Kathryn Leigh Scott Interview Former Playboy Bunny

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Author: Gore De Vol

In the early 1960’s, when Kathryn Leigh Scott was a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she got a job at the Playboy Club in New York.
She worked at the club as a Playboy Bunny for three years.
Kathryn has chronicled her years with Mr. Hefner’s organization as well as interviews with 250 former bunnies in the book, “The Bunny Years, The Surprising Inside Story of The Playboy Clubs: The Women Who Worked As Bunnies and Where They Are Now” (Pomegranate Press, P.O. Box 17217, Beverly Hills, CA 90209. The cost is $25.00).
The book will be the subject of an A and E television special in May 1999, titled, “The Bunny Years.”
Kathryn Leigh Scott spoke with us about her book, and life as a Playboy Bunny.

Q – I believe that “The Bunny Years” is the first book to ever be written on a Playboy Bunny. Am I right?
A – Yes. There actually was a book many, many years ago written by a Norwegian Bunny, but it was more of a mass market book. It was just kind of a personal memoir. Nobody has actually ever written a book about the Playboy bunnies from the point of view of the women who worked as bunnies. Gloria Steinem wrote her magazine article but that was really from her point of view and written as sort of an expose. So, this is the first time the women themselves have spoken up and you hear their voices and their recollection.

Q – When the book was completed did you take it around to the major publishing companies?
A -1 did indeed do that. There were two New York houses that were immediately interested. Two of the biggest ones. I had a couple of meetings with them, and as it happened the editor of one place left and then about three weeks later the editor of the other place left. I thought this is the lesson I need to learn right now, that you lose your editor and you’re stuck with somebody who doesn’t have the same enthusiasm. I thought I can’t let that happen with this project because it really does require a vision. And, it was at that point that I just decided to do it myself. I just didn’t want to leave it in the hands of someone else.

Q – How did you manage to track down so many of the women who worked as Bunnies?
A – Well, I’ll tell you it was relatively easy, in that I’ve always kept in touch with 4 women. In fact, I know them so well and they’re such close friends that I forget that where I first met them was at the Playboy Club. I started with them and then I literally pulled out an old address back from 30 years ago in New York, and I started calling some of those numbers, and found the women. In New York, you never leave a rent called apartment. Each woman seemed to keep in touch with 2 or 3 others So, it was an ever-expanding network. In the end, I talked to just under 300 women. Some of them were com¬plete strangers to me, but I could trace the connection.

Q – Was it difficult to get them to talk?
A – No. There was nobody who refused to talk to me. In fact, some of those women are very much today’s celebrities, in very powerful positions. Some of them are very wealthy. Very public people. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I would call up and introduce myself as a former Bunny. I think it’s a shared experience. Once they know that you’ve done it, they know that you have a shared history. What happens then is, it leads to a sort of shorthand. Not a lot of explanation was required. (Laughs). So I knew the questions to ask. I knew what they were saying when they gave me a response.

Q – I did an interview with actress and former Playboy Bunny Barbara Bosson (Hill Street Blues) a number of years ago and when I asked her about her days as a Playboy Bunny, she really didn’t think it was such a big deal. Did the women you interviewed feel the same?
A – Almost all of them. I know exactly what Barbara was saying when she said that. I know what Lauren Hutton means when she says, “Once a Bunny, Kathryn Leigh Scott The Bunny Years always a Bunny.” And, she’s said that on numerous occasions. We all say it because for many of us we were Bunnies at the same time we were students. So, it’s like talking about your student days. It did have an impact on our lives. It was a social and cultural phenomena, and therefore it takes on a whole lot more weight than it did when we were actually doing it. The things that happen in your youth are very often the things that you are forever afterward known for.

Q – Most people would have a hard time believing you can make the jump from that point to the next point, because so many do not make that transition.
A – Exactly. To see a woman who is now the head of a New York Stock Exchange Company and then to learn she was a Bunny for seven years; or to see another woman who is literally one of the wealthiest women in the world who bought her first property in Chicago with her Bunny earnings, is always interesting.

Q – Quite honestly, Kathryn, in this picture of you in the Bunny costume, you don’t look too happy. Am I misinterpreting that?
A – Yes. I’m smiling in that, but I have to say, to me I look so shy. I think that was taken the first week I was a Bunny. They came in on a Sunday, and we were all sleepy from working the night before. These pictures were meant for the Playboy files. They weren’t meant to be published. They’re really for their files. They’re like mug shots, full length.

Q – You write, “I learned about what was right and wrong and how I wanted to be treated and that held me in good stead when I went out as an actress.”
A – Right.

Q – Why did you not learn that in acting school? How is it that working as a Playboy Bunny taught you that?
A – What you learn in acting school is how to be an actress. You learn how to do your job. But as you know, whether you’re a journalist or an actress or almost any other profession, what they teach you is the professional part of it. Going into the workplace is something totally different. So, you go into the workplace and you have a very good looking, older person of authority, like a director, and he comes on to you and you know perfect costume as sort of a come-on and sort of a tease that indeed men were going to come on to me. It was up to me to learn how to handle that. Playboy realized that was part of the job and they really did teach us in Bunny training how to handle that. It stood me in good stead the rest of my life. 1 remember when a director really did hit on me, and he was a married man. I said, “But, you’re married” and he said, “Yes, I have an arrangement with my wile,” and I said, “But, you don’t have an arrangement with me.” Learning how to stand up to somebody who is an authority figure and can give you a job, can make or break your career, and you weigh those things on the one side, knowing on the other that it’s wrong.

Q – Sadly enough that practice probably continues to this day.
A – Well, of course it does. I’ve said in a number of interviews, boys and girls have to learn how to conduct themselves in the workplace. It’s not something ever taught in high school, college or in the study of any particular career. Almost all of the Playboy Bunnies mentioned that what they learned working as Bunnies was a lesson for life.

Q – Men today are being told that sexual harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated, and you are not to look upon a woman as a sex object. At this point in history, shouldn’t men and women stop putting themselves in a position where they can be viewed as a sex object?
A – It’s an entirely individual matter. Everybody has to learn this. Everybody has to walk this fine line. Most people, when they find a mate and get married, it is somebody they met through work, because that is where we spend most of our time. So therefore the idea of saying that you can’t look upon someone as an object of desire, that is exactly the way you are feeling about them. (Laughs). They fit all the requirements of someone you’d like to spend your life with. How do you go about asking someone for a date and not getting hauled up on sexual harassment? Well, this is something you have to learn, and it’s not something we can legislate. I think there’s too much legislation already. I think it’s entirely a human dilemma, and it’s one that is so individual, and so personal. It’s something that everybody has to learn.

Q – Are you surprised that places like Hooter’s prosper?
A – No. Just as I know the more we condemn cigarettes and the more impossible we make it to buy a pack, the more young people are going to want them. It has entirely to do with rebellion. Everything that is old is new again. Hooter’s 1 think is an absolute response to the fact that there is all this legislation.

Q – Bunnies were in the vanguard of women’s liberation; we were, many of us, at 19 making more money than our fathers.” It was all about money then?
A – No, not at all. Except that one of the precepts of the Feminist Movement is that financial independence is power. It’s one of the things we experienced as Bunnies, because we were earning such a lot of money, we could pursue other careers. Money wasn’t a hindrance. That’s all that that means. We wanted an equal place in the workplace. That really was the fundamental idea of the women’s movement back then. It altered as it went on. The other thing is I don’t think people realize, they’ve forgotten perhaps that in the early 60’s it was almost impossible for a woman to get a credit card on her own, or a mortgage on her own. So, that taste of financial freedom and that taste of being a valued employee, making more money than your immediate male supervisors who were the room directors, really went a long way in giving those eighteen and nineteen year olds a sense of themselves.

Q – Were you ever asked to pose for the Centerfold in Playboy?
A – No. As you can tell from that picture, I was a rather immature looking young woman. I certainly have never been model material, while that is what a Playmate is. She’s a model. I was simply never in the fast track for that. They never asked Lauren Hutton. They never asked Susan Sullivan. They never asked Barbara Bosson. (Laughs.). There was a particular kind of look and we didn’t have it. 1 also hasten to add that had I been asked I probably would not have done it, because I was serious about my acting career, and in those days posing as a Playmate was not a stepping stone.

Q – And today it is?
A – No. Can you think of one single Playmate who has become a well-known, highly respected actress?

Q – In the history of Playboy Magazine there has only been one …
A – Marilyn Monroe. And Marilyn Monroe was already a well-established actress by the time she became the cover girl of 1954. There has never been one, single actress of note who was a Playmate.

Q – How do you think history will look at Hugh Hefner 100 years from now? Will people look at a photo of a Playboy Bunny and think it’s cute, or will they shake their head and say how sad it was that women had to put themselves in such a humiliating position to earn money?
A -1 think that the latter concept is a very fleeting one, believe it or not. I think from the distance of 100 years people will look back and see them as a Gibson girl or a Ziegfield girl or the Busby Berkeley dancers. If you look at them as a whole, you would look back on them in that respect. But, as far as Hugh Hefner is concerned, I think that history is going to treat him with a fair amount of respect. What I think will emerge is, he was there to guide an entire generation of men who came out of World War II and were in many cases the first in their families to go to college. His Playboy philosophy is only one aspect of it. He introduced a lifestyle, for the urban male. With all of those kids coming off the farm and entering into an urban middle class environment he gave them a lifestyle. He also, in terms of sexuality, he opened a lot of doors. I’m not saying that he won’t always be controversial, but I think he’ll be a figure treated with a certain amount of respect.

Q – And you don’t think people will say how terrible it was that he exploited these women?
A-Oh, I don’t think so. I think that’s something we’re going through right now. If you’re talking about 100 years from now, you’re talking about perspective. Playboy Magazine was the first of something. There were so many firsts connected with it. The Playboy Bunny is a cultural icon. I guess what I’m saying to you, is like it or not, this is the situation. What Hugh Hefner has done in the latter half of this century cannot be dismissed.

© Gary James All Rights Reserved

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