For now, I am skipping from December, 1960 to September, 1961 – I will talk about what happened during that time period later.
I had received a scholarship to attend a prominent Nursing School in Chicago at Pasavant Hospital. Even though I really wanted to become a nurse, it would mean I would have to continue living with my father for the next three years. He was very strict and controlling and would not allow me to go out or on dates. He was suspicious of every minute I wasn’t where he could keep an eye on me, so I felt I had to move away from him or go crazy. I passed up a great opportunity to go to that nursing school.
I stayed with him for awhile because I had started attending the Chicago Art Institute. I had entertained the idea of becoming a Fashion Illustrator. I took classes there for almost a year. In the beginning we drew still life such as fruit, flowers and other objects sitting on a table. Next we graduated to drawing live (nude) models who would maintain a pose for an entire hour without moving. My drawings were all in charcoal. Somehow over the years I lost all of my drawings which I thought were quite good. Fashion Illustrators drew pictures for newspaper ads of the latest fashions. The pay was quite good but I never followed through with it to pursue that career. After leaving the Art Institute I shared an apartment with a girl my same age who was the daughter of one of my co-workers at Carson Pirie Scott.
Our apartment was on the near north side of Chicago and was very much like the apartment that “Lavern and Shirley” had in their TV series (which was many years later). We were in a basement, two bedroom apartment. There was a window high up on the living room wall that was level with the street outside. It was $50 a month which was $25 for each of us. I loved it! I was free!! The “L” was close by and I would take the train to and from work each day. It was heavenly to be on my own and independent!
One day in August, 1962 a man approached me as I worked behind the department store counter. He said: “you are SO beautiful, why aren’t you a Bunny at the Playboy Club?” I told him that I had seen the ad and did not believe that I was one of the “most beautiful” women in Chicago. Besides, I had seen pictures of Bunnies and it appeared to me that they had long slender legs and big boobs, of which I had neither. He explained that the “look” was an illusion created by the Bunny costume and I should go and at least apply for the job. He also told me that I would get to try on a Bunny costume as part of the interview, and I would be amazed at what it did to my physical appearance. The kicker was when he said that Bunnies were earning a minimum of $300 a night (remember I was making $53.28 a week).
I muddled over the idea the rest of the day and all night. Becoming a Bunny sounded like a “pipe dream”, but I decided to at least go and apply – if only to get the opportunity to try on a Bunny costume. What the heck! I was aware of the location of the Playboy Mansion because it was located at 1340 N. State Street which was only about three blocks from the Plaza Hotel (on the corner of Clark Street and North Avenue) where I had been living. I might add that I never knew who this man was that “discovered” me. He was a mere “passer-by” that made a suggestion to me.
The very next day, I went to the Playboy Club to be interviewed by the”Bunny Mother”. She was the one who hired and arranged training for the Bunnies and also wrote their weekly work schedules, which constantly changed. She also “inspected” each Bunny before they were allowed to go to the Club downstairs to work. The costumes had to be perfect – always. I wasn’t even nervous about the interview because I was positive that I would not get hired anyway. To me, this was merely an adventure to try on a Bunny costume.