Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought the bunny back. I have to confess that curiosity got the better of me when I was invited to attend the opening night media party of Hugh Hefner’s new gambling Playboy Club with my journalist friend Fiona Sims. Out went any feminist inclinations; over me came a wave of nostalgia and nosiness. Nostalgia for a distant memory growing up in the 60s in New York State when bunny girls were perma-tanned and very glamorous—a bit like forbidden air hostesses who came out at night. Plus they had tails, which for a small child is very impressive.
When we arrived at the new Playboy Club in Old Park Lane to find a crowd of cheerful feminist protesters brandishing “Eff Off Heff” and “We are Hopping Mad” placards, it was hard to know whether to join them for a laugh or fight through the thicket. Our voyeuristic streak got the better of us and in we went in the noble pursuit of glamour.
Glamour we did not find—tackiness we did. The bar is windowless and soulless, unless you count as souls people who look like bouncers on a night off, with women they probably wouldn’t have let into their own clubs. A fashion show was announced and we watched bunnies parading in bunny costumes through the ages culminating in the latest creation. That was one coup Heff has pulled off—to enlist the designers behind the famous Marchesa label, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, who were in the front row, to give their take on the iconic Playboy bunny design.
But what of the bunnies themselves? Yes they were pretty, lots of hair and bleached teeth, and they carried their tails proudly. But there is something profoundly discomforting, especially in this age of austerity, seeing these creatures in their new dismal habitat. Despite Heff’s protests that he has “liberated women” by making them feel sexy, the bunnies are, I gather, only paid the minimum wage, on the assumption that tips will be generous. And so they are. The previous evening a lady client had gambled away £1.7m and, after her spectacular loss, still left a tip of £80,000. Pity she didn’t leave the whole lot to the RSPCA to free the bunnies.