ruthy ross's centerfold debut caps a hectic year as queen of the cottontails
For Ruthy Ross, Playboy Bunny, ex-drama major, would-be actress and apprentice photographer, it's been quite a year. Quite a 16 months, as a matter of fact. It all started back in February 1972, when she was chosen to represent her fellow cottontails from the Los Angeles Playboy Club at the annual Bunny Beauty Contest. That event, a lavish pageant at the Playboy Club-Hotel at Great Gorge, New Jersey, took place in March. Twenty-one girls -- the pick of Playboy's hutches throughout the world -- competed, and when it was all over, Ruthy Ross had won the title Bunny of the Year -- 1972. "'Surprised'?" she recalls. "I didn't think I had a chance. No sleep the night before the finals. Thought I looked a wreck, but apparently -- and luckily -- the judges didn't agree." Since then, Ruthy's been juggling her regular Bunny duties at the Los Angeles Club with special promotional appearances; singing and dancing dates in the Club with the Bunniettes, a cottontail septet; driving lessons (to make use of her Datsun 1200 sports-car prize) and such personal interests as studying photography and moving into a new house-cum-swimming pool in suburban Reseda. Now, her crown relinquished to a successor (chosen as this issue went to press), Ruthy is enjoying what she considers the biggest triumph of all: becoming a Playmate. She's so enthusiastic about being a gatefold girl, in fact, that she's energetically boosting another Hollywood Bunny for a future spot in the magazine -- and using her new camera skills to shoot the test photos herself. After her selection as Bunny of the Year, Ruthy's first stop was Chicago, where she got a much-needed few days of relaxation as Hugh Hefner's guest at the Playboy Mansion. Next came an appearance at the premiere of the rock musical Today Is a Good Day to Die at the Playboy Plaza in Miami Beach, followed by a visit to Baltimore to appear on a radio talk show -- the subject of which was "The Sexual Revolution -- the New Morality and Sexual Exploitation." (Ruthy said she didn't see what was sinful about sex between "two people who care for each other.") Back in L.A., she did a turn as Ring Bunny ("I held up the cards saying 'Round One,' 'Round Two,' and so forth") at a celebrity boxing match between former middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson and Bob Hope, held at Hope's Beverly Hills estate as a benefit for youth organizations. And when the Los Angeles Tennis Club staged a tournament on behalf of spastic children, Ruthy was there, greeting such celebrity players as James Franciscus, Charlton Heston and Ross Martin. "Craziest thing I got mixed up in was a pillow fight, of all things, with a disc jockey from Bakersfield. He had tried to challenge Joe Frazier, but he settled for me and two other Bunnies. It was wild." Texas drew our star Bunny twice -- once for the opening of a Playboy Products boutique in Dallas, once to appear at a sports show in Houston's Astrodome. "We had a ball there," she says. "Bunny Bevy and I had rolls of Rabbit-head stickers, and we stuck them on everybody who walked by. We were the hit of the show!"
Ruthy, who comes from a small town in Missouri and studied drama at the U of Mo. for two years, started her Bunny career at the Kansas City Playboy Club. She transferred to Hollywood in 1971 and is now looking forward to the imminent opening of that Club's new quarters in Century City. "Century City is really becoming 'uptown' for L.A., and it's where the action is," she says. "Besides, we'll expand our hours to include luncheon, and I think I'd like to start working days. There's a wonderful futuristic community theater in my neighborhood, and I'd like to get started working in it, but all the meetings and rehearsals are at night, which is when I've been working. I know I have some dramatic ability, but it's a little raw -- it needs polish. And I don't really have the money to go to a private coach." What about her Playmate modeling fee? "That," says Miss Ross firmly, "is going into the bank. I believe in being prepared for a rainy day. Guess I'm old-fashioned that way. What with that and my love for funky Forties clothes, I sometimes think I was born thirty years too late." No way, Ruthy. Can you imagine a Bunny of the Year -- 1942?
Photography by Mario Casilli