Sophia Sipes, once a DJ, emcees a show in the Penthouse of the skyscraping Phoenix Playboy Club. Playboy, July 1963

"The original reason for starting the Club was just to have a place to hang out," he recalls. "When I finished working on the magazine each night, a little after midnight, I would go out with a friend or two and hit the nightspots in Chicago -- the Black Orchid, Chez Paree and the Cloisters, which was run by a couple of friends, Skippy Krask and Shelly Kasten. The notion of having our own saloon was exciting, and, I think, reflected to some extent my nostalgia for Casablanca. The Bogart character, running his own place, was a very romantic image from my teenage years, and Casablanca was then, and remains, my favorite film.

"So the Playboy Club was opened initially as just a place to have fun, and that’s why I gave a portion of the first one to a couple of my friends: Victor Lownes, who was my promotion director, and Arnold Morton [scion of a Chicago restaurant family and owner of a nearby key club, Walton’s Walk], who was going to handle the restaurant and liquor part of it. And then, of course, it quickly turned into something we could not have imagined before."

Was this, in a sense, a repetition of the overnight success of Playboy magazine’s first issue, which -- because Hefner wasn’t sure there’d be a second one -- bore no date?

"It was exactly like that. Yes. Absolutely. We were not anticipating the extent to which the Playboy Club became such an incredible phenomenon, and that happened almost at once.


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Sophia Sipes
photo by Pompeo Posar

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