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Playboy Bunny History

Mad Men: The Playboy Bunny in the '60s

Everybody has secrets — that pretty much sums up last night's episode of Mad Men. The least of Lane Pryce's secrets is that he's a key holder at New York's Playboy Club. Yet that key is likely something he'd brag about in 1965 rather than hold tight to the vest of his three-piece suit.

Hugh Hefner opened the first Playboy Club in 1960 in Chicago to bring the Playboy magazine experience to life. He quickly grew the Playboy empire by opening clubs around the world. They were elegant, high-profile spots and symbols of status (only 21 percent of key holders ever went to clubs because membership was enough), but it was also a bit of a knockoff of Chicago's Gaslight Club, which Playboy ran a feature on in 1959.

Was there a stigma to being a Playboy Bunny? Find out below.

Not really! Hugh Hefner had a strict look-but-don't-touch policy and faithfully tossed out high rollers who wouldn't play by the rules. Model Lauren Hutton got her start as a Bunny and Kimba Wood (now Judge Wood) worked at the London club before heading off to Harvard Law.

It wasn't until the '70s and '80s, when the clubs started to flounder and the women's costumes went through several changes that a Bunny's work seemed degrading. Mary Chipman got a job at New York's Playboy Club in 1971, just past its halcyon days, and the idea was already beginning to seem offensive.

"Once you make yourself into this Bunny — which isn't really a woman, it's kind of just this hybrid creature — people felt entitled to take liberties with you," she told NPR. "People would feel entitled to pull your tail or touch you. . . . The usual social barriers of treating women with a certain amount of respect were somewhat dissolved by the costume."

Photo courtesy of AMC


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