A Look Back at the Playboy Club

Playboy—an iconic brand that, to this day, remains a household name representing exclusivity, wealth and beauty to many generations. Of course, it only made sense for a nightclub bearing the Playboy moniker to take up residence in Las Vegas, a city of lights and glamour where many of the same ideals reign supreme. When the Palms Casino & Resort asked 555 International to design its new Playboy Club, we were very excited to have an opportunity to represent and showcase all the elements contributing to the brand’s ability to stay at the top for decades. We capitalized on Playboy’s iconic brand image to help the space stand out in the competitive Las Vegas nightlife marketplace.

This June, the Playboy Club will close its doors after six years of the highest quality entertainment and service. The decision, I’ve been told, was one related to business and did not mean that the club had become dated or stale. Its iconic nature and design have left a lasting impact in both Las Vegas and the nightclub world, proving that the Playboy name and aura remains in a class all its own.

Everything Old is New Again
At the time of the club’s opening, the Palms was once again looking to bring something to Las Vegas that had not been done before. Just as the hotel’s other clubs—Ghostbar, pioneer of the “ultra lounge” and Rain, a full-advance nightclub in a casino—the Playboy Club would impact Las Vegas as a new and unprecedented locale.

It was a true honor for us (along with VP of Design/Partner Karen Herold) to be entrusted with the task of creating and representing the iconic brand as something that would bring back the true essence of what Hef created in 1953. Working with the entire history and archives of the brand, we conceptualized and designed the space how we felt Hef would have wanted. The club had to not only fit into today’s competitive world of club, lounge and casino environment design, but also remain a celebration of what was the coolest thing around back then—and still is now.

Designing for the Playboy Brand
In keeping with a number of venues we have developed for the Palms, the Playboy Club was situated at the top of a new tower with dramatic views of Las Vegas. (It was also the only gaming room at the top of a tower.) The club’s small size, combined with the lounge environment, generated a sense of exclusivity. Getting to the space required taking a VIP elevator up from the lobby level. The general public and passers-by couldn’t get a look at the club, only the long line of people awaiting their chance could see the club.

The Playboy Club has many unique design elements, including a magnificent diamond bar, gold-layered icon bar and hydraulic gaming tables to allow dealers to change the table heights to players’ wishes. A 70 multi-screen video display showcased the history of Playboy, juxtaposing the brand’s evocative past, celebrity, humor and lifestyle with its ability to stay current.

Opening Night
The opening night of the club was just like something out of the front pages of Playboy magazine. All the pomp and celebrity was there, right next to Hef and his Girls Next Door. This must have been what it felt like to attend one of the famous parties at his mansion!

By far, the best moment was arriving at the club early and seeing the smile on Hef’s face as he and his girls got their first look at the space prior to its opening. It was incredibly rewarding for him to notice the many elements and details we had created and to complement the way we chose to present the many years of his brand’s image. Hef commented that, despite the advancement of design and technology since he opened his first club, the new space gave him the same satisfaction and sense of being ahead of everyone else and having the coolest thing going.

Although I am sad to see the club close, the memories and experience will remain as one of the crowning achievements of my career in design.

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