Elizabeth “Bo” Black was a prominent figure in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the former executive director of Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival. She was also known for her appearance on the cover of Playboy magazine in 1967, when she was a college student and aspiring nun. Black died on July 24, 2020, at the age of 74, in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she had moved after leaving Summerfest in 2003. What was the cause of her death and what legacy did she leave behind?
Health Problems and Hospice Care
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Black had been in declining health for several years and was in hospice care in recent days before her death. She had suffered from various serious health problems, including aneurysms, a coma, coronary heart disease, depression, and a stroke. She had also undergone multiple surgeries and procedures, such as a heart transplant, a pacemaker implant, and a kidney removal. She had shared her health struggles publicly to raise awareness and inspire others, especially women, to take care of their health.
Her husband of 20 years, former Milwaukee Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn, said that she was ready to go and that she died peacefully at her home. He said that she was a “pistol” and a “dynamic administrator” who made Summerfest an incredible experience for millions of people. He also praised her for her involvement in various ethnic festivals and charitable causes, such as Operation Summer Chance, a youth employment program.
Summerfest and Playboy Career
Black was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1946, into a Catholic family. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1969 with a degree in education and later earned a teaching certificate. She worked as a math teacher before becoming the festival director of Summerfest in 1984. She held the position for almost 20 years, transforming the event into an international juggernaut that attracted the biggest names in music and earned the distinction of being the world’s largest music festival. She was also the face of the festival, known for her charisma, glamour, and flair.
While she was a college student, Black appeared in a photoshoot for a Playboy college issue in 1967. She was then contacted for another photoshoot for the front cover, which she agreed to do, but only if she could wear clothes. She appeared on the September 1967 Playboy cover, wearing a green football jersey and knee-high athletic socks with a helmet under her arm. She said that she declined to do a nude photoshoot because she wanted to become a nun at that time. Her cover image was later used on T-shirts for the 50th Playboy anniversary.
Family and Legacy
Black was a single mother in the 1990s, raising three children: Blake, Stephanie, and Kelly. She married Trebelhorn in 2000 and moved to Arizona with him in 2003. She remained connected to Milwaukee and Summerfest, keeping track of what was going on there each year. She also maintained friendships with many people in the city, who remembered her as a colorful, firecracker, and remarkable lady.
Black left a lasting impact on Milwaukee and the music industry, as well as on the lives of many people who knew her or were inspired by her. She will be long remembered for her enthusiasm, creativity, and dedication to making Summerfest and Milwaukee the City of Festivals.