Star power…

October 20, 2010

Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to interview some fairly large personalities – people well-known for their craft.  Household names in the entertainment world.  I had that opportunity years ago as well while on commercial radio in Milwaukee and Tampa.  It’s one of the cool things about media production.  And almost to a person, except for a couple along the way, the bigger they were the more cordial they were.  I found – and still find – it both interesting and satisfying to note that people with amazing skills to entertain were also well-schooled in the art of congeniality and cooperation.  I wonder whether that’s the case with many of today’s young entertainers.  If they’re anything like many of the professional athletes we see and hear every week, I think things may have changed.

Remember when 15 minutes of fame was a joke…a cliché…and it didn’t happen to very many folks?  How crazy is it then that, today, people can submit a video – or a recording of almost anything – and it can make it ‘on the air’ and many times world-wide!  Destinations like YouTube have provided a foundation for a concern about how we entertain ourselves and what we find entertaining.   Years ago, something could be deemed entertaining simply for having the ingredient of ‘once-in-a-while’.  It was noticeable and appreciated simply because it only happened occasionally.  It seemed as if real entertainers – movie stars, singers, bands, authors, etc. – were few and far between – and that, too, is what made them….special.

Today, it’s all around…yelling at us, trying to get our attention.

Let’s see…’entertainment’, in an old dictionary of mine, is defined as: ‘Diversion or amusement afforded by something entertaining’.  That does nothing to help my cause.  All that does is whittle it down to: entertainment is in the eye/ear of the beholder – and that’s the way it’s always been. 

But, because all this stuff is aired on computer monitors, television screens and audio devices – they are perceived as real entertainment – competing with the kind many of us are accustomed to:  theater, movies, music, books  – produced by professionals. 

Maybe that’s the difference….amateurs are doing most of the entertaining today.  Pros are still doing it, too…but, in their case, it costs more for them to do it and for us to see/hear it.  I wonder if ‘you get what you pay for’ still has meaning in today’s entertainment world?

I guess I don’t what I’m driving at.  I’m rambling again…yet, blogging is about rambling.  My thoughts flow through the keyboard and appear here as they appear in my head. 

All I know about the topic-at-hand is that the world around me is chock FULL of people trying to entertain me and get my attention – some in traditional, and others in radical, ways. 

It’s a crowded playing field – and I don’t recognize a vast majority of the names or the faces.  And I wonder how cordial and humble they would be during an interview…like the big folks.

 Keep in touch,

Al Ross

 PS: Goodbye, Mrs. Cleaver….and Mr. Cunningham.


The Man Behind Madison’s Name: James Duane Doty

September 27, 2010

by Brian D’Ambrosio

James Duane Doty was born in Salem, New York, in 1799, and died in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June 1865. During his 66-year lifespan, his distinguished life included overseeing the creation of Wisconsin and giving the City of Madison its name.

After studying law as a teenager, Doty moved to Detroit, Michigan and took on the role of secretary of the territorial council and clerk of court. Two years later in 1820, he took part in the Mississippi Headwaters expedition under the famed military officer and politician General Lewis Cass. The expedition “explored the upper lakes in canoes, stretched 4,000 miles, and enacted treaties with regional Indian tribes.” Afterward, he spent nearly a decade as a land speculator and U. S. judge in northern Michigan, holding his first court at Prairie du Chien military settlement. There, in 1830, he ordered a congressional-appointed commission to blaze a cavalry road from Green Bay to Prairie du Chien.

Four years later, Doty became a member of the Michigan legislature, where he assisted in dividing the Michigan Territory into the three Territories of Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Doty had hoped to govern the Wisconsin Territory, but was met with extreme disappointment when President Andrew Jackson appointed Doty’s rival, Henry Dodge, to the position.

Despite this setback, Doty continued create what would soon become the City of Madison — and the state’s capital. After contracting to have the land surveyed, Doty began to create plans for a city nestled between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. He chose the name Madison in honor of the fourth president James Madison. Doty lobbied for recognition of his city and proposed that it be named Wisconsin’s capital. In his proposal, he gained support by mapping transportation plans and offering land to legislators who voted in the city’s favor. Madison was named Wisconsin’s capital city at the end of 1836 and construction began the next year.

Doty served as the Wisconsin Territory’s elected congressional delegate to Congress from 1837 to 1841. He continued serving as a public official in 1841 when he regulated as governor of the territory, beginning a period marked by great tumult. According to information provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society, his tenure “was marked by bitter contentions and a collision with the legislature, and after the appointment of his successor he was placed by the war department on a commission to treat with the Indians of the northwest.” When Doty’s term ended in 1844, Vice President John Tyler did not reappoint him.

Two years later, Doty became a member of Wisconsin’s first state constitutional convention. He served two more terms as a congressional representative following Wisconsin’s admittance to the Union before leaving Congress to lead a more private life. But in 1861, he returned to public eye after he was named superintendent of Indian affairs by close friend President Abraham Lincoln. Three years later, Lincoln appointed Doty to govern the Utah territory. He held this position up until his death in 1865.

Read more of Brian D’Ambrosio’s  Wisconsin history and travel articles.


Say goodbye…

August 2, 2010

Wow….what a coincidence!

On Sunday, August 1st, with leisure summer time on my hands, I decided to look for some long-lost cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes from my broadcast past.  I started with some boxes on shelves in the garage and worked my way into the attached woodworking shop.  I uncovered the tapes I was looking for, but also discovered a box containing papers and photos dating back several decades – in fact, all the way back to my childhood.  Pressed between the volumes of ‘experience’ was a photograph I was describing to someone just a while ago.

It is a shot of me with my arm around none other than Mitch Miller…and both of us have rather large cigars protruding from our mouths.  I’m not sure of the date, however it was somewhere between 1983 and 1988, during my stint as Creative Director for Sundance Broadcasting in Milwaukee.  Mr. Miller, an icon of my and my parents’ generation, had stopped by the studio to record some promotional announcements and I was thrilled to meet, greet and record him that day.

When he arrived, he lightly complained about his limo driver not allowing him to have a cigar on the way.   I informed him that I, too, enjoyed a good cigar now and then – after which I gained his immediate favor.  After the interview, he reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a couple stogies – and we sauntered outside into the cold to have our photograph taken.  I wasn’t about to pass up that opportunity.

Finding the photograph prompted me to search for his whereabouts and biography – only to discover he had passed away the day before at the impressive age of 99!  I found what I was looking for – but regret that I hadn’t searched several years earlier.

Mitch Miller – and people like him – are a brand of entertainer very quickly becoming extinct.  I don’t expect many readers to remember his TV show or his albums – but it was the kind of music that defined a simpler and much more innocent era.  His all-male chorus, dressed in matching sweaters, sang for us and invited us to sing along.  His Christmas albums were memorable and downright traditional.  His smile was genuine – proof that he was, indeed, enjoying himself and his vocation.  He was also a producer of other people’s music – but he never seemed to put his name in lights in that category.

I’m saddened by the news of his passing.  I’m saddened each time I read about the passing of a writer or a singer or a musician from what I consider to be the good ol’ days; times when all one had to have was a good voice and a little bit of luck to make it in the business.   No shock factor – no bad language – in fact, lyrics and music worked together to make a song enjoyable.  Today, it seems as if one, or the other, takes the spotlight….unless pink hair gets in the way.  And identical to most other things, there are a LOT of singers and bands and CDs from which to choose….just like cars and beer and kinds of chewing gum.

Selection is overwhelming – while the quality can be underwhelming.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I do like a lot of today’s music and I’m pretty comfortable and contemporary with most things – I’m just feeling sorry for myself at losing another of the good guys in the entertainment business.

I’ll get over it.

Hey, next time, remind me to tell you about the impressive gathering I was fortunate to attend in Hayward.

Glad to do it.

See ya.

–Alan Ross

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Betty Boop Festival in Wisconsin Rapids

July 30, 2010


Have you ever visited Wisconsin Rapids?  I have not, but I plan to go there next weekend.  A jewelry artist from Wisconsin Rapids sent me an invitation and  information about  Betty Boop Festival.  I  grew up in Europe where we loved Betty, but have to admit that I am guilty of not knowing that Myron “Grim” Natwick, original top animator of Betty Boop at Fleischer Studios in 1930 was Wisconsin Rapids native son!

The organizers of Netwick’s celebration invited  artists, vendors, retailers, etc. to rent a booth during  Aug 7 & 8 events – an outdoor venue in downtown Wisconsin Rapids, and an indoor venue at Hotel Mead.

I will copy
  the announcement I have received:

“Betty Boop Festival, August 5 -8, 2010, is a four day celebration of animation art and history in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, honoring hometown native son Grim Natwick who was original top animator of Betty Boop at Fleischer Studios in 1930.  Events include: Grim Natwick Art Exhibit from ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archives; Animation Film Festival featuring Wisconsin filmmakers, Nina Paley, and Betty Boop films; Nina Paley Art Exhibit and Meet the Artist events; Betty Boop Bash dance; Betty Boop Revue song and dance with Broadway star Tom Berklund; Motorcycle Shine, Show & Ride; Arts & Collectibles Show and Presentations; Dedication of Grim Natwick State of Wisconsin Historical Marker, and more!  Vendor and Artists booths are available to rent at two locations, Aug. 7-8; forms and details can be found at www.BettyBoopFestivalWI.com. 
> 
> Mark your calendar for a boop-oop-a-doop great time and help spread the word: 
>

Martina

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You are cordially invited

May 13, 2010

For those who haven’t heard, LZ Lambeau is coming to Green Bay beginning May 21.

Presented in real life stories, art exhibits, artifacts and song, LZ Lambeau is part history lesson, part welcome home party, and all overdue acknowledgment for Wisconsin’s Vietnam veterans. It gets its name from the landing zones that Vietnam veterans were often deployed to and, of course, from the iconic Wisconsin venue in which the event will take place. With the exception of a special tribute ceremony Saturday night, all events are free to the general public. (For Vietnam vets, the ceremony is free, too.)

I think Wisconsin’s vets explain LZ Lambeau best, though:

In another promo I watched recently on YouTube, Wisconsin Vietnam War veterans explained why they hope their contemporaries attend next week’s event.  Near the end of the spot, one veteran says, “Just to be around guys and gals who have the same ghosts that you do — don’t have to talk about ’em — but just to be amongst them people will be very rewarding for you. And that will be the beginning of your healing process.”

His statement gives the rest of us good reason to attend as well:  40 years after many Wisconsin men and women returned from service in Vietnam, and veterans are talking about beginning the healing process.  It’s about time.

LZ Lambeau was inspired by interviews conducted for the upcoming Wisconsin Vietnam War Stories, airing on Wisconsin Public Television May 24, 25 and 26. LZ Lambeau is a partnership of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, the Wisconsin Historical Society and Wisconsin Public Television, along with an extensive group of veterans organizations statewide.

In support of the event, Wisconsin Public Radio has created a Web page collecting the station’s Vietnam War and LZ Lambeau-related stories. Listen to them at wpr.org/lzlambeau.

–Tammy Kempfert

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Canoe Building 101: Ken Kocsik and the Harmony of Building Your Own Canoe

April 9, 2010

 

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing.” What a splendid sentiment. Hmm…paddling and peace. Peace and paddling. Two words somehow bounded together in the most pleasurable annals of our human instinct and imagination.

What is even perhaps more wondrous about the canoeing is, a fine boat can be built by someone with no experience, provided that one is inclined to move slowly, shrewdly, and pay attention to details.

Madison canoe builder Ken Kocsik knows this drill well. He works and responds in harmony with raw materials, and understands how to get along with the materials – and, through the process, always learns a little more about himself. Through building blocks and careful steps, from premise to careful execution to the final reward, he finds that canoe building is a pattern of living that makes sense.

“Canoe building is a great teacher of life,” says Kocsik, who teaches yearly a two-week cedar-strip boatbuilding course at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota. “It’s a way to learn and practice self-harmony, harmony with nature, and with the wood.”

In the garage of his Lake Monona home, a pebble’s toss from the accessible ripples of the waterway which he considers a faithful friend (even during crummy weather), he builds canoes for himself and for others. If you ask him how to start your own canoe project, he will explain the process from start to finish – with artistic exuberance.

“You start by cutting thin cedar planks and learning how to assemble appealing patterns,” says Kocsik. “I suggest that people choose from three cedar-strip boat projects: an 18 ½’ tandem cruiser canoe, a 16’ tripping canoe or a 17’ kayak.”

Cedar-strip boats are lightweight, solid, and quicker to build than most other types of canoes. Kocsik says that a novice can build an 18 ½’ tandem in just six days at a cost of “right around about a $1,000 bucks in materials.”

Kocsik says that anybody who has the time, patience, and interest can build their own canoe. The art of canoe building is the art of bonding progressions, plain and simple bonding, bonding with boat, bonding with nature, or bonding with your co-builders.

“Canoe building is a great individual or great family project,” says Kocsik. “A few days’ or weeks’ work and you end up with something that will result in a lifetime of memories. With each procedure you should feel better and better about what you are doing.”

Cedar-strip building, or woodstrip construction, is the easiest and most accessible for the home canoe builder. Kocsik says that the degree of precision required when woodstripping a canoe is still quite significant, but its precision level is not nearly as complex as what is required for most wood-canvas or bark boats.

Kocsik recommends that all canoe builders start their journey by reading The Stripper’s Guide to Canoe-building by David Hazen.

“Hazen convinces us that a canoe building project can take an amateur about 150 man-hours of work,” says Kocsik. “Not too long considering the final product. He shows that even unlearned builders can produce a boat better than most factory-made boats.”

The built, finished product is a real utilitarian joy, but it is the process, the experimentation, the embarkation, the art form, that Kocsik says he and others often cherish even more. Completed boats not only become a source of pride, but even tangible illustrations of personal identity.

Ultimately, in order to find the peace that paddling can bring, you must buy or build a boat. If you decide to build, Kocsik suggests finding a tutor who writes and speaks in a manner that is easy to understand, at a level that an amateur can follow.

“Read a good book on canoes or talk to someone who loves to share,” says Kocsik “If you talk to the right person or read the right material, you will want to run out to your garage and start building.”

Brian D’Ambrosio is the author of the travelogue A Wee Bit of Wisconsin.

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/a-wee-bit-of-wisconsin/6499147?productTrackingContext=center_search_results


Gilded Age Milwaukee Mansion the Link to Pabst, the Man

February 23, 2010

 

By Brian D’Ambrosio, Portal Wisconsin 

Esteemed for its cheap cost and blue-collar image, Pabst is the perennial favorite of college kids, country folk, and your average patriotic red-white-blue beer guzzler. Behind the legendary product, however, is the unique life of the forgotten Captain Frederick Pabst (1836-1904), an enterprising immigrant, a successful industrialist, and a fine philanthropist.            

Frederick Pabst emigrated from Germany in 1848 at the age of twelve with his parents. After they arrived in their new country, they traveled west to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, still a frontier town in 1848, was not to their liking and so they settled in Chicago. During the next two years, Frederick and his father made a living by working in various hotels and restaurants. He worked as a hotel waiter, then as a cabin boy on a Lake Michigan steamer, eventually becoming head of one of the vessels. By age 21, he had worked his way so far up the shipping trade hierarchy that Frederick Pabst became Captain, a title he affectionately retained until the day he died. In his riverboat travels, he met a German entrepreneur named Phillip Best, owner of a small Milwaukee brewery. After marrying the man’s daughter, Frederick came into partnership of the brewery’s operations. A few years later, Frederick bought out his father-in-law, and, in 1889, Best Brewing became Pabst Brewing Company. Soon the prosperous man needed a home fit for his needs and those of his family. He chose Grand Avenue in Milwaukee as that place, for it was an attractive, well-heeled, tree-lined thoroughfare with many great mansions. Construction began in the summer of 1890, and over the course of the following two years, the Pabst Mansion took ornate, extravagant shape, each room ingrained with Flemish style custom furniture, paneling, and panache.  At the time of its completion, in July 1892, the Pabst Mansion represented novel standards of modernity and sophistication in design. Since then, it has stood sentinel to Milwaukee’s history, tendering one of the few constants in its changing urban environment, surviving as the epitome of America’s Gilded Age splendor in that city.            

John Eastberg is the Director of Development at the Pabst Mansion, and a senior Pabst Historian. He started as a volunteer at the mansion more than 15 years ago. Since then he has learnt the details of every nook, cranny, cubbyhole, slot, ornament, and piece of artwork inside. “Up until the 1890s,” said Eastberg, “there really weren’t any major Flemish Renaissance Revival Style buildings like this in Milwaukee. This was an aberration and a trendsetter. It has the classic American gilded age interior that exemplifies the very best that European design had to offer. Here, we see everything from the artwork, furniture, paneling, and the compartmentalizing of rooms harmonizing with that style.”            

At several points, from the beginning of the 20th century onward, the Pabst Mansion has faced the unfortunate prospect of annihilation via the crashing thud of the wrecking ball. The Pabst heirs sold their family home in 1908 to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. For sixty-seven years, five archbishops called the Pabst Mansion their home, preserving the house during urban renewal demolitions. “There were so many structures of the same character and caliber lining the streets here,” said Eastberg. “And this one is the only one left still intact with its original furnishings. Original furniture and family heirlooms are always filtering back to us. We just received armchairs from Mrs. Pabst’s sitting room.” At the time of his death, Captain Frederick Pabst had amassed a veritable brewing and real estate empire. He died on January 1, 1904, leaving the brewery to his sons. Eastberg says that Pabst was far more complex and multi-dimensional than simply being a wise business magnate; he was humbly devoted to his family, friends, and charitable works.            

“Frederick Pabst was known in his lifetime to be a very good person,” said Eastberg. “Many famous people in American history we come to learn are not-so-great people. He did great things for the community, his employees, and his family. As far as any gossipy stuff, he was a beer baron who drank a lot of wine. He may have even preferred it.”             Pabst Brewing Company closed its Milwaukee brewery in 1996, and now conducts operations out of corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago. The mansion exists today as one of Milwaukee’s great architectural landmarks, and towers as a prominent link to the Captain’s life and times, bridging three centuries in the process. While dignified, proud, and in remarkably good overall condition, certain rooms show inevitable signs of decay. The success or failure of tending to the Pabst Mansion, says Eastberg, has broader implications than whether or not Pabst enthusiasts have a fun destination for an eccentric road trip or not. The way we treat our historical sites, he says, is a good indication as to how we treat our community, and a building of this stature deserves vigorous attention.             “The restorations here never end,” said Eastberg. “It’s just like owning your own home, the work never ends. I know that the restoration projects here are complicated and expensive, but there’s no place that’s anything like this in the state – or anywhere else for that matter. It is definitely its own entity and destination.”  

Brian D’Ambrosio is the former Director of Development at the Pabst Mansion.

 


Listen. Watch. Change. (Then share your ideas with us.)

August 4, 2009

On Wisconsin Public Television Tuesday night, a 57-minute version of the feature-length documentary Playing for Change: Peace through Music premieres.

The video follows record producer Mark Johnson’s multimedia, multicontinent music project, which he says, “was born out of the idea that we have to inspire each other to come together as a human race, and that music is the best way to do this.” Sure, change is a word made trite in 2008, but there’s nothing trite about these artists or these songs.

Below, a cover of the tune that started it all, Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” The musicians in the clip had never met each other, and they performed (via Johnson’s mobile recording studio) in locations as distant as Santa Monica, New Orleans,  Zuni, New Mexico, Amsterdam, Caracas, Barcelona and Umlazi, South Africa:

Because I manage the Web site PortalWisconsin.org, I’m intrigued by Playing for Change. Our site’s mission is to support Wisconsin’s arts, culture, humanities and history, and we do this by bringing arts and culture lovers together with visual and literary artists, performers, authors, scholars and historians from around the state.

After learning about Mark Johnson’s project, I’m wondering how we can use PortalWisconsin.org to extend our reach — from Milwaukee to Lac du Flambeau to La Crosse, and all the places in between. Using the resources we have in place, how can we bring arts and culture to your children’s schools, to your neighborhoods and to your lives? Even more exciting to me right now, how might PortalWisconsin.org become a place where we inspire residents from the state’s farthest reaches to come together to create, much like Mark Johnson has?

Watch Playing for Change on WPT at 8:30 p.m., August 4; view Bill Moyers’ interview with Mark Johnson online;  or listen to an archived interview of Johnson conducted by Wisconsin Public Radio‘s own Jean Feraca (visit Here on Earth‘s April archive, and select April 21).

Then, send PortalWisconsin.org your comments and ideas. You can contact us at portalwisconsin@wpt.org, call us toll-free at 866-558-4766 or use the comment form below to post your thoughts to this blog.

–Tammy Kempfert


Home Town Windows

July 2, 2009

The latest segment of  Wisconsin Public Television‘s Home Town Stories series will air on Monday, July 6 at 8:00 p.m. It has been my pleasure to be part of the team producing the series, now presenting its fourth segment.

The mission of HTS is to present the history of Wisconsin “one town at a time.”  The “town” featured this time round is the combined community of Manitowoc and Two Rivers.

Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society

Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society

HTS takes the stained-glass window approach to its subject.  The map of Wisconsin is the frame. Each home town story represents a single section of window. Like multi-colored and diversely shaped chips of glass, facets unique to a community are fitted together to tell its story.  The town sections are then added to the frame and merge to  illuminate the story of our state–just as the stained glass windows of medieval cathedrals illuminated the story of European Christianity.

The metaphor works well for television–a medium as graphic as stained-glass, and potentially as stunning and inspiring as a rose window.  A historical image can be animated for television but, since most historical images are photographs, the television presentation is often as static as a window–but less colorful.  No medium is perfect.

Narration is present on television, as are Biblical verses in church windows, but not as important as the images. Text can be found in a history book, or in the Bible but, like medieval stained glass, television is not truly aural, nor are words on screen easily readable. It is graphic, popular,  mass communication.

The Manitowoc/Two Rivers segment of the Wisconsin window focuses on our state’s maritime history: with images  of fishing, lighthouses, life saving,  ship wrecks and especially shipbuilding, from the first lake schooners to World War II submarines. All our lakefront cities, from Superior to Ashland, Marinette to Kenosha, have maritime stories to tell, but none is so immersed in the waters of the lakes as Manitowoc/Two Rivers.

It fills this portion of the Wisconsin window as neatly as La Crosse (HTS 3) told the story of Wisconsin and the Mississippi River, Green Bay (HTS 2) presented the first European contact, and Janesville (HTS 1) conveyed the impact of the prairie.

As in a church window, space is limited, and the challenge for the producers is to fit as much of the story as possible into tight quarters.  But they’re working, “one town at a time” to fill the frame.

–Michael Goc


Kitchen Sink Patriot

June 16, 2009
Photo: The Fox River Patriot

Photo: The Fox River Patriot

The recent edition of the Wisconsin Magazine of History includes an article by historian Paul Buhle entitled Wisconsin’s Comic Art. It is a preview of his upcoming book on the subject.  Buhle writes about classic newspaper comic creations from Wisconsin–Henry, The Gumps, Gasoline Alley–and also covers the “underground” comics that emerged in the late 1960s and ’70s.

The most important Wisconsin contributor to this genre was Milwaukee native Dennis Kitchen. He published heavily illustrated “alternative” tabloids as well as comics magazines in his home town, in Madison and, most notably at his Kitchen Sink Press near Princeton in Green Lake County.

I’ll let Buhle brief you on Kitchen’s contribution to comics world wide.  My interest is in Kitchen’s work in central Wisconsin.

After moving his Press to a remodeled cow barn off  Swamp Road, Kitchen partnered with fellow Milwaukeean Mike Jacobi to found a tabloid newspaper called The Fox River Patriot. The title bespeaks the time and place. It was the Bicentennial year of 1976, old fashioned Yankee Doodle patriotism was recovering from its Vietnam era swoon, and Princeton, where the Patriot’s office was located, is on the Fox River.

But Kitchen and Jacobi never intended to publish just another local newspaper. Like the Fox River, which flows from Portage to Oshkosh and Green Bay, the Patriot was designed to be a regional resource and, in time,  it was distributed in ten counties.  It combined elements of the new glossy city magazines and “alternative” tabloids like Isthmus in Madison and The Shepherd Express in Milwaukee, but its editorial content was focused on rural living. The typical Patriot reader was one of the growing number of people who lived in the country but did not farm.

The Fox River Patriot was arguably the first “alternative” newspaper devoted to rural, non farm living in Wisconsin. I worked as a reporter and editor for about five of its eight years of life.  Articles on gardening, horticulture, landscaping, small-scale forestry, small stock-raising,  weather lore, fishing, cooking and preserving home-grown produce, filled the pages, as did serious pieces on groundwater contamination, wetlands preservation, even the potential threat of storing nuclear waste in Waupaca County.  We covered local history and legends,  reviewed musicians and artists, profiled colorful old timers and interesting newcomers.

Photo: The Fox River Patriot

Photo: The Fox River Patriot

Patriot articles on recycling, energy conservation, wind and solar power– living “green”– would prove useful today.  Green, however, was  merely a color then, and one that appeared frequently on the cover.

For among the many features that made the Patriot special, it was the only rural “alternative” publication in the country with covers and inside graphics designed by Kitchen Sink Press comics artists. Dennis Kitchen, Pete Poplaski, even Robert Crumb, contributed.

By the mid-1980s, the wheels of time and place had turned.  “Alternative” became mainstream. Differences between  rural and urban living faded into today’s shared suburbia.   The Fox River Patriot faded with them.

–Michael Goc