Ex-Bunnies Call for Boycott of NBC’s ‘The Playboy Club’

If early reactions are any indication, ex-Playboy bunnies won’t be supporting NBC’s The Playboy Club. First, Lili Bee, who worked at The Playboy Club in New York City in the 1970s, wrote about her experience on our site. And yesterday, Gloria Steinem, also a former Playboy bunny, called for a boycott of the upcoming show. Both Bee and Steinem argue that the show glamorizes a place and a time that were anything but.

Head over to Jezebel for a summary of Steinem’s call for a boycott.

—Photo Ms. Foundation for Women/Flickr


  1. As if we truly needed Uber-Fem-munist Gloria Steinem to tell us not to watch a show like this,that the real Playboy Club was sexist and sleazy, even if she did go undercover and expose it.

  2. This is getting tired. I think this was an issue about 40 years ago, but now, this is a period piece. A show about the past–like Mad Men. What’s the problem with that? Also, there is nothing risquee about a woman walking around today with a bunny suit.

  3. Having worked as a Playboy bunny herself in the ’60s, she interviewed over 250 former bunnies, including Lauren Hutton and Debbie Harry, for her 1999 release The Bunny Years. The book was recently acquired by Imagine Television for potential use in upcoming episodes of The Playboy Club premiering this fall on NBC. With renewed interest in the subject, Simon & Schuster is releasing an updated edition next month with a new forward written by none other than Hugh Hefner.
    While Kathryn is over the moon about The Bunny Years getting a new lease on life, she is livid with one former bunny who worked with her back in the day. None other than Gloria Steinem was part of a class of seven women who trained at The Playboy Club at the same time — but Gloria’s stint was a ruse so she could write a scathing expose on the women and the club. While she didn’t identify any of the women by name, she used stories they’d shared thinking they were talking to a friend. “What kind of feminism is it when you put down the women you work with?” asked Kathryn. “All of us were just as ambitious. She knew I was a scholarship student trying to build a career in acting.” What burns Kathryn the most is that Gloria is still bad mouthing the bunnies. “I’m in warrior mode,” she told me, “because this 46 year-old rant is tiresome.” Ms. Steinem, I think you’ve met your match.

    • Uncle Woofie says:

      AMEN, K Scott…!!

      Yes, I ALWAYS do what Gloria Stienem tells me to. It’s how I got my Neutered Male Medal with Alan Alda cluster.

  4. I’m going to have to see it first before deciding to protest it.

    (I never bothered watching Mad Men because from what I saw of it it seemed to act men in that era were nothing but high powered big suits that lived the high life on the shoulders of others with no examination of what’s really going on in their heads. Its one thing to point at Don Draper, shout “sexism!”, and call it a day but I’m interested in looking in his head and seeing how he got that way. That examination may have happened during the series but I just did’t see that happening when I first heard about it.)

    I get the feeling this show will be the same. We’ll see the “privileged” side but not see the “pain” side.

  5. Someone above commented about TV being a vehicle for glorification of whatever the subject is. Yes. That is the case. I’d fucking catch my TV on fire if it dealt with the monotony of everyday life. A good show is realistic but cuts out the boring parts of the character’s life and is most interested in telling a good story. I’m sure that Playboy Club does not purport to be a documentary. And guess what? Even documentaries don’t have to be truthful for us to enjoy them. Michale Moore would be out of business were that the case. Sometimes I’m slow on subtlety but I find Mad Men anything but glorious. Don’t get m wrong, it’s entertaining but pretty depressing.

    Second, I wonder how many episodes that any of the protesters have actually seen. Personally, I have seen an ad or two for it and I suppose that because no one was being battered by an oil tycoon or slumping down a flight of stairs with a needle sticking out of her arm, I could have decried the whole thing as a big goddamn white wash put on by the friends of Hugh Hefner. But I’m not going to watch it because it just looks terrible. Almost as bad as that show about the sexy flight attendants of Pan-Am. Which makes me wonder if the previous comment was right about it being a put-on.

    Finally, I really enjoyed Ms. Bee’s article about working as a bunny. I could almost smell the cigars and hairspray. But, outside of her personal circumstances, it didn’t sound that awful. Crappy and humiliating, sure. But sounds an awful lot better than working at Hooters, crazy rules and crunched ribs notwithstanding.

    Not to the person calling for a protest of GE: GE not longer owns NBC Universal. It was sold to Comcast. Yes, that’s Comcastic.

    Note to the person canceling cable: NBC and other major networks are broadcast over the airwaves. You can actually buy a relatively inexpensive HD antenna to receive a high-quality signal but can use something akin to rabbit ears (lil Playboy joke) to pick up an over-air signal if you live anywhere near a metropolitan area not filled with radioactivity.

  6. Anonymous Male says:

    I don’t think of the 60’s as any kind of golden age of protest or anything, but come on, this is a sad, lame little protest. Calling for a boycott of one show on one network? That’s not a very hard-hitting strike against capitalist patriarchy. I say go over their heads and choose an even bigger target. I’d like to see Steinem do something similar to what she did in an early incarnation, like call for feminist organizations to stage a boycott of the NBC parent company, General Electric. Let’s see feminist organizations carry out a boycott of GE goods and services from all of their subsidiaries, like leftists taking on Du Pont during the Viet Nam war.

    This is so tiny and specific that it comes across a little bit as a publicity stunt to HELP ratings, not hurt them. This effect here is making a buzz for a show that would have otherwise gotten much less attention.

    Rage, rage against the dying of the light, man.

    • Hi Anonymous Male-
      I’m surprised you don’t qualify the 60’s as a golden age of protest. The Vietnam War? The riots and resulting deaths at Kent State? They were the Tiananmen Square of the times! Woodstock was a direct response, one could almost say a peaceful protest of much of what was wrong in the decades preceding it: war, sexual repression, cognitive restriction, and more. I’m trying to think of another recent decade that had as many displays of social unrest as the 60’s had.

      I suspect Ms.Steinem and other protesters are primarily using the NBC show as a door allowing access to the larger issues. The main focus is on how pornography (and the damages it ushered in) is being mainstreamed and what the effects of that are, whatever you think about that.

      The protesters aren’t protesting whether the show depicts that timeframe perfectly. It takes offense that the show is allowed to air- at all- on primetime TV because of what it represents. Another commenter mentioned Hogan’s Heroes. Good point! If that were today, we’d have hordes protesting the glorification of Nazi Germany, and rightfully so!

      Are there bigger issues than the damages done to generations of men and women in the way they relate? Depends on whom you ask.
      But I’d say that this is worthy of our efforts; many do feel that gender relations pitched way southwards when Playboy entered the scene. See Tom Matlack’s (GMP founder) article here:


      I would only LOVE to see a demonstration on par with those you named. I’m sorry you feel the efforts now are too small to be noteworthy. However, the words of Margaret Mead apply here:

      “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.
      Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.

      Care to join us?

  7. She’s probably right, and I think it’s great that people make principled decisions about how and where they spend their money.

    But…um…criticizing a TV show because it glamorizes something unglamorous or because it portrays something in an unrealistic fashion? Okay, sure, but I like to think I’m aware of that when I turn on the TV. _Hogan’s Heroes_ needlessly romanticized German POW camps, _CSI:Miami_ makes forensics look unrealistically sexy and architecturally interesting, and _Bacherlorette_ makes it look incredibly easy to find eligible single men. The horror!

    I’m much more concerned about the news and so-called documentaries on TV that at claim to be non-fiction but really aren’t.

  8. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    We canceled our TV Cable across the board for other reasons, so I guess I’m boycotting. I wonder if Mad Men and Playboy Club are thinly hidden celebrations of the latest “masters of the universe” era on Wall Street. According the the documentary announced by Matt Damon, Inside Job, consumption of cocaine and prostitutes by investment firms was prodigious.

  9. The Wet One says:

    Interesting. I don’t think that this boycott will change much. But all the power to you.

    Don’t forget to boycott Hooters, nightclubs, many restaurants (especially those that only have very attractive servers in them), and a whole lot of other industries that use sex to sell products.

    But you gotta start somewhere right?

    It’s too bad that men are so enthralled by their gonads. It’s also too bad that women are so enthralled by their gonads.

    So it goes…

    BTW, Lili Bee, I read your story again. Glad to see that you were able to overcome. Good luck and Godspeed.

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