The giveaway of course is the animal – , to give it its proper name – better known as the Lower Keys marsh rabbit.
The name is the backhanded tribute of the US wildlife protection agency to Hugh Marston Hefner: founder of Playboy magazine, creator of the voluptuous bunny that was its mascot, and indefatigable silk pyjama-clad stud – at an age when most other men find a cup of Ovaltine as much excitement as they can handle.
In 1965, the first African-American Playmate appeared.
No less important, the creature was frisky, playful and utterly unthreatening, as well as blessed with proverbial procreational powers.
The bunny conveyed Hefner’s intentions, but also said something about the man himself.
He grew up in a middle-class Chicago family, describing himself later as “a very idealistic, very romantic kid in a very typically Midwestern Methodist repressed home”.
He wrote: “There was no show of affection of any kind, and I escaped to dreams and fantasies.” With , real men climbed mountains, shot tigers and rode the rapids. What mattered was the number not of home runs hit, but the number of women charmed and seduced – and the formula led to one of the greatest publishing successes of the century.
The punter he was after would “enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche or jazz.” As for the dessert, that went without saying.
Hefner’s attitude to sex was a conscious rebellion against America’s Puritan ethic and the conventions of the age.
But no one grasped its significance quicker than the young Hefner – then a postgraduate student at Northwestern University in Chicago – who in 1949 wrote a term paper on the impact of the report on America’s existing sex laws.
A year or two earlier, he’d already given an even clearer hint of the future.
The first Playboy Mansion, a 48-room pleasure palace that served as Hefner’s office and home (complete with a master bed that could accommodate 12 people) opened at 1340 North State Parkway in Chicago.