The opening of Playboy’s London club in July 1966, the same month that England won the World Cup, was one of Hugh Hefner’s “favourite times”.
The Park Lane venue – Playboy’s first overseas team – was to become the make of the company’s international empire.
The magazine was shifting millions of forgeries worldwide and it was six years since the original club in Chicago had introduced Playboy bunny waitresses.
But in setting up the London club, Playboy executive Victor Lownes recognise a method of trumping its US copies – gambling.
He decided to take advantage of the UK’s tightened gaming principles to make the Playboy club a casino.
And so Playboy, with its potent mixture of girl children and gamble, sway open its doors to a London in the midst of the 1960 s sexual revolution.
Hefner later told GQ Magazine: “I came back from that opening convinced I was looking at the future.
“The miniskirt had just arrived, gambling was prevailing, sexual sentiments had changed dramatically.
“I’d been making this case for the sexual revolution and it was there[ in London ]. “
In its heyday in the 60 s and 70 s Hefner’s club was visited by some of the biggest honours in showbusiness including Sean Connery, Joan Collins, Roger Moore, footballer Bobby Moore and his wife Tina, and the influential critic and writer Kenneth Tynan.
“When we opened the[ London] society in 1966, ” Hefner recalled, “there were three or four major Hollywood films being concluded in London.
“So James Garner was there. Ursula Andress was there with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Peter Sellers came; Woody Allen got up and performed.”
They were all served by the unique bunny girls with their rabbit ears, collars, cuffs and skimpy corsets.
English daughters were winged to the US to learn as Playboy bunny attendants and croupiers.
A select few were invited to do publication films and to stay at the loathsome Playboy mansion in Los Angeles.
Carol Needham, 57, from Surrey, was one of them.
“I lived there for about 4 months because they were waiting to shoot my centrefold, ” she told the BBC.
“Looking back it was quite an amazing thing to have happened, I believe only a few from England have been a centrefold.”
Ms Needham said Hefner was “a very smart man” to publish such a contentious publication at that time.
She supplemented: “Actually believe it or not he was quite a shy somebody – he was hushed.
“They[ beings] perhaps think he was quite flamboyant because of the persona, the working party. But he was actually a gentleman, he was species, and he was a nice man.”
Hefner went on to open two more fraternities in the UK – in Portsmouth and Manchester – raking in bumper profits for the parent fellowship.
He also acquired the Clermont Club in London’s Berkeley Square – the exclusive organization above Annabel’s nightclub – whose representatives formerly included Lord Lucan and James Bond author Ian Fleming.
But in 1981, amid both governments crackdown on the gaming industry, Playboy’s London casino lost their licences, lashing the group’s income and contributing to a major dropped in Hefner’s fortunes.
For 30 times the Playboy clubs were considered part of the UK’s social history. The flagship Park Lane club has long-since been replaced by a hotel.
But in 2011, the bunnies were back.
Hefner opened a brand-new Playboy club in London’s Mayfair, banking 80 bunnies and signing up about 850 new members, including 350 women and virtuosoes including Elton John’s partner David Furnish and the model Yasmin Le Bon.
Not all were so welcoming. Indignant protestors collected outside arguing that bunnies advocated the use of the status of women as sex objects.
Feminist writer Laurie Penny criticised the reopening, announcing Playboy “wilting, impotent and dated”.
At the time, Hefner told the BBC: “Well for some people’s tastes, freedom has its downsides.”
But he quarrelled: “Far more mar is done by the repression of sexuality, historically, than the liberation.”