Friday, May 27, 2011

Everything Old Is New Again

"Everything old is new again" goes the line from the late Peter Allen song. Always has been really. A great example-in the last ten years Playboy Clubs have been closing down across the USA but in London, a new Playboy Club has just opened.

It reminds the Shuttle of the heyday of the Playboy Clubs. We've only been to two.  Arriving at the New York club once with 3 friends for a party thrown by Hugh Hefner we were mistaken for Abba. We also attended a few product launches at the former London Playboy Club in Mayfair run by Victor Lownes and once visited the Playboy Mansion in LA.

Probably the biggest ever Playboy party was the 25th year anniversary party thrown by  Lownes at the Playboy mansion Stocks House in Hertfordshire. It went for 3 days and many guests were ferried in by helicopters. Victor Lownes ran the European Playboy operations for Hefner but had a falling out with him in the '90s and was fired.

He was always good at the required quips. Once asked what a playboy was he said "someone who is probably having more sex than you". It was all a fantasy of course but the whole charade worked during the Playboy hey days from the 60's through to the 80's.

Stocks in Hertfordshire
The LA Playboy Mansion which can now be rented out for corporate parties was even more of a fantasy. Hefner boldly sold a dream built on tack and the idea if you could only crack the inner circle sex was yours for the taking. Once you did get 'in' the Bunnies were very prudish and strict rules prevented them from fraternising with guests on pain of sacking.

The LA mansion was like a Disneyland  ride-looked exciting from the outside but disappointing once you got up close and the cracks were revealed. It was full of dreadful reproduction antique furniture of the worst taste. The rocks in the grotto swimming pool seemed to be fake. The whole place was tired and grubby looking.

At the UK 25th anniversary party every hotel, motel and boarding house in the surrounding area of Stocks was booked out by guests. Not that the rooms were always used. At the party there were a series of marquees- permanent food tents, a champagne bar and a non stop discotheque. They were open for the entire 3 days. Most of it passed in a blur and the Shuttle never made it back to our booked rooms. We collapsed in Stocks living room for a few hours kip at a time.

There was always a two tier guest regime at Stocks. The general party goers had the run of the house and grounds while a handful of honoured guests were entitled to visit the upstairs floor.
A Bunny Re-union
And they weren't always celebrities who made it upstairs to drink with Lownes or Playboy boss Hugh Hefner who only stayed for one day.

Amongst business cronies of Lownes, Tony Curtis and Rod Stewart would be Upstairs while Downstairs were newer stars of the day including Star Wars' actor Mark Hamil. who the Shuttle shared a spa bath with along with half a dozen bunnies !
Not very PC but who cares ?

## "The Boy From Oz " was a huge Broadway hit and made Hugh Jackman into a star. Based on the life of Australian singer Peter Allen it captured the exciting performances of Allen who was always over the top and as camp as a pink Koala Bear. A big favourite with other celebrities his shows were packed out with performers like Elton John, Barry Manilow and even Frank Sinatra who came to paid homage to one of the US top live performers. Here is his big hit 'I Go To Rio"