It’s almost Easter and I have bunnies on my mind. Not chocolate. Not Marshmallow. I’m thinking about are the gorgeously gammed, heavenly endowed, multi-talented (ever try to do the Bunny Dip?) ladies who helped to build the Playboy empire.
There are two reasons that Playboy sprung to mind. First, I recently had reason to take a stroll down memory lane and ambled back through my previous life as an advertising maven. In my 14-year-long personal episode of Mad Men, I spent my days with a cigarette in hand (quit years ago), stilettos on my feet (can’t let go of those), and an not-quite-sincere blue suit on my back as I traveled, cared for my clients, and indulged three-martini lunches (mostly lunch, not martinis) with media reps. One of my favorites was the guy from Playboy Magazine. I didn’t actually spend a whole lot on Playboy ads, but I was still invited to events at The Mansion and treated to a box at the Hollywood Bowl for the Playboy Jazz Festival every year. The good old days. I sometimes wonder how I got so lucky to literally fall into a career like that. Nothing I ever plan is so exciting.
The second reason I was thinking about Playboy was because I am working on a new book. It’s darn tough to build a solid story on top of an exciting plot and pepper the whole thing with a bit of style. I was looking for some inspiration, thinking about intensely creative people, and that’s when Hugh Hefner came to mind. Hefner is the master storyteller. He didn’t just write a novel, he conjured up an empire, peopled it with imaginative characters, and did it all with such style that both he and Playboy became legendary.
Hefner’s vision of the girl-next-door dressed like a siren, as personable as a best friend and yet as out of reach as a Goddess, was unprecedented. Even more impressive was his ability to transform that vision into reality and build an empire that was seamless in its commitment to his vision.
Consider the Playboy bunny. Those ears, the jaunty little tail, the luxurious satin and daring cut of her maillot combined to create a look that was sexually provocative without being immodest, indulgently playful without being prurient. With Playboy as the playbook, I learned an invaluable lesson about writing, business, and life. Here is what it boils down to: Have a point of view, choose a way to communicate it, work until it’s perfect, and then own it without apology.
A million other people might have dreamed about a business like Playboy, but only Hefner acted upon it. From the magazine’s pictorials to the fiction selections, the bunny costume to the casting, the mansion to the grotto, every last detail of Hugh Hefner’s narrative was adjusted until his vision became the reality he wanted. Hefner showed me that there is a fine line between modesty and abandon, desirability and lust, being colorful rather than crass. He owned Playboy in the same way we should all own our work and our lives: he was proud of what he did, professional in how he did it, and joyous every moment of his creative life.
So this Easter when bunnies abound in all shapes and sizes, I want to celebrate an iconic bunny. Here’s to Playboy and all the bunnies who were celebrated in print, those who dipped to serve us at the clubs, and lived in our fantasy worlds. Thanks for the life lessons. Maybe they weren’t the ones you intended, but they were exactly the ones I needed.