Marfa Playboy Bunny Sign Must Be Taken Down, TXDOT Says
If you've ever been out to Marfa, you know it's a different kind of place. Different from any other small town in West Texas and a far cry from any other town on the planet, most likely. Lately, another bit of different has popped up in Marfa in the form of a pair of rabbit ears and the outline of a bunny known around the world as the one associated with Playboy.
Known as a haven for artists and the like, Marfa is a town made up of art stuffs -- Prada Marfa, an installation that looks a lot like a high-end fashion boutique, is one of the best known -- and earlier this year, a new bit of art showed up to dot the distinctive landscape, namely a 40-foot-tall Playboy Bunny sign, black metal bent into the silhouette of that distinctive rabbit head, outlined in white neon lights so it would glow in the night up against the vast night sky of West Texas.
The sign was created by artist Richard Phillips, working with Playboy and Neville Wakefield, and was installed alongside a black 1972 Dodge Charger perched on a cement platform, according to the El Paso Times. If you caught wind of this, it probably just seemed like the normal workings of Marfa, but local residents weren't exactly thrilled about the whole thing, and one of them notified the authorities.
Marfa resident Lineaus Lorette, a certified public accountant, thought the sign was a corporate advertisement. You can't put up corporate advertisements in most of Texas without a permit, and the folks over at Playboy seemingly never applied for any such thing.
Rice University Owls Football vs. Prairie View A&M University Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 22, 2:30pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. UCF Knights Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 29, 11:00am
Rice University Owls Football vs. Florida Atlantic University Owls Football
TicketsSat., Nov. 5, 2:30pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Tulane University Football
TicketsSat., Nov. 12, 11:00am
Lorette called in a complaint on the sign and the Texas Department of Transportation has ordered Playboy Marfa, as it is officially known, taken down within 45 days of the order being issued, according to the Associated Press. The sign is located just down the road from the Prada Marfa installation. While the fake Prada store in the middle of a pasture is considered art, the Playboy sign seemingly didn't come across that way to the people of Marfa. Even though the sign was artistically done, the people of Marfa weren't wild about Playboy using their town for marketing, Lorette said.
"I was really ambivalent. It's a beautifully made sign," Lorette told AP. "The problem is that it's a sign. The rules have to apply to everybody."
The original Playboy rabbit was designed by Art Paul and has been on the cover of the magazine since the second issue. Hugh Hefner, creator of the publication, said he liked the idea of a rabbit in formal clothes because of the sexual connotations and also because the idea of a bunny in a tuxedo was funny, according to Designboom.com.
TXDOT officials say they are treating this sign like they would any other unlicensed advertisement. PR Consulting, a company that reps for Playboy, said that the company hasn't violated any rules, laws or regulations and that legal counsel is currently looking into the matter with an eye toward resolving the whole thing ASAP, AP reported.
The magazine has never been without its distinctive rabbit since Paul created him, but it seems the people of Marfa may be without the bunny sign sooner rather than later.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.