Twenty years after Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club closed it re-opened last week in London’s Mayfair with a big PR trumpeting. In cultural terms it’s a fart. Bunnies are a strange man-pleasing hybrid devised by Dr Franken-Hefner: half-vampire, half-dumbest and least threatening of animals. Hefner, the arthritic monster with pockets of Viagra and paid-for blondes, who started the porn revolution, popped over to launch it. I could only rage. Why are bunnies back? We only just culled them.
I read about the new Playboy Club and I went there. I heard the PRs were worried that Jordan might turn up to the opening night party. Maybe they think Jordan will corrupt the bunnies and they will all go out and form limited companies. The official line was she was too “naff”, which makes me want to laugh, and then be sick on myself, and then the Playboy Club, and then the world. I also wanted to see the protests, where a woman in a Hefner mask apparently holds up a dish of rabbit droppings and looks sad. This is her contribution to the debate.
But the protestors weren’t there so I went into the club. I never thought they would actually let me in. The Playboy Club was exclusive in former days. James Bond, although fictitious, was a member. He had a Bunny Key. He probably punned there, badly. Sean Connery, Woody Allen (OK, this doesn’t strengthen my argument) and the gilded Sixties types piled in and licked everyone. But still the doormen wave me through. Maybe they are blind. Maybe it is because I am with C, who has actually been to the Playboy Mansion and says it smells of ancient, nay, Biblical semen. But we are in.
Inside it is so naff, I am momentarily cheered up. I call my boyfriend: “It’s naff!” I scream. He replies: “You think?” The downstairs bar is windowless and dark. There is a family group and lots of short men and a grandmother.
“The Playboy Club is a place for men who are too gormless to chat up women and too scared to visit whores”
Maybe they have been to see The Lion King? But, like all nightclubs, the space seems fragile, like it was put up overnight. Come back tomorrow, and it might be gone. And – a bunny! Small and slender, and so tidy, wiggling across the room with my Diet Coke. Is that what our mothers fought for when they went to university and tried to smash the glass ceiling while trying to have uninhibited sex and get away with not cleaning the house? So this woman could “choose” to dress as a rabbit and serve me Diet Coke, while angry looking men watch and perv? She is in red – Santa Bunny. Other bunnies are in black – Death Bunny. Others are in grey – Dirge Bunny. I order a sandwich. It’s repulsive. It tastes like I fancy Hugh Hefner might.
Upstairs is a giant, over-lit casino, so bright it might be a movie set. It is busier than the bar, and everyone is self-consciously pretending to be an arms dealer or moll. A man sits at the bar, eating what looks like a vast lump of cheddar. The women are in floorlength hostess gowns. They have vast boobs and surgical smiles. The bunnies wander around, being ignored. If you are rich it is pleasant to buy, and ignore beauty. There is an outside terrace full of plants, and surrounded by wire, so when I sit down I feel like I’m in a mouse cage. I don’t know if it worked in 1968 but it isn’t working now. There isn’t even any sexual tension. This is a place for men who are too gormless to chat up women, and too scared to visit whores. The Playboy Club has exactly the vibe of the posh bit of Gatwick Airport, where you get free hand towels. It wants to be edgy, but instead it runs screaming from the edge.
I ask a bunny what she is doing here. I mention the F word. (Feminism.) She says something about choice. Usually when a woman says choice to me, I just say – ah, yes, choice. Congratulations on your choice. I salute you.
Picture credit: Getty Images