Labelled an ‘American Icon’, the controversial figure Hugh Hefner died on the 27th of September. His death sparked an offset of celebration for the man some claim helped make the liberal elements of the women’s movement more acceptable to a conservative, pre-Betty Friedan, 1953 American society.
The magazine Playboy had been a supporter of women’s rights measures that were condemned by all parts of the bourgeois, including legalising abortion, sex education and birth control.
To put it into perspective, the first edition of Playboy was published in 1953, but abortion wasn’t legalised throughout the whole of the US until 1973. Similarly, he used his platform to push for gay rights, saying in a Playboy editorial in 2012, “Without [gay marriage], we will turn back the sexual revolution and return to an earlier, puritanical time.”
Whilst this magazine mogul’s impact was clearly widespread, many today are probably unaware of his influence within the city of Manchester itself. Located on what is now known as Manchester’s Gay Village, the Playboy Casino was situated on Canal Street and was the setting for wealthy Mancunians, footballers, actors, businessmen, and the like, to be served food and drinks by ‘bunnies’.
However, Yvonne Arstall, a former bunny, says the club was also a place for family groups and anniversaries as well as a celeb hotspot. The club was a 70-seat restaurant and girls had to meet certain standards to be allowed to don the iconic PlayBoy leotard and bunny ears.
Julie McCormack worked there throughout the 70s and told M.E.N in 2011 about the standards needed. She said, “in those days, you had to be really quite special to be a bunny girl. You had to have brains and intelligence as well as the physical attributes.” McCormack told of gruelling maths and psychometric tests that she had to pass and how her name was picked for her out of the hat- turning her into ‘Bunny Tiffany.’
Below are some of the guidelines from the ‘Bunny’s Behaving Book’:
No bunnies were allowed to be given lifts home from anyone who had visited the club that evening.
No bunnies were to tell any visitor their real names.
No bunnies were allowed to embark in sexual relations with any of the guests of the restaurant.
Bunnies were to be immaculately dressed at all times.
Hair and nails were to always meet proper standards.
The strict nature of the establishment was a sentiment to how safe the clubs were made. The Mancunion have found no ex-worker who has publicly condemned the club and its methods. Most ex-playmates, including Yvonne Arstall, are “proud” to have their Playboy background, with many taking part in interviews over the years.
As Arstall said, “It’s about being the best of the best,” and this is a clear sentiment to the feeling behind the club itself. Experiences at the club are also positive with Arstall also saying, “It was so glamorous, and there was such a wonderful feel and atmosphere to the place.”
Opening in 1973, the club closed in 1982, after a rebranding of the entire face of Playboy due to it becoming labelled as ‘sleazy’. In 2011 there was call for it to be brought back to Manchester, following the success of the newly renovated one in Mayfair, London, where bunnies are earning upwards of £60,000 a year with tips.
235s casino in Deansgate was to be rebranded into a Playboy Casino with its own batch of bunny croupiers. However, some called it a ‘shocking step backwards’ and the plans were never put into action.