NBC may be calling its soon-to-debut show “The Playboy Club” “a provocative new series about a time and place that challenged the social mores,” but activist Gloria Steinem -- the face of the women's movement for more than four decades -- is challenging the network.
Steinem, 77, went undercover as a Playboy Bunny in New York in 1963 to write a now-legendary piece for Show magazine exposing the less-than-glamorous working conditions for Bunnies. She recently said she hopes viewers will boycott the NBC show, which she doubts will depict Hugh Hefner’s swinging ‘60s-era Chicago club accurately.
“I can't imagine the show will be anything like the real Playboy clubs,” Steinem told Showtracker. “Hefner is always trying to make himself and the clubs seem glamorous instead of tacky.”
Steinem says that back in 1963, she deeply regretted having done the Bunny expose because she wasn’t taken as seriously as a writer after the piece saw print.
“It was a big career error of gigantic proportions,” she says. “I was just beginning to get serious assignments at Show and Esquire ... and once I did the Bunny piece, the assignments that came in were like, ‘Oh, you could sit in a beauty salon or pretend to be a hooker,’” she says.
“But then feminism sort of arrived and made me understand it was a good thing to do. Because those women had terrible working conditions.”
"The Playboy Club" debuts in September, at which point the network invites viewers to “step inside the seductive world of the Bunny, the epitome of beauty and service, and rub shoulders with the decade's biggest mobsters, politicos and entertainers.”
Steinem balks at the perceived glamour. But she’s not necessarily angry, she says. "By now, it's hard to work up any anger about Hefner -- he's a pathetic self-parody. Imagine if I'd made him up -- no one would believe it!”
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Photo: Laura Benanti in the NBC drama "The Playboy Club." Credit: Matt Dinerstein / NBC