When stewardesses were hot & jets were cool: Remembering Hugh Hefner
Scroll down for video of Hugh Hefner's private jet
As the world says goodbye to Hugh Hefner, a fascinating character who lived a fascinating life, we take another look at his most outlandish toy. The black DC-9 Playboy jet named “Big Bunny”, which in the swinging Sixties sported a special crew of flight attendants dubbed aptly "Jet Bunnies". Hefner proceeded to transform the stretch DC-9 into his dream party jet, with on board showers, a round bed covered in fur and even a disco area for Mile High soirées.
For the era, the DC-9 was economical, reliable, offered a good amount of space, was fitted with two of its own air-stairs, and most importantly, it was sleek and sexy, a trait the competing Boeing 737 didn't really offer. On January 27th, 1969 Playboy took possession of a DC-9-32 straight from the McDonnell Douglas factory at the cost of $5.5 Million ($41 Million in today’s money). The jet's registration number was N950PB.
N950PB went through an interior outfitting process unlike any jet before it. Inside it featured a theatre, multiple lounges, full bathrooms with showers, and of course a big rounded water bed for “Hef”. Throughout his life, Hefner did much of his business atop his bed sheets, and to him the bed wasn't just a place to sleep and to, well, party, it was also an office. The bed had silk sheets with a Tasmanian opossum beadspread and all the comfort and connectivity controls the airplane had to offer were build into a sweeping console that curved along the side of the eight foot bed, below the windows. It looked like Captain Kirk's quarters aboard the Starship Enterprise.
7 Facts About Hugh Hefner’s Big Bunny
• Hugh Hefner bought his own private jet in the late 1960s and customised it to be the perfect mile-high party venue
• He paid $5.5 million ($41 Million in today’s money) for the stretch DC-9 and kitted it out with a shower, TV room and luxury bedroom
• Elvis Presley borrowed the aircraft and it was used to transport orphans to the US when the Vietnam War ended
• Big Bunny also featured an integrated entertainment system which was way ahead of its time, including an 8-track surround sound system and multiple televisions, two film projectors, and a video system which was cutting edge tech in 1969.
• The jet also had "dimming" windows that would go darker at the touch of a button, something that wasn't introduced to fleet airliners until the 787 well over 40 years later.
• The DC-9 was also fitted with an executive communications suite that allowed Hef and his guests to make phone calls while cruising through the stratosphere.
• The Jet Bunnies’ outfits were one of a kind, designed by fashion designer Walter Holmes with Hefner's input. Hefner wrote in 2010 that "they look as though they had just stepped out of a Bond movie."
The concept of Big Bunny was way ahead of its time. Today’s mega-wealthy can splash out hundreds of millions of dollars on their flying palaces, with Russion Oligarchs and Middle Eastern royalty being the front runners of a ultra-lavish private air travel marketplace. Some of these aircraft make the Big Bunny look minuscule as even Boeing's largest aircraft, the 747-8i has been sold as a private Boeing Business Jet. But none of these dream machines will have the historic significance of Big Bunny, or hold the public’s fascination for so long, and nor will their owners be remembered as legendsa like Hugh Hefner.
Hefner once told the Wall Street Journal "I loved the convenience of the jet... It was literally a floating apartment with a bedroom, a living room, a dining room and a disco area in the back. I lent it to Elvis Presley to fly to concerts and I lent it to Yul Brynner... When anyone asks me if I ever miss the plane, I reply, 'only when I fly.'"
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