• Playboy's Mother Bunnies: An Expose

    • Posted on Oct 26, 1979


    You’re about to read the first column I've ever written from actual first-hand research just for the column. Most of the time I click on a little column switch somewhere in my twisted brain, and a day or two later this stuff rolls out which I work over while chuckling.

    I have never set out to find something to write about, much less to expose. Until last week. I was in Whitewater, Wis., last week delivering a lecture on the movies. At dinner before the lecture a Whitewater faculty member explained why our restaurant, a fine old antique-filled house with good food, was so empty.

    "All the frat guys take their dates down to the Lake Geneva Playboy club." My eyes narrowed into little slits. "Playboy club, eh? About how far is it? And do they let non-Frat guys without Club keys or money in?" He said "Yeah, they let anybody in, and it's only 25 miles down the road."

     RESEARCH FOR a column, I figured.

    First-hand research on the fabled Playboy Empire, that amazing chain of businesses founded over 25 years ago on the premise that beauty really is skin-deep. The beauty that sells magazines, anyway.

    So here's what I found. The bunnies all have the same mother bunny! Seriously now. The bunnies belong to a "hutch"—a term for rabbits kept in captivity—and each hutch has a boss mother bunny.

    My bunny waitress was pretty upset about her mother. She had finished waiting on me, brought the check, and I asked, "Bunny maam, how long can you keep this up?" (I almost said those.) "I mean, don't bunnies get old and have to be put out in the carrot patch?" I was trying hard not to be too witty.

    She replied without smiling, "that's for the bunny mothers to decide. When she decides we're not looking right, it's out." She was dead serious.

    I asked, "So are there hard feelings and favoritism sometimes?" "Sure," she said almost bitterly. "Some of the bunnies have been here eleven years, and they really look old. Others who look better have been let go. They were hurt, but what she says goes."

    I was rather shocked at her candor. She went on to explain that she was really a student just taking a year off from college, so this wasn't her life. But to an aging career waitress bunny, the bunny mother was indeed to be feared. I looked up at her and suddenly she was no longer a "bunny" at all, but a rather oppressed, if not pathetic human being standing there holding a tray full of empty ash trays.

     Her costume looked ridiculous, all wired up, with floppy ears and a white puff-ball on the butt. I looked her in the eye, maybe for the first time. "I think you need a union," I said. She looked back at me, right in the eye too. "I know," she said.

    I LEFT her a good tip; she had been much more frank than I had expected. But more than that, I was left wondering at the power of the bunny mother.

    Probably she was a genius at detecting signs of aging, the first sags, the wrinkles, the baggy eyes and flaring hips. And then she had to tell the once-fabulous creatures of the mythic Playboy Kingdom that they had lost their ears, their bunny-ness, meaning of course their dewy youth.

    Would American men stand for this kind of work and risk, in any form? Is there any male job anywhere in America where a man is fired when his thighs begin to jiggle too much? Where only his looks matter?

    Don't say male modeling; those guys go on until their graying hair turns snow-white, at which time they model as the executive who's made it in Playboy magazine ads. So in the world of Playboy, older men are executives, while older women are ex-bunnies.

    One of these days, a few not-so-dumb bunnies are going to see that and smash down their hutches. Its 25 years overdue.

    Go comment!
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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
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