9 “There’s more to Bunnyhood than stuffing bosoms.”

Carly Warren

Introduction

There are many words that come to mind when one hears the words “Playboy Bunny.”[1] These words can range from whore to beautiful to half-naked to Hugh Hefner. Playboy Bunnies as described in an ad recruitment are “[a]ttractive young girls [who] earn $200-$300 a week at the fabulous New York Playboy Club, enjoy the glamorous and exciting aura of show business, and have the opportunity to travel to other Playboy Clubs throughout the world … serving drinks, snapping pictures or greeting guests at the door.”[2] These Bunnies are dressed “in brightly colored rabbit costumes, complete to the ears and white cottontails."[3]

There is a major illusion of Bunnies, and the reality is that they are “over-commercialized, overworked, and underclothed waitress, not the mythical sexy, rich, body-beautiful idea that most people have.”[4] Not all Bunnies have the perfect body either, but due to the corset-like costume helps make female curves more prominent. The costume also makes any flesh on the body go up towards the bosom.[5] The moving of the flesh is not enough, so in order to appeal to men, the Bunnies stuffed their costumes often with a whole plastic dry-cleaning bag. Some bunnies said that due to the plastic, they sweat too much and lose weight in their chests, which is not optimal, and therefore stuffed with absorbent tissues or cotton.[6] The heels also accentuate the legs making them look more toned.[7] These heels may look good, but many Bunnies work around six to ten hours constantly standing in these shoes their legs begin to “get numb from the knee up.”[8]

Bunnies not only had to deal with physical issues but also had to deal with obnoxious men treating them as sex objects. Men often grabbed the Bunnies’ cotton tales and or tried to touch them, but Bunnies would have to tell them, “Sir, …  you are not allowed to touch the Bunnies.”[9] Men often “treated the Bunnies as if they had no feeling or personalities of their own.”[10] Bunnies were also controlled by many rules, such as “[the] tray must never leave [their] hand unless … serving or clearing food from a table. A Bunny must never sit down or lean against anything, never eat or drink anything, never smoke, and never, never think about going to the bathroom until she is off duty!”[11]

Bunnies are paid $50 a week. On top of a low wage, “the Club takes 50 percent of the first $30 worth [tips]of those that are charged, 25 percent of amounts up to $60 and 5 percent after that.”[12] Bunnies are only able to keep all tips that are cash. Therefore Bunnies do not live the lavish life that the magazine and advertisements portray to the public. There are very few people who spoke the truth about the ongoings inside of the club and the jobs. Gloria Steinem was one of the few individuals who spoke out; she went undercover as “Marie Catherine Ochs” to write an article for Show Magazine about the inside world of the famous Playboy Club in New York.[13]

Shown below is Steinem’s, or should I say Ochs’ recounted experience.

Gloria Steinem's 1963 Show Magazine[14]

I've spent an informative Sunday with the Bunny Bible, or the Playboy Club Bunny Manual, as it is officially called. From the introduction ("You are holding the top job in the country for a young girl) to appendix ("Sidecar: Rim glass with lime and frost with sugar"), it is a model of clarity.[15]

Some dozen supplements accompany the bible. Altogether, they give a vivid picture of a Bunny's function. For instance:

… You … are the only direct contact most of the readers will ever have with Playboy personnel…. We depend on our Bunnies to express the personality of the magazine.

… Bunnies will be expected to contribute a fair share of personal appearances as part of their regular duties for the Club.

… Bunnies are reminded that there are many pleasing means they can employ to stimulate the club's liquor volume, thereby increasing their earnings significantly…. The key to selling more drinks is Customer Contact … they will respond particularly to your efforts to be friendly…. You should make it seem that [the customer's] opinions are very important….

There is a problem in being "friendly" and "pampering" the customer while refusing to go out with him or even give him your last name. The manual makes it abundantly clear that Bunnies must never go out with anyone met in the club—customer or employee—and adds that a detective agency called Willmark Service Systems, Inc., has been employed to make sure that they don't.[16] ("Of course, you can never tell when you are being checked out by a Willmark Service representative.") The explanation written for the Bunnies is simple: Men are very excited about being in the company of Elizabeth Taylor, but they know they can't paw or proposition her. "The moment they felt they could become familiar with her, she would not have the aura of glamour that now surrounds her. The same must be true of our Bunnies." In an accompanying letter from Hugh Hefner to Willmark, the explanation is still simpler: "Our licenses are laid on the line any time any of our employees in any way engages, aids, or abets traffic in prostitution…." Willmark is therefore instructed to "Use your most attractive and personable male representatives to proposition the Bunnies, and even offer … as high as $200 on this, 'right now,' for a promise of meeting you outside the Club later." Willmark representatives are told to ask a barman or other male employee "if any of the girls are available on a cash basis for a friendly evening…. Tell him you will pay the girls well or will pay him for the girls." If the employee does act "as a procurer," Willmark is to notify the club immediately. "We naturally do not tolerate any merchandising of the Bunnies," writes Mr. Hefner, "and are most anxious to know if any such thing is occurring."

If the idea of being merchandised isn't enough to unnerve a prospective Bunny, there are other directives that may. Willmark representatives are to check girls for heels that are too low, runs in their hose, jewelry, underwear that shows, crooked or unmatched ears, dirty costumes, absence of name tags, and "tails in good order." Further: "When a show is on, check to see if the Bunnies are reacting to the performers. When a comic is on, they are supposed to laugh." Big Brother Willmark is watching you....

Once the system is mastered, there are still instructions for specific jobs. Door Bunnies greet customers and check their keys. Camera Bunnies must operate Polaroids. Cigarette Bunnies explain why a pack of cigarettes can't be bought without a Playboy lighter; hatcheck Bunnies learn the checking system; gift-shop Bunnies sell Playboy products; mobile-gift-shop Bunnies carry Playboy products around in baskets, and table Bunnies memorize thirteen pages of drinks.

There's more to Bunnyhood than stuffing bosoms….

The wardrobe mistress stopped me as I passed. “Baby,” she said, “that costume is way too big on you.” It was true that I had lost ten pounds in the few days since the costume had been made, and it was also true that, for the first time, it was no more uncomfortable than a tight girdle. She marked the waist with pins and told me to take it off. “I’ll have it fitting you right when you come tomorrow,” she said. “Needs two inches off on each side.”


Carly Warren is a Freshman at Wake Forest University.


  1. “Playboy Bunny” is a female cocktail waitress who worked at the Playboy Bunny Club.[footnote] “Who created Playboy magazine and spun it into a media and entertainment-industry giant — all the while, as its very public avatar, squiring attractive young women (and sometimes marrying them) well into his 80s” Laura Mansnerus, “Hugh Hefner, Who Built the Playboy Empire and Embodied It, Dies at 91,” The New York Times, September 27, 2017, sec. Business, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/27/obituaries/hugh-hefner-dead.html.
  2. Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale Part I,” Show Magazine, May 1963, 114.
  3. James K. Beggan and Scott T. Allison, “The Playboy Rabbit Is Soft, Furry, and Cute: Is This Really the Symbol of Masculine Dominance of Women?,” Journal of Men’s Studies; Thousand Oaks 9, no. 3 (April 30, 2001): 341, http://dx.doi.org/10.3149/jms.0903.341.
  4. Bloomington women’s Liberation, “‘Top Job in Country,’” Off Our Backs 2, no. 2 (1971): 13–13.
  5. Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale Part I,” 92.
  6. Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale Part II,” Show Magazine, June 1963, 112. Steinem collected an “unofficial list of Bunny Bosom Stuffers: 1)Kleenex 2) plastic dry cleaner’s bags 3) absorbent cotton 4) cup-up Bunny tails 5) foam rubber 6) lamb’s wool 7) Kotex halves 8) silk scarves 9) gym socks” Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale Part II.” 114.
  7. Bloomington women’s Liberation. “Top Job in Country."
  8. Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale Part II,” 68.
  9. Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale Part II,” 66.
  10. Bloomington women’s Liberation. “Top Job in Country.”
  11. Bloomington women’s Liberation. “Top Job in Country.”
  12. Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale Part I,” 114.
  13. Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale Part I.” 99.
  14. Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale Part I.” 114.
  15. Extremely detailed do’s and don'ts of being a Bunny
  16. “Representatives of Wilmark, Inc., [were] retained by the Playboy Club to pose as customers while testing Bunnies for efficiency, cheerfulness, clean tails, etc., and whether or not Bunnies will accept dates(they aren’t supposed to) with or without the lure of money. Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale Part II,” 110.