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Playboy Bunnies - Attractive females wearing one-piece satin uniforms with a fluffy cotton tail, oversized-bunny ears, high heels and nylon stockings featured on the syndicated variety show PLAYBOY AFTER DARK/SYN/1969.

Playboy Bunnies

Hosted by Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, the program served up a hip bachelor pad party as Hugh Hefner hobnobbed with celebrities who told jokes, sang songs and interacted with several Playboy Bunny regulars on the show.

A few years earlier Hefner hosted a similar show called PLAYBOY'S PENTHOUSE/SYN/1959-60 that was taped at WBKB-TV in Chicago.

Playboy Bunnies are the personification of the Playboy corporate mascot, namely a rabbit.

On February 29,1960, the first Playboy Club opened its doors at 116 E. Walton Street, just off Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Variety referred to the new Playboy Clubs as "20th Century Dreamworlds."

The club offered a penthouse like atmosphere where only a select group of key holding VIPs could enjoy music, an alcoholic beverage and a lusty gaze at the luscious staff of Playboy Bunnies who were there to serve their clientele.

The inspiration for the Playboy Bunnies, a sort of serving wench for the 20th century, came from a similar group of "Gaslight Girls" who served customers in Gay Nineties costumes (corsets and fishnet tights) at the exclusive Gaslight Club in Chicago.

Following the suggestion that Hef's girls should sport rabbit costumes, Ilsa Taurins, then girlfriend of Playboy executive Victor Lownes, pieced together a makeshift costume (with help of her seamstress mother) and the Playboy Bunny was born.

In 1962, French seamstress Renée Blot modified the original Bunny costume by reducing the size of the ears, and adding a bow-tie collar, shirt cuffs to its scanty ensemble. A rosette shaped name tag adorned the right hip of each Bunny so seated customers could easily ID their servers.

"Look but don't touch" was the mantra for the members of the Playboy Clubs. It wasn't until 1975 that Playboy Bunnies were given permission to date the club members (known as keyholders - who received a rabbit-headed metal Playboy key - replaced by a plastic key-card in 1966).

The satin Bunny costumes originally came in 10 to 12 colors but later branched out to include a rainbow of designs like psychedelic swirls and polka dots. But, the color scheme of the Bunny costumes were often determined by what best complemented the Bunnies own skin coloring.

For example, dark-skinned Bunnies might wear pink and powder blue and redheads wear green.

The color black was a sign of achievement and only issued to Bunnies with special or senior status. In some cases, a Playboy Bunny was elevated to Playmate status. Jan Roberts was the first to earn the honor in August 1962.

What is the difference between a Bunny and a Playmate? Bunnies work at the Playboy Clubs and wear the corporate Bunny costume. Playmates appear in Playboy magazine centerfold pictorials and usually are not seen wearing much of anything.

On occasion, a Playmate will don a Bunny costume for a photo shoot or special event. There have been over 25000 Bunnies but only 500 Playmates.

When a Bunny left the employ of the Playboy clubs, they were required to hand in their costumes. Examples of the early costumes can be found on display at The Women's Museum in Dallas, The Chicago Historical Society, and The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

Actress Kathryn Leigh Scott spent three years as a Playboy Bunny in the New York Playboy club before gaining fame as Maggie Evans on the Gothic soap opera DARK SHADOWS/ABC/1966-1971.

Her book "The Bunny Years" chronicles her days as a Playboy sex symbol. The book is being developed into a film by Disney and Touchstone.

'The Bunny Years' by Kathryn Leigh Scott

Other former Bunnies turned celebrity include super model Lauren Hutton, Hill Street Blues actress Barbara Bosson, General Hospital actress Jackie Zeman, Blondie singer Deborah Harry, Twin Peaks actress Sherilyn Fenn, Monty Python comic Carol Cleveland, and feminist Gloria Steinem who became a Playboy Bunny in 1963 to write an article. Her story was chronicled in the biopic TV Movie A Bunny's Tale (1985) starring Kirstie Alley.

By the late 1980s, the Playboy Club phenomenon was at an end, due mainly to dwindling memberships. But during their heyday over 1,000,000 keyholders flocked to admire thousands of beautiful Bunnies in L.A., Chicago, New York, London, Montreal, Tokyo, among other cities about the globe.

The last U.S. Playboy Club, in Lansing, Michigan closed on July 31st 1988. The last official Playboy Club, in Manila, closed during 1991. The clubs may be history but the legacy of the Playboy Bunny has earned a special place on the shelf of popular culture and will not soon be forgotten.

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