Beyond Therapy

In the spring of 1990, a shrink, an ad man and all of Milwaukee’s radio stations banded together to tackle the city’s inferiority complex. The $1.2 million advertising campaign was titled “See What You’ve Been Missing, Milwaukee.” The idea was to force us, darn it, to admit what a great city we live in. That’s Milwaukee, a city where we’re forever underrating ourselves and yet forever lashing ourselves for doing just that. Page through 25 years of this magazine and you can see a constant litany of such worries, alternating with bullish comments about how the city has now turned…

Saving Grace

Attempts to create a citymagazine for Milwaukee go back at least to the 1870s, when a spunky publication called Milwaukee Monthly Magazine wrote commentary condemning such deplorable local practices as throwing objects at defenseless cats and using the sidewalks as spittoons. In 1956, businessman and literature lover Frederick Schmidt launched a publication called Let’s See that became Milwaukee in 1965. With the latter title, the magazine had a new partner, billing itself as the “Official Publication of the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce.” It was a tricky alliance, as Schmidt was committed to serious journalism, running a May 1968 cover…

The Crystal Ball

Dead Right It’s going to be dynamite. Get your condos now. – Third Ward President Jack Gardner, August 1986. Love him or hate him, [Mark] Belling appears to be more than a passing fad. – Writer Mary Van de Kamp Nohl, February 1991. Bud’s daughter is moving fast at Foley & Lardner, but her future may be in baseball. – “Predictions for the New Decade,” on Wendy Selig-Prieb, January 1990. Likely to mature into a successor to John McCullough as dean of Milwaukee’s broadcast media. – Same story’s forecast for WTMJ-TV anchor Mike Gousha. Light rail is dead and someone…

No Holds Barred

Henry Maier Milwaukee Mayor 1960-1988 “While most chief executives of city governments acknowledge at least some responsibility for basic urban problems… Maier has simply declared that as far as he is concerned, they are … not the responsibility of city government. … By defining his office out of existence, Maier has not only made himself uniquely qualified to fill it, but nigh on indispensable.” – Charlie Sykes, May 1986 “Such pathology … Such paranoiac bitterness … His power has long been essentially negative in nature.” – Charlie Sykes, February 1985, in a column titled “Mayor Queeg” “He prefers our system.”…

Murder We Wrote

Death in the Morning: Baffled by a vicious murder in the quiet village of Grafton, police received help from an unexpected source – the killers themselves. Reporter Jim Romenesko tells the story (June 1983) of this grisly slaying (the victim was stabbed 57 times) and the brothers, Kent and Jeff Denny, who were convicted of the crime after bragging publicly about their involvement. “They were directionless youths, so immersed in various forms of escapism that hardly anything seemed real to them anymore.” Both killers are still in prison.   The Fury of Judge McDonald: Romenesko told the bizarre story (November…

Not So Knockwurst

Was it the deathknell for schnitzel? When John Ernst Cafe closed in 2001, it was the end, in some ways, of an era. One of Downtown’s “Big Three” German restaurants, Ernst was the 123-year-old establishment former Mayor Henry Maier frequented, where career servers spoke German to customers. But business had slackened by the ’90s, and there just isn’t as much gemütlichkeit in this town anymore. The old Milwaukee was a place like The English Room, the once-stately restaurant whose history dated to 1926, with those over-fussy servers. Or Grenadier’s, where if a guy didn’t arrive dressed in a suit jacket,…

Great Moments in Media History

November 1983:The Milwaukee Journal’s efforts to compete with the new Business Journal are handicapped by “one of the first recorded cases of mass journalistic pregnancy,” writes Jim Romenesko in his Pressroom column. Business editor Anne Curley and business reporters Judy Wenzl and Helen Pauly are all planning maternity leave in March. January 1984: Milwaukee Journal sports columnist Michael Baumann is in trouble for describing America’s Cup as not a sport for the masses, but the activity of a privileged few. Journal Co. executive Thomas McCollow, it turned out, was part of the privileged few who appreciated the “sport.” March 1984:…

Rich & Famous

The old joke was that Milwaukee lost its only celebrity when Bo Black moved to Arizona. Milwaukee has always been VIP-challenged. But in searching our 25-year archive, we came up with a pretty varied list of Who’s Who – or was once a Who – in Milwaukee. Here are just the highlights of the headliners. Hound Dog When Elvis died in 1977, some 175 impersonators were plying their gyrating trade nationwide. The popularity wore off and the numbers dwindled, but Tom Green kept right on greasing his pompadour. “Tom Green is still Presley at 40, and packing them in like…

Tom Ament and Me

I made the phone call with some trepidation. I hadn’t talked to Tom Ament since the pension scandal I reported brought him down in 2002. “What are you up to these days?” I asked, starting off the conversation. There was a pause. “Well, I obviously haven’t run for anything,” he said. “I probably never will be able to run again for office.” That one word, “probably,” stunned me. The former county executive is now 70. He was forced to resign, and seven county supervisors were recalled, in one of the biggest scandals in Milwaukee history. And he’s now concluded he…

Beat the Winter Blues

So it’s February. The holidays are over, and the shiny promise of the new year has come and gone. Spring is right around the corner, right? Wrong. Each morning brings bone-chilling cold, mounds of dirty snow, hidden ice patches waiting in ambush, and meager daylight that seems to end as soon as it’s begun. Many cities are filled with sights and smells of forsythia and crocuses, the soil softening, the sun warming the earth. But in Milwaukee, it will be at least April – maybe late April – before the long winter finally thaws. With an average low temperature during…