Before the reality shows, and celebrity-filled parties at “the Mansion,” before Hugh Hefner became “Hef” and paraded around with multiple girlfriends on each arm, Playboy and its rabbit-head logo were world-renowned, thanks to the ubiquity of its clubs, casinos, and resorts. In Shoulder Season, Christina Clancy mines the fascinating history of the Playboy Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, interviewing former Bunnies, resort personnel and patrons, to capture a fleeting moment in American history, and produce an evocative and nostalgic tale, about a small-town girl turned Playboy Bunny, and the way a place, and the brief, but intoxicating moments of our youth, stay with us and shape our identities.
The small town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is an unlikely location for a Playboy Resort, and nineteen-year-old Sherri Taylor is an unlikely bunny. Growing up in neighboring East Troy, Sherri plays the organ at the local church and has never felt comfortable in her own skin. But when her parents die in quick succession, she leaves the only home she’s ever known for the chance to be part of a glamorous slice of history. In the winter of 1981, in a costume two sizes too small, her toes pinched by stilettos, Sherri joins the daughters of dairy farmers and factory workers for the defining experience of her life. Living in the “bunny hutch”—Playboy’s version of a college dorm—Sherri gets her education in the joys of sisterhood, the thrill of financial independence, the magic of first love, and the heady effects of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But as spring gives way to summer, Sherri finds herself caught in a romantic triangle—and the tragedy that ensues will haunt her for the next forty years.