Omi

Waiter: How are you, gorgeous?

Candace: Oh, you’re so sweet. I paid him to say that when you girls weren’t here.

Waiter: Something to drink?

Candace: Pinot grigio with a side of ice.

Is RL one of your favorite restaurants?

It depends on the mood I’m in but if you want to dress up and go somewhere you’re always going to see somebody whether it’s lunch or dinner then this is my favorite place.

You first stepped into the Chicago scene after gracing the cover of Playboy three times. How did it all begin?

I was so sick of school by the time I reached my senior year that I thought, “If I see one more classroom, I’m going to hang myself.” A girlfriend of mine said, “Candace, they are hiring for Playboy bunnies in St. Louis. Why don’t you go and try out for it?” I thought, “Something different! Perfect,” so I went over there and low and behold I got the job. I played bumper pool and I was at the door checking the key cards at the Playboy Club. I did a pictorial about a year after I started and they saw it at the headquarters in Chicago and called and asked me if I would be interested in coming to Chicago. I said, “Sure!”

Did you have any idea you would end up living in the infamous Playboy mansion?

I had no idea that I would move right into the playboy mansion. I’m driving my little MGB up [Interstate] 55, my eyes were getting bigger and bigger and the skyline was getting bigger and bigger. It was like entering the Land of Oz. This was when the Rolling Stones were having parties there and [Hugh] Hefner lived there. It was four bunnies to a dorm. There were probably 15 or 20 girls there and they would slip these notes under the door and I saved this one that said, “Candace, Hef would like you to join him in the ballroom. It’s his birthday and there is going to be a little cake.” I thought, “Are you kidding me? Of course I’m going to join you in the ballroom!”

Is Hugh Hefner as charming in person as he comes across in the press?

He’s a very down to earth guy and even after all of the publicity he hasn’t changed one lick out of all of the years I’ve known him. It was the best time. It was fabulous.

What was the original Playboy mansion here in Chicago like?

They had a bowling alley in the basement. They had the underground grotto of course where they had a pole you slid down and the pool underneath with the bar. You had 24-hour room service. You could order lobster at three o’clock in the morning when you came home, 24-hour butler service and I think it cost $50 a month to live there.

Did you ever date Hugh?

I was actually never attracted to him.

Maybe we should have waited to ask that after a couple more glasses of wine.

No, no I never dated him. I get that question a lot. We were very friendly and in a lot of pictures together so people say, “Oh, come on Candace you two look like [you were dating],” but first of all, I wasn’t his type. But more importantly than that, he wasn’t my type. He was truly always the perfect gentleman. I’m really sad the offices moved completely out to California because they would have great parties there. They had a Halloween party that got so wild I couldn’t even print some of the photos on my blog!

What did your parents think when you told them you were going to live in the mansion?

Well, first of all, when I was a centerfold for Playboy my Dad was in his 70s at the time. They interviewed us on a news channel in St. Louis from my Mom’s house and asked him how he felt about his daughter being in the magazine. He said, “If they paid me that much money, I would do it!” So they were hugely supportive.

Do you remember what you bought with your first big Playboy check?

I have no idea! I did so well when I was modeling and I have nothing to show for it. A money manager, that’s not me.

Most frequented Chicago club back in your bunny days?  

I loved Faces. Faces was so hot in the ’70s. It was the club.

You’ve been happily married for 22 years. With such an active social lifestyle, what made you want to settle down?

My husband was the best thing that ever happened to me. I didn’t even realize it at the time. When I first met him, I was not able to recognize a nice person. I had dated all of the jerks on Rush Street and all of the people who were inappropriate. I was miserable. A friend of mine suggested I go out and meet somebody so I met him and I thought he was a nice enough guy but it wasn’t a zing through the heart string. He called me a couple of times and I was busy and the last time he said, “Candace, I don’t want to bother you but this will be the last time I’m going to call you. I understand you are busy but this will be the last time,” so we went out and I went in the bathroom and slapped myself. How could I not have been attracted to this person? We got married six months later. He is the love of my life and my best friend. I couldn’t do anything I do without him.

What are the keys to a successful marriage?

Being best friends and having a sense of humor.

Do you have any regrets?

I have no regrets. I think that every single thing that I’ve done in the past has brought me to where I am now and I am really, really happy. It’s getting better by the second!

Besides RL, what are some of your favorite restaurants?

I love Twin Anchors if I’m dressed down and casual. Their barbecue ribs are out of sight. I also love Kamehachi in Old Town.

If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?

I like the quirkier people like Daphne Guinness or Tony Duquette. People who have lived their lives on the edge like Princess Charlene of Monaco are the ones that fascinate me.

Photography by Natalie Probst

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Omi