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Examiner
  • Jerry Plantz: A bygone era of KC entertainment

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  • Nostalgia set in after discovering an old press release announcing that the Kansas City Playboy Club, atop the Continental Hotel at 11th and Baltimore streets, would suspend operations at the close of business hours on Saturday, Jan. 18, 1975.
    Thirty-nine years ago, after 11 years of operations, one of Hugh Hefner’s most successful Playboy Clubs went dark.
    At the time I was the executive news producer at KMBC-TV 9 News and the station’s entertainment editor. I was often asked to judge or emcee Bunny of the Year contests. Hey, someone had to do it!
    The key club menu offered limited delicious meals at lunch and dinner. Entertainment was always top drawer both in the Penthouse and in the lounge.
    Bunnies, while attractive and sensually attired in bunny customs for that era, were hard-working women, many working their way through college. They were not allowed to date customers and, unlike other establishments, bunnies didn’t have to be promiscuous or hustle drinks, for they had an automatic 15 percent gratuity already built into the key customer’s bill.
    Classy customer service was expected from staff, management and entertainers, as was public decorum and, contrary to public belief, women frequented the club for they were always treated with the utmost respect. The community-minded club participated in scores of civic and charity events.
    All of that ended in 1975 for various Hugh Hefner reasons.
    Still, the Kansas City area remained alive and vibrant with a variety of genres from which to choose.
    In my monthly sports and entertainment magazine “Happenings,” and on my weekly Friday TV 9 show “Ninelight,” we made the public aware of Old Kerns, Eddys’ Royal Room, the Levee, The Blue Ridge Mall Upperdeck, Bobby’s Hangout, Flaming Fondoo, Ron’s Choutau Inn, Ralph Gaines Colony Steak House and Landmark, Hereford House, Plaza III, Club Royal, the Gold Buffet, the Hobbit Hole, et al.
    All of the major downtown hotels – the Aladdin, the President, the Hilton and Crown Center – featured live entertainment including the Muehlebach with its Broadway-style shows. The Continental Hotel kept up the beat with its Inner Circle Lounge.
    Add to that the spots in River Quay, Westport and after-hours clubs in Kansas, plus the many live-theater attractions, along with the Philharmonic and Starlight Theater.
    To our generation, those were the days. Oh, and did I mention disco?
    I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.
    Jerry Plantz lives in Lee’s Summit. His website is at www.Jerryplantz.com. Reach him at jerryplantz@msn.com.

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