Play­boy takes a gam­ble

The only Play­boy Club in Asia is set to open on Nov 20 in Ma­cao.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ENVIRONMENT - By KEE HUA CHEE

The only Play­boy Club in Asia is set to open on Nov 20 in Ma­cao.

SOME men may well have fan­ta­sised about be­ing bud­dies with Hugh Hefner, founder of the Play­boy em­pire, and get­ting the gilded key to the Play­boy Club, once the world’s most pres­ti­gious and ex­cit­ing bar, sup­per club, night­club and en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre rolled into one. To have been served by a Play­boy Bunny, peren­ni­ally smil­ing, good-na­tured, ac­com­mo­dat­ing and gen­er­ally blonde must have been a dream of all wor­thy, red­blooded men.

How times have changed. Play­boy mag­a­zine’s suc­cess and the in­dus­try it spawned as well as com­pe­ti­tion from other sources have re­sulted in a pre­cip­i­tous plunge in the club’s pres­tige, pride and profit.

To­day, 20-some­things have a vague inkling of Play­boy mag­a­zine or most likely are clue­less as the In­ter­net has taken care of all earthly de­sires. As founder Hefner is all of 84 and on his last legs, he is also not the best walk­ing advertisement for his prod­ucts – not that walk­ing is an ac­tiv­ity as­so­ci­ated with the brand.

There was a time when (in the foggy mists of the 1970s and 80s) a man could die happy the next morn­ing should he be in­vited to one of Hefner’s le­gendary par­ties at the Play­boy Man­sion in Chicago. This was home to at least half a dozen long-stay­ing Play­boy Bun­nies who could guar­an­tee a good time 24/7, at least to the house owner and se­lect guests. A copy of Play­boy “ac­ci­den­tally” dropped from your Sam­sonite brief­case was proof that you were not only a rag­ing het­ero but also pos­sessed good taste as the mag­a­zine fea­tured – apart from the Play­mate of the Month – re­mark­ably well-re­searched ar­ti­cles and lit­er­a­ture by no­table writ­ers.

Af­ter be­ing de­nied a US$5 raise at Esquire mag­a­zine, Hefner mort­gaged ev­ery­thing he owned, in­clud­ing his fur­ni­ture, to pro­duce Play­boy in De­cem­ber 1953. The first is­sue fea­tured Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe from her 1949 nude cal­en­dar. It was a sen­sa­tional suc­cess and sold 53,991 copies at 50 cents each.

Hefner wanted to name his bach­e­lor mag­a­zine “Stag Party” but an un­re­lated, out­door mag­a­zine called Stag threat­ened a law­suit. Few know it was not Hefner but co­founder El­don Sell­ers who sug­gested “Play­boy” as his mother had worked for Play­boy Au­to­mo­bile Com­pany! The world-fa­mous logo of a stylised rab­bit with a tuxedo bow was orig­i­nally in­tended as an end­note but ended up as the logo since Hefner liked the “hu­mor­ous sex­ual con­no­ta­tion” of breed­ing like rab­bits and the crea­ture’s “frisky and play­ful” im­age.

He was not just syn­ony­mous with glo­ri­fy­ing the joys of a het­ero bach­e­lor­hood. In 1955, Hefner shook the es­tab­lish­ment by pub­lish­ing “The Crooked Man” in Play­boy. This sci­ence fic­tion short story by Charles Beau­mont was about straight men be­ing per­se­cuted in a ho­mo­sex­ual-dom­i­nated world!

The 1970s were Play­boy’s hey­day. Its best-sell­ing edi­tion was the Novem­ber 1972 edi­tion which sold 7,161,561 copies – and one in four col­lege un­der­grads bought Play­boy. At its peak, Play­boy En­ter­prise cov­ered al­most ev­ery cat­e­gory from casino to pub­lish­ing to cuff links. It was worth US$1bil in 2000, a fig­ure that col­lapsed to US$85mil by 2009 though its pub­lish­ing arm was on sale for US$300mil.

Hefner’s daugh­ter Christie be­came CEO in 1988 and stepped down this year. Play­boy now has 10 is­sues per year as it bat­tles to stay au courant and rel­e­vant to the 18to-35 age group, wary of be­ing seen read­ing their dad’s mag­a­zine.

Play­boy clubs

The first Play­boy Club opened in 1960 in Hefner’s home­town of Chicago and the last on Amer­i­can soil in Lans­ing, Michi­gan, which closed in 1988. Play­boy Club Manila teetered un­til 1991 at Si­lahis Ho­tel.

At its peak, the Chicago club re­ceived 132,000 vis­i­tors in the last three months of 1961, mak­ing it the world’s busiest night­club. In 1981, the Play­boy Club’s London casino was the world’s most profitable but shud­dered to a halt soon af­ter when its li­cence was not re­newed.

Apart from Bun­nies, Play­boy Clubs ac­tu­ally boasted a roll-call of fa­mous en­ter­tain­ers, among them Ray Charles, Bing Crosby, Dizzy Gille­spie, Bob Hope, Jay Leno, Peggy Lee, Ann Mar­gret, Steve Martin, Bette Mi­dler and Gin­ger Rogers.

The re­cently opened Play­boy Club at The Palms Casino Re­sort Las Ve­gas is the only Play­boy Club in the world ... but not for long. On Nov 20, Play­boy Club Ma­cao will open at the Sands Ma­cao Ho­tel (the first Las Ve­gas-style casino ho­tel in Ma­cao when it started busi­ness in 2004).

Its 12,000sqft Play­boy Club is de­signed to be the last word in lux­ury (some say it is also Play­boy’s last chance at re­new­ing its for­tune) and will com­mand spec­tac­u­lar views from its pent­house lo­ca­tion, both in­doors, out­doors and from its Bun­nies. The club will flaunt pri­vate gam­ing ar­eas, op­u­lent lounges, high-tech me­dia rooms, live en­ter­tain­ment, lux­u­ri­ous Play­boy-type dé­cor, costly art­work and “unique VIP ar­rival ex­pe­ri­ence tai­lored for Asian cus­tomers” – what­ever that means.

In­vestors are so con­vinced Play­boy Club will be such a glo­ri­ous suc­cess that it is now build­ing the 30,000sqft Play­boy Man­sion which will open in 2012! This year, af­ter all, is the 50th an­niver­sary of Play­boy Club since the first one opened at 116E Wal­ton in down­town Chicago and corks should be fly­ing.

Bunny hunt

On Oct 15, 15 short­listed Play­boy Club Bun­nies from var­i­ous coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ma­cau and Hong Kong, joined sea­soned Las Ve­gas Play­boy Club Bunny Denise Per­nula at the first Bunny Hunt at Sands Ma­cao. The event marked the start of the re­cruit­ment drive for the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try’s most cov­eted, glam­orous and best-paid jobs. Win­ners will get to wel­come VIP guests on open­ing night and there­after pan­der to the whims of Play­boy Club mem­bers and high­rollers.

The 15 fi­nal­ists walked the walk and talked the talk, preen­ing, pos­ing and pirou­et­ting pret­tily as they chat­ted with se­lect guests, pre­mium play­ers, mem­bers of the me­dia and judges. The judg­ing panel in­cluded Play­boy of­fi­cials, Ma­cao celebri­ties and ex­pe­ri­enced Play­boy Club Bun­nies from Palms Las Ve­gas.

At the rate they are go­ing af­ter the Chi­nese mar­ket, per­haps Play­boy should be Play­man(darin)!

Come and play: Play­boy Club Bun­nies are all set to wel­come guests

to the Play­boy Club Ma­cao when it opens its doors on Nov 20.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.