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Calling All Hippies

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)

 

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7 thoughts on “Calling All Hippies

  1. Good for your aunt! However, as to Hippie culture, and I should know something about it having seen it grow and affect my own family (very negatively I must add) I have no use for it. I’ll say this, that the Hippie movement was no more real than all those American fictional stories of the wild west. Yes there were a few similarities to the stories spun from these very American events but like most things American, when you crack the shell of the propaganda you find there’s no meat inside. The only real thing that survived the Hippies is the drug culture.

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    1. I think there are some good ideas associated with hippie culture (i.e., community, sharing, acceptance, love, peace, etc ), but I also, like you, don’t care for drug culture; it has never interested me. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a middle ground between corporate greed and Haight-ashbury?
      Speaking of things that are fictional, I was absolutely shocked during my education to find out that no evidence of bra burning in the sixties can be found. Apparently, that was propaganda too. I was shocked when I was exposed to this information in a graduate level feminism class. I was shocked because my aunt also had told me that bra burning happen during her late teen years🤔😂

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      1. Bra burning did in fact happen, many times and in many places, it just wasn’t done or used as the media hyped it up. There was also a time in the late 60’s and into the 70’s when a lot of women went braless. Then consumerism in the name of fashion simply reasserted itself and that was that. Women found that it was easier to coast along with the Patriarchy than to be mocked as “feminists” and those who continued became increasingly strident and less heard though there were a few really good writers and artists who carried the banner for a while.
        As to communal living and free love and such, that was definitely more hype than reality. Girls got pregnant and were abandoned to raise their babies alone. Many of them were grossly abused, beaten and turned to drugs and drink. (You see a bit of that in the movie Forrest Gump.) Forget Haight-Ashbury, it was hardly a flash in the pan, and a quote: ” “By the fall of 1967, Haight-Ashbury was nearly abandoned, trashed, and laden with drugs and homeless people,” blogger Jon Newman wrote in his essay ‘Death of the Hippie Subculture.’
        What I’m really saying is, there never was any substance to much of the Hippie sub-culture. It was mainly a protest by privileged, entitled and spoiled kids who just wanted to have a good time and since the Vietnam war was raging and so many were coming of draft age some of it turned into war protest – but not for the Vietnamese millions being shot, burned, poisoned and bombed, but for the vulnerable American “babies” who didn’t want to become war casualties. Those were the years in-between my Christian years when I was looking for spiritual and moral substance in my society. Had it existed in the Hippie culture I would certainly have found it and lived it. For me it was just as hypocritical as the religion I had turned from (and I didn’t know yet that I would attempt it again in a different format still looking for substance – didn’t find it there either!) I observed the effects of a lifestyle devoid of personal discipline or responsibility. I saw the ruined lives from drugs. I sensed the covert violence and the ill concealed hate in anti-war rallies. Mostly I experienced the fake love, for how can you have love where there is no responsibility or discipline?

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      2. Excellent points, Sha’Tara. The lack of discipline was also something that my parents frowned upon, which caused the less than positive view of the culture to be shared in my home. My aunt, whether she remembers that time in her life as overwhelmingly positive or not, also was exposed to some harsh realities. As she has gotten older she has admitted to some less than pleasant aspects of “those days.” She may have a psychological need to remember that period of her life in favorable terms.

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  2. Lol. It’s funny to come across someone with a similar view of the ’60s and hippies, as my husband is pretty much on the same page as Sha & the fact that they were “spoiled, entitled” and he’d add “bored” rich kids. And we’re not even old enough to have lived through that time–just missed it.

    His big question, whenever someone starts looking through rose-colored glasses at the hippie years is, “Where are they all now?” And basically, they’re gone, aren’t they? Except for an eccentric couple here or there, a free-spirited individual here or there, or maybe even a small group, they’re gone.

    It sounds like your aunt did get treated well being a bunny, though, and her memories sound more positive than negative overall, which they very well might have been. It probably seemed like *something* new and interesting was happening, but maybe one thing (having fun) was actually masquerading as another (real change), and it could never really take root because of that.

    I like the stories, though, of your aunt “scandalizing” people, and even today, they lower their voices when they talk about it! Lol!

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    1. I can understand the other view as well. My aunt also admits that there was a lot of fun going on. I think it is hilarious the way that people still act when they bring her up. Sometimes someone will ask me where she is or how she is doing. They often will quickly follow with something about her playboy days, and it is always in a hushed tone. Sometimes I engage them in the same way because they will often giggle and tell me all kinds of stuff. According to some, all of my dad’s friends wanted to date her so that they could tell everyone about the playboy girlfriend. Of course, she was his older sister, so none of that ever happened. My dad appears to enjoyed some minor celebrity status among his friends as a result of his sister 😂

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