Hugh Hefner invented the Playboy Bunny.
Playboy magazine had run a pictorial article on Chicago's Gaslight
Club. In response to that article, over 3,000 readers letters
flooded into the Playboy office asking how they could join this
exclusive key club.
Victor Lownes, a Playboy Executive suggested to
Hefner that Playboy should open a night club of it's own. Hefner
immediately saw the commercial and promotional benefits. But also
the personal ones: it is good for the ego to sit in your own
nightclub as King Playboy.
Plans for a Playboy Club were begun in 1959. But
the beautiful Bunny was not yet born. Seeking to maximize on the
image Playboy was most famous for, it's Playmates, initial talk
centred on dressing the Playboy Club's hostesses in revealing
negligees and calling them 'Playmates'. But during a night-out,
Victor Lownes' then girlfriend, Ilse Taurins, suggested to Hefner
the idea of dressing the hostesses in the image of the tuxedoed
Playboy Rabbit character. This Rabbit, personifying the Playboy
lifestyle and the magazine's ethos, had featured on Playboy covers
and in advertising spreads. Hefner answered that he had already
considered the idea of Playboy Bunnies, but had disregarded it as
'too masculine.' Ilse said her mother, a seamstress, could run up a
prototype female rabbit costume for Hefner to inspect.
A few days later Ilse stood before Hefner, Lownes
and a few other key executives, wearing the prototype Bunny costume
her mother had made. The effect was astounding. Hefner in a flash
knew that he had his hostess uniform at last (he was particularly
smitten by the tail). And so, after many refinements to the design
of the costume, when the first Playboy Club opened it was staffed by
the most famous icons of the Sexual Revolution and a legend was born
- The Playboy Bunny.
Bunny may never have been born at all!
In one of those strange twists of fate in life
that retrospectively seem inevitable (or perhaps it is divine
intervention?) the Rabbit character was a result of a fortuitous
late name change. Hefner originally intended to call his magazine
"Stag Party" with a human stag character as a company mascot,
designed by cartoonist Arv Miller. But before the first issue came
out, "Stag" magazine claimed trademark infringement. Unwilling to
lose time in litigation, Hefner renamed his magazine PLAYBOY and
chose a new symbol. Arv Miller transformed his stag to a rabbit.
Founding Art Director Arthur (Art) Paul then created the
world-famous Rabbit Head logo.
Hefner has wryly stated in many interviews that
had this last-minute name change not occurred there would have been
no Bunny Empire since it is impossible to imagine that there would
have existed a chain of successful nightclubs around the world with
girls wearing antlers on their heads!
"Doe Girls" just does not have the same ring.
Although antlers may have proved useful when dealing with the
wandering hands of keyholders.
The Playboy Bunny costume is the only non-service
uniform to have been granted a U.S. Patent. The Smithsonian and the
Chicago Historical Society both have Bunny costumes on display.
For more on the origins and development of the
Bunny see our
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