The Los Angeles Bunny Museum
“Wow!” Regardless of the language or nationality of her visitor, it’s usually the first word co-owner and curator of The Bunny Museum, Candace Frazee hears when she opens the door to greet her visitors. And for all intents and purposes, wow is an appropriate word.
Located in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena, The Bunny Museum (which also doubles as Frazee and her husband Steve Lubanski’s personal home) houses 30,000 collectibles. To enter is to step into a mini-wonderland, where everything rabbits rule and there’s nary a button or bandana that hasn’t been given a bunny makeover. (A water pitcher named Elvis Parsley: Why not?)
On closer inspection, a certain order appears—a shelf for Valentine’s Day trinkets, another for salt and pepper shakers, yet another for snow globes and a whole corner for Christmas that features a tree with carrot-orange lights. As for the couple’s herd of live rabbits; they lounge wherever they want. The nearly ten-kilo Flemish giants looking like Easter Bunny body doubles. As I look closer at the museum’s offerings, they take refuge in the couple’s stuffed bunny-lined TV room, lovingly dubbed “The Warren,” a term which for laypeople translates to a network of interconnecting rabbit burrows.
“Twenty-three years ago Steve gave that to me on Valentine’s Day because I called him honey-bunny,” Frazee explains gesturing to a red-and-white stuffed bunny in a place of honor near the front door. “We were dating.”
She returned the favor with a similar gift at Easter. Shortly after, the couple’s affinity was cemented with a themed wedding where Lubanski surprised everyone by dressing as the Easter Bunny during the reception, and friends gifted the couple with high-end, rabbit-decorated dishes (some of which have since shattered and been memorialized in their backyard “Garden of Broken Dreams” art piece). Over the years, bunnies have become a love language of sorts for the couple, resulting in a daily exchange of gifts.
“Steve likes to send me mail,” Frazee reveals. “So maybe two or three days a week I’ll go to the mailbox and there will be a card. Of course, I give him three or four birthday cards and five or six Christmas cards. If we go shopping together at an antique store, we might find 20 things together. It doesn’t have to be a separate gift.”
Opened eighteen years ago amid jokes from friends and family that their collection was museum-worthy, the Bunny Museum takes its mission to represent the bunny across cultures very seriously. Standing in the couple’s dining room/sitting area, visitors can view tribal masks from several different cultures, a Mexican wedding suit (the bunny is a symbol of fertility, naturally), a large velvet painting, and several eggs from the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Look closely and you might even peep a few famous faces. (Frazee confesses an affinity for Lola Bunny—Bugs Bunny’s buxom blond girlfriend from Space Jam. She’s well-represented, alongside Miffy, Thumper, Peter Cottontail and any other notable rabbit you can shake a carrot at.)
With more pieces of art than Los Angeles’ Broad Museum and a more compelling niche than most galleries, The Bunny Museum has attracted its fair share of attention. (It should come as no surprise that in 1999 Guinness World Records certified the couple as “owning the most bunny items in the world,” a record that no one is likely to beat.) In their yard are eight wire frame bunnies, repurposed from Rose Parade floats Frazee volunteered to help decorate over the years. They’ve also welcomed over 27,000 guests from over 46 countries. (On the day I visit I’m number 26,398 in their running guest book.) Elijah Wood and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are among the more famous faces to drop by. Even still, Frazee remains incredibly pragmatic about her fascination turned career. Sure, she’ll spend money on pieces from antiquity, and even owns a civil war flask. But she won’t, for example, shell out for jewel encrusted rabbits. After all, this started as a love story. Keeping the end goal in mind is important.
“This is a very happy place,” Frazee says. She smiles at her bunnies as she speaks. “People leave happy.”
Text: Laura Studarus
Photos: Laura Studarus and istockphoto.com