Kelleigh Biography Kelleigh

Biography courtesy and copyright of Kelleigh.

Bunny Kelly. Click to view larger version!
Bunny Kelly

Chicago is my hometown. I was born and raised there, and to this day, I still miss it. I've lived all over the country, but the Midwest is still home and still evokes great memories for me. For the last 15 years my husband Larry and I have been in Knoxville, TN, and although it was an adjustment to begin with, we've settled in and fail to miss the snows of the north.

When I was still in college in the mid 60's, I noticed an ad in the Chicago Tribune for Playboy Bunnies. It seemed doubtful to me that I'd have any chance of being hired, but I figured I didn't have anything to lose by trying. So, I called and made an appointment and was interviewed by the "Bunny Mother." Of course, I was sent to the costume area and was fitted with a Bunny outfit and sent back to the Bunny Mother to have a Polaroid photo taken. A week later I was hired and became Bunny Kelly (although the correct spelling is Kelleigh). I spent my tenure at the old and especially quaint Oak Street Playboy Club.

Do any of the rest of you remember the "training week?" It was bizarre learning all the liquor categories, where they went on our trays when we ordered, what everything was, what to suggest for times and occasions etc. I'll never forget all that information and it's served me well over these many decades since then. Of course we also had to learn the "Bunny dip," how to apply our makeup, how to stand, how to get those false eyelashes on properly, and many other little specialties that were part of every Playboy Bunny's training.

I'll also never forget those damnable three inch heels that hurt like hell the first few weeks until I figured out I needed to buy a size larger because standing on your feet for all those hours in heels didn't work too well if they were the proper size. I can't tell you all how many nights I rolled my feet on coke bottles, soaked them in hot water, and elevated them after working a night shift. The pain was intense until someone told me to buy another pair in a bigger size. Boy was that a relief.

When first being hired, it seemed as though we all got the jobs that weren't as much fun as some. I remember being the "Camera Bunny" over and over and over until I was so sick of it I begged not to be scheduled for that. Of course, I much preferred waiting on the keyholders and meeting so many people. Then I got lucky and got scheduled on the bumper pool table, which became my favorite. Do any of you recall that we had to pay $20 per night to rent it? Then, I believe we charged $3 a game and of course there were tips. To this day, I'm not sure if the club had a gentleman that quietly trained new bumper pool bunnies, but this French gentleman taught me how never to lose. Because of him, I became skilled in the art of bumper pool. It was a third of my income per week from that time on. I wish I'd kept one of those "I beat the pool bunny" pins that we gave away from time to time. It would have been a nice memento.

Does anyone else remember the wonderful Christmas baskets we got from Hef? I believe I still have an unopened bottle of Chanel No.5 from one year. It never was my favorite, but was very popular in the 60s.

Bunny Kelly. Click to view larger version!
Bunny Kelly

Like all of us that worked there, we met great people, a lot of famous folk from local politicians to newspaper people, artists, and actors. It truly was an exceptionally fun time. Living in the Bunny Hutch at the Mansion on State Parkway was also great fun albeit it was like a college dorm with bunk beds, one small closet, and a dresser that locked. The great part of the Mansion was that it only cost us $50 per month rent and we had full use of the facilities. Our food was prepared for us at cost 24/7 and it was lovely. I never had a problem with gaining weight so I enjoyed chocolate fudge sundaes many nights after work. The Bunny Mother had me working on building my calves all the time. It never worked; they're still like they were 35 years ago. I don't know why I thought eating ice cream would help.

The Mansion was a fun place. I remember seeing Shel Silverstein and Hef playing cards a lot and never really did see Hef in anything but silk pyjamas. We did however, meet and get to really talk to many Hollywood folk. Fondly, I think of the night I played regular pool in the basement of the Mansion with Bill Cosby for several hours and for a nickel a game. He won. I saw him again years later in Dayton, Ohio and he remembered me. Incredible. Unlike some of the Bunnies, I didn't particularly like swimming in the pool in the Mansion knowing that the underground bar looked through glass into the pool water and one never knew who was in the bar. There were a great many mornings that we donned our net stockings and shoes, put a coat over ourselves and four of us would share a cab to the club for lunch shift. I don't think too many folks knew we were nearly naked under our coats. Back then, the four of us could take a cab the 5 blocks or so for 50 cents a piece amazing, isn't it!?!

I can't remember how many times I was tempted to date someone I met in the club, but I was so afraid I'd lose my job that I resisted. Horror stories of planted spies were circulated and therefore, few took the chance. I heard years later that this rule was changed, what luck!

Kelleigh in 1989. Click to view larger version!
Kelleigh in 1989

And oh those merits and demerits. how I hated that antiquated system of reward and punishment. I had a bunch of demerits at one time that took me a good while to work off by doing insane things that I'd never have done had the demerits not been there. The worst time for me at the club was one night when I was walking down the stairs, my heel caught in the rug and I went flying. Guess what popped out of my costume for all the TV cameras to see throughout the room?! Yep, you got it; the hooters said "HI!" to everyone! So I got up, tucked 'em back in, picked up my tray and continued on my way to great applause. My face must have been beet red. From then on I was extremely cautious on those carpeted stairs.

What about walking back through the kitchen into our dressing areas after a shift? Do you remember the whistles, catcalls and slop on the floor that we had to tiptoe through to avoid ruining our shoes?

The 60s and 70s were great times. And working at Playboy made it all that much more memorable. I actually had an album of photos from the days at Playboy, but my apartment was burgled and someone helped themselves to the entire album.

Today, I'm a business owner of a small wholesale commercial bakery called "Kelleigh's Kitchen". I sell to stores in Knoxville and the surrounding small towns. Although I'm still 115 lbs., I do believe my height has shrunk a bit from my original 5'7" frame. Despite baking breads, rolls, cookies, and assorted other delicacies for 15 years, I've kept slim because the work is so very labor intensive. Prior to moving here I'd been in advertising for a Fortune 100 company in Ohio, but when we moved here, replacing my income was next to impossible. So, I made my hobby into a business and it still thrives today. Retirement is in the not too distant future however. My gardens and books are what draw me today. I also spent many years as a producer for national talk radio hosts and simply loved it.

Kelleigh and her husband Larry. Click to view larger version!
Husband Larry and Kelleigh

In 1984 I married a most spectacular, kind, well-adjusted and handsome man. I have one daughter and three grandsons that live in northern Ohio. Grandchildren are the greatest! I suppose I could continue on about all my experiences since Playboy, but then I'd have to write a book. I'll end this with two quotes, the first from Bette Davis - "Old age isn't for sissies." And the second from George Bernard Shaw - "Youth is too good to waste on the young."

But then, for the most part, AIN'T LIFE GRAND!!

Kelleigh Nelson

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