Detroit’s Playboy Club, 1963

Photograph courtesy of The Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

1963Bunnies take a break from their table-hopping duties to pose for a photo at Detroit’s Playboy Club, on East Jefferson. The first Playboy Club opened in Chicago in 1960, and soon Playboy honcho Hugh Hefner built clubs in most large cities. In their regulation skimpy costumes, which included a satin corset, bunny ears, bow tie, and fluffy tail, bunnies were trained to follow the “Bunny Manual” for proper conduct. A managing Bunny Mother saw to it that rules were followed. Bunny Jeanne, who worked at Detroit’s club, recalls on what a hot spot it was in the early years. “People queued [up] in all weather to gain entry to the Detroit Playboy Club,” she wrote. “There were almost as many women as men waiting to get inside.” But the clubs had critics, chief among them feminist Gloria Steinem, who went undercover as a bunny at New York’s Playboy Club and wrote a scathing assessment of her experience for Show magazine in 1963. Eventually, Detroit’s club relocated to James Couzens, near West Eight Mile. In 1988, the last Playboy Club in the United States (in Lansing) closed. But in 2006, a club opened in The Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, followed by additional spots in Macau, Mexico, and London. Interest in — and criticism of — the bunny business picked up recently with the TV show The Playboy Club, set in the 1960s and an apparent effort to capitalize on the popularity of AMC’s Mad Men. At press time, NBC planned to air the premiere of The Playboy Club in mid-September.


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