By Tekla Dennison Miller
Tekla Dennison Miller, LLC: Mother Rabbit
Mother Rabbit is the true story of the Bunny Mother for Chicago's famous Playboy Club in the tumultuous 1960s ...this could be the dream job of a lifetime or the toughest challenge.
Alyce Bonura is a single mother who takes a position as the Bunny Mother of the Chicago Playboy Club to not only flee from a negative relationship but to pursue a career that guarantees financial freedom and upward mobility. Unfortunately, all is not what is assured or expected.
The afternoon thunderstorm that swept through Miami left no relief from the humidity which clung to my body like a wet bathing suit. A limousine had dropped my older sister Alyce, a Playboy Bunny Mother, and me, a U.C.L.A. senior, at the terminal moments before the summer downpour.
As she and I waited at the airport for the Playmate of the Year, the heavy air laden with a pungent mixture of ozone, sweat and diesel fuel, wafted across the tarmac. It wasn’t exactly the scent I’d imagined for my college vacation in the subtropics.
A mass of eager reporters and photographers teemed around Alyce, nearly pushing her aside as they rushed to the waiting area. The all-male media appeared hungrier for a peek into a Playmate’s lifestyle than for an interview with the one who managed the Bunnies. Did they wonder as I had whether Miss January would wear a conservative traveling suit or a cleavage-exposing mini-dress in the latest 1960's style?
The plane carrying the beauty taxied to the gate. A hush fell over the audience. As the stairs were rolled in place, the photographers made last minute checks of their equipment. The plane’s door was flung wide. Cameras were raised. Pencils poised over note pads.
Suddenly a tall, willowy, auburn-haired woman filled the doorway. She paused, giving everyone ample time to appreciate her entire form. Flashbulbs popped from every part of the waiting area. The Playmate of the Year descended the stairs with as much pomp and dignity as an ambassador from another country.
To my amazement her ensemble didn’t reveal her true mission. She wore a deep rose colored, tailored silk suit with a silk shell beneath. The long, fitted jacket was held closed by a single pearl button at her waist and cleaved to every curve. Each graceful step exposed her slender legs. The Playmate walked without toppling forward in her three-inch heel, pointed-toe shoes. I wondered whether the photographers were disappointed because she looked more like a Vogue model than a titillating center-fold.
“Oh my,” Alyce whispered.
“She’s that impressive?” I asked.
“No. Her breasts have grown.”
I covered my mouth to muffle a laugh. “What?” I asked through my fingers. Alyce leaned closer to me. “When her picture was taken for the Playboy centerfold, she had to lie on her stomach because her breasts were too small for the image the magazine wants. But Hef was so captivated by her overall good looks he forfeited the large breasts.”
“So what are you saying?”
“She’s had implants. Her breasts have more than tripled in size.”
So this is what Playboy calls natural beauty, I wondered to myself. Poking fun at this unrealistic world felt good.
“Not exactly the girl next door, I’m afraid,” Alyce added.
We both laughed, then Alyce composed herself so she could fulfill the rest of her duties. The Playmate strutted through the door into the waiting area. Cameras again flashed. Alyce advanced to welcome Miss January and handed her a dozen long-stem American Beauty roses, petals drooping from the heat.
As I looked at the two of them standing together, I decided that Alyce, ever graceful and demure, truly represented the American beauty. Her classic, elegantly understated royal blue suit hugged her body in a feminine, not provocative way. Her natural red hair radiated health and flowed freely from under her ever-present hat, while the Playmate’s locks were glued together in heavily lacquered mass of auburn straw forced into a French twist and further confused by a fashionable hairpiece.
While reporters interviewed the Playmate, a photographer cozied up to Alyce.“Are you the runner-up?” he asked.
“No.” Alyce shook her head. “The boss.”
She led the Playmate of the Year away to make the rounds of luncheons, dinners and cocktail parties.
The reporter gazed after them. Did he think the same as I? Alyce was special because there was only one Bunny Mother and so many Bunnies? It’s human nature to want to conquer what appears to be out of reach. The boss would be a fine catch.
That evening, as Alyce and I sat overlooking the ocean and sipping wine, my sister began telling me about her time with Playboy, Inc
The strength of women
July 10, 2014
By Brenda R. (La Mirada, CA United States)
Mother Rabbit (Paperback)
Tekla and her sister, Alyce, have demonstrated great resiliency, which inspires me to believe deeply that I can start over and be successful. Thanks for putting this story out there. I believe it will help others, as well as shed light on the horrendous objectification of women by the sex industry. I know many will be drawn to the story because of the Playboy angle but for me the big take away was resiliency, strength and belief in one's self, regardless of the constraints and limits society still tries to place on us as women. I highly recommend this book.
Bunny Mother looks back at 1960s: Local author tells true story of sister at her
Playboy Club gig
By Katie Klingsporn
Herald staff writer
In 1966, Alyce Bonura was a single mother of two boys who had escaped an abusive marriage and was struggling to make ends meet when she happened across an opportunity for a well-paying job with benefits.
Durango writer Tekla Dennison Miller is the author of Mother Rabbit.
Tekla Dennison Miller’s new book, Mother Rabbit, is based on the life of her sister Alyce Bonura, seen here.
The position: Bunny Mother at the Chicago Playboy Club, where she would be responsible for overseeing the schedules, training and personnel issues of the young Bunnies.Despite her reservations, Bonura took the job; the pay was too good to pass up. That was the beginning of a roller-coaster journey that gave her a first-hand look into the glamour and objectification, the scintillation and drama of Playboy. It also sent her down a pathway that ultimately led to financial independence, education and the confidence to make it as a professional business woman.
Bonura’s story is the subject of Mother Rabbit, a collaborative memoir written by Durango author – and Bonura’s younger sister – Tekla Dennison Miller.
Along with giving a peek into the world of Playboy, Mother Rabbit offers a detailed account of what it was like to be a working woman in an era when cultural changes were shifting the role of women in society. It was a time when many women were caught between the injustice of old-fashioned mores and the promises of the feminist movement. Miller hopes the book is a wake-up call. “I want readers to understand the struggle that women have had to make, and that while we have it better, the struggle is not over – that we need to keep going,” Miller said. “My fear is the eroding away of the things that we fought so hard to achieve.”
Miller and Bonura will be at Maria’s Bookshop at 6:30 p.m. today for a book talk and signing. The women will bring historic photos and some props – including an authentic Bunny costume – to share with the crowd.
Miller is a former Michigan prison warden who has written four other books, including her memoir The Warden Wore Pink. Mother Rabbit came about, she said, when her sister approached with a request to write her story. Turns out, Bonura had hung on to much of the material from her days at Playboy. She had two giant boxes filled with memorabilia – company memos, newsletters and personal mail – along with 800 pages of detailed journals.
“It took me nearly two years to read and sort through,” Miller said.
It also enabled her to reconstruct her sister’s biography in minute detail. And it gave her new insight into the challenges Bonura – who was also Miller’s legal guardian – endured as a single mother. Money was tight, she was in love with a married man and she feared that others were jockeying for her job. At work, she was constantly putting out fires; Bunnies were beaten up by their boyfriends, wanted illegal abortions for unplanned pregnancies, overdosed on drugs and fought with one another.
“I knew she was always struggling, but I didn’t know the extent of her struggles,” Miller said of Bonura.
After Miller had sifted through all of the documents, it took her another year to write what she describes as the hardest book project she’s ever taken on. She originally wrote the book in third person but revised it to a first-person account after gathering feedback. She then got Mother Rabbit published through Oak Tree Press after entering, and winning, a memoir contest.
The result is a book that gives an interesting history lesson on women’s role in society. Anecdotes of Bunnies being demeaned or used by Playboy Club members and judged by their looks are enough to make a reader appalled at the way things used to be. The impossibly tight Bunny corsets, spike heels and the concept of a men’s club filled with leggy young women created a tableau of unchecked sexism. And yet, to confuse matters, the pay and benefits were better than women would find at most other occupations.
Mother Rabbit can get mired down in the tedium of Bonura’s day to day; details of meals she ate or inconsequential squabbles in the office can make the book drag at times. Still, Mother Rabbit lays out a compelling personal story and a lesson for today’s women: Don’t take for granted the battles that have been fought.
“The fear is there that we can end up close to being back there,” Miller said.
Tekla Miller has captured the essence of a conflicted era in this biography of her sister's time as Bunny Mother for the Chicago Playboy Club. A revisionist might have been tempted to oversimplify the issues of the times and create a story in clear black and white--women's rights vs the objectification of women, a single mother's desire to instill morals in her sons vs that same woman's compelling drive to put food on her family's table. Ms Miller's writing takes the story into the land of ambiguities--moral, emotional, social. With great courage, she tells the full story--her sister's inner and outer conflicts, the physical and emotional challenges faced by the bunnies, the encouragement to better themselves that they did receive from Playboy International, the supportive--and the not-so-supportive--fellow management. The central issue is one of the heart and mind: Alyce must decide whether to remain safe within the structure of the Playboy organization (and willfully blind herself to its limitations) or risk that security in a quest for a more authentic, wholly integrated life for herself and her family. It's no less a question women face now than it was in the roiling Sixties, and readers will find themselves energized and encouraged by the bravery and honesty inherent in Alyce's story. Well done, Ms. Miller.
I loved this book. Well worth price to read. It is about a Bunny Mother in the Playboy clubs in 1960s. Book written by her sister. Wonderful book that tells what went on at these clubs. How women were treated. So glad clubs closed down. Hugh Hefner made money off of treating women just like objects. Nothing new to us. Takes us into the politics of the clubs. Of course run by men. There is a Bunny Mother in each club who is in charge of all the Bunnies. These women hardly made any money and were treated less then professionally. Very interesting read. Author does great job!