Bunny Birthday - Part 1 of 9

Note: This article was published in the December 1980 issue of Playboy magazine. All dates and references should be understood within this context.

The Bunny now and then: three Los Angeles Bunnies (from left), Wanda Huizenga, Lori LeVeille and C.J. Mobley, in the new cabaret costume to be worn in Playboy Club showrooms. Top, Hugh M. Hefner surrounded by some of the Bunnies from the early days of the Chicago Playboy Club, several of whom subsequently became Playmates of the Month.

SHE'S BEEN CALLED a sex symbol, a Girl Scout, an Occidental geisha, a "good girl dressed as a bad woman," "pure sin on sight," the embodiment of a perpetual male erotic fantasy. Her working uniform is arguably the world's most recognized. She was born 20 years ago. She's the Playboy Bunny, and ever since that memorable night in February 1960, she has been the subject of curiosity -- then, and now, often manifested in goggle-eyed stares -- and controversy. Back in 1960, purse-lipped Mrs. Grundys feared that the mere sight of these shapely young ladies would corrupt the morals of their sons. In 1980, militant feminists, some of them equally grim-visaged, complain that the Bunnies themselves are the victims of some sort of sexist corruption.

Still, the Bunny has not only survived, she has multiplied. Triumphantly. Since 1960, upwards of 25,000 young women have worn the ears and tails of the Playboy Bunny, and we'd like to salute them. So happy birthday, Bunny!

The Playboy Club's most enduring attraction -- like Playboy itself, which was originally going to be called Stag Party -- just missed entering the world under another name. Our first recruiting ad, which appeared in the "Chicago Tribune" late in 1959, seeking "the 30 most beautiful girls in Chicagoland" to staff the new Playboy key club, referred to the prospective employees as Playmates. At least the costume illustrating the ad bore some resemblance to the Bunny outfit finally adopted, though it was fur-trimmed and lacked collar and cuffs. When he was laying plans for his new club, Hugh Hefner's first notion had been to dress the girls in shortie nightgowns. The rabbit, to him, was a masculine symbol. But associates -- Victor Lownes, then the magazine's promotion director, among them -- persuaded Hefner to carry the Playboy Rabbit identification into the magazine's night-life extension. Lownes was dating a girl named Ilsa Taurins, a Latvian model who had appeared on Hef's television show "Playboy's Penthouse"; Ilsa's mother, a seamstress, ran up a sample costume and -- presto! -- the Bunny was born.

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Photography by Arny Freytag (3 bunnies). Text and images copyright of Playboy.com.

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