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A Creative Life

Santa Fe loses Linda Durham Contemporary Art–but not Linda Durham

March 2, 2011, 12:00 am

The text of this interview has been edited for length and fluidity. For the full, unedited interview, watch the video on on the last page of this article.

In 1966, Durham swapped a life as a Playboy bunny in New York for living off the grid in New Mexico.

SFR: We’re here to talk about you closing your landmark gallery and moving on to other endeavors. It’s a big moment but, before we talk about that, how did you get here? Talk about arriving in Santa Fe.
LD: I moved to Santa Fe in 1966. I was, at that time, married to my second husband, and I left a glamorous New York life to move to New Mexico. We were the first wave of the hippie movement and we bought land near Cerrillos on Highway 14, but back when it was called Highway 10. We built our own house; we lived completely off the grid before the term was popular. I went from glamour to chopping wood and carrying water. I wasn’t really involved in the visual arts at that time—my background was more theatrical.

Is that what you were doing in New York?
I was doing theater, but I’m well-known in this little community for having been one of the original New York Playboy bunnies.

So you were a Playboy bunny? In the mansion in LA?
No, there was no mansion in LA. I’m talking 1962. There was a mansion in Chicago, but I was in New York and I only saw Hugh Hefner twice.

How did you get the gig?
I moved to New York when I was 19 and I was naive, believe it or not—I still am—and I wanted a job in theater. It was during the newspaper strike, so there were no want ads. I went to an employment agency and said, ‘Yes, I’d like to get a job as an actor.’ They said, ‘Well, we don’t have any of those jobs but what about a bunny?’ I said, ‘What’s a bunny?’ You had to show up for the interview in a bathing suit or a leotard. Not too long before that I was in the Miss Camden County Pageant, so I had a black leotard and it had three white buttons on the front and I got that job. I also worked as a cigarette girl and a hat-check girl in some seedy and not-so-seedy nightclubs.

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