On set in Chicago: The Playboy Club

CHICAGO–Man, them Playboy cats work late.
Was up into the wee hours Friday night/Saturday morning on the impressive set of The Playboy Club. The series, which takes place in the early ’60s, stars Eddie Cibrian (Third Watch) as  the cool manager of the original Chicago Playboy key club. It premieres Monday at 10/9c on NBC and City.
The cast still had three hours to go at 1 a.m. when I packed it in and headed back to the hotel. The Bunnies still looked glamorous, although a few looked a bit odd wearing booties and slippers with their ’60s skirts and girdles. In one concession to comfort, off came the pumps and high heels between takes.
One actress playing one of the Playboy Club Bunnys is Leah Renee, a pretty red head from Etobicoke. This is her first U.S. network prime time gig, landed just weeks after she made the move to Los Angeles.
Another Canadian on the set was the director, Holly Dale, a Toronto native and former documentary filmmaker who has been helming episodes of Flashpoint, Castle and King of late.
Dale and Renee (right) get to work in a pretty cool play pen. The two-storey interior set is housed in what was once a massive steel factory in Chicago’s west end. Converted to studios just a few years ago, it was also home to Transformers 3.
The set is a flashback to post modern mid-century America. Carpeting wraps around every step on the large, circular staircase in the centre. Veneer panelling is everywhere, as are large, back lit pin up portraits. Cartoons from Playboy magazine grace the walls upstairs in the hallways leading to the rest rooms off the “Playmate Bar.”
The large theatre room on the back half of the set boasts a large stage plus a floor full of Naugahyde chairs. A grey bunny logo greets visitors on the pale gold carpet in the front lobby area of the set. It is all, as the Aussie journalist on the set quipped, very Brady Bunch meets porn.
A crew member pumps misty-smoke onto the upper deck of the set where a scene is being shot. A few extras smoke those ghastly herbal cigarettes, although, because this is airing on NBC, which is watched like a hawk by anti-smoking lobby groups, you’ll see fewer puff here than you would on the set of Man Men.

There are plenty of historic Playboy artifacts around the set. In the lobby display case are authentic Playboy cuff links, bracelets and pins from the ’60s, as well as books, magazines, records and watches. Bar shaker sets with the bunny logo are on the shelves, as well as giant butane lighters.
When the Bunny’s are in costume (today’s scene, alas, is more dress up formal), they wear real gold Playboy cuff links on their white cuffs. A props wrangler gathers the goodies before day players depart.
Helping everybody cope with the long hours is the impressive craft services meal served mid-way through the long day. They slice the rail steak thick in Chicago and are generous with the portions. I shoulda stayed for breakfast.

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