought we had made huge strides against racism in this country - I saw the election of Obama as such a symbol of progress. And then I see how much racial ugliness and hate was just festering under the surface and it is so dispiriting.

But I can't let the assholes get me down, they are in the minority and growing more so daily. For me, the key is to continue making strides in areas that help to empower women ... education, finance, the workplace, child care options, representation in the political realm where laws are made. The attitudes and cultural shifts will take longer, but I believe they will follow, that they are following. There will always be sexist assholes but hopefully there will be fewer of them.

You asked: In what way do you mean "women have come far"?

I admit that the baseline that I started from was pretty pathetic because sexism was the norm and women had very little power. I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that I've seen a sea change. Besides the example above that I gave of sexually-segregated job ads (and sexually segregated jobs), consider these other changes from my youth to now:

Until Title IX in the Education Codes of 1972, girls and women didn't have equal access to higher education and to professional schools - there were quotas. Imagine a world with few or no female lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc. It existed.

Title IX also opened school athletics to girls and women. I don't have any stats on it, but believe me when I tell you that young girls' access to athletics was utterly pathetic.

Birth control is readily available and women no longer need to get their husband's permission to get it. When I first got on the pill as a single person, I was breaking the law and I needed the complicity of a law-breaking doctor to give me a prescription.

Women were regularly let go from jobs if they became pregnant.

The concept of child care did not exist unless you were wealthy and could get nannies.

Women couldn't get credit cards in their own name or sign for loans without getting a husband's or a man's signature

Women had no redress but to tough it out if they faced a hostile work environment. In one of the first jobs I had in a manufacturing plant, graphic pornography was posted conspicuously all over the workplace. A complaint would put your job at risk.

You could count on one hand the number of women in national political positions. Last year, we had a woman in serious contention for the presidency; we have women governors, mayors, senators, and representatives.

That's not to say there are not enormous strides yet to be made, but it's night and day to when I grew up. Then, most women were Moms who stayed home, had no economic power separate from their husbands, and had little standing or autonomy in the community apart from their relationship to a man.

I'm still hopeful. I've recently been so buoyed and gratified to see much of the male participation here on mefi in some of the recent "women's" threads. This is even a different mefi than the one I joined. One difference I see is that years ago, there were very few men who were true allies in trying to make things more equal - everything was always a fight - and now I find there are many.

But my feelings of progress are little comfort to you if you are in a situation where you are feeling constant reminders of being in a fucktoy class or where you are discouraged enough to call men the abusing class. I am truly saddened that is the case and it is a reminder that much progress still needs to be made.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:03 PM on December 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Known as Vic-baby to his friends."

Here's what's weird to me. When I was about 11, my dad's boss took our family and his family to the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva Wisconsin. (Probably circa 1977.) It was for skiing, because that was supposedly the draw (golf in the summer). But I remember during the hours our parents disappeared (presumably into the recesses of the nightclub) we children roamed the place, including the gift shop, which was replete with various artifacts that titillated our young minds to no end. Glasses where the outfits on the bunnies disappeared when you put liquid in them! Nudie playing cards! Golf accessories with girls! Every conceivable item with bunny ears! No one batted an eye at our wide-eyed "shopping". Also: There was a fantastic swimming pool with a bar in the middle! And a waterfall!

Our young girl-minds were warped forever. I distinctly remember playing "Playboy Bunny" at a slumber party that nearly got decidedly out of hand.

This was getting to the point where Hef was hurting for dough, and so he tried to make this the "family vacation" place? *shakes head*
posted by RedEmma at 5:13 PM on December 16, 2009

[really, ironing during an interview?]

I think that was irony.
posted by painquale at 12:08 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

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