Sex & Relationships

What I Learned As a Playboy Bunny in the '70s

My nascent anger at the artifice I saw all around me caused me to unknowingly join in it even more than I could have seen.

At seventeen, most girls were filling out college applications. I was nervously chewing my fingernails at an audition to become a bunny at the New York Playboy Club.

I had become the first emancipated minor in Suffolk County at age sixteen. How that happened is a story unto itself, but why I became emancipated was exactly why I was now auditioning to be a bunny. It took years of therapy to define and process the hell from which I had run away more times than I can count. Every time I was returned until, finally, the game was over. No one came to get me. I had never been more relieved, or more frightened. Now, woefully unprepared to make my way in the world—I was emancipated. And after a year of surviving in NYC on my own, here I was, nervously waiting to be called to audition.

After sleeping behind a shopping center heating vent when I could not find an unlocked car, I finally accepted an offer to crash at Mark’s cockroach-ridden Manhattan basement apartment in exchange for being his girlfriend. I got a job in a department store for minimum wage, then about $2.10 an hour. For the first time in my life, I felt safe.

One day, shortly after moving in with Mark, he came back to the apartment particularly excited.

“Yo! You home? Do your hair—now! Lemme see your nails … yo, you bitin’ your nails again?” He shook his head disgustedly.

I hated when I couldn’t please him. A deep sense of shame overtook me when he disapproved of me.

“What?” I asked, more frightened than curious.

“Yo, we’re gettin’ you dolled up. You got an audition at The Playboy Club. Starts at three. You better be ready.”

In his hand he held a torn-out ad announcing the auditions, which I took from him.

“Oh, you can’t be serious, Mark!” This was disastrous news.

“Not only am I serious, you are wastin’ time. Let’s go!” and he tossed me into the shower. Mark was not hesitant to use force when he wanted something.

My protests were failing to sway him whatsoever. I remember thinking that I just had to get out of this bad idea of his or risk the humiliation of a lifetime. It wasn’t that I cared about the rejection would go through; that I could see coming easily.

It was that I couldn’t bear to lose status in his eyes, since he seemed to love me and finally gave me the sense that someone needed me. How could I possibly let him down by failing some ridiculous audition for girls that would all look like movie stars? I was panicked.

I remember crying, finally out of excuses about why I couldn’t go to the audition.

“Yo! You purposely tryin’ to piss me off, or what? You got a lot to do to get lookin’ good—let’s GO!” he stormed.

I wailed louder and louder that I didn’t have what it took, and that if he really cared about me, he wouldn’t make me “compete” on the basis of my looks, since the other girls were sure to be much more beautiful than me, and how could he even think of something this cruel?

Aggravated, he snapped at me, “You got nice big tits and nice legs and a nice face. They’re gonna love you, you hear me? You wanna make some good money for a change, or you wanna wait around for some other bullshit job where you make nothing, like now? Let’s go, now!”

Through tears and the mounting terror of what the afternoon had in store for me, I styled my hair into its best Farrah Fawcett hairdo and applied way too much make up. I didn’t have a one-piece swimsuit (the required audition outfit), so I wore a burgundy Danskin bodysuit that I had shoplifted because it helped me remember that one day, I wanted to become a ballerina. As soon as I could stabilize my life, I wanted to be a ballerina. Maybe then I would take some ballet lessons.

On the way out the door to the audition, I grabbed a bagel laying on the kitchen counter, but Mark grabbed it away from me, “Lil, we need your stomach to look, you know, in, not out like pregnant. You eat afterwards.”

He wasn’t one for poetic language, but he managed to get us uptown to The Playboy Club by 2:30.


A big sign on the street level directed us to the sixth floor of The Playboy Club, where I was handed a clipboard with a form to fill out and told to sign in. As I looked around and saw a few hundred beautiful girls, I was overcome with nausea and ran into the bathroom where I puked my guts up. I stayed tucked in the bathroom stall, trying to calm down, listening to the nervous talk of the other girls retouching their make-up at the mirror. I reasoned I could maroon myself in here until the Club was closed—Mark could never come retrieve me from inside a ladies bathroom.

After a half hour, I calmed down enough to come out, more terrified of Mark hitting me than I was of any humiliation in an audition. As I exited the restroom, I spotted him, pacing, looking for me, furious, his rage at my long disappearance contained only by the threat of the crowds who might witness him losing his temper. “I don’t feel well,” I mumbled in the hopes he’d leave me alone.

At that point, I dissociated completely, leaning up against the wall, withholding myself from the sea of much-lovelier-than-me girls, actresses, and models who flitted about me like pretty winged creatures in the strange dream I was having.

Finally, we girls were grouped together in clusters of ten and then called in by groups through another doorway. My group, Group F, did not have one girl a day over age 22. I so wanted to go home and crawl under the bed forever. All I could do in that atmosphere thick with fear, competition, adrenaline, and my own self-loathing was to stay completely dissociated.


Mark was finally ordered to wait outside. Shortly after that, my group of ten was called in. One by one, we marched into the large theater of a room, past an entire panel of judges, including a glamorous, older woman of  maybe 35 or 40 with long, false eyelashes and I Dream of Jeannie hair.


The men didn’t rattle me a bit, since they all looked alert and amused, like happy labrador retrievers, but the glamour-puss female judge made me want to head right back to the latrine. She had the smug, unhappy face of a woman in search of some impossible perfection.

My stomach hurt. I told myself, “It’s almost over now—just get through this, and Mark will leave you alone about it. Tonight I’ll be home again, watching TV.”

Just the image of that helped me come out of my frozen zone and place one foot in front of the other, ever so delicately, of course, when my name was called. The instruction given was to slowly walk down the 30 foot runway toward the panel of judges, stop short of them on the “X” marked on the floor with tape, and wait to be addressed. Oh Jesus. Answering questions posed by the judges on top of having to be looked over?

A friendly girl who had introduced herself earlier to me as Natifah, got called first, and it was then that I realized some girls were just born for this kind of thing.  As she took her first step, another creature altogether took over the Ohio-born sweetheart—she was positively swaggering toward the judges, swinging her hips and smiling the broadest, whitest smile I’d ever seen. Once she arrived in front of them, she did this little curtsey and giggled with her tiny hands covering her face, and every single one of the men was a goner. The woman judge even cracked the minutest of smiles at Natifah’s adorable demeanor.

Something competitive in me took over, and I thought, “can do that. I know I’ll be rejected anyway, but I might as well push myself to make this fun! And Mark can’t watch and criticize me. So here goes. They like ‘cute?’ I’ll give them something better than cute.”

When my name was called, I took command of the endless stretch of runway, locking my sexiest gaze on the men and completely blocking out the woman judge lest my knees buckle. When they asked me to do a full, nice-and-slow revolution in front of them, I pushed away the urge to tip over from embarrassment and instead pretended I was Ginger, the movie star from Gilligan’s Island. As the judges looked me over, I remember thinking in that moment that my life had become so completely bizarre: a panel of total strangers taking their time to decide my entire future based on my butt. Wow.

They asked me about ten different questions, with the most difficult being, “Why do you think you can represent The Playboy Club?” and “What do you see yourself doing in the next ten years of your life?” Are they serious? The next ten years? How about the next week? Eat every day, continue to have a place to sleep, and hope not to get sick because I have no health insurance.

After that, everything else would be just cake!

To the first question, I answered by embodying what I thought was the Playboy mystique: “I can represent Playboy with my charm, my sweetness, the fact that I speak three languages, and—and, and my eagerness to please,” coyly averting my eyes downward, awaiting their giant beam of approval which would maybe change this crappy life I was having. Please. Pick me.

“Thank you very much, Lili,” one of the judges finally said, and I was pointed out of the room to join the others who’d already had their turn. When the last one had finished, we were told to wait until an announcement would be made.


Starving and exhausted, I was ready to bolt but knew Mark wouldn’t allow me to leave until the verdict was in. For another hour and a half I sat in the slowly-filling room of auditioned girls, finally warming up to Natifah and a few of the others. We grumbled about the lack of any drinks or snacks and made small-talk to help the time pass.

Finally, one of the male judges appeared at the door with a clipboard and said, “From Group D, will the following girls please stay behind and the rest, please exit—here,” he pointed to a stairwell door. He read a few names and continued down the list until he got to our group. “Group F, will Natifah and Lili please stay behind?”


What did he say? That had to be an error. There were girls auditioning with legs so long they came up to my chin! There were even a few so stunning I found it hard to breathe around them. Where were they? I spun around in my chair and spotted Mark peering in through one of the little glass panels of a faraway door. Mark must have heard; he emphatically gave me a huge thumbs-up sign.

No way! This could not just have happened! When the auditorium cleared out, there were 12 of us left.Twelve! Out of about 300! When I looked around at our group I realized that some of the stunners I saw earlier hadn’t been selected, which I mentioned to Natifah, and she replied, “Those girls might not have been smart enough on their feet, or kind enough … or maybe the Club already has their quota of ‘that kind’ of look … who knows? Who cares?! Main thing is WE are here!” and she kept kissing me on the cheek and jumping up and down.

I was too dazed and sure they’d recall me once they realized they’d made an error. I was just so happy that Natifah, my new best friend, had made the cut as she held my hand under the table, squeezing the circulation right out of it as the judges began an orientation on what was happening next. I felt an instant kinship with the other 11 girls in this new, strange Sisterhood of the Chosen Pretties. We were told to report here Monday morning and not to worry about how we looked or what we wore; we were going to be coached on “the Playboy” look and mannerisms in our two-week training session beginning Monday.


Oh, what had I gotten myself into with this job? Everyone knew the stories of the wild sex parties at The Mansion—wasn’t the New York club just the East Coast branch of that party? I would bet on it, but my other prospects were no better. At least here there might be a chance at advancement of some kind. Was living in a roach-infested room any kind of career track to success? Forget success, I just needed some new options for survival.

Natifah and I exchanged phone numbers once the half hour orientation ended, and I personally thanked the judges one by one. I was still in shock, so sure they’d take me aside and say, “You know, on second thought, we need to reconsider our decision.”

This insecurity was a function of the instant comparisons I couldn’t help but make when I first entered the holding area. It seemed that for every girl whose body was much leaner or curvier than mine, another one had just a so-so body but an incredible face. I had never thought of myself as either exceptionally pretty nor as possessing a wondrous figure. My waist was never slender enough, but my legs were definitely shapely, and my breasts were a natural 36C since puberty, what, six years ago?

The comparisons between myself and all the other girls in the room stayed with me throughout the weekend, as Mark called all his friends and bragged about his girl’s “big success.” I admit I was proud, too, but I felt too guilty to really enjoy it, as though the other, more beautiful girls had gotten ripped off by my being chosen over them.


Monday morning rolled around, and we 12 began our training sessions given by two Senior Training Bunnies, overseen by the Glamour-Puss who turned out to be the Playboy’s version of a Den Mother. However, she was to be called “The Bunny Mother.” Her strict control inspired fear from all of us newcomers, and she wasn’t exactly a warm, fuzzy type.

In the following two weeks, we were taught the rules of working for The Playboy empire, and boy, were thererules! All employees, both front of the house (Bunnies) and back of the house (everyone else) had to join the Union and pay weekly dues for representation by a Shop Steward. I was fairly incredulous at learning we had to join the Union; we here to work, yes, but to have all that fun that people like my boyfriend’s buddies were imagining would go on here, right? Wouldn’t the Union just be a damper for all the wild parties that we’d undoubtedly be invited to “play” in after hours?

And what was all this business about the Bunnies not being allowed within 500 feet of the Playboy Club unless she was on her way into work or walking away from work? Walk fast, because if you were seen lingering, that was grounds for termination. What? Why? Being the youngest Bunny, I interjected with, “Like what?” The other girls snickered but the General Manager was stern in his response:

“Like fraternizing with a man, like being inebriated, like behaving in a way inconsistent with what Playboy deems acceptable behavior, behavior that might tarnish The Playboy Club’s reputation as a respectable Club.”


“Well, what about on our days off, like, say we’re walking from Bloomingdale’s to The Plaza? The straightest line between them is on 59th Street … are you saying we …”

He interrupted me tersely with, “You are only allowed within 500 feet of the Club when you are coming intowork or when you are quickly leaving the building. Any other times you are not allowed within 500 feet of the building. I think that makes it fairly easy to understand.”

I remember thinking, What is this, like, The Mafia? What, like they own the sidewalks of New York? All these rules were starting to irritate me.

And worse, what were all these injunctions warning us never to date a customer, ever? That if we were caught giving our phone number to a customer, we would be immediately terminated?

Why the heck did they think I wanted to work here, for the right to sling cocktails in high heels? I could do that at The Gaslight Club just a few blocks south of here! But then, The Playboy Club had such exalted status, that if you were one of the chosen few lucky enough to work there, they could ask you to lie down in Fifth Avenue traffic, and you would feel privileged to do so.

It seemed to me the whole point of this job was exactly for the entree it would provide for us Bunnies—the cache to date the celebrities the Club was famous for entertaining, to give us access to rich, powerful men who were members, no?

The General Manager was just saying that, right? To keep up appearances, right? With a wink that I just did not quite see him deliver?


In the following two weeks of training, we new hires were taught “the Bunny Dip,” which was something between a curtsey and a half-bending at the knees, enabling you to pick up or place anything onto a customer’s table without bending over the customer. So for two weeks we learned and practiced Bunny Dips. I wondered if ballerinas did anything like a Bunny Dip.

We were warned to groom ourselves the way Playboy required, or we wouldn’t pass the Bunny Mother’s inspection before beginning any shift, and we would get sent home. That led to demerits, and a few of those would get you fired. Even with the Union protecting us, we still had to abide by a long list of Club regulations.

We had to step on the scale whenever we were asked to, and we were required to be within a certain weight limit at those weigh-ins. We were always to have freshly-painted fingernails and regulation-sized high heels matching our Bunny outfits (which were kept under lock and key in a little room with two seamstresses guarding them with their lives). We were always to have our hair styled in a Bunny Mother-approved way (read: have sexy, bedroom hair). We were not free to change our hairstyles or hair color at our own whim and had to get clearance for any major changes in our grooming and/or appearance.

We had to wear regulation pantyhose called “support hose” purchased from a medical supply drugstore. They were made of extra-thick nylon that hugged your skin so tightly it felt like wearing them would cut off all blood flow to your legs and your feet would go numb. Over the top of those, we had to wear a thin, sheer black hose that created the appearance it was all we really had on. But the magic was all in the support hose, which truly covered a multitude of sins: any hint of cellulite would disappear, as would slightly flabby inner thighs and any other imperfection.

That was the first order of dressing: we would start nude, pour ourselves into the sausage casing known as support hose, roll on the black sheer pantyhose, and then wriggle ourselves into the torture-corset known as the famous Bunny costume, essentially a patch of fabric just large enough to hold a network of metal “bones,” eye hooks, and a zipper.

Once halfway into it, we would limp over to the seamstresses who would help us engage in a contortionist act worthy of inclusion in Cirque du Soleil. I can still do it in my sleep: you take a little breath, suck your stomach in for all you’re worth, and then grit your teeth and hold your breath while the seamstress stands behind you, yanking up the costume until your crotch burns from the friction, and then she zips you up from the base of your butt to the shoulder blades, cinching in everything until the zipper threatens to pop from the pressure.

The bones of the corset would bite into your flesh, molding you and your organs into the Playboy ideal: waspish waist, achieved by redistributing all the extras known as internal organs, fat, bones, and skin and channeling it all towards the top of the costume where you quick zip it up, and it all spills over and is made to look like “cleavage.” A trompe l’oeil!

Once the seamstresses had you in, which could take a full minute or two, then the “rearrange” would happen. They’d reach their cold hands down into the top of your costume, feel around for where your breasts were hiding and then pull them up until they nestled into the molded cups. Next, the seamstresses would take a pair or two of rolled up stockings in a ball and use them to pad underneath each of your breasts. If one pair wasn’t enough, they’d just keep stuffing. When you were as “stuffed” as the molded cups could hold, the seamstresses would command you to take another breath in, and they’d close the eye-hook in the back of the Bunny suit. That cinched everything. Scarlett O’Hara had nothing on us!

I am convinced Victoria’s Secret must have borrowed their, um, “secrets” from the early Playboy Club—anyone who’s been in their stores has witnessed the foam padding of cups in everything, from bathing suits to workout bras to the lacier lingerie-type bras that are growing thicker and more cleverly concealed inside the garments with every new season.

The Bunny’s finishing touch was standing in front of a full-length mirror with a seamstress standing behind you, having a final look and making any adjustments to your breasts so they pillowed up over the top of the very tightly-fitting costume while ensuring that your nipples were tucked safely just inside the top edge of the costume. If you could still breathe, you were set to get a fresh tail hooked onto your backside by the seamstress. From there, you’d get your ears perched on your head and wrap a fresh set of cuffs with the Playboy-logo cufflinks onto your wrists.

I hated the corset routine even from the first days of training. And I was seventeen, and it was the 1970s. Cockroaches or corsets? Which would you have chosen? I had auditioned as a seventeen year old and worked my first day inside the Playboy Club weeks later when I turned eighteen. I didn’t know much.


Although I never broke the rule about not dating the customers, I did accept the flattery, and later, favors bestowed on me by a very senior-ranking executive of the Playboy empire. He would come in from London and invite me out to dinners and parties with him. From there, we’d go dancing at Regine’s with his other favorite Bunny. She and I became fast friends on our jaunts about town with The Important Man.

Once a Playmate of a prior year was brought in as a special guest. She had flown in and needed a spot in The Club to stash her beauty tools. The Bunny Mother assigned her the empty locker next to mine. The air in our dressing room was charged with the excitement of meeting one of the real Playmates, in person! Later on, as I watched the Playmate emerge from her shower, sit down next to me and begin her primping for the evening’s festivities, I was struck by how absolutely human she looked to me.

Was she pretty? Sure she was. But was she in possession of otherworldly perfection? Not even close.

While on break that day, I flipped through the ever-ubiquitous stacks of Playboy magazines in our employee lounge and found the older issue in which she had “starred.” As I studied her photos, I was struck with the magic that computers could generate. In front of me was sprawled virtual perfection, not a flaw in sight, her skin pore-less, tawny, with the texture of velvet. Her eyes were sparkling and bright. Her lips perfectly moist, parted ever so slightly to show off her perfect, non-rejecting smile.

Her body was portrayed in much the same way: all good features highlighted to the extreme, and the less than perfect were “corrected,” which is to say, rendered invisible.

Today, with even grade-school kids adept at using Photoshop, none of this would be considered revelatory. To me, in 1978, well before home computers, I was dropped, headfirst, into the duplicitous world of visual trickery. I had seen behind the Wizard’s curtain, and I was stunned.

Don’t misunderstand: I am not saying the centerfold woman wasn’t pretty. She was. But in truth, so was the woman who sold me my New York Times in the morning. So was my aunt, and so was my boyfriend’s sister, for that matter. Jeez, most women were attractive if you could just see them outside of the narrow rules, and yet it seemed that Playboy had extolled some illusory woman as the absolute gold standard for perfection.

Except the centerfolds weren’t perfect, and neither were we, and neither was anyone else. When the other Bunnies would sit around after work at The Blarney Stone having drinks, we were real girls in real bodies that had real problems. We fought with our boyfriends, we had bad breath in the mornings like everyone else, we got frustrated waiting in line at the bank, and we thought John the bartender poured stingy drinks. We werehuman! Even my boyfriend, once enamored with all things Playboy, was disillusioned once he started hanging out with my new Bunny friends. At first, he was a bit crestfallen that they were all so, well, normal.Then, I think he enjoyed the freedom in knowing that.


At the same time, deep resentments were fomenting in me against the men that created and perpetuated all this artificiality. Paradoxically, I judged every woman I passed on the street, using my Playboy-determined metric to decide her place in the female pecking order. It was like a compulsion, something I couldn’t choosenot to do, even when it angered me that I so reflexively engaged in it. Inside me was a critic who applied Playboy’s measurements to every woman in the world.

More and more, my circle of friends reflected my ever-shallower values. I chose only the very prettiest Bunnies to socialize with, going to all the places the rich men were who would take notice of us and send us drinks. And I stopped wanting to be out in public with my non-Bunny friends who weren’t particularly attractive. I was getting a thorough training at work in just how much looks mattered if you were female.

Secretly I’d started developing not-such-wonderful feelings for the men who came into the Playmate Bar by themselves and sat nursing their scotch while allowing themselves full-on mesmerization by the larger-than-life illuminated photos of Playmates past, like staring was a base sacrament to their real religion.

My nascent anger at the artifice I saw all around me, all of which was being overridden and even celebratedby the men, caused me to unknowingly join in it even more than I could have seen, given that I was too immersed in it all to have had the perspective to question it.

Because I’ve walked those same roads myself and commodified my own sexuality, I understand the Heidi Montags and the Kim Kardashians. Only these gals are entire commodification industries. That young women are making the same mistakes with even more commercialization now makes me very sad.


The second time I worked as The Door Bunny, basically a glorified “greeter,” a large mob of angry women protesters stormed the front of The Club. Literally.

Carrying picket signs with their Women Against Pornography (WAP) logos emblazoned, the protestors would hurl themselves against the glass panels that made up the front of our building, chanting that Playboy was a bunch of male chauvinist pigs exploiting women and they needed to STOP! Over and over again, they’d throw themselves against the building till the glass panels shook, frightening everyone inside.

Terribly alarmed, I phoned upstairs to a manager about the disruption, but no one dared go outside to speak with the WAP, so the protestors would get out their bullhorns and turn up the heat, leading chants about the abuses of pornography and sexism. I still remember their poster of Larry Flynt’s Hustler magazine, which showed a naked woman’s torso being fed into a manual meat grinder. Horrifying. Are those pictures actualcovers of magazines?

My GOD, these women are enraged! What was going on here?

Were they just jealous of us, because we Bunnies “had it,” and they didn’t?

When the Playboy Club would finally call the police, the protesters would have to be dragged off, sometimes handcuffed, and always yelling and kicking. I recall being so upset a few times that I cried as I saw them enact this intense fury I didn’t yet understand, but that terrified me.

They started to show up en masse, and the WAP protests became a regular event there at the Club. Customers were hectored on their way into the Club and would often have to fight their way in. I started wondering whether these women thought their husbands were inside, if that was why they were so angry. I wouldn’t want my husband to be hanging out in here. Having those kinds of contradictory realizations was difficult to parse, so I shoved them aside, and using inebriants certainly helped.

Because as “liberated” as we Bunnies tried to appear, trying to live up to Hef’s Playboy paradigm of sexy girls helping men feel empowered to live out the full smorgasbord of their sexuality, I did feel sad whenever I saw men come in wearing wedding bands, as bourgeois as that perhaps sounds. Sure, couples often came in for shows, dinner, and drinks. But at least that didn’t feel as much like the men were cheating, lusting after other women while the wife stayed home and put the kids to bed. It was when married men came in alone or in groups of other men that disturbed me. At Christmastime, I received plenty of gifts from married customers who were apparently my ardent fans, including a diamond necklace from one man.

When couples came in, I wondered why a woman would show up in a men’s club acting like it was normal. I wondered whether they had sold out their wish to be a man’s one and only, all to appear “cool,” nodding consent to the appetites of the male animal.

Of course, intellectually I understood that the Club had good shows, but then, so did plenty of other venues in town that didn’t feature nude panels of centerfolds or service given by half-dressed girls with trussed up bodies.

My internal criticism of the females our customers brought with them reflected my secret longing for a special kind of man: one who’d forbid me from working here, who would tell me he couldn’t share me with another man, not even visually. I wanted him to think me nobler than participating in this flesh-fest, so good and true that I was worthy of inspiring his true affection and his fidelity behind it.

I fantasized that such a man existed and would save me from this world of dualities I couldn’t comprehend with my mostly inchoate 18-year-old consciousness. Of course, I could never meet that man in the Playboy Club. No, he’d have to come from elsewhere. Obviously. No man of mine would be in here. I hadn’t yet figured out how to extricate myself from this scene; that would take a lifetime and be a work in progress. It took becoming involved for years with a man who wanted to marry me (but who I found out had a secret porn/sex addiction) that forced me to think all this through critically. But I digress …


If you were wondering what it was really like to work at Playboy given all the General Manager’s rules for us, I’ll tell you. Working there was actually a really good job, as glorified waitressing goes. We were protected by our Union, we were guaranteed tips as they were included on every customer’s bill, and we were allowed to bid our work schedules based on seniority, always a fair rule, I think. We had health insurance. Working there felt corporate, which it was. And there was absolutely no sex going on anywhere in The Club. None. If anything, the environment was antiseptically clean, much more so than most jobs I’ve held.

The intense scrutiny was also underscored right then, in part because Hefner had applied for a gaming license to open a Playboy casino down in Atlantic City and was nervously awaiting all kinds of surprise inspections. Therefore, every employee of his was held to rigorously high standards of conduct. And there were “Shoppers,” essentially spies hired by his office to pose as customers and take note of our behavior in the Club. If anything was “off,” we would be written up. Knowing that spies lurked everywhere just waiting to catch you in an infraction, we were on our best behavior at all times. Sure, we snuck drinks sometimes, but we were ultra careful about it, that’s how many watchdogs there were protecting the Playboy name and image.

If anything, Hefner’s proposed new TV series will have to fabricate some serious antics to provide a sexual hook. Working at a diner would probably have provided more salacious workplace stories.


After working at Playboy for a few years, my rebellious nature landed me on the wrong side of the Bunny Mother. I got myself into trouble, and it was made clear to me that continuing to work in the New York Club would be difficult going. The only way out of it that I could see was to appeal to The Important Man for help getting myself out of this fix.

After crying to him that I really, really needed my job, he offered me two solutions: either work in the London Playboy Club or consider posing for the magazine. That, he said, would be lucrative and possibly open some doors for me, like modeling contracts and the like. “You mean, um … nude?”

“Sure,” he said.

When I protested that my waist wasn’t small enough and my … he cut me off with a laugh and a reassurance that they could “fix that” in print.

“But I could never do that! Millions of men would see it and I …”

He seemed rather non-plussed at the arguments I was having with myself.

I’d keep wanting to say, “What a horrible idea!” but the prospect of making a lot of money wouldn’t let go of me. That, and the resolution to the impossible situation I had on my hands with trying to keep both my job and get on better terms with The Bunny Mother. Maybe I should pose. It would be fast. Next month, there’d be a new girl, and I’d be all but forgotten. Yes, that might work. Maybe I could manage to pose and hide behind the respectability of Playboy‘s reputation as a “gentlemens’ magazine.” I mean, it’s not like it’s Penthouse or anything, I tried to reason with myself.

But then visions of my father, a macho Mediterranean man, flashed before my eyes. I could see him walking through the mechanical engineering company he owned that employed many mechanics, and there on the wall, enshrined between the drafting tools and the hammers, would be an enlarged photograph of his only daughter, nude for all the world to see.

If there were a more terrifying thought in the universe, I don’t think I could imagine it.

Before I could change my mind again, I quickly told The Important Man I couldn’t do it. He simply shrugged and said, “Suit yourself.”

And so with no resolution to my dilemma with the Bunny Mother, I handed in my resignation and walked out of The Playboy Club forever.

Decades later when the porn addict in my life tried to argue with me that porn stars are not exploited, that many of his favorite stars actually have their own sites, that they’re empowering themselves, I grew very quiet. Instead of arguing with him that no, no, I knew way better than that, I realized then that the smartest thing I ever did was not pose nude. My decision to pose would not have been retractable, just like the stupid tattoo I got when I was fifteen, which at least could be concealed.

I knew that in not posing, I was free to marry a respectable man, have children I’d never have to worry about finding out that Mommy posed for a pornographic magazine.

I could go to college and get the jobs I wanted and always hold my head up without fear of being found out.

Playboy gave me one of the best jobs I ever had, and allowed me one of the toughest but ultimately smartest decisions I ever made for myself. For that I am eternally grateful.

When I began working at the Playboy Club, all I wanted to learn was to plié in a burgundy bodysuit and toe shoes. Instead, I learned to Bunny Dip in a corset and heels. My life has had a number of surprising twists, a lot of therapy (mercifully), and an ever-deepening spirituality. I work with the spouses of sex/porn addicts—at—which is about as full-circle as that seventeen year-old could have ever imagined.

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