During the 1960s, my aunt began working at the Playboy Club. She started her Bunny days at the New Orleans club, and eventually she moved on to the Chicago club to become a Bunny Mother. By the look on her face every time she talks about it, it was a wonderful time in her life.
My aunt’s Bunny days are considered a scandal in our family (at least on my mother’s side of the family), something that is beyond humorous to me. The fact that my aunt’s name is synonymous with scandal appears to delight her immensely, which makes the whole thing even funnier to me. For God’s sake she waited tables in a social club while making a buck off of her looks, something many young women do. My guess, however, it that the Playboy Club likely included some sexual harassment and exploitation, although my aunt describes always being treated well during her time working for the Playboy Club.
Even today when people speak about my aunt being a former Bunny, voices are lowered and whoever is speaking cautiously looks around to ensure that no one is listening right before saying something like, “My God, your grandparents were as liberal as they come!” It’s too much!
My grandparents were transplants in our small southern town by way of Quebec, and they spoke with french accents, which left them slightly marginalized in the small community, at least so I am told. Apparently, there was a strong sense of mistrust surrounding outsiders back then, and a bit of that remains today. Conformity reigns here.
According to my aunt (and everyone else who knows the story), my grandparents did support her; they even drove her the four hours to the audition. But there was a reason beyond liberalism that they chose to support her in her employment desires. My aunt had threatened to move across the country, and in an effort to keep her close (at least somewhat close) to them, they were willing to let her wait tables in a skimpy bunny costume without making a fuss about it-go figure! To be fair, my grandparents had both moved completely away from their own families and became citizens of another country, even if only a neighboring country, so I can understand them wanting to stay connected (in terms of physical distance) to their children.
Eventually (several years later), my aunt was invited to catch a ride with a group of hippies heading to California in a van, and she decided to go. She’s been in San Francisco ever since. My parents, however, stayed put. Engaged in the slow and steady, never throwing caution to the wind. And while my parents always encouraged me to try things, hard work and sacrifice was always the foundation to goal achievement at our house; we are hard working people. Risk, according to my parents, must always be weighed against potential gains, and our endeavors in life should never cause us to completely lose a good footing on the ground.
For that reason, I have never been a fan of hippie culture. I know; it’s shocking! Hippie culture just simply was not talked up, so to speak , in my childhood home; in fact, the opposite was fairly true. While I get some of the thinking behind the movement, and I get that tumultuous social conditions were at least partly driving the movement, I can’t get past the “we are hard working people” script that was shoved down my throat so often during childhood that I am surprised I never choked on it. Communal living is not for me either, and I don’t have a fascination with drug use. I am aware that there is far more to the hippie movement than these few things represent, but the movement was largely before my time, so I only know it in a spotted fashion through handed down stories and pictures; please forgive my naivete.
Having said all of that, my aunt is getting older, as are we all, and I suspect the world at some point will be lacking in the number of people who think like her and are willing to live by those beliefs, which is a shame in my estimation. We need more people who will challenge the system; we need people who will fiercely speak out against injustice, violence, consumption, and materialism, as well as who will readily remind us that love is a powerful thing that is free and can exist without strings.
Okay, so maybe, just maybe, I do admire hippie culture a little :0)