Jaki Nett Interview
In 1962, Jaki Nett left her home in Mississippi for the Bright Lights and Big City of Los Angeles.
Hoping to pursue an acting and modeling career (which she later did) she became a Playboy Bunny in 1967.
She spent 12 years as a Playboy Bunny and was a Party Regular on the T.V Show “Playboy After Dark”.
She rose to the position of International Training Bunny and represented Playboy in pictorials and speaking engagements.
For 3 years she was a regular on the T.V Show “Love American Style”.
Jaki Nett holds a Masters in Humanistic Psychology.
These days Jaki pursues her career as a Yoga Instructor.
Jaki Nett spoke with us about her life as a Playboy Bunny and her life today.
Q – What was life like growing up in Mississippi in the late 50’s, early 60’s? Did you always want to be in Show-Biz?
A – Actually, my mother said the first thing I ever said I wanted to be was an ‘Actee’. I always wanted to be an actress. So yes, I knew. Growing up in segregated Mississippi it was a dream that couldn’t happen. I remember I used to practice hanging in trees and tying wires. I took my mother’s clothes line down and tied it between two pine trees and worked with an umbrella to walk on the wire ‘cause I wanted to join the circus, so that I could be in show business.
Q – When you left your hometown for L.A. did you leave for college?
A – I left for college, because it was understood that you had to go to college. My family was educated. My mother was a teacher. My father was a doctor. My grandparents had their own plantation. I came from a family which was just understood that you were supposed to go to college. But, I was not college material at that time. I have dyslexia. At that time they didn’t know what it was, in the 40’s and 50’s, and 60’s. I didn’t know what it was. And so, I struggled through school. I got through school was any form of art. I was very good spatially in colors. So, I got through it that way. And the same way in college, when I went to college ten years after high school. Playboy encouraged their ladies to go to school. They said you can’t be a Bunny forever, so they paid, I think it was 50% or 80%, I can’t remember which one of the cost of whatever school we decided to go to. They encouraged and supported us. I got my undergraduate when I was at Playboy in Interior Design and Art.
Q – How does someone pursue a career in modeling and acting in L.A. without an agent, or did you have one?
A – I actually had an agent, I was very fortunate during that time. I didn’t realize it I didn’t really take advantage of my opportunities at that time my doctor at the time was the Doctor To The Stars – (Dr. Walsteder). My agent was the agent for Yvette Mimeaux at that time. So I had an agent immediately.
Q – What did you have to go through to get that job as a Playboy Bunny?
A – There was a screening process and again I was in theater arts, my best friend at the time, a male friend knew that I needed a job and said why don’t you become a Bunny? I didn’t know what a Bunny was. He got me an audition, one Thursday a month they had auditions. So he got me an appointment, I went there and the process is that you would meet Alice Nichols, the Bunny Mother at that time and Joanie was Hefner’s private secretary. So we had to go in and talk to them. If they decided to see you in the shell, which was the costume, just the bodice, they put you in the bodice and they would decide whether you had the right material to be a Bunny. At the time it was the physical look, the first interview. I was too skinny. They told I was too thin and I told them I would go home. Actually, they told me in so many words don’t call we’ll call you. Because I didn’t know what that meant, I came back several months later and apologized for calling me and not being at home, because there were no Answering Machines at the time that I knew of. They sort of looked at me and said, ‘o.k.’ and put me in a shell, again and said, ‘you’re still too thin’. I said, ‘well, I’ll go home for the Summer and I will gain weight’. I was 98 pounds at that time. They called me at the end of August, 1st of September, whatever holiday it is at that time (Note: Labor Day). I went back and I was 110 (pounds). Alice said I was still too thin and Joanie said I was hired because she liked very thin ladies. She had more power so I was hired at that time. Plus, I was a Flower Child at that time also. I came to the interview on my motorcycle that was covered in flowers. She liked the idea that I rode a motorcycle. So, I was hired.
Q – You were a Bunny for 12 years?
A – Yeah, 11 ½ years.
Q – Does that mean you liked it or were you saving your money?
A – No, I loved it. I didn’t save anything. (Laughs). It came very fast, and it went fast. I was saving money at one time to buy a house. I’ve always wanted to buy a house. I would give money every week to the accountant at Playboy. I said, ‘Don’t give me this money no matter how much I beg for it’. Well, I fell in love and I ended up begging for my money and I spent it and never built it back up. So, that’s where it was.
Q – Did your time as a Playboy Bunny lead to your next step, which was as a fashion and print model?
A – It was part of it. During the late 60’s, early 70’s to be a Bunny opened up a lot of doors. I met Dr. Walsteder right when I started Playboy. I’d taken modeling classes, but, I never modeled professionally before. After I got my agent, the next day I got my first job. Playboy would also send us out on promotions. They would give us time. They worked with the ladies. If we had a job, they would let us go and do our job and other Bunnies would cover our job. So, we were very supportive of each other and they were very supportive of us, so it allowed us to do other things.
Q – You were on “Love American Style” for 3 years and after that you pretty much gave up on acting did you?
A – I did during that time there was a thing called “Black Exploitation“. The Movie “Shaft” came out and it started the Black movies and at the time you got a string of Black movies. The roles that came out the majority of them were for Hookers or just really bad, bad parts. The last time I went on an interview it was for a Hooker and the language was so demeaning. You would shoot for a day and you would be through the whole movie. I said No. I can’t do this I was told if you don’t take this there is a line of people who will. That was the case, so I dropped out. I went to school and got really into school. Things had changed. I lost my agent ‘cause I stopped going in and putting time in. It was not for me. I didn’t think it was a very good time for Black actors and actresses, although there were some that became very successful. The only one I see now that is successful during the time I was working is Pam Greir. I still see her around. She did some pretty funky jobs too, but she survived. She came back. Quentin Tarantino I think brought her back. She became popular again, with the movies she did with him right after ‘Pulp Fiction’.
Q – After you left acting and went back to college, is that when you got into yoga?
A – I got into yoga, yes, when I was in college because I went to college to get out of my lifestyle. It was sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to the fullest. I became one of the International Training Bunnies, the longest standing Training Bunny. I was very good at what I did. All the ladies were good, but, I was very good to the point where some of the regulars would point out ladies and say, ‘You didn’t train her. You didn’t train her’. You didn’t train her’. So, I was very valuable. But, I also was into drugs. I went to school to get away from it thinking that would take me out and I was just stoned at school. I made very good grades. It still didn’t get me out of that. I literally put out to the universe that I needed something to get me out of this lifestyle because I probably would have been dead. Right after I left Playboy is when AIDS came out. I had gotten into going with my girlfriend to the gay nightclubs, which was really fun because you can dance. You didn’t have to have a partner. But, I would end up sleeping with these guys. When it came out about AIDS, for 10 years I was a nervous wreck. Every lump that came on my skin-----but, I never got an AIDS test but I was still afraid. In some sense it had spiraled out of control even though when I was at work I did a very good job. I was still very much out of control. And so, I needed something. I didn’t know what. I lived in Santa Monica at one time and I would drive into Century City and pass this sign that said Yoga. It would always get my attention. During that time you didn’t need car insurance and I got into a car accident and I had enough money saved to fix my car and pay whatever I had to pay for the other persons’ car. I didn’t have enough money to live. A Bunny for some reason called me. I told her my situation and she said, ‘Oh, I have a Mad apartment. You can come and stay with me’. What a mad apartment was, was she had an empty apartment that had a couch. Whenever she’d get mad at her boyfriend she would go and stay there. So, I moved there and I moved my furniture in. I was able to finish school, but, it was right across the street from the yoga studio. From the first time I went to my first class I never stopped. It saved me.
Q – As a Playboy Bunny, how many famous people did you meet or have as regular customers? Are you able to name “names”?
A – Oh, yeah. Bill Cosby was one. The Smothers Bros. Sonny And Cher. I can remember faces, but I can’t remember names. We met tons of people. Caesar Romero I remember ‘cause I just looked at a picture of him I had with him. Keith Moon. Rod Stewart. I got the cutest picture with him. They were in all the time. And, going to the mansion you get to meet all these people.
Q – Did any of The Beatles come in?
A – The only Beatle that came in was Ringo Starr, that I saw there.
Q – How about Frank Sinatra?
A – No, I never met Frank Sinatra. He was known to be such a nasty person. He was not a friendly person. We met Dean (Martin). Dean had his restaurant down on Sunset (Blvd.) when I first started. He was friendlier. But, Frank Sinatra was not friendly and his son Frank Sinatra Jr. was equally not fun.
Q – As a yoga instructor have you had any celebrity clients?
A – No, I’ve not had any celebrity clients. None what-so-ever. Not to say it won’t happen because I think it will happen when my book comes out.
Q – What was the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working as a Playboy Bunny?
A – What Playboy instilled in me was self-assuredness and there’s a quality I can’t really point it out; we had a reunion, and there was a quality that we have. I just know I was very happy that I was a Bunny. I don’t think I would have the quality of beingness, a presence having been a Bunny because there is a presence. I actually have to hold my energy down at times because there’s a flamboyance ness that was a part of me that Playboy let me express and that flamboyance ness is still there within me. I like to take care of my body. This is what I have to hold down because I am blessed and I’m 64; I am blessed with a fabulous body without having any surgery. I still have that ability to be flamboyant and in yoga sometimes it’s intimidating. But, Playboy allowed me to be who I am.
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