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Hefner with the Playmate Karen Christy Photo Gallery »
It was an extraordinary sight: the beautiful young woman, trailing a tangle of flowing, dark brunette hair, clip-clopping down Inner Lake Shore Drive on a gorgeous black gelding, riding from her Near North stables through Lincoln Park, over to North State Parkway, and up to the gates of 1340. The year was 1963, and Patti Reynolds, a Playboy Bunny and soon to be centerfold, and her horse, Frankie, were making their daily trip to the mansion, where she had moved into a small studio apartment on the same floor as the Bunny dorm.
“I would go get him about 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock in the morning, and I would ride to the mansion, right up to the butler’s pantry,” recalls Reynolds. “Hef would come out and pet the horse in the morning and there was a Bunny I was friends with, Marika [Lukacs], and she’d get on the back of the horse with me, and we’d go riding down State Street. In those days, the police would stop you, but just to talk because they knew who we were—Playboy Bunnies.”
Reynolds was 17 when she talked her way into a waitress job at the Gaslight Club, and still under age when she answered an advertisement in the Tribune seeking “beautiful, charming and refined young ladies” to work in the new Playboy Club. “I was afraid of everything,” she says. “I felt these girls were so beautiful. I couldn’t believe I had been hired.”
Reynolds, who would become the September 1965 Playmate of the Month, says the rules were strict, but that didn’t stop her or other Bunnies from making the occasional mischief. “I remember working with another Bunny,” she recalls. “She was very busty. When we worked the show rooms, she would be sitting on a chair, and she would pull her costume down. Some guy watching the show would grab his friend and say, ‘Look at that!’ By the time the other guy looked over, she had covered up and was sitting there like nothing had happened. Every so often we’d get fired by Hef’s brother, Keith, and we’d go running to Hef—‘Boo hoo, your brother fired us’—and he’d say, ‘All right, Patti, go back to work, but be a good girl this time.’”
Dianne Chandler, who was both Playmate of the Month and cover girl for the magazine’s September 1966 issue, was working as a waitress at the Pancake House in Champaign-Urbana when she saw an ad similar to the one that drew Reynolds. “I had just fallen off the turnip truck,” says Chandler, who grew up in Oak Park. She got hired and moved into the mansion, where she met Shel Silverstein, who had taken up semi-permanent residence in the Red Room.
“I had talked Hef into letting my baby sister stay for a night. So we were both in our baby doll jammies, sitting in bed watching TV, and all of a sudden the door opens from the bathroom and in pops this bald head. That was the time when he wore these kind of Mexican looking pants, with fringy bottoms and sandals, and he had his guitar and said, ‘What’s going on here?’ The next thing we knew, he jumps onto the bed with my sister and me, curls his feet under him Indian style, starts strumming the guitar and singing these hysterically off-color songs.”
Reynolds recalls walking past the steam room one day when a hand reached out and pulled her into a fog of giggling Bunnies. “Everybody was squealing and laughing and hands were everywhere,” she says. “When the steam cleared I looked to see who had pulled me in and it was Hugh O’Brian, the actor who played Wyatt Earp.” (“Could’ve been,” O’Brian told me when I reached him by phone at his Los Angeles home.) She escaped just in time to run into Hefner. “Having a good time, Patti?” he asked.
Photography: (top) Bettmann/Corbis, (bottom) Courtesy of PLAYBOY Magazine © by Playboy