The Playboy Club

The original Los Angeles Playboy Club was opened on New Year’s Eve of 1964 at 8560 Sunset Boulevard, where the parent company had its L.A. offices.  At times, a large bunny logo was projected on the side of the building.  That logo was a fixture of The Strip and it also made a statement about the changing times or the new sexual freedom of Hollywood…or something like that.  I never set foot in the place but I always heard it was filled with middle-aged men who came to ogle the Bunnies and to act out the fantasy that being a member made you as hip as Hef.  I also heard that the parking was abominable.

In 1972, when the ABC Entertainment Center opened in Century City, the Playboy Club was relocated to a lovely room nestled under the Shubert Theater.  I was given a free membership in 1981 (courtesy of Hef himself) and I couldn’t resist going a few times, partly to see the Bunnies, partly to see what the Playboy Club experience was all about…and partly to see some of the oddest dinner show entertainment in town.  I dunno who booked the room or what was on their minds but the shows all evoked what I call the Springtime for Hitler look.  At times, it was like they were searching for people who actually did the kind of thing Bill Murray had parodied on Saturday Night Live.

The oddest was a lady…and given her act, it’s ironic that I don’t recall her name.  But I’d never heard of her before and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard of her since.  Her act was all what I call “Ego Songs.”  Every one was about her: “I’ve Got the Music In Me,” “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” “This is My Life,” “My Way,” “I’ll Make My Own World,” etc.  It was a variation on what the eminent philosopher Daffy Duck once called “pronoun trouble.”  Between the songs, she talked about — surprise, surprise — herself and her career, as if any of that was of vital interest to us.  Then for her closer, she pulled out all stops and performed what still stands as the single greatest example of Excessive Ego I have ever seen on a stage.

The great singer-songwriter Peter Allen once wrote a tune called, “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage.”  It was about Judy Garland, who was recently deceased when he wrote it.  She was also his mother-in-law.  It’s a nice little tribute tune that quietly asks that people remember Ms. Garland (even though she is not named in the song) and to understand that despite her occasional public shortcomings, she was a great person.  A very touching number.

Well, the woman at The Playboy Club closed with that song.  Only she changed some lyrics and the emphasis of others and made it about herself.  There’s a line that goes, “Stand for the ovation,” and she kept singing it over and over, commanding us to give her a standing ovation.  People finally did, just so she’d shut up and end the show.  If we hadn’t, we’d all still be there listening to her screaming out, “Stand for the ovation.”  Then she took a tearful, humble bow, left the stage and came around to each table for praise, to offer autographs and to pass out business cards that told us where we could order her new album.  Even the Bunnies in the room were muttering, “How can she parade around like that?”

The entertainment at The Playboy Club wasn’t all dreadful.  I remember one peppy dance revue that included ten or fifteen minutes of great stand-up comedy by a young Hispanic guy I’d never heard of before.  First time I ever saw Paul Rodriguez.

Food at The Playboy Club was a mixed blessing…edible but not worth the price.  The best thing was the steak and it came with a lavishly-produced baked potato.  Your Serving Bunny would roll a cart to your table loaded down with toppings — butter, sour cream, bacon bits, chives, salsa, etc.  A very big deal was made out of having your baker dressed precisely the way you liked it.  My Serving Bunnies were always disheartened that I just wanted a little butter and I sometimes let them add bacon bits not because I like them on a potato but because I couldn’t stand to disappoint a beautiful woman.  The service was pretty decent except that Bunnies always had to keep dashing off to other tables to join in a chorus of “Happy birthday” and the presentation of a little bunny cake with a candle in it.  Some nights, it seemed every single table there was someone’s birthday outing.

What I think killed The Playboy Clubs — or at least, that one — was that anybody could go to them…and did. There was nothing special about the clientele.  You didn’t look around and see a younger, hipper throng.  You saw a crowd that apart from the absence of children, could have been at the Sizzler.  I once asked a Bunny I knew there how often Hef came around. She said, “About once a year for some special press conference or event.” Then, letting me in on a secret that could have cost her her tail, she told me, “He usually doesn’t stay for dinner but when he has to, he has his own chef come in and prepare his meal special.”

I started to really feel like an exploited tourist when I went there.  The name, prices and “club” premise promised something more than a mediocre restaurant with bad entertainment and good-looking waitresses in what looked like uncomfortable costumes…but that’s all you got.  My research failed to turn up the date when the Century City club closed and I think I know why that information is so elusive.  It’s because when it happened, nobody cared.

61 Responses to The Playboy Club

  • Rob in Canada says:

    The description of the lady doing the egocentric act reminded me of Lainie Kazan, for better or worse.

  • Tatiana Hidalgo aka Tannya Teran says:

    I worked at the LA Club in 1966 at the VIP Room, and was featured in the article Hollywood Bunnies will like to know if someone can get in touch with me please.

  • GENE DEVITO says:

    My partner’s and I had a company office on the 9th floor in the early 60’s called High Energy Lasers, Gold Plated, the most powerful Laser in the world at the time. Bunnies were all around it especially during the movie Gold Finger. Hefner had to put an end to the Bunnies spending time in our office, was fun!

  • Bruce Paul Fink says:

    I am the sculptor that designed and built the Playboy entry doors for both the Century City and Chicago Clubs. Since I live in Woodstock, CT I never saw them once delivered and installed except in magazine ads. Also never had a key club card but did have the real keys. Still a sculptor with an active studio foundry though now less busy doing mostly works for own estate garden. I often worked closely with the Architect Ron Dirsmith ( the Dirsmith Group) on the Clubs, Mansion and many private homes and just wanted to make a note saying both Ron (2016) and wife Susanne (2017) passed on though active working until the end. We miss his comments and views while promoting nature in all his designing and works but his and my web pages still reveal the beauty . bpfink.com

  • Alice says:

    I was invited to support my friends, Katnapp and Company who were doing a Jazz Dance performance at the Century City location. I was so impressed that I joined on the spot. The food was good, the entertainment great (of course), the bunnies helpful and friendly, the dress code wonderful, public dancing and best of all safely patrolled by bouncers. For a young girl who wanted to go out for the evening and not get insulted or mauled but to have a good time with respectable men who were displaying good manners this was one elegant safe place. And one of my favorite memories was when my cousin from Pennsylvania came to visit and I whipped out my membership key.

  • S. Josephs says:

    I believe it was 1967, when just a kid (11 or 12), our band, the Serenaders played at the Playboy Club on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. I remember the bunnies standing at the door on the way in, but even though we played on stage, we were not allowed to watch the rest of the show! Even so, my buddy and I did have a pretty good time roaming around the dressing rooms back behind the stage.

  • Ken Chambers says:

    I was a young Marine just out of boot camp, in infantry training at then end of 1968, getting ready to be sent to Vietnam, when a buddy and I went to Hollywood one weekend to ‘see the sights’.
    We went out one night to walk Sunset strip. Without a membership, we decided to walk into the Playboy club anyway just “to see what we could see”. I remember the front doors as very large but very easy to open. Inside, a pool table to our immediate left, with a trio of bunnies in brightly-colored satin costumes playing pool together. Further beyond the pool table was a bar/lounge area with bunnies serving drinks with their ‘bunny dip’ technique.

    A bunny approached us and asked if she could help us? Her costume was bright green! Until that very moment I had never noticed how much shaving was required to wear the bunny suit. I was in awe. I could not speak. I could only smile and take in everything in the few fleeting moments before admitting to being there just to say we had seen it. She told us she would be happy to have us join them if either of us had a key. We figured it would be a waste of money to buy a membership when we had a year-long-date with Uncle Ho across the pond in a month or two. We thanked her for her hospitality and we appreciated her time and left.
    I think we each felt a few inches taller as we walked away down the boulevard that night.

  • David P says:

    You are totally wrong about the Sunset Blvd location. I was in grad program at USC and had a membership. It was great for a late dinner after studying or a game. (I think they served til midnight) The first membership ID was actually a key with an enameled logo on one side and membership number on the other side. They replaced it a couple years later with a metal card that ripped the hell out of my wallet.
    The club was a series of rooms with the bar separating the dance floor from the rest of the club. The population of the club was mostly under 40 and very active dance floor and bar. One whole side of the club was glass overlooking the lights of Los Angeles. Took a lot of friends there including Snow White and Minnie Mouse – the girls that played the characters at Disneyland.
    I only went to Century City Club a couple times. It seemed so impersonal compared to Hollywood location. I remember seeing Dick Shawn in the show room. During his routine he lifted the microphone stand like a drum major pumping it in the air. The ceiling was so low that he ended up poking holes in it. (The real laughs came watching club manager on the sidelines.) As I recall the club and theater were in different buildings in the same complex. Seems like we walked out of club, across a plaza to the theater – but that was a long time ago so could be wrong)
    I didn’t renew the membership after the move. Century City was too impersonal without the excitement of “The Strip” location. I did visit Chicago, NY and London clubs too (casino in London) but none had the feel of the of the Hollywood club with the lights of LA as a backdrop. I still have the shot glass that Bunny Tammy slipped me as a birthday gift. (I think they were $5 at logo merchandise kiosk).
    Lots of good memories there. Just had a flashback memory. Minnie Mouse and our Bunny talked about what special cleaning was required of the outfit. (It was washable) when our Bunny found out who the girls played she had to have a pic with them. Fun times.

  • Ted schroeder says:

    I went to the Sunset Club in 69, in my new 70 ranchero which got great replies from the two guys that parked cars. Diner was okay, nothing to wow about. the bunny suits were, tight as hell and way too much of them hahaha, expected something more sexy, even back then.
    I remember that the girls that did the resturant, of which at about 6pm I was the ONLY one in the restaurant section, also served drinks in the club. place was deff. not what I expected, with a lack of smiles and friendliness I can get at a Denny’s, or anywhere else. A long drive out of curiosity from the valley that left me wishing I hadnt bothered. food and drinks were nearly double what I could get Anywhere else. never went back. think I canceled my subscription for the next year. Think I still have my membership card in my “oldy” stuff, they were made out of aluminum.
    First time since that I have remembered it all hahahaha, so thought I would look it up. doesnt seem to exist any more. True, who cares hahaha living in Oregon since 71 :-))

  • Aitch Cee S says:

    I see it was at the top floor of the club. Looking for any association of Playboy with David L. Shane owner of a car rental place on the Strip and a burger place called Alfie’s.

  • Aitch Cee S says:

    Hugh Hefner had an apartment on Sunset Blvd. in the late 60s before Playboy mansion west. Does anyone know where that was?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Comments