Which Ridgeway Merchant is a Former Playboy Bunny?

Denise Jones: Cotton Yard MarketCharlene Herring: Ridgeway Mayor

Tina Johnson: Over the Top

Margaret Kreiling: Just Around the Corner

Carol Branham: Deanne’s Creations

Carol Allen: :alura's Tea Room

Judy Miller: Just Around the Corner

Jenny Price: Cotton Yard Market

If you frequent Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, you know its proprietor, Carol Allen, offers a daily schedule of High Teas, Cream Teas, Wee Teas and other Teas.

She also plans a number of special tea events throughout the year for which reservations are made weeks in advance if one hopes to snag a seat at the tea table.

On Friday, July 13, Allen will offer her customers a delightful summer Bunny Tea.

The guest entertainment at this special tea event will be a fun-loving Ridgeway merchant who, during the 1960s, was a Playboy Bunny – not to be confused with Playboy Playmates, who appear on the pages of Playboy magazine. No, siree. Playboy Bunnies served drinks in Playboy Clubs that were popular, particularly in big cities, around the country in the 1960s and ‘70s.

As the Merchant Bunny will impart to the tea guests, however, aside from skimpy costumes and oversized, black satin bunny ears, Playboy Bunnies, in their heyday, were more than very keen waitresses. They were fairly steeped in good manners and old-fashioned etiquette.

According to the Merchant Bunny, “The Bunny’s job was defined by her training. We were trained by Bunny Mothers, former Bunnies who, at the age of 25, were deemed too old to Bunny.

“Our Bunny Mothers taught us everything about being a Bunny, how to present ourselves, apply makeup, stand, walk, dip, reach and even how to focus intently on serving our tables with every attention to detail, always the hallmark of a good hostess.”

And the Merchant Bunny will pass along these and other helpful hostessing tips to her audience as they sip and smile.

“While those over 50 may recall having a dim view, back then, of the fleshy aspect of Playboy Bunnies,” the Merchant Bunny points out that the Bunnies, “strictly adhered to the role of hostessing sweetly, silently and without sniffing or stumbling.

“We had to be perfect all the time,” she recalled. “Perfect ears, perfect posture, perfect service. Everything had to be perfect. Our cotton tails were not attached to the costume until AFTER we got dressed, because the tails had to be attached just so-so, not too high, not too low. Perfecting the attachment of the cotton tail was stressful!”

It was after visiting a Playboy Club on Lindell Avenue in St. Louis with a friend that the Ridgeway Merchant Bunny, at the age of 24, decided to apply for the high-paying, glam job. Much to her surprise, she was hired a week later.

She soon learned that being a Bunny was hard work with many rules. And there were strict standards for customers as well.

“Undercover agents in tuxedoes kept an eye out that no one touched or bothered us in any way,” she said. “We were treated like princesses.”

She also recalls the fun of meeting many of the celebrities who visited the Club including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Carol Channing, Dean Martin and others.

But at the ripe old age of 26 (“I actually worked one extra year before they realized how old I was”), before the passage of age-descrimination laws in this country, the Merchant Bunny had to turn in her ears and fluffy white cotton tail…too old to continue her Bunny duties.

Then she became a Bunny Mother.

“But being a Bunny Mother was hard work and NO fun, plus it didn’t pay as well,” she said, laughing about some aspects of her second-fiddle role.

“The Bunnies had to have help just getting those costumes on,” she said. “They had so much boning in them that they stood up perfectly even when they were not being worn – not to mention how much work it was attaching the bunny tails!”

“Besides teaching Bunnies how to  apply make up, stand, serve, etc., we also mended fishnet stockings and handled other mundane emergencies.

“We taught them every thing about being a Bunny, just as we had learned from our Bunny Mothers.”

For more tips on Bunny etiquette and hostessing and to learn the identity of the Ridgeway Merchant Bunny, reserve a seat now for the summer Bunny Tea at Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, Friday, July 13. There will be only one seating for the three-course High Tea. There will be take-homes, handouts and giveaways as always. And don’t forget – seating will limited for this event, so reservations are a must. Call 803-337-8594.

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