Being a Bunny was not as easy nor as glamorous as it appears to those on the outside looking in. There were rules....lots of rules! We went through two weeks of training before being allowed to serve drinks and we were given a 44 page “Bunny Manual” with all of the rules and regulations that we were required to memorize. If we did not obey the rules, we got “demerits” which cost us $1.00 per demerit. (Unfortunately, there were no “merits”)! It cost one demerit per minute if you were late for work. There were demerits for anything that wasn’t right with your costume and for various other wrongdoings. If you accumulated 100 demerits you could be fired, depending on how serious your blunders were.
During the two weeks of training we were shown how to fix our hair – it took special hair-do’s to incorporate and enhance the look of the Bunny ears. We also got lessons in how to do our make-up. All of the rooms were quite dark so we needed to wear lots of make-up in order to stand out. We all wore false eyelashes. We learned how to order drinks from the bartenders and which garnishes to put in each drink. We ended up knowing how each drink was made, what was in each one and which glass it should be served in. Finally we learned to serve the drinks in the special stylized form that was a trademark of the Bunnies.
Every Bunny was inspected by the Bunny Mother and also by the “Room Directors” who were men assigned to be in charge of each room in the club (the Maître D’ of each room). Your ears, tail, bow tie, name tag, collar and cuffs had to be clean and straight. Your tail had to be fluffy and fresh looking. You were required to purchase three-inch (satin) high heels to match each one of your costumes. The problem with satin shoes was they never stretched the way leather shoes do and they never felt “broken in” and comfortable. All bunnies had problems with their feet and they ached so badly at the end of your shift that you could hardly walk at the end of the night. Costumes also wore out rather quickly so it always seemed like you were wearing a new pair of high heels. They would alternate colors so you didn’t have the same color costumes each time.
Each bunny usually had at least two costumes in two different colors. There were ten different colors of costumes. The goal for each of us was to finally be one of the lucky ones to get to have a black costume. It was everyone’s favorite and they limited the number so it usually took a long time before you got to have a black costume. You really felt like you finally “made it” when you got a black costume.
The shifts were long an arduous. The Club was open from 11:00 AM to 4:00 AM and there were two shifts. One was from 11:00 AM until 6:00 PM and the second one was from 6:00 PM to 4:00 AM. It was impossible to take a break because you never stopped waiting on tables the entire time you were there. You were never allowed to sit down and you were always required to carry your tray. You were allowed to “perch” on the back seat of a couch or railing but only in a certain way... in a “pose”.
The trays were heavy. At all times you were required to have several ashtrays, napkins and a cigarette lighter on your tray. Whenever you noticed an ashtray with even one cigarette in it you were to exchange it with a new one. This would be done by putting an empty ashtray upside down on top of the dirty one, picking them both up and putting the dirty one on your tray and immediately placing the clean one back onto the table. This was done so quickly that it almost appeared to be a “magic trick”. If you saw a customer take out a cigarette, you were to light it with the “Playboy” cigarette lighter that you always had with you. (Most times it shocked the heck out of them!).
Drinks consisted of one and a half ounce shots in heavy shot glasses. When the drinks were served, we would put a glass of ice on the table, and pour the shot of alcohol over the ice. All mixers were carried in bottles, plus a carafe of water. So, we could at one time have several shot glasses with booze, and separate bottles of 7-up, tonic, soda, coke, ginger ale etc. Many times the trays weighed 35 pounds (perhaps more)! We were only allowed to carry the tray in our left hand, and serve with our right hand. We were never allowed to hold the tray with two hands! We all developed big muscles in our left biceps!
We served drinks by backing up to the table on our right side until our leg touched the table. The tray would be in our left hand away from the table and as we placed glasses on the table we would do the “Bunny Dip” which meant we would bend our knees and gracefully place the glasses on the table, pour the shot into the glass, and then pour the mixer asking the customer to “say when”. We would load the glasses full of ice which made the drinks go farther. Serving drinks the way we did not only looked pretty but helped us from having our boobs come out of the costume! (Remember, we had LOTS of padding under each boob so it was quite easy for them to come out over the top of the costume).
Everything in the club cost $1.50 (which was quite steep at the time). All drinks cost the same – no matter if it was only water or the most expensive liquor. Meals, cigarettes, cigarette lighters, ashtrays and glasses were all $1.50 and could be purchased. One exception was the “Pool Bunny” who would play Bumper Pool with the customers for $1.00 per game. The Bunnies that played pool got very good at it and if the customer could beat her, they got a medal and their name on a plaque on the wall (with fanfare and a ceremony). It was very difficult to beat them because they played every night for 8 to 10 hours, usually 6 nights a week on the same table - so they knew every little kink in the table and where to hit every shot.
There was a “Camera Bunny” who would take Polaroid pictures put in a paper frame which were also $1.50. Also, a "Cigarette Bunny" who would walk around the Club selling cigarettes along with a Playboy lighter for $1.50. Three other jobs were the “Door Bunny” who would greet members at the door, check their Key and inform them of what was going on throughout the Club, and Bunnies who worked the Gift Shop and Coat Check. The Door, Gift Shop and Coat Check Bunnies got hourly wages. You would get some tips from members, but not always.
We were required to purchase our stockings from the Playboy Club at $5.00 a pair. If we got a run in our stocking we had to immediately go to the Bunny Room and get a new pair. Sometimes we went through several pairs in one night because customers would continually touch us with their cigarettes!
Each Bunny had to pay the bartender and the busboys ($6.00 per night apiece) which was deducted from our paycheck. Most customers would write our tip on their check and at the end of the week we got a paycheck with the tips. When they signed their tab, we carried small flashlights that we would shine on the bill so they could see it in the dark and it clearly said “TIP” under the total for them to add in. Cocktail bunny’s wages were tips ONLY – no hourly wage whatsoever! By the time they took out taxes, Social Security, bartender and busboy fees, charges for stockings and demerits, our paychecks were not a whole lot. We really counted on cash tips for the majority of our income. Years later the Bunnies in New York went on “strike” and demanded the minimum wage, and they won (for all the clubs).
The Playboy Club also hired a detective agency – The “Willmark Service System”. These “detectives” would come to the club posing as customers and try to give us a hard time or ask us on a date or to do something to break one of the rules. Essentially, trying to “entrap” us by offering money for favors or thinly disguised requests for sex. They would write a detailed report on the Bunnies that waited on them. If we really screwed up, we could be fired! So, we never knew if and when one of our customers was possibly a Willmark detective. We were not allowed to fraternize with any of the customers outside of the club or date any customer. Customers were not allowed to “touch” any of the bunnies, not even their “tail”. If they did, they could be asked to leave and have their “key” taken away.
There was an exception to this rule however. There were “Number 1 Keyholders” members who were allowed to date the Bunnies. These were the Executives of Playboy and some of the close friends of the Executives. They did not have to pay for anything in the club and were allowed to “entertain” bunnies. You would know who they were because their keys said “No.1” on the back of the key where the members' numbers were. However, most Bunnies recognized the No. 1 key holders as soon as they entered the room (except when they were new hires).
We were not allowed to wear any jewelry with our costume. No watches, rings, or any other type of jewelry. Bunnies were to all to appear to be single and were not encouraged to tell anyone if they were married (which many of them were – with children).
Finally, we were required to attend a “Bunny Meeting” once a month in an afternoon. Not showing up for a meeting cost 100 Demerits! Meetings seemed to never end because each bunny would air her gripes, complaints and problems etc, etc on and on.....