Saturday, June 13, 2009

Life in the Playboy Bunny Suit


The Playboy bunny suit may have been the product of the 20thcentury, but I assure you it's quite Victorian. I was cinched into my first bunny suit in 1980 at age 19.

A seamstress measured each curve and angle of my waist, hips, inseam and bust. For the illusion to be perfect the suit had to fitlike a glove. Since the fabrics didn't stretch, the measurements had to be exact.

The bunny suits had rib-smashing metal slats in the body and fit high on the hip - designed to accent long legs, cleavage and smallwaists. As the seamstress at the Dallas Playboy Club measured me, she told me she'd take an inch off my waist. Translation: Don't gain an ounce or breathing will not be an option.

Bunny suits, which were patented, weren't allowed out of the club. Each night the women left them in the dressing room - also called the hutch - to be laundered. I had two suits. One had black- and maroon-colored diamonds. The material resembled something a 15th-century jester might wear. The other - my favorite - was powder blue.

After hair, makeup and nails, the first thing a Playboy bunny puts on was skin-colored stockings, followed by thin black hose. Then she slipped into the bunny suit. This could be tricky. I found the easiest way was to bend slightly at the hips, keeping the torso straight - suck in the stomach and help hold the corseted suit inplace while another bunny zipped. (For this reason bathroom breaks or emergencies such as ripped hose required two bunnies to be pulled from the floor.)

The final touches included clipping on the bunny tail, cuffs and cufflinks, collar and bow tie, the bunny ears and slipping on the arch-breaking 3- to 4-inch black close-toed pumps.
Once the Playboy illusion was complete, it was show time. It was hardly all glamorous, however. Slinging cocktails was hard. The body ached from the heels and the metal slats. Sneezing caused an odd sensation. The first time I did, the tight bodice held the sneeze deep in the torso so nothing but a breathy squeak could comeout. Eating was also problematic. After eating a big meal before working, I was wisely told by a senior bunny not to eat until after I put the suit on. This way I'd know exactly how many teaspoons I could get down before the suit became unbearably uncomfortable.

Still, when you were on the floor or on a bunny promotion, you had celebrity status. Tips far exceeded the standard 20 percent. Limousines were the usual mode of transportation. People stopped you for your autograph.

Like Superman or Wonder Woman, you went into the dressing room as a normal person, but when you put on that costume and stepped out, you were transformed.

Editor's note: Staff writer Deborah Voorhees was a Playboy bunny atthe Dallas club from 1980 to 1982. She attended the reunion.

Head: Playboy bunnies hop down memory lane
LAS VEGAS - Las Vegas, the city of glossy surfaces and wildest-dream fantasies, made the perfect backdrop for the first international Playboy Bunny Reunion, held at the glitzy 1960s-style Stardust Resort and Casino in mid-April.

Attractive women of all shapes and sizes - ranging from middle-aged to grandmotherly - came to celebrate their days as Playboy bunnies, when they donned cotton tails and satin ears.

An outsider - if he made it past the event's tuxedoed bouncers -might have mistaken the event for a sorority reunion. Except no one was trying to recall the old school song. Women in sequined, long-flowing gowns laughed and showed off rusty bunny dips. (This was a genteel way to serve drinks without bending over, which required an arched back and knees held together and bent.)

"It doesn't matter if you're a bunny for two months or years, you're part of the family, " says Kelly Morgan, who worked at the New York club in 1976 and is writing a cookbook titled "Bunny Tales: Dishes to Tickle Your Fancy."

For almost three decades (1960-1986) these women took turns embodying a male fantasy at more than 25 Playboy clubs and resorts around the world.

Hugh Hefner's playboy lifestyle and his "Playboy" magazine added to the bunny's allure even though most bunnies never posed nude. The clubs were private. Keys were purchased for the privileged to enter Hef's playground.

These days, the Playboy bunny isn't extinct - but she's on the endangered list. A few women still wear the famous patented outfits for Playboy's 50th Anniversary Club Tour, which is traveling around the United States to celebrate the magazine's benchmark. It stops at the Dallas nightclub Blue tonight.

Back in the City of Sin, those bunnies of yesteryear came by the hundreds for the "After-the-Hutch" reunion, organized by bunnies. These women, once on the cutting-edge of sexual controversy, now embrace a nostalgic innocence.

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