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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Playboy Club recreated for Mad Men

Lane Price (Jared Harris) admires a bunny


After yesterday's post about a proposed new Playboy Club for London my particular friend S has contacted me to say that Triple P's favourite TV programme, Mad Men, has featured a recreated version of the Manhattan Playboy Club. 

Mad Men's recreation of the New York Playboy Club


In the tenth episode of season four Lane Price takes his father and Don Draper there.  We haven't seen the episode in question; season four is on TV here at present but we will, as usual, wait for the DVDs.


Lane Price chats to a bunny played by Naturi Naughton.  Note the Playboy club lamp


Although the principal bunnies were played by actresses there were five real Playmates decorating the set in authentic period bunny costumes.


Mad Men stars Jared Harris and Jon Hamm on the Playboy Club set for Mad Men with Playmates (l to r): Heather Rene Smith (February 2007), Pilar Lastra (Augist 2004), Jennifer Pershing, (March 2009), Jaime Faith Edmondson, (January 2010), Stacey Marie Fuson, (February 1999)  


The award winning Mad Men production design team took their usual attention to detail on the set which recreated the distinctive Playboy lamps and they even had vintage Playboy matchbooks on the tables. 


Playboy Club lamps very much in evidence


What they couldn't do on the budget was recreate the famous spiral staircase and the size and split-level feeling of the place but it still looks like a very good effort indeed.


 
Opening of the Playboy Club New York December 8th 1962


 
The real New York club, staffed by 140 bunnies, opened in December 1962 at 5 East 59th Street, just a block from Madison Avenue (so a visit by the Mad Men team was always a possibility) and was the fifth Playboy Club to open (after a year of delays).  It closed in 1986.


Eight steps to heaven...or maybe the other place


Eight steps down from the lobby was the  Playmate Bar complete with backlit pictures of Playboy centrefolds. 


The Playmate Bar


One floor up was the "Living Room" complete with raised piano bar perched on a champagne coupe shaped glass pedestal.  It was this area that contained the famous $1.50 a time buffet. 


The Living Room


There was also  a Playboy gift shop where you could buy everything from Playmate Perfume (!) to cocktail glasses.  You couldn't buy a Bunny Girl, of course.  Well, not initially.  There was a strict no dating the club members policy initially although this was relaxed in the 1970s, partly due to pressure from the London Club where many of the Bunnies were being bought expensive gifts by Arab members in exchange for...


The Playboy gift bunny at the New York club


The next floor contained the VIP room, which only sat 50 people, where reservation at least two days in advance was required; no just turning up like the rest of the club. 


The VIP room in the New York Playboy Club


No buffet here but butlers and bilingual bunnies to wait at table "in a continental manner".   This restaurant was the only exception to the $1.50 for everything rule.  A meal here could set you back $12.50.


Showtime at the Playroom


The top two floors of the five floor club contained The Playroom and the Penthouse respectively which also served food and provided shows: largely comedians and singers.

The Penthouse

The Penthouse had a large mural depicting the Manhattan skyline.  Filet Mignon seemed to be the speciality of the restaurant.  In fact beef seemed to be a big staple of the all the Playboy restaurants.  That, and Chicken Kiev (alright, you got trout on Fridays) in what was an astonishingly limited menu.  After midnight you could get scrambled eggs and ham. We don't think that you went to a Playboy club for the dining experience.  But then what do you expect from a man who seems to live entirely on fried chicken and Pepsi. 


Nice tail!

It will be interesting to see how many of the original features (other than the bunnies) of the Playboy Clubs survive into the new ones planned for next year.  Retro-style is back in at present (Mad Men itself has had a significant effect on this) and updating, whilst keeping key features of the past,  is possible (the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach being a good example) so let's hope they don't ditch the Playboy Club heritage completely.  S has been to the Playboy Club at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas and she says it is very well done so here is hoping.



Will they still feature photographs of centrefolds?  Latterly the Playboy brand has been rather ashamed of this aspect of itself.   The Playboy store in Oxford Street didn't have a naked girl in the whole shop.   The food will have to be a lot more varied, certainly in London which is an immensely foodie place these days. We suspect that the place will really be defined by the casino which will be the be all and end all of the place.  Casinos don't like people who visit and don't gamble, even if they do eat a lot of steak and drink expensive drinks.  We suspect that the club itself will operate like most gyms;  far more people will buy a membership than actually use it regularly.  The pricing will be interesting.  Will it be a membership club? 40,000 people bought membership in New York when the Manhattan club opened.  At the clubs height over a million members were paying $25 a year.  When the London Club opened it was a requirement for the gaming licence that it was a mebership club.  Will this still be the case? 


The lobby of the New York club


Sadly,  we suspect it will be just another nightclub designed for twenty somethings with thump thump thump music that makes conversation impossible. Nevertheless, Agent Triple P will track any developments with interest.

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