Debunking of the Playboy myth began in 1963 when Gloria Steinem went undercover as a Bunny at the New York Playboy Club and revealed the ill-treatment behind the glamour in “I Was A Playboy Bunny”.
Still, the lure of Hef in his silk pyjamas, the man who says his best pick-up line is “Hi, I’m Hugh Hefner”, continues to enthral. 48 years after Steinem’s exposé, over 3000 women auditioned for positions as Bunnies in the London Playboy Club, almost half a century of feminism having apparently passed them by, so they could go to work in a leotard, rabbit ears, bowtie and pom-pom. Women send him pictures of their naked bodies to appraise, in the hope he’ll make them Playmate of the Month, some having invested heavily in plastic surgery in the hope it will increase their appeal. Anyone in his employ with a complaint about working conditions or the boss has tended to keep shtoom.
Then the High Priestesses of Bunniedom, Hef’s girlfriends, started ditching him and writing tell-all accounts of life inside the Playboy Mansion. Jill Ann Spaulding’s Upstairs and Izabella St. James’ Bunny Tales: Behind the Closed Doors of the Playboy Mansion bear no relation to the glamour and liberalism with which Hefner has so desperately tried to associate himself. Instead, they talk of dog shit encrusted carpets, curfews, unprotected sex, Hef’s miserliness, quaaludes given to Hef’s favourites en route to night clubs where they were allowed to do nothing but fawn over him, bitching and boredom. Hef’s twice-weekly “sex parties” the women have to attend – unless they’ve recently had surgery, in which case they’re excused – consist of each woman sitting on his condomless viagra-hardon for two minutes while the others cheer “fuck her daddy” and play at being lesbians to keep him turned on. If they don’t want to have sex with him, they keep their pink pyjama bottoms on, but repeatedly doing so tends to result in the woman being asked to leave the mansion. St. James’ book is billed as a “steamy tell-all”, but, based on the content, I don’t think that’s quite how she intended it to be perceived. Unless stepping in dog shit while queuing for your weekly allowance and faking lust for the “dead fish” that was Hef in bed, do something for you, I don’t see that it would steam up anything.
I don’t really have a cogent argument against The Playboy Mansion, per se – though I have many against what Playboy itself represents as a brand, concept, and perpetuator of damaging cultural attitudes. I just don’t get the appeal of The Hefster – like piccalli, Tom Cruise, and vampires.