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Jazz Mags: The Golden Age Of Playboy Clubs

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Exterior of Hugh Hefner's 'Playboy Club' in midtown Manhattan, New York. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

Exterior of Hugh Hefner’s ‘Playboy Club’ in midtown Manhattan, New York.

 

I don’t think that most people today realize the extent of the success of the Playboy Club in the 1960’s and early 1970s. In 1961, The Playboy Club was the busiest night club in the world. The Chicago club alone brought in around 132,000 customers in 3 months. Famous entertainers like Bob Hope, Ray Charles, Steve Allen, Ann-Margret, and Dizzy Gillespie performed at Playboy Clubs from New York to Manila, London, Tokyo to the Bahamas.

 

11th February 1963: Two Bunny Girls serving a customer with a champange lunch at London's Playboy Club. (Photo by Victor Blackman/Express/Getty Images)

11th February 1963: Two Bunny Girls serving a customer with a champange lunch at London’s Playboy Club. (Photo by Victor Blackman/Express/Getty Images)

 

And these weren’t sleazy strip clubs.

 

1979: Two-year-old Susie Paz strokes the tale of Playboy Club bunny girl Genevieve Allenbury. Genevieve is about to take part in a sponsored swim to raise money for the Child Development Centre at the West London Hospital. (Photo by Stuart Nicol/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

1979: Two-year-old Susie Paz strokes the tale of Playboy Club bunny girl Genevieve Allenbury.

 

The Playboy Clubs were classy, cool and hip. In Diamonds Are Forever, we learn that James Bond is a member. It became a status symbol to be a “Keyholder” for 25 bucks a year.

 

Playboy key

 

To give you an idea of how “unsleazy” Playboy’s reputation was at the time, Hefner had a television show called Playboy’s Penthouse…. this at a time when networks would never dream of putting Ward and June Cleaver in the same bed! Indeed, these were places you could take your wife and not feel awkward – they were tasteful and swank.
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Of course, the main attraction were the Bunnies. Inspired by the Chicago’s Gas Light Clubs of the 1950’s, Hefner had his hostesses wear similar outfits the Gas Light Girls (see above).

At one time there were 25,000 Bunnies and over a million Keyholders! And the revenue kept pouring in – soon, The Playboy Casinos became the primary source of income for the Playboy empire. In fact, the 45 Park Lane Playboy Casino was the most successful casino in the world.

 

10th October 1962: Playing Chemin de fer (Chemmy) a form of baccarat in a gaming room at the Playboy Club, an exclusive residential country club in Barnet, north London. No connection to the Playboy Club of America ! (Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images)

10th October 1962: Playing Chemin de fer (Chemmy) a form of baccarat in a gaming room at the Playboy Club, an exclusive residential country club in Barnet, north London. No connection to the Playboy Club of America ! (Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images)

 

Guests enjoy a game of La Boule at the newly-opened Playboy Club in Barnet, 10th October 1962. (Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Guests enjoy a game of La Boule at the newly-opened Playboy Club in Barnet, 10th October 1962.

 

All good things must come to an end, however. Playboy lost its gambling license, which killed a huge source of profits. Other factors included a general decline in nightclub attendance and the meteoric rise in feminism put the final nail in the coffin.

 

playboy bunny protest

 

A new Playboy Club opened at The Palms in Vegas in 2006. In 2012 it closed.  There’s a long, long way to go to recapture the hip reputation and global success which it once enjoyed. So, let’s relive the past a little and take a look at a few pictures from when The Playboy Club was king. I’d be interested to read comments from anyone lucky enough to have visited the club in its heyday.

 

Richard Exton, a left-wing, former grammar school boy reading English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, skims through an edition of 'Playboy' magazine. (Photo by Chris Ware/Getty Images)

Richard Exton, a left-wing, former grammar school boy reading English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, skims through an edition of ‘Playboy’ magazine. (Photo by Chris Ware/Getty Images)

 

I’ll start  with a picture of me at age 12 at the Baltimore Playboy Club in 1971. (Not really.)
bunny girls

 

Bunny club

11th February 1963: A line-up of Bunny Girls at a Playboy club. (Photo by Victor Blackman/Express/Getty Images)

11th February 1963: A line-up of Bunny Girls at a Playboy club. (Photo by Victor Blackman/Express/Getty Images)

 

Several image sources found here at the ex-Playboy Bunny site

 

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The 'Singing Bunnies' - Bunny Girl waitresses at the London Playboy Club - perform a song during the club's 'Showtime In The Playroom' spot, circa 1972. The group have recorded an album and are, left to right: Elaine Tulley, Heather Colne, Rosemary Lamb, Julie Ann Smith, Jo Anne Wigley and Karen Parkinson. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The ‘Singing Bunnies’ – Bunny Girl waitresses at the London Playboy Club – perform a song during the club’s ‘Showtime In The Playroom’ spot, circa 1972. The group have recorded an album and are, left to right: Elaine Tulley, Heather Colne, Rosemary Lamb, Julie Ann Smith, Jo Anne Wigley and Karen Parkinson. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


Music was a Playboy Club mainstay. In PLAYBOY ON STAGE: How Hugh Hefner and Playboy Changed the Face of Music, Patty Farmer focuses on Playboy and the music scene, its impact on popular entertainment (and vice versa), and the performers who took to the stages of the mythic Playboy Clubs and Jazz Festivals

Like Nina Simone performing on Hef’s first television show Playboy’s Penthouse circa 1960.

 

 

Albums came thick and fast.

 

Ska At The Jamaica Playboy Club Front[1]

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Shecky Greene

Shecky Greene

 

Shelley Berman

Shelley Berman

 

American pornographic magazine publisher and club owner, Hugh Hefner with American actress, Barbara Benton on the roof of London's Playboy Club on Park Lane, Central London after holding a press conference. (Photo by Michael Webb/Getty Images)

American pornographic magazine publisher and club owner, Hugh Hefner with American actress, Barbara Benton on the roof of London’s Playboy Club on Park Lane, Central London after holding a press conference. (Photo by Michael Webb/Getty Images)

 

barbi-benton-the-reverend-bob-playboy-records

 

 

Grab your key and come on in…

 

Playboy Key club

playboy food

 

limited_27ayby

 

I told you it was the kind of place you could take the wife…. for breakfast.

Bong! How d’yer like your eggs in the morning?

 

1962: Glamorous 'Bunny Girl' Wanda rings a gong for breakfast at Hugh Hefner's 'Playboy Club'. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

1962: Glamorous ‘Bunny Girl’ Wanda rings a gong for breakfast at Hugh Hefner’s ‘Playboy Club’. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

 

 

playboy meal

 

It’s all very respectable.

 

April 1974:  The Top Ten Tiemen celebrate their victory by displaying their winning ties at a presentation at the  Playboy Club, Park Lane.  Standing, left to right:  Leonard Parkin, ITN, Peter Woods, BBC TV, Norman Lamont, MP for Kingston-upon-Thames, Kingsley Amis, Author.  Seated, left to right:  Frank Chapple, General Secretary EETPU, Michael Barratt, BBC-TV, Henry Cooper, Malcolm Allison, Soccer Manager, and Patrick Cargill, Actor.  (Photo by Wesley/Keystone/Getty Images)

April 1974: The Top Ten Tiemen celebrate their victory by displaying their winning ties at a presentation at the Playboy Club, Park Lane. Standing, left to right: Leonard Parkin, ITN, Peter Woods, BBC TV, Norman Lamont, MP for Kingston-upon-Thames, Kingsley Amis, Author. Seated, left to right: Frank Chapple, General Secretary EETPU, Michael Barratt, BBC-TV, Henry Cooper, Malcolm Allison, Soccer Manager, and Patrick Cargill, Actor. (Photo by Wesley/Keystone/Getty Images)

 

Classy.

 

'Playboy' publisher Hugh Hefner surrounded by Bunny Girls. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

 

  • 1ridder1

    I was a member from 77 till 80.The Club was in Century City, at the time a Mega complex, 5 star Hotel, Restaurants, up scale cinema house, Broadway theater. Always a good choice for entertainment. The club had the perfect atmosphere for impressing the ladies,not tacky, classy.