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Revisiting The First Ever Playboy Club In London

Revisiting The First Ever Playboy Club In London image

Revisiting The First Ever Playboy Club In London

The moment of inspiration that lead to the creation of the world-famous Playboy Clubs, allegedly began in the windy streets of downtown Chicago. 

It was here that Playboy founder Hugh Hefner stumbled across a franchise of Gaslight Clubs and instantly thought of replicating the concept, using the models featured in his popular Playboy magazine.

From there, the rest is history.

The very first Playboy Club to throw open its doors in Europe was on Park Lane in London, 1965. It's opening actually coincided with the decision by the UK government to officially legalize gambling, suddenly the high rollers of London's streets suddenly had a new haunt to call home.

The Playboy Empire, which already had established clubs throughout America saw Europe as the next frontier for expansion and most notably profit.

Some of the UK's brightest and most beautiful girls were personally selected by Hugh Hefner to be Playboy Bunnies. Each were flown to the US where they received training on how to be the consummate Playbunny.

Whilst in America, they learned how to blend an intoxicating mix of cheekiness, charm and enterprise that they would unleash on the bigwigs of London's wealthiest areas.

Entry to the Playboy Club was by membership only, with an annual fee of $25 - certainly not cheap, but then again the club deliberately aimed to cater to a high end clientele.

Being a member gave you access to the club whenever you wanted and once inside you could not only have your drinks made and served by numerous Playboy Bunnies, but also watch live entertainment, have a decent meal and most importantly of all gamble your earnings after the working week.

Due to it's wild success as 'top notch' night out, complete with promises of riches and countless beauties, owning a Playboy membership become a genuine status symbol in the 60s. Yet various sources have confirmed that only around 1 in 4 of the registered members ever used their membership to get into the club. Owning membership was seen a status enough.

That's not to say you couldn't spot a celebrity or two if you walked in through the front door. The likes of Frank Sinatra, actors such as Jean-Paul Belmondo & James Garner, director Woody Allen plus former Bond girl Ursula Andress were all seen enjoying themselves at the London venue.

Still it wasn't always endless flirting, bottles of champagne and constant riches.

In 1972 several Bunny Girls actually went on strike, refusing to work at the club until they were recognised as part of the Transport and General Workers' Union. With so much money coming in and out of the door, the girls themselves wanted some security around their own pay and working conditions.

From there the heady days of excess that marked the 1960s began to fade. In 1981 the London club was forced to close. Not because of bunnies walking out, a lack of profit or loss of interest from the general public either. But because the local government mysteriously chose not to renew its gambling licence - Hefner  had no other option but to let his bunnies back into the wild.

The party it seemed, had finally come to end.

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