Playboy of Dallas, Part 2
Part 2 of a 2 part story
By Paul Heckmann, Executive Director, Memories Inc. A 501c3
Vicki Hanks Rogers "Bunny Vicki" - One of the original Bunnies hired from the Bunny Search
Paul: If memory serves, you were waitress before you came to Playboy, weren't you?
Vicki: Oh yes, I worked at some rock and roll clubs like Sneaky Petes, Mother Blues, but primarily at Sneaky Petes there in Medallion Center.
Then I heard about the Bunny search in the summer of 1977. It was absolutely crazy. They had us go through all the different preliminary, sending in pictures, resumes. That was the first elimination. Then they notified us, then we all came in. You came in through this big gate, filled out your information, attached some pictures, they would look it over and then they would setup callbacks if they liked you. Then after that interview, they would let you know if they wanted you to come back in for the final group.
I seem to remember that we were told going to hire 99 Bunnies from that first group. We were told to wear a one piece leotard or dance-skin. I remember I wore a pretty racy bathing suit that was really low cut. They did a story on me when the Bunny search happened in the Scene magazine for the Dallas Morning News. I was pretty cocky back then and told them 'I may not be the best looking, or have the best body, or be #1, but I can definitely be #99!'
Paul: Tell me about some of the other Bunny hopefuls at the Search
Vicki: There were just so many girls there and they came from all walks of life. Lots of them were very well educated, others were in college, or teachers, what-have you.
And for myself, I had two young children. Unfortunately my boyfriend had committed suicide a few months before so I was by myself and needed this job badly. Plus Playboy offered many of us a great opportunity to work a flexible schedule. That was pretty scare in those days, dealing with children or going to school while working. And we could also go out and participate in any of the various fundraisers. I did a lot of the sports things with the various Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Tornado and Ducks Unlimited. Those were always fun.
Paul: How did you like working there?
Vicki: I just have so many good memories of Playboy. Nobody ever pressured you to do anything like photo spreads or centerfolds. Playboy might let us know that the photographer is going to be there on such and such a day and if you wanted to go over and talk to him, you could.
And something else that I loved about Playboy, I took off work to have Amanda, my third child. I think I left in Oct of 78 and came back in March of 79. They were always really cool about those things. As long as you were a good employee, they worked around whatever you needed.
Paul: Tell me about the mirror wars - 'day vs night' Bunnies
Vicki: It was kinda like a little rivalry between the day Bunnies and the night Bunnies. Day shift would leave these 'nasty' messages (said with a chuckle) on the mirrors in the Bunny hutch... we had some fun. But for the most part we all got along pretty well. You know how it is, when you have a bunch of females all working together it can get pretty crazy.
Paul: I seem to remember a bit of jealousy when one of the gals posed for Playboy magazine.
Vicki: Oh yea. Most of them were probably jealous they didn't have the body these other girls had!
Paul: And I think everybody was kinda jealous of Cathy Gobel, she was in the November 1977 issue.
Vicki: Oh my god, yes. She was absolutely beautiful. She had a perfect body, perfect smile - and the sweetest personality in the club. But really, who could hate her? She was just this little sweet Southern girl. Just so pretty.
Paul: I pretty much stayed in the the front room most of my time, My immediate boss was Tom Labella, remember him?
Vicki: Oh, everybody loved Tom. I loved the bosses up there so much, especially the first group from Boston. They were so much fun to work for. Joe Cimino, Tom Labella, Joe Pergolla, all those guys. And you were so cool!
Paul: Thanks so much!
Vicki: And remember Kevin from Boston, he was fun. He dated Vangie for a long time. Later on Pat came to the club and he was a great guy to work with.
Paul: Who were some of the other non-Bunny folks that you remember.
Vicki: Oh, I remember Dan Nolte, I think he worked in the front and then became a manager. Then there was this guy Charlie. When I came back from having my baby, he was back there dressing with the Bunnies! In the Bunny dressing room trying on the Bunny outfits! He was so fun, what a character. We had a lot of fun.
Paul: Tell me about some of the celebrities you met there.
Vicki: Oh gosh, where do I start? Of course we all remember Professor Irwin Corey, he was hilarious, JP Morgan, she was so sweet, David Clayton Thomas from Blood, Sweat and Tears, Mel Torme, the Velvet Fog, Lainie Kazan, Chuck Berry, Hughes Corporation, Frank Sinatra Jr, Frankie Avalon, James Darren, Charley Pride, George Gobel, just so many!
Paul: So tell me a bit about when you left Playboy.
Vicki: I was there until about the end in 1982. Took off with my wild boyfriend! We kept our place in Dallas but we also had a place in Florida that we went to.
Paul: Vicki, thanks so much for your time. As always, its been a delight talking to you
Tonda Davis Petty - "Bunny Tonda"
Paul: Tell me about your time at Playboy.
Tonda: I Started working at the Playboy in 1977 as part of the second Bunny search.
Paul: How did you find out about the search?
Tonda: I was a Display manger at Dillards in Euless. I just got home from my long drive home from work and my roommate told me that she had heard on radio that they were auditioning for Playboy Bunnies at the new club.
She talked me into it, so I grabbed my maroon leotard and high heels and went on up there. There were hundreds of girls there so I really didn't think I would get the job. All we did was walk across the stage, look at judges and smile like there was no tomorrow, I think that's probably why I got it.
Then we went into our Bunny training, several girls didn't even make it through that. We had to know our Bunny manual and of course practiced the Bunny dip about a thousand times.
Paul: Tell me about your first day.
Tonda: I remember that during my first shift I was so, so nervous. I was afraid I would spell a drink on a client because we had to hold the tray with left hand, do the Bunny dip and deliver their drink over our body.
I worked some nights but found that I liked the day shift better. I worked the loft a lot which is right above the main bar, that was where Too Tall Jones, Tony Dorsett and the Cowboys would hang. We were in the same building, so they stopped by all the time.
As a Bunny we did a lot of charity work, I gave blood for the Red Cross and I remember going to the Children Burn unit to cheer up the kids. I went on the celebrity golf tournament, they had the Bunnies drive the golf carts for the players. I drove Mickey Mantel!
Paul: Were you there at the end?
Tonda: Toward the end of the club closing, I was part time, I would take shifts when I could. I do remember folks taking the Bunny uniforms, which is where I got mine.
I loved being a Playboy Bunny, it was one of the best times of my life and I met some of the best friends I have had all my life.
Rick Marshall - Entertainer "Boogie Machine"
Paul: Tell me about your journey and how you came to Playboy?
Rick: I guess you could say it started when I answered an ad for a Club DJ job in Texarkana called Pizzazz. It was on the Arkansas side of the border so we could stay open and serve liquor until 4 in the morning. But all they had was music and liquor, no other entertainment and it's really hard to keep a club open that way. They were all pumped as they had a DJ "Directly from Dallas, Texas!"
So anyway I'm talking to a friend of mine who managed the Mariott on I30. He said its gonna be hard to make this club successful they way they are doing it now so he had a suggestion. He knew I could dance so he says "why don't you start a dance group and do a show?" So that kept ringing in my ear and I headed to leJardin in Dallas and found a friend of mine, Jerry and recruited him. He could spin like a top! He said "I know this guy named Gene that can dance pretty good. He's working down at the Apparel Mart". Well that was where I got all my clothes from, so we met Gene down there and it was an instant bond. And we started doing shows in Texarkana and Dallas.
This went on for a while, then I found out Gene was dating Cathy and I knew she was an incredible dancer. So the 3 guy formula went out the window and Cathy replaced Jerry. I was so happy we made the change and of course I was so impressed with Gene. He handled all the business, all the finances, the bookings, everything.
Paul: So then Gene went to work at Playboy.
Rick: Oh yes. He was working up there and we would do shows when he got a night off. Then he got us an audition that we absolutely nailed. He told Tom LaBella about us and Tom told the management. Tom was really good to us, he helped us get things going up there
So we went to work at Playboy, we were the house entertainers. And I was a kid in a candy store, not only were all these beautiful women but stars everywhere. My creative juices started flowing, and we came up with all these different types of shows, Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Star Wars. There was another one, the St Valentines Day Massacre show. They actually gave us a budget to go out and promote all of these shows, so for this one I got to drive this old Cadillac Convertible, me and a couple of Bunnies would drive around town promoting it. So I got this 1929 Thompson sub-machine gun, we dressed up in Zoot suits and went into the bank for a fake robbery. We had so much fun!
I guess you the timing was perfect for dance crews as Saturday Night Fever had just come out. Another thing was that we always had to make our own costumes before. The Bunny Mother and the Seamstress made all of our costumes for our Playboy shows! I still remember that both Gene and I gave her old pairs of Angel Flight pants and she took them apart to use as a pattern for both the blue and white satin pants we used.
It was a unique thing we had going on there. Costumes, budgets for promotion, all these lights and of course the Bunnies. Never discount the effect that a Playboy Bunny has.
And the money! We worked 4 nights a week, 2 shows a night and made $400 bucks each. That was a lot of money in 1977.
And also that's where I met Chuck Roberts, I remember how he was beat mixing and matching beats from one song to another and I was just blown away. He would use his leg and just stomp it close to the turntable to keep the beat going. I can easily say Chuck was responsible for the 23 clubs I've DJd at over the years. Thanks to him I really kicked off my DJ career. I really enjoyed going to hear him wherever he was, at Packards or Bellringer. His ability to blend music and find obscure songs that could match, he was probably the best I ever heard.
Paul: And after work?
Rick: We had so much fun. Everybody got along so well, nobody was fighting. We hung out together when we were off work. The Bunnies, the DJs, the Management. We were just all so close there. It was just a magical time. And the Bunnies - I remember Jan, Country Jan I called her, Marjie, Char, Misty, Monica, Kathy Goebel, there were just so many. I loved them all!
Paul: Tell me about when you left Playboy.
Rick: Well I guess we did shows there for about a year. Gene had been negotiating with Playboy to go on their circuit but it didn't work out so we decided to go out on our own. We were booked at some of the Graham brothers clubs, at the Hollywood Palladium and came back to Phoenix and did some shows there. We went on this really long trip, I think it was about a month, then we came back to Dallas and started doing shows at Loews Anatole, The Crocodile. And all that training from Chuck Roberts came into play. We couldn't get the DJs to hit their marks on our intros and our exits so I ended up showing the DJs how to do their jobs. And that led to me getting a job there as a DJ.
And then Rod Keishnick comes over and listens to me. And tells me that he wants to hire me to come work at Papagayo. But that's another story
"Cathy" Fran Luchessi-Waslaski - Entertainer, "Boogie Machine";
Paul: Tell me a bit about your experience at the Playboy Club.
Fran: Dallas nightlife was really happening in the late 70’s and 80’s. We had such a variety of clubs to choose from. As a professional dancer there were always opportunities to perform. I have to say that nothing compared to working as a dancer at the Playboy Club. It was prestigious to say you performed there.
Paul: What areas did you work in?
Fran: There was the living room stage for shows and there was the big showroom that brought in big names names such as Frankie Avalon. Management treated us great providing us with costumes, meals, drinks and a good salary. The staff, bartenders and the Bunnies were sweet and very friendly. We even did special events with the Playboy Bunnies dancing with us on Channel 8 News.
I probably ended up working three years at the Dallas Playboy Club with The Boogie Machine and two other dance companies from Chicago that were brought in as resident dance companies. The audiences were always appreciative of the entertainment. It was always fun seeing the regulars show up. I have nothing but good memories of my experience performing there
Gene Cook - Maitre'd - Entertainer, "Boogie Machine"
Paul: Tell me about coming to the Playboy Club
Gene: I guess you and I worked together for about a year running the disco area. We really learned how to work that room because we communicated so well. Who would have thought there was an art to seating people? There were folks you wanted close to the action that helped that action, other folks that preferred to be in the back, you learned pretty quickly to read people. And because we learned how to do that, the tips were pretty generous.
We were really making great money. Then my dance group came on board and I was double dipping. I would be in my tux working the front room, run to the dressing room and change for our dance gigs, do them - then run back and change into my tux, sweat dripping from every pore. Whewwww! And then we started doing two shows a night. That was absolutely crazy!
Paul: I seem to remember you opening a bottle of champagne one night and the cork flew right off.
Gene: Oh my gosh yes. It almost hit Nick Felix in the head. It was he, Beth and Pat Applewhite. I was pretty new at it and wasn't paying enough attention. Thank goodness no one was hurt. And also Nick was a Bunny magnet. They loved that shock of white hair - and he wasn't shy with the tips!
Paul: I still remember the 'fin'
Gene: The $5 bill. And a $10 was a sawbuck - the $20 was a double sawbuck. But I really liked the CNote! We'd get one of those every now and then.
Paul: I remember a Saudi Arabian prince that would come in. The first night he gave me a $50 bill.
Gene: I don't think that guy had any idea how much money he had. He threw money around like crazy.
Paul: And then your dance career took off and I was left looking for another Gene Cook to work with.
Gene: Sorry about that!
The dance team that was there had moved on and were working the Playboy Club circuit. That was the 'Dance Machine'. While I was Maitre'd I spoke to our boss Tom Labella about our dance group "Boogie Machine". It was me, Cathy Luchessi and Rick Marshall. We auditioned for Joe Cimino and he hired us.
Our time there at Playboy club is what truly validated us. It put us on the map. Before that we were working different places around Dallas, Texarkana and other small gigs. We had to work to book them, but when we got the gig at Playboy, it was really the start of something special. Doors really began to open for us, not to mention the other stuff like having a seamstress to make our costumes which we had always done ourselves.
Paul: Who were some of the celebrities you remember?
Gene: Oh man, so many. Chevy Chase, Jesse Lopez, Mel Torme, Charley Pride, Professor Irwin Corey - we didn't get along so well. He was a grabber and grabbed Cathy's tush. I chased him all across the club and folks that that it was part of the show. Lucky for him Tony Signori grabbed me and got me to settle down!
Paul: Wasn't there a dance routine with the Bunnies for 'Saturday Night Fever'?
Gene: Oh yes. You may remember that we got the video of "Saturday Night Fever" before the movie came out. They wanted us to be ready the premiere showing with some dance routines and that's how our show for Saturday Night Fever began. We wrote a bunch of different routines for both that and "Star Wars". We also got the video before "Grease" came out and premiered it at Playboy.
Hefner and Playboy had some great connections with John Travolta and some of the other folks involved and I guess that's how they got those videos so early.
Paul: And there were other events you were part of.
Gene: Yes indeed, we did all sorts of things. We did a St Valentines Day Massacre by dressing up like them and running around in these old era cars, driving around Dallas with a bunch of Bunnies, machine guns in hand, we 'robbed' a bank - they even had it set up at a real bank!
We had so much fun, we did several special shows at Good Morning Texas, WFAA, coaching the Bunny softball team. I played professional baseball for the AAA Shreveport Captains, a farm team for the California Angels. Once they found that out, I would get the call anytime baseball was involved.
And there was the dance floor itself. I had broken my ankle playing basketball with Harvey Martin, Drew Pearson, Too Tall Jones and some other guys at a church. But I had to dance so I got a walking cast, added a heel onto it and did my shows in it. I broke two casts dancing. The shows didn't stop. As a matter of fact I fell off the edge of the dance floor one time. I was doing a spin and ended up cracking the glass on the edge of the floor! The cast fell off, but I got right up and finished the routine.
One of the most embarrassing moments in my career happened there. I had gone back to change in the dressing room and it included white satin pants - we all dressed in the same costumes. I think it was Rick and Judith that were with us. Kathy and I came off the floor, Rick and Judith came in in their white satin. We were changing "Night Fever" where the Bunnies danced with us. So there were a bunch of Bunnies back in the dressing room.
And then I broke my zipper. Dang... the Bunnies are 'down there', pinning me up so I can do this routine. We were flying, we had maybe 60 seconds, so we all shot out of there. And then I notice all these folks in the audience looking 'downwards' - I'm thinking the worse. Once I got a look down there were all the blood spots all over these white satin pants, two distinct lines of red up and down the front where the pins caught me. Definitely my most embarrassing moment!
Paul: Tell me about the circuit.
Gene: Our dance team worked at Playboy for about a year before we decided to get on the circuit. It was about a 6,000 mile round trip. Oddly enough we ran into the same dance group we had replaced, the 'Dance Machine' out in Century City while they were working the Playboy Club there. They had just finished their gig so we stayed with them a couple of days to rest up before we went on to Phoenix for our next show. We also met up with Frankie Avalon and his wife and his eight kids out in LA, we really loved those guys.
What a good time we had. And it all came from working at the Playboy Club.
After that we did a lot of work in Dallas, we added Judith as a 4th, and did a lot of work at the Crocodile Club at Loews Anatole.
Rick, Kathy and I had six great years together. Then Kathy and I got an offer from Carnival Cruise lines to come to work there. They only wanted a dance duo, so that broke the group up. Judith had recently joined the group, and she was about to get married. I think Rick went back to being a DJ
All in all, it was a great season in our lives, my life especially, I wouldn't change a thing. Had some great life-long friends there with whom I am still in touch today.
Jan Dudley Gentile - "Bunny Jan"
Paul: Hi Jan, if I remember correctly, you came from KZEW, didn't you?
Jan: Oh yes. I had worked for 'The Zoo' as we called it in the early 70s. I think they came on the air in 1973, and I came aboard about 8 or 9 months after that. So I was heir to the really big days, the Fan Jam, Zoo World and all that craziness. I played an on-air character named Wicked Wanda, I had to ad lib every morning. It was absolutely crazy. My primary job was administrative, but they used me for voice work, commercials and basically where-ever they wanted. Lots and lots of on air work. They had a couple of females there which was kinda of unheard of in those days, Beverly Beazley and a gal named Joan.
Paul: Tell me about how you came to be a Bunny.
Jan: I was simply amazed that I was hired. I think any Bunny that you interviewed would say that. I came in about 1979. I found out about the job while I was there at KZEW. Playboy PR sent over a fella named Ross Boling. He would bring some of the acts over from the club for us to interview on the air and occasionally would take them downstairs and put them on WFAA TV, Ch 8. It was really convenient for him as the TV station was downstairs and were the two stations, one AM and one FM upstairs.
So Ross tells me that I should come over and try out to be a Bunny. So I went over one day to try out, and then came back to work. Before the day was over everyone in the building was talking about it. And this was the Belo building, so there were probably 200 people there - that crazy buzz was everywhere. And then I got a call from Playboy that they hired me. So that was that.
Paul: And I remember you telling me that you were a pinch older than most of the other Bunnies. You were already hard at work on a career in Radio.
Jan: Some of these girls were 8-9 years younger than me! Fresh out of High School, maybe even their first job, who knows what. They really didn't have to give up a career to be a Bunny like I did.
It was a great time. I really enjoyed the Bunnies. However, maybe because I was older, I kinda look back on my time at Playboy a bit differently. It was extremely competitive. We pushed for the best schedules, the best stations, who could connect with the celebrities the best. While so much was positive, there also was a downside to being a Bunny. It was an environment of some absolutely stunning and beautiful girls who were constantly competing with each other. You had to be on time, or you might lose your shift. We had to be weighed and if you gained weight they may not put you on the floor. It was very structured in the way we had to look, act, we couldn't be seen sitting down, taking a bite of food, or taking a drink. We had to sneak into the kitchen to do all those things.
Paul: Tell me about the cigarettes.
Jan: Oh yes, the cigarettes. I didn't smoke, but I would have to go buy them for the customers. They were $1 a pack back then. We would open the pack, light a cigarette and put it back into the pack and deliver it to them. Cough cough.
I remember the black Bunny suits. Only the senior Bunnies would get a black suit at that time. It was a real status symbol for us in Dallas. And the more senior Bunnies got the best shifts. But I have to say I loved my Bunny Blue outfit better anyway.
I worked all over the club. The disco, the game room, the showroom and the gift shop. They put me where-ever they needed me.
Paul: Who was your favorite celebrity you met there?
Jan: Well the most famous was Charlton Heston. I mean, you must met Moses. As for my favorite, definitely Waylon Jennings. I really loved that guy, just as suave as could be. Just so much fun! I listen to his son Shooter Jennings now. We really lived in such a great time for music.
Paul: Why did you leave Playboy?
Jan: So after about a year at Playboy, Belo actually lured me back to work directly for the President Dave Tate Lane, the most beloved President of WFAA-TV ever. Originally he was the WFAA Sports announcer, then was promoted to GM. Verne Lundquist replaced him as sports anchor. Dave was greatly mourned when he passed away. I really had 'hero worship' for that man.
Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson - Former Dallas Cowboy Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champ
Paul: Good afternoon Thomas! Where are you at these days?
Thomas: I'm out here in Boca Rotan, Florida
Paul: Tell me a bit about growing up and how you got to Dallas.
Thomas: Well I grew up in Austin, from kindergarten to 10th grade. I actually graduated from High School in Oklahoma City. My grandmother had moved from Austin to Oklahoma City around 1965. We were all staying at her house, then one day a trailer pulled up and just like that my grandma was gone.
So by the time I was in 10th grade, there were 7 people in a 2 bedroom, I was the oldest kid and said 'I gotta get out of here'. So I moved up to OKC with my grandma
Paul: Tell me about football and how you got to Langston.
Thomas: It was tough because Oklahoma had this rule that if you transferred without your parents from a border state, you were in-eligible for football. So I couldn't play my Junior year, so I worked to help out. And I also worked with the film crew to help shoot the games. But I couldn't play football. They did allow me to play basketball as a Junior, then I finally got to play football as a Senior. I was All-City at Douglass HS there at DE but I missed out on a lot of recruiting from the major colleges as I only played one year and ended up at Langston.
Paul: So you had a really great career there, a two time All American and then the Cowboys came calling
Thomas: Oh yes. I came to Dallas as part of the draft in 1975 that they called "The Dirty Dozen". They took me in the first round.
Paul: Now you and I first met at Playboy where your girlfriend Wyetta was working. How did you meet her?
Thomas: We were playing Seattle at the Kingdome, the first game ever played there. Wyetta had gone to college with Mike Hegman and Too Tall Jones at Tennessee State. So she happened to be in Seattle, saw them and jumped on the elevator with us. We hit it off right away. And that was that.
Paul: Now tell me about Playboy.
Thomas: I was actually part of the first Bunny Search. Ron Chapman was the MC. I was picking the original Bunnies! I was the only football player. It was me, Ron Chapman and Playboy Management.
Wyetta found out right away that she was picked to be a Bunny. So she went through all the training and started to work with the the first group.
Paul: I have a short story to tell you. I was up toward the front of the club, and out of the corner of my eye I see Wyetta running as fast she can with her long legs, those 4" stiletto heels and her Bunny ears flopping away. A customer had stiffed her on her tip and fire and brimstone was about to be unleashed.
Thomas: (laughs) That was Wyetta!
Paul: Did you go to any of the shows there?
Thomas: Not so much, they had a nice showroom - but because my girlfriend worked there, I would stop by for a little bit and then head over to Papagayo, leJardin, Biffs or Confetti or the other Greenville Ave clubs.
I would also go to the African American clubs. I actually owned several of them. I made more money from them then I did from my Cowboy salary which was about $50,000 back then. Me and Too Tall owned a club at Knox Henderson called Playmaker's Plaza. So while Wyetta was working as a Bunny, I was checking out my investments.
Our then our daughter was born in 1981.
And by the way make sure to put this into the story "Anyone who said the 70s in Dallas wasn't fun, wasn't there!"
Paul: And what are you up to these days?
Thomas: You know, I've been sober for 35 years, I'm a Grandpa. I just had twin Grandbabies. I'm 65 years old, I am in good health. Life is good, really good. I survived my own foolishness, life has been good to Thomas Henderson.
The International Playboy Reunion in Dallas 2018
Diane Peterson - "Bunny Diane" - Playboy Model and Reunion Organizer
Paul: Greetings! Are you up in Chicago?
Diane: Oh yes. Its so cold up here! We have an ice storm coming up.
Paul: I really enjoyed the Playboy Reunion. I saw so many people that I hadn't seen in so long! But let me get back to that. First, tell me about how you came to be a Bunny.
Diane: Well, I was a poor kid from the south side of Chicago so we really didn't have any money. So when I was 18, I heard about a Bunny Hunt in Lake Geneva. So I went up there, but there were only 6 openings - and a ton of Bunny hopefuls. And they called me and told me I got one of those spots.
We really needed money so I worked every chance I got, lots of double shifts. I would work there during the week and drive home on the weekends.
Gail was our Bunny Mother there. She had used me for a few promotions and then she suggested I try modeling and she sent me to a photographer which I didn't realize at the time would end up being a good thing for me.
About that time we heard rumors that the London and Lake Geneva clubs were going to close. Needless to say I was pretty upset, I was one of the lowest in seniority at that time. So Gail tells me that I should transfer to the Chicago Playboy.
So I went to Chicago. I still wasn't 21 so I couldn't serve liquor so I was the Door Bunny and Gift Shop Bunny.
Paul: So you were deep in the heart of Playboy Country in Chicago.
Diane: Yes, I was a Bunny at Lincoln Park and Playboy headquarters was over on Walton Street.
Then Richard Smith asked me to try Playboy Models. And that was a real turning point. I was working a lot and making a lot of money. I ended up being on 72 different posters for them.
Paul: So how did you get into hosting the reunions?
Diane: I went to my first reunion in back in 2014 in Baltimore. Everything was supposed to have been setup by the organizers, but they didn't have the hotels booked correctly. I got there, and I had no room. The whole reunion ended up being one cocktail party and a main event, which was a 3 hour cruise on the bay for $125. And to top it off, while we were out on the bay, this lady goes crazy, starts a fight. Captain wants to turn the boat around but I talked him out of it. I told him we would have her sit at our table and not get up. When we got back, the police picked her up at the dock. So that was my first reunion, babysitting.
A couple of months later I get a call from Marsha, who organized the Baltimore event. She and her husband had decided to not do these any more after the fight and she asked me if I wanted to take over. I really felt that I could make it a great event so I accepted.
For my first event in 2016 I called up Hef (Hugh Hefner) and asked him if I could set this up for 80 Bunnies, which was the biggest number they have ever had. So we did the next one in LA. We ended up with 220 Bunnies at the Playboy Jazz Festival and for the main event 291 Bunnies showed up.
For the next event, I had decided to do it myself to keep the expenses down. I know a lot of the ladies are on a fixed income so I sent out a questionnaire, what would you like to see? So we ended up choosing Dallas due to the weather, the great club they had there and good transportation. We were able to do the MeetNGreet, the disco party, the Boot Scootin' Luncheon and then the main event and all the while keep the costs down.
It was a great turnout, we had over 263 people there with 218 Bunnies. We really had a great time.
Paul: So did I, I thought it was fantastic. So tell me what's next on the reunion agenda.
Diane: The next one is in Jamaica, in Ocho Rios. If any Bunnies want to contact you for the next couple of reunions, let me know.
Diane: Hoping that the next reunion after Jamaica will be in Chicago at the site of the original Playboy Club, the Knickerbocker. That will be celebrating the 60th year of Playboy. We're aiming for May or June in 2020. And we are stretching the rules a bit. Usually we let the host city employees come plus Bunnies from everywhere, but because its the 60th birthday, we are allowing all former employees from all the clubs. It should be a really great event.
When I see those other Bunnies there, it's like time stood still. I loved seeing those guys. When I was a Bunny we did so much charity work, telethons, grand openings, USO Tours and speaking with the troops. We were the gateway to Playboy, we were that girl next door that you always wanted to talk to.
One last thing, when you put on that Bunny uniform, you felt like a rockstar. That costume made anybody look good. The guys that would make the sly comments would be absolutely terrified when you sat down next to them, they couldn't talk and they could hardly move. And when I worked at Lake Geneva, oh my gosh, at Easter it was magical. The kids would be all around us, begging to have their pictures taken with a real Bunny. It was truly an incredible time.
There were a reported 50,000 key holders in the heyday of the Dallas club.
In 1981 Pete Couval sold the franchise and club to Carroll Davis. Mr. Davis also purchased the San Diego club. Both closed in bankruptcy in 1982.
Today SMU Business and Finance office, and a bank have taken over that building. Little remains in the building at 6116 North Central that would remind you of the glory days the Cowboy Towers or of the Playboy Club. As time fades, so do our memories.
We do our best to preserve those memories through the eyes and voices of the folks that experienced them, Memories of Dallas, come join us.
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