I came to know about Playboy from the mountains of Colorado.
I had been a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines in Denver. My exroomie, Lannie Balcom, didn't like flying so she quit and took a job in Chicago working for Playboy Clubs International. She became the buzz of the airlines because she posed for a nude center fold in the magazine. All the pilots had her centerfold hanging from the visors in the cockpit.
I was forced to quit flying because I and eloped and got married in Taos, New Mexico. Stewardesses who got married were automatically terminated and the end of my flying career was over. Shortly after I left the airliens they changed the requirements but by that time we had moved to Hollywood, California and the California scene was an exiting place to be. I had many friend who were acting and I was talked into answering a casting call for a role in a new television sit-com titled “The Farmers Daughters”. It only required a walk across a stage but it gave me a strong impression of the competition in that other world of acting. In Hollywood there was a term called the “Hi and bye friends” which is “Hi can you do anything for my career?” Nothing? O.k. “Bye”. In a few years I was divorced and back in my home town of White Lake, Michigan. I was the single mother of two beautiful children.
What does one do with only airline experience? I remembered my exroomie, Lannie, and I soon found the Detroit Playboy Club on East Jefferson. I tried on the costume and did the walk across the stage and I was hired by the Bunny Mother on the spot! She told me I could not use the name of Jean because there was currently a Bunny named Jeanne. So, I chose Taffy as my Bunny name after my beloved Siamese cat. I soon changed it to Cinta because the name of Taffy provided too many openings for sexual innuendos from intoxicated patrons. The pay was 25 cents an hour. I quickly learned it was normal routine to make $300 a night in tips. We kept our tips in our costume and we were only allowed to tuck money in our costumes when we were in the Playmate bar area and out of sight of the patrons. People were never allowed to touch a Bunny and that was the role of the Room Director to make certain people did not lay hands on the Bunnies. When we posed in pictures with patrons we were always careful to not allow touching of any kind. It was exciting every night to pull off the costume and count the bills at my feet. Money was easy to make and being a Playboy Bunny meant doors opened and our tabs were picked up where ever we went in Detroit. I felt like a super star and chuckled to myself about not getting the Farmer's Daughter's role. When doors opened I was always mystified and when doors began to close I was baffled. One night we were at the bar at the Kinsley Inn and a handsome elderly white hair man walked up to me and said "Merry Christmas" while placing a $100 bill in my hand. He really did look like Santa.
Training to be a Bunny seemed it would be an easy transition from being a flight attendant because it required running up and down the isle in high heels. I soon learned it was the most physically demanding job I had ever done. I quickly lost 25 pounds. The seamstress kept my costume impeccably tailored and she said it was much easier to take in a costume than to make it larger. I soon developed a bad case of shingles on my cheek which I simply covered with more layers of thick make-up. I was on a roll and the low lights made up for imperfections. I didn't realize I getting run-down.
Playboy club required 4-inch heels at and we wore the finest shoes by Oleg Cassinni. They fit like a glove and were the most comfortable shoes I had ever owned. My new friend Bunny Jeanne, showed me all the right places in Detroit and where to buy designer shoes.
Building up my muscles in my right arm was another hurdle and the great motivation was the daily routine of getting into the costume, applying 3 pairs of false eye lashes and pinning on three hair pieces of braids and long curls. We wore what was called "Hooker Hose". They were sheerest smoke black which made legs and hips look like ebony. If they developed a run they were soon the target of any other Bunny's finger and they would be ripped totally so they could not be worn. Our white cufflinks included bunny cufflinks which had to be pointed towards each other as if they were kissing. Before going on to report for duty, a Bunny reported to the Bunny Mother, spun around and held the hands together so the Bunny Mother could see the cufflinks were kissing. It was then the saem routine for the room director. It was traditional to have famous people autograph the cufflinks and I have a small collection still in my box of bunny memorabilia. It was great fun and I always felt like that little girl dressing up in my auntie's fine clothes. I had a gold costume and it seemed to fit the times with “Gold Finger” and all the James Bond effect. I felt that I was in such superior athletic condition that I could have copied the Minoan acrobats and executed a flip off the horns of the Minotaur. It was a high time in more ways than that.
Detroit in 1967 was a sea of music, the streets were clean and crisp with the sound of rock and roll. Motown was at its zenith and the exuberance was like lightening. The streets whirled with the sparkle and as a county girl I was totally smitten. When I was promoted to work in the Penthouse showroom I thought I had really accomplished a huge hurdle. Matt Michaels was the musical director at the club and I was enchanted by his music. I was always shy and intimidated by his professional demeanor. I was so enraptured with his jazz that I found myself forgetting to watch my tables and was given demerits for a complaint that I did not serve drinks quickly enough.
On the first night working the show room I thought the comedian was hilarous and I laughed all night long. I wondered why the other bunnies were not laughing. About a week later, after hearing the comedian's routine many times, I too stopped laughing. It had become repetitious and the punch lines no longer funny.
Just before closing time it was customary to called our last call drink to the Intermission club just down the street from Playboy. Three shots would be lined up on the bar, waiting for us.That was actually the first time I had straight whiskey and when I asked for a coka cola, another Bunny gave me her opinion on how "You don't mess up a good Canadian Whiskey with a coke!"
When you are “In it” it seems the isolation and knowledge that one is “In It” does occur to a person at the time. Much like being in Haight Ashbury in the 60's where we didn't know it was the beginning of a new wave of thinking. It was like that in Detroit because I didn't realize this was the zeitgeist, a time of change and warp of Motown, luminous cars, filet mignons with blue cheese dressing and the Detroit Riots. This seemed all outside my reason for working at Playboy which was that I was just trying to pay the rent for my children and it was the best money an ex-flight attendant could make. On the night the riots began I just thought it was an out of control block party so I drove the red Corvette up to a police barricade and they let me through when I told them I was just to get home to my children. The wave through seemed prophetic, the zeitgeist was changing. I had no idea of the severity of what was taking place, I was the typical Annie Fanny blonde and I am embarrassed to admit it. The club never again took on the energy, or the glamor or the money and it seemed to have become a ghost club after the riots.
On a great summer night when all the long, luminous limos pulled up in front of the club, I had the great experience of waiting on a beautiful group of people celebrating a purchase of a new home which they said was just fully carpeted with red. It was an entourage of The Temptations. They ordered 4 bottles of Lancers and 4 double martinis, which John, the bartender, didn't believe. When he saw who I was waiting on he laughed and waved at them. When Melvin Franklin spoke, I asked him if that was his real voice or if he was acting. He said when he was a kid they made fun of his voice and they called him “froggy” because his voice was naturally a deep base. He said he was laughing all the way to the bank. Then he told me he was from the Temptations.
Playboy had strict rules about Bunnys dating anyone who came into the club. We were not allowed to give out any personal information or talk about anything to patrons other than Playboy policies or Playboy events or Playboy Clubs in other places. One day I was assigned the job as Playboy Bunny Recorder which required interviewing people about their experience at Playboy and to ask their opinions about Playboy. The interviews were recorded on a tape recorder device that we wore around our waist with a little microphone that we carried in our cuff linked hands. These tapes were given high importance because we were told these tapes would be sent with the highest priority to Hugh Hefner. I loved talking to people and I really enjoyed this. However, when I reported to the club the next day I was called into the manager's office with the huge mahogany desk and all the mystery of the inner sanctum. He had my recordings and played the end of an interview where I agreed to meet a man after after work at his recoding studio. I just about fainted when the manager played back the tape. The manager told me this person was a good friend of his and since he was a good friend he would destroy the tapes and I would not be reported.
I drove a Sting Ray Corvette and early one morning I was pulled over by a police officer telling me he could not believe how fast he clocked me at over 100 miles an hour. He was going deer hunting the next day or he would have given me a ticket. It scared me and shook me into realizing how dangerous my life was becoming. Just about this time my ex-husband had kidnapped my daughter and I was in a serious custody law suit. He threatened to take me to court and use my job as a Playboy bunny to prove that I was an unfit mother so he would gain custody of my children. I quit.
I moved back to the country, bought an old farm house and began college at the University of Michigan. Then I earned a master’s degree from Wayne State University in education and art.
A.J. Winchester, M.Ed.