Playboy Then and Now

Cornelia Spelman, 1967. Courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryCornelia Spelman, 1967. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library

In 1967, when Cornelia Spelman was a theater and education major at Emerson College looking for a part-time job, a girlfriend talked her into applying to be a bunny at the Playboy Club in Boston. “It was,” she recalls, “essentially a waitress job, but you made a lot of money (for those days)—and it certainly was theater.” She got the job, and—lucky for the Schlesinger Library—she saved her pay stubs, Playboy Club Bunny Manual, Bunny Test, and more, which she recently added to the collection of her own papers and diaries and those of her mother, which are already in the library.

“I’d go in the back door with my short hair and glasses,” says Spelman. “And I’d put on my contacts, my makeup, my false hair, my bunny suit—and then I’d enter the room, like a stage. At the end of the night, I’d disassemble the whole costume and leave out the back door again.”

Cornelia Spelman, 2015. Photo by Kevin Grady, Radcliffe Staff PhotographerCornelia Spelman, 2015. Photo by Kevin Grady, Radcliffe Staff PhotographerA bunny only briefly, Spelman moved on to become a clinical social worker and psychotherapist and the author of Missing: A Memoir (Northwestern University Press, 2010)—for which she delved into her mother’s personal diaries—and many books that promote emotional and social development for young children. She is currently reading through 35 years of her own diaries in preparation for another memoir.

Reflecting on her life today, Spelman quotes her friend the writer William Maxwell, who said, “The view from 70 is breathtaking.” “It’s wonderful to have a perspective not many of us get, here in these archives,” she added. “It’s not always pleasant, but it’s always interesting.”

For more about Spelman’s work, visit www.corneliaspelman.com.

Then

Playboy magazine publishes its first issue in December 1953, with a nude centerfold of Marilyn Monroe. The magazine’s circulation peaks with its November 1972 edition, which sells more than 7 million copies.

The first Playboy Club opens in Chicago in 1960, followed by clubs in other cities throughout the world, including Boston in 1965.

Now

In October 2015, Playboy announces it will stop publishing photographs of naked women, and the New York Times reports that the magazine’s circulation has dropped to about 800,000.

The chain of nightclubs owned and operated by Playboy Enterprises is defunct by 1991, although new clubs later open in other countries, including Finland.

Playboy Club employment documents from the Papers of Cornelia Spelman, Schlesinger LibraryPlayboy Club employment documents from the Papers of Cornelia Spelman, Schlesinger Library

Search Year: 
2015