The first Playboy Club opened in Chicago in 1960. Scantily-clad and bunny-eared hostesses known as Playboy Bunnies served drinks to the members who paid $25 a year to posses a Rabbit-headed metal Playboy key. Feminist Gloria Steinem launched her journalism career writing an expose of the world of Playboy Bunnies. She famously went undercover as a Playboy Bunny in 1963, and highlighted the rough conditions and the rougher chauvinism of the Playboy Clubs and Playboy Mansion. As sexism waned, so did the empire.
Playboy Clubs around the world have come and gone, but the fantasy allure has remained.
Recently, a company who owns the rights to the Playboy brand in India announced that it would open its first Playboy Club in India. The first club will open in the beach community of Goa next month. They plan to set up 8 Playboy Clubs over three years and have 120 clubs, bars and cafes in 10 years.
India is an interesting choice for Playboy. The country’s obscenity laws ban material deemed "lascivious or appealing to prurient interests" which include the sale Playboy Magazine. There has been much speculation as to how the costumes of Playboy Bunnies may need to be altered. The traditional cleavage-baring, waist-cinching, high-cut, bunny costume just won’t pass muster in the socially conservative Indian culture. The Indian entity is said to be working with Playboy executives on a redesigned costume more appropriate for India’s standards of modesty.
“The bunnies will not be serving drinks, they will be acting as hostesses,” CEO of Mumbai-based PB Lifestyle Sanjay Gupta said. “You have air hostesses, they are treated with respect,” he said, and the same will be true for the bunnies. “Bunnies are integral to the Playboy culture,” he said.
“We are clear about one thing: There will absolutely be no nudity,” Gupta said. “The bunnies will be suited to Indian sensibilities and moral values.”
They’d better be, according to Goa’s government.
“They may brand the club as Playboy but if they indulge in obscenity, vulgarity or nudity, then we will withdraw their permission immediately," Nikhil Desai, Goa's director of tourism, told AFP.
Of course, it will not be the first time Playboy raised the bunny ears hackles of social conservatives. Playboy has always been a trailblazer when it comes to sexuality (and race, and politics). They’ve survived with a delicate balance of suggestive sensuality without becoming raunchy.
Playboy was created by Hugh Hefner in 1953—at the height of social conservative in this country. Still, he launched the inaugural issue of the magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, and never looked back. Today, the Playboy franchise includes television networks, luxury fragrances, collaborations with luxury fashion labels like Dolce & Gabbana and a recently-launched Playboy Wine Club.
The business in India won't be restricted to nightclubs and bars alone. "In the next two years, we will also open retail outlets. The total investment across formats will be 200 crore in the next five years," said Amar Panghal, director-finance at PB Lifestyle. Indian Playboy members will be allowed access to global clubs and benefits, including the exclusive parties at the Playboy Mansion.
Initially, India’s Playboy bunnies will be imports shipped in from the United States, Australia, Britain and other countries. “Bunnies are rigorously trained,” he said, from a Playboy Bunny manual, which includes “strict dos and don’ts” about their conduct.