Barbara Walters, better known as Bobbie the Bunny, is shown in the photo above (second from the left) completely in her element. At the age of 22, she told herself that she wanted to become a Playboy bunny the minute she saw one on the cover of Playboy magazine as she was walking out of a coffee shop. The next day, she began working at the members-only Playboy Club in New York City, where she stayed for a year before being a bunny at the Miami Plaza Club for four and a half more years. Now 69, the still-striking brunette reminisces about what she claims as "the best time of my life."
"There was no favorite part, I loved every single thing about it," Bobbie told us. "From the minute I walked into the club, your life changes; you leave who you are outside and you become Playboy, you become a bunny."
With an all new Playboy Club reopening in Midtown Manhattan this September, I got to speak with Bobbie about its heyday in the early '70s and what it took to be a bunny. Spoiler: it wasn't easy. According to the Ageless author, the exclusive clubs were everything you'd imagine; full of glamour, celebrities, and beautiful women everywhere. There were many rules and expectations that came with the job, including a strict no-dating-customers policy (although Bobbie did meet her first husband at the Club . . . but we'll get to that later). See eight things about being a Playboy bunny that will surprise you.
1. There's a "bunny mother" and you have to go through her first.
The day after Bobbie decided she wanted to be a Playboy bunny, she walked straight into the New York City Club and, by fate, they happened to be looking for bunnies. "They must've been interviewing that day, I didn't know, I just went," Bobbie said. "There must have been 200 girls." Of those 200 girls, only about 30 to 40 were chosen — including Bobbie.
Looks were everything, of course. According to Bobbie, you had to be pretty with a nice figure. It is Playboy, after all. "That will get you through the door, but you're not gonna stick in the door long if you don't have all the other attributes to go with it," she said. Once your appearance and personality impressed the bunny mother, the head of all bunnies, you then proceeded to see the Club's manager, who approved whether or not you can put on the iconic costume. "You tried on the costume to see how it looked, then you went in a big room with a bunch of other girls," Bobbie said. "The bunny mother came in and said 'yes,' 'no,' 'yes,' 'no.' I got a yes, that's all I know."
2. Large breasts were not a requirement.
Despite what you might think, having a huge chest was not a prerequisite to getting hired. Nice legs, yes, because of how high the suit cut, but height nor boobs mattered — they had a trick for that. "You do not need to have big boobs because there were secrets that we learned to make them appear bigger." According to Bobbie, the costume was made with small cups under the bra section that could be stuffed with whatever you wanted. You positioned your breasts on top of the padding, which could look as massive or as subtle as you wished.
3. Training included learning the "bunny dip."
Their week-long training involved learning the exact order of liquor to make orders as efficient as possible for the bartender. "It wasn't random; first was scotch, then came whiskey and bourbon, gin, vodka, rum — see, I still remember it," she said. "And we had blended drinks and cream drinks, then we had beer. So, we get our drinks and go so it all flowed." The girls also had to learn how to properly carry a tray wearing five-inch heels, sometimes with 20 drinks at once. Then came the bunny dip. "We had to serve drinks backwards because we couldn't bend down or else [customers] could see down your costume."
4. You were inspected by the bunny mother each night before going onto the floor.
The bunnies weren't trusted to be floor-ready without getting approval from the bunny mother. She made sure no one was wearing ridiculous makeup or hair or any jewelry. The costumes were also inspected nightly. "We had to make sure our costume was always kept clean and we handed it to the seamstress at night," Bobbie said. "We had to make sure the costume was in shape and we had to make sure we looked perfect every night that we went on the floor."
5. Other bunnies would try to sabotage you.
Although most of the bunnies got along well, there were a few that would try to get ahead at your expense. If one didn't like you or was jealous of you, you might even find your costume messed with, which had happened to Bobbie once. But overall, it wasn't a cutthroat environment whatsoever.
6. There was a strict no-dating-customers policy.
To ensure that none of the bunnies were dating the guests, Playboy would even send in undercover patrons to try to allure them. If a bunny obliged to someone's pass, their numbers would be tagged and reported for firing. "They had to keep a certain pretense," Bobbie said. "If men could just come into the Playboy Club with all these beautiful girls and just date them randomly, that would be bad. They had to keep it classy."
Bobbie ended up meeting her first husband, Jules (pictured above), who was 40 years her senior, at the Club. "He'd been coming into the Club all the time to see me and, you know, I couldn't give him my number," she said. "And one night he just waited for me after I'd got done with work and we got together that way." To avoid getting her in trouble, Jules didn't return to the Club after that and the two got married a couple years later. They enjoyed a marriage of 33 years until he passed.
7. Celebrities came and went all the time.
"My first night on the job I met Johnny Carson and he was my first customer," she said. "And he immediately asked me to go for a ride with him in his limousine." Bobbie respected the Club's rules and politely let him know that it was her first day on the job. She also recalled stars like Henry Davis Jr. and Elton John, whom she introduced to the stage herself.
8. Clients always wanted to touch their tails.
"They would play with the Playboy bunny tail and they would think you wouldn't feel it," Bobbie said. "I could tell when someone was pulling at it and I'd turn around and give them a look and I'd be like, 'You're not supposed to do that!' But they loved to do that." With alcohol involved and drunk men, Bobbie did experience her fair share of vulgar and inappropriate clients. But aside from that, she doesn't dislike one thing about the job even to this day.
"I worked there a long time and I treated the job with respect and class, and I just had the best time," she said. "I look back and don't see one bad thing. In fact, I dream of it at that I'm back there serving drinks. I loved it. I will always be a bunny."