Risqué enough to get your blood flowing but respectable enough for those God-fearing types from the pre-Janet's-breast era, Playboy Clubs were once ubiquitous. Featuring A-list comedians such as the Smothers Brothers or Sammy Davis Jr. onstage, the clubs mixed flesh with funny in a way that should be adopted by our own humorless east-side strip joints. Alas, as the male population aged, libidos waned and so did Playboy magazine sales, and the clubs were shuttered one by one, with the final Lansing, Michigan, location closing down in 1988.
But now we have Levitra, Playboy is back and, for a brief while, so too is the Playboy Club. In an effort to flex the magazine's biggest asset (brand appeal, silly!), the Playboy 50th Anniversary Club Tour is dropping in on the Kastle (3207 Washington Avenue, 314-534-1571) at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 18. In a nod to the magazine's storied history, the Tour features artifacts such as Hef's pipes and silk pj's, as well as the original round bed that his first models graced.
But you don't care about that stuff: You want to admire Playmates parading around in fetishistic bunny outfits. Though you might balk at the event's price tags ($65 to get in the door or $146 for six drink tickets and a chance to cavort privately with the ladies), Michele Rogers, a.k.a. Miss June 2002, says you should fork it over.
"We're all going to be hanging out, partying, having a great time, bringing the Playboy Mansion to you guys," she says.
At the event the 27-year-old Playmate, who lives with her boyfriend in Huntington Beach, California, will be handing out Chivas Regal scotch, deployed in the destined-for-obscurity Chivas Bunnytini. Rogers herself will not be partying hearty, however.
"I don't think we're going to be actually drinking, but we'll be mingling, talking and taking pictures," she says.
Nor will Rogers -- or any of the ten other Playmates who will be on hand, spanning the issues of August 1986 (Ava Fabian) to August 2003 (Colleen Marie) -- be removing clothes. But that doesn't make this a PG event. A live burlesque show makes it, perhaps, PG-13. "There was never any nudity at the original Playboy clubs," Playboy's director of public relations, Jay Jay Nesheim, contends.
As tame as this all sounds, admit it: You're curious. Something about the Playboy brand sets it apart from its hardcore competitors. The magazine is somehow one layer removed from the sexual-fantasy realm, and although you know you could never actually get with these women, their impossible bodies and distant expressions somehow make you feel lucky to even be allowed to look at them. So you're grateful and aroused and cock-blocked all at once, just like in real life.
Why do people still tolerate Playboy after 50 years? "Hugh Hefner is an American icon," says Rogers. "The articles, the beautiful women -- pretty much anyone can relate to it."
Okay, that's one answer. But maybe the old adage is true: Writing about titillation is like dancing about architecture. So just go. You know you want to. Your twelve-year-old former self will thank you.