When Hefner put Playboy Bunnies in miniskirts on his private plane | Condé Nast Traveller India


Hugh Hefner didn’t just have a Playboy mansion on ground. A shiny, black jetliner, The Big Bunny was every bit as hedonistic and indulgent at a time when flying was truly luxurious. It was kitted out with a bedroom, living room, dining room and even a discotheque in the back. The flight attendants? It’s hard to not let your imagination run wild. But if it was Hefner’s jet, it couldn’t possibly come without his signature “Playboy Bunnies”, could it? 

About The Big Bunny 

Playboy Bunnies welcome Hugh Hefner on the inaugural flight of his new DC-9 jetliner, The Big Bunny on March 17, 1970. Photo: AP Photo/George Brich/Getty Images
!-- /13406045/CM_WORLDCRUZE_TOP_RSPV/CM_WORLDCRUZE_BTF_RSPV -->

Chicago-born Hefner, the founder and editor of Playboy magazine, purchased the plane for $5.5 million in 1969, when the magazine was at its pinnacle. He often began to shuttle between Chicago and Los Angeles and decided it was something he needed when he was travelling to London for the opening of the Playboy Club in the city. “The sexual revolution was going on and the miniskirt had just arrived. I decided then and there to get the jet,” he said in a 2010 article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal. 

Aboard The Big Bunny 

Hugh Hefner and his companion, American model and actor Barbi Benton, relax on a bed while a stewardess attends to them in the private quarters of Hefner’s DC-9 jetliner, The Big Bunny, en route to Heathrow. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nobody had a black plane in those days. It required special permission from the US federal government. But he did manage to get it. The 38-passenger, single aisle McDonnell Douglas DC-9, which could fly anywhere in the world, was painted a glossy black, and the tail was emblazoned with the iconic Playboy bunny logo that stood out in the night sky. 

The Big Bunny was truly a “Playboy mansion at 35,000 feet”. Hefner’s den had an elliptical bed complete with silk and Tasmanian opossum fur covers. Besides a conference area and dining room, it has a powder room and shower area as well. The jet was also equipped with a cinema room with two film projectors. The parties took place in the discotheque at the back with a fully-stocked bar. For meals, the flight attendants, known as Jet Bunnies, whipped up lobster and roast beef.

The Jet Bunnies 

Hugh Hefner and his girlfriend Barbi Benton arrive at Heathrow Airport in his private DC9-30 jet, the ‘Big Bunny’. Photo: Victor Crawshaw/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

“Stewardesses used to look like Bond Girls; now they look like your mother. The jet bunnies’ costumes were very James Bond-like,” wrote Hefner in the WSJ. The attendants sported mini dresses made of leatherette, knee-high boots and white scarves with the Playboy logo. Occasionally, they were also seen in rabbit ears and tails. The attendants were roped in from Playboy clubs in Chicago and Los Angeles and trained at Continental Airlines’ stewardess school. 

Around the world in The Big Bunny 

Meals aboard The Big Bunny. Photo: Twitter/HughHefner

Hefner travelled the world in The Big Bunny. His most memorable trip on the jet was in 1970–he had travelled with his then-girlfriend Barbi Benton, brother Keith, the Playboy artist LeRoy Neiman, and film critic Gene Siskel, a couple of other friends and the jet bunnies to London, Spain, Kenya and the Nairobi bush, Athens, Rome, Venice, Munich and Paris. 

He also lent his jet to personalities such as Elvis Presley and Yul Brynner. But the jet wasn’t just used for fun and play. After the Vietnam War in 1975, the Big Bunny transported 40 Vietnamese orphans to their new homes in Denver and New York. 

The decline 

Hugh Hefner and his girlfriend Barbi Benton arrive at London Airport along with a group of Playboy Bunnies. Photo by V. Thompson/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the mid-’70s the circulation of Playboy magazine started to decline, and the cost of maintaining and operating the jet could not be justified. Hefner also stopped splitting his time between Chicago and Los Angeles, so he sold the plane to Venezuela Airlines who later sold it to Aeromexico. He wrote in the WSJ, “When anyone asks me if I ever miss the plane, I reply, ‘Only when I fly.’”

Playboy Bunnies wore leatherette dresses, knee-high boots and a white scarf with the bunny logo. Photo: Twitter/Hugh Hefner
The Big Bunny was a Playboy mansion at 35,000 feet. Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News
Playboy Bunnies wave as the jet lands in London. Photo by Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
There was hardly ever a time when Hugh Hefner was spotted without his bunnies. Photo: M&N/Alamy Stock Photo

 



Updated: December 28, 2020 — 2:33 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *