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October 09, 2011

The Great Playboy Scandal

By Elaine Viets

Buny photo The furor over the "Playboy Club" TV series reminded me of another scandal involving the cottontailed menace.

I’m not sure how you say Playboy in Latin, but I may be one of the few people outside the priesthood who studied that language in high school.

Latin, they said, would build character and discipline. I was a character, all right, but I had no more discipline than any other fifteen year old.

Latin, they said, give me a base to learn other Romance languages.Also wrong. After Latin, I floundered around in Spanish class. Today, I can barely order a taco in a Mexican restaurant.

I have no ear for languages. I took Latin for Mr. Henderson’s right eyebrow.

Mr. Henderson taught Latin at our Catholic high school in Florissant, Mo. In a desert of neutered nuns and priests, he was unbearably handsome. He was tall and well-muscled and looked like Sean Connery as James Bond – not that I could see one of those movies. They were banned by the Church.Sean-connery8

He had a way of cocking his right eyebrow that was positively wicked. Amo, amas, amat that eyebrow.

The curl that hung down his forehead like a question mark wasn’t bad, either.

Best of all, Mr. Henderson didn’t do any phony flirting. He just talked about his great love, Latin. He sincerely loved that language. I sincerely loved his eyebrow.

It led me through Caesar’s long, dull campaigns. "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres . . . All Gaul is divided into three parts," he translated, raising that eyebrow like a bridge.

I crossed over it to slog through innumerable accounts of the Romans and their booty. They didn’t shake it, they took it.

It didn’t matter. I would follow that eyebrow anywhere.

And so went the most curious Latin class in history – row after row of lovesick schoolgirls and a couple of guys who were going to be priests.

It was a situation ripe for trouble. Sure enough, Mr. Henderson got himself into the great Playboy bunny scandal. Bunny logo

It started when we heard Mr. Henderson was engaged. We were shocked. It couldn’t be true. That eyebrow couldn’t belong to another woman.

Then the rumor spread through the school: Mr. Henderson was engaged to marry a Playboy bunny. With blond hair.

If it was true, it was really scandalous. It was a sin just to read Playboy magazine. God knows what would happen if you married a real, live bunny. I tried to imagine that eyebrow next to a blond bombshell in a cantilevered bunny suit with a fluffy tail. My eyes crossed.

The debate raged among the students at school. Was Mr. Henderson committing a sin? Would that eyebrow be twitching in hellfire?

Finally, someone was brave enough to bring it up in religion class, where we debated many great issues. We settled the question of what to do if we were adrift on the ocean in a lifeboat with three people. Could we eat one to save our own life?

The answer was no. All four had to die.

Personally, I planned to eat the weakest passenger and go to confession later. But I felt the chances of this happening in the Midwest were slim. So far, I hadn’t seen a lifeboat, much less an ocean.

Anyway, one brave student asked the teacher if it was OK for Mr. Henderson to marry a Playboy bunny. Without actually saying it, the young inquisitor gave the impression the woman was a walking occasion of sin.

The teacher raised both eyebrows at once, something even Mr. Henderson never did. Her eyes bulged. Her lips wiggled like worms on a hook. She struggled not to laugh.

Finally, she said something like what Mr. Henderson did in Holy Matrimony had the blessings of the Church. I can’t remember her exact words. They were too painful.

But I knew this for sure: Latin was a dead language.

Playboy-Club-300x200

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It wasn't until years after the fact that I learned my Fifth Grade Teacher (well, halfway; we moved from Chicago to Las Vegas mid-semester that year) had actually BEEN a Bunny at the Original Playboy Club. I remember her as being tall, blonde going silver (not gray, but silver), with impossibly long legs and the single best behaved classroom of boys in the entire school district. She had the amazing power of simply looking at a boy being stupid and making him feel... well, making him feel stupid. Never raised her voice, rarely if ever administered actual discipline, and every boy in her class broke his neck to make her happy. (One could say it was Early Basic Training, I guess...:)) I also vaguely remember Parent/Teacher Night, with people remarking about all the dads that showed up. Little did we know at the time why.

Personally, I like the new series THE PLAYBOY CLUB, and am irritated NBC gave it three whole episodes to find an audience. Then again, this is probably why all three networks passed on MAD MEN. From what I've read, TBC is still filming and being shown in Canada and overseas, so perhaps the day will come when a DVD set will be released... one can hope....:)

I think ABC was trying for the "Mad Man" audience, Wiliam.
No Playboy bunnies at my high school. Mostly ancient nuns who considred all boys occasions of sin. The poor guys seemed too clueless to rate such reputations.

To my knowledge, none of my teachers were Playboy bunnies. To be truthful, the St. Louis Playboy club was in decline by the time I was in school anyway.

I did work with a teacher who the fall before becoming a middle school English teacher was a Big Ten cheerleader. Not the same, but about three boys a year did discover that no amount of good grammar, spelling or character development could save you from an F and a transfer out if you wrote anything involving 8th grade boys and blonde twenty somethings. It happened to about three boys a year.

The Internet kills all suspense. A few quick Googles and you discover how to cover the high cost of a teaching degree, http://www.kmov.com/news/local/Local-school-teacher-quits-after-student-discovers-her-x-rated-past-117562414.html

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/breaking/article_3cdc0ad0-14f7-11e0-bf43-001cc4c002e0.html

Really want a stir, bring the swimsuit calendar with your teacher in it to school.

When I worked in a K-12 school district, one of the principals was named on of St. Louis 100 hot singles. I think more teachers than students wanted to get sent to the office.

Hot, principal. Try using those two words in a sentence without the word water.

Have you ever seen how those satin bunny suits are constructed? They're shiny, evil little torture devices, with steel and corset material under the deceptively soft outside. Any woman in the world would have cleavage in one of those suckers, and they are so tight and so stiff it's almost impossible to move, let alone breathe. Thus, the Bunny Dip, where the hostess/waitress (which, let's face it, is all those girls are/were) has to bend from the knees to serve her customer's drinks. Of course, the dip also helps keep drunk customers' hands off the merchandise.

One of my favorite people, a woman who was our stockbroker for several years (and the best one I ever used) summed it up for us all: Flight attendants and Bunnies--both glorified waitresses, albeit in glamorous settings, including at 30,000 feet. With no tipping.

In the 70's, arguably the heyday of the Playboy Club, someone took me on a first date (of many, believe me) to a movie, dinner at a five-star restaurant, and drinks at the Playboy Club. It was impossibly fabulous, except for the quirky little issue of all the blown-up photos of nude women on the walls. Every time I went there, including for lunch with an insurance client, I was distinctly uncomfortable because of those photos, which no one ever mentioned, a la the elephant in the room. Bizarre.

Why do high school girls have such an overblown sense of ability to affect the lives of teachers? Hilarity often ensues, doesn't it?

Also in the 70's, I worked with a stockbroker (at Merrill Lynch--there should be a Mad Men-type show about that venue and in that era) who was dating Cinnamon, one of the Bunnies down the street. He was perpetually broke, mostly because he spent every night at the Club, drinking, so he could keep his eye on Cinnamon.

High school crushes are cruel, Karen. I doubt Mr. Henderson realized he was the heart-throb for dozens of spotty little girls in ugly uniforms.
As Alan's story shows, the power of the crush overcomes any fragments of good sense in our hormone-addled brains.

I was a bunny for a day.
No. really.
A costumer friend of mine asked me to put on the suit with the tail and the ears and the cuffs and walk into his boyfriend's car sales job on Valentines day for him.
Which I did to some hilarious reception. His friend was absolutely beet red as I asked him what he had in a Volkswagon rabbit. I would have loved to hear the reaction his boss had!
That was 30 years ago and the menfolk still talk about it.
I saw the first show of The Playboy Club and liked it. Well except for the inconsistencies. She looks like a drown rat when they push the guy in the river then an all fluffy curly do as she goes into dimple's apartment in the next shot.
Maybe the time slot William? That or people just are too lazy to change the channel?
All the teachers in my high school were handsome and young and they all dated students and most married students or other hot young women teachers. Those flower child memories!

Xena, one of our English teachers in (Catholic) high school was a movie star-handsome priest. All the girls had huge crushes on him, and none of us were surprised to hear, years later, that he had left the priesthood for a nun (of all people), and had a family.

Many years later I ran into someone who was related to him, and she told me he was BACK in the priesthood! They call him Father Father.

Xena as a Bunny. I would love to have seen that. Any pictures, Xena?
And Karen, about those pictures on the Playboy wall, a friend at a major university had to warn his boss that it was a bad idea to take the staff, including several women, to Hooters for a business lunch in 1998.

I would give a lot to see a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Henderson now (and also then).

I hesitate to reveal this--but is anyone else watching Pan Am? It has all the earmarks of guilty pleasure.

And I hear they are replacing Playboy Club with reruns of Prime Suspect. Kind of a feminist thing?

Haven't seen "Pan Am" yet, Hank, but some of the flight attendants from that time say it's dead-on, except for the hair. Pam Am stews were supposed to keep their hair chin-length or shorter.
The ex-Bunnies HATED the Playboy show -- at least the interviews I saw.

Those pesky crushes -- the reason teachers (male teachers especially) are warned not to have conferences alone with students, especially not with doors closed.
We would also periodically receive reminders that we were not to cover the little windows by our doors (seems a no-brainer, but it was a tempting place to post homework reminders so students would HAVE to see them).
I remember one of our college professors reading Beowulf to us in Middle English (or whatever) -- one wouldn't think that could be sexy . . .

It's killing me that I tossed out my Key Card back in 1994. The Clubs had been closed for a while, it was of no use, and I was in a "get rid of old junk" phase.

Now, I think about it and say The "F" Word a lot. Usually followed by "Idiot" or some other self-deprecating pejorative....

Oh, the hormone driven fantasies of adolescents! i went to an all girls school, and we fantasized endlessly about our male teachers. This was in NYC and, heavens, one was an actor. He as also our speech teacher. Looking back, I have to smile at the naive young girls we were-this was the fifties, after all.

I watched The Playboy Club and Prime Suspect.
Maria Bello is excellent in Prime Suspect. She is hard-nosed and even survives a perp picking her up and slamming her down in the alley.
The girls in The Playboy Club did not get a chance for us to view their outcomes or survival skills.
I watched a Gloria Steinem interview "In her own words" and was reminded of her days of undercover reporting at the Playboy club.
A brainy lady and a survivor.
There are so many shows now to table and DVR and watch that it makes a viewer's head spin.

A show that I just love is "A Gifted Man" with Patrick Wilson. To me this show is a winner.

The priests in my church were set on their heels when a blue-eyed priest came to reside. The girls went atwitter and some even went as far as to ring the rectory's doorbell late at night.

I suspect the girls called that blue-eyed priest "Father What-a-Waste," Marie. That was our name for handsome priests.

I was a deprived teenager, never knew any playboy bunnies, handsome priests and can't even think of one handsome teacher. Sigh.

I haven't watched The Playboy Club or Panam or Mad Men so I have no comment on any of them. I do remember reading a book about Playboy bunnies and Karen is right, those bunny outfits were torture devices but probably the only way I would have cleavage . . .

Elaine, thanks for the great "sister school" giggle! At Marblehead I was in crush with Sam Harris the music teacher. The family sent me to Catholic school in Peabody. Lance Samteusanio was my heartthrob at Bishop Fenwick. It was so bad, my family sent me to school in Boston. That's where I met . . . .

When I was a teenager someone took me to the Playboy Club in LA to see jazz singer Hazel Scott. Talk about life changing moments.

Lance is the perfect name for a teen hearthrob, Reine.

Lucky you to see Hazel Scott.

Sarah and I took Latin in junior high and high school. Our teacher was not a Playboy bunny.

My first year of law school, there was a rumor, which I have no idea how it got started, that one of my professors was dating a black man(!). Since I had a reasonably decent relationship with her, I asked her in a round-about way, and she just laughed me off. Later, after we had been seeing each other for awhile, she told me how funny she thought it was that students were gossiping about her falsely. When we would break it to people after it had been going on for YEARS, people would fall off their chairs.

That's a book, Josh. You have to write it.

I too took Latin in high school. Our teacher (whose name completely escapes me now but it'll come back later, I'm sure) had hair a la Bride of Frankenstein, red with one white streak in an up-do that was shellacked. She was also the home-ec teacher. But I took Latin because I was going to be an English teacher and it was bound to help, right?

Yeah. Well.

The best Playboy bunny I ever saw was at one of our Halloween parties. Brian is a furry kinda guy, and he had the bunny outfit, complete with ears, tail and heels, hairy legs in fishnet stockings, and a cigar.

We caught him making out with Wonder Woman, and the confusion for some people looking at the legs intertwined on the couch had us laughing for days.

Miss Kney. Charlotte Kney was our Latin teacher. I knew I'd remember it eventually. Ha!

Fran, the picture of Brian and Wonder Woman is now burned in my brain.

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