Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Mini-Milwaukee Tour of "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" Sites, Given to my Visitors from Boston

Last week my friends Michael and Scot, both honchos at the Boston Public Library (See? librarians and booksellers really are friends. Notice how I don't even twitch when you tell me at the bookstore you read a book from the library. Yesterday, my customer Priscilla highly recommended Virginia and Vanessa from MKE's library system. It's a novel (we had to double check) about the complex relationship between Virginia Woolf and her sister.

What was I talking about again? Oh yes, Michael and Scot's visit. We only really had a day, as this was a short detour from a visit to Chicago (highly recommended for all friends, publishing types, and especially authors). We checked off our must-see list. A visit to a comic book store, to be sure--we went to two branches of Collectors Edge, the East Side one on Farwell and the flagship in Bay View, where they have an excellent collection of heroine figurines. Let me just say I agree that it was rather insulting the way they killed the entire Canadian super hero team Alpha Flight off page. Michael resassured me that in the comic book world, as in soap operas, nobody is ever really dead forever. I feel better.

My comic book rec. I really liked Captain Freedom, a post-modern riff on comic book hero as celebrity, but I think I oversold it to Michael and he was disappointed--not as funny as a played it up to be. My ex-coworker Justin, however, thought it was fine.

Of course we toured the gorgeous central branch of the Milwaukee Public Library. I love rotundas. And of course, the Betty Brinn kids room with Lois Ehlert's touches is amazing.

Meals? Of course. I never go wrong with a group at Riviera Maya in Bay View, especially when you're bringing together a few people who don't know each other. Get the mole sampler (six of them--almond, pumpkin seed, sesame, tomatillo, peanut, and chocolate peanut) and the conversation immediately turns to which mole is which, which is best, and do you love one so much you're going to order one as a sauce on your entree. We went with 0ur sales rep Anne, and both Anne and Michael sung the praises of mutual friend/coworker Talia. I love her too, and I met her for 17 seconds.

Brainstrorming, Scot revealed his interest in those fine Milwaukee-based Gerry Marshall comedies that dominated 1970's. Fortunately, you can organize a day checking out the landmarks:

1. City Hall, where the Laverne and Shirley opener proclaimed "Welcome to Milwaukee." The scaffolding is down, and the building is majesting on the outside, and wondrous (with it's soaring atrium) on the inside. We could have spent the rest of the day, touring the grand old lobbies of the Germanic, Flemish, and Richardson Romanesque (that's the old federal building) downtown, but there was more to do.

2. The Bronze Fonz on the River Walk. He's life size, which means that if you're an adult, you're probably taller. I think the cross street is Wells, or maybe Kilbourne. A photo was snapped, delight was manufactured. We're carrying Fonzie greeting cards from a local photog Sue Vliet. We sold through about 30% of her first collection of cards quite quickly; the images are great, and the card stock is strong and card-worthy. (Note to local photogs--Fed Ex Office-Kinko's printing generally doesn't cut the mustard).

Sorry to all the artists who are pissed about the money appropriated for this frivolous statue. But hey, you've got to please the visitors.

3. Knapp Street, where L&S resided before they decamped for Holllllywood. The address is 780 Knapp, which would mean East Knapp, as there is no west. It looks like a street where you can imagine their basement apartment, and a few empty lots (now parking and the like) where you can imagine their exact building. I lived around the corner from here for 20 years.

4. This address would be walking distance from the Blatz Brewery on Juneau (now apartment/condos) and the Schlitz Brewery on King Drive (offices), both clever permutations of Schotz. It seems less likely the creators imagined Pabst as their employer, about 15 blocks further west on Juneau.

5. A car ride to the Kopp's on Port Washington Road in Glendale. This was the site of the Milky Way Diner, which is said to be the definitive inspiration for Arnold's Drive in. At one time, there was a lot of argument about where the Happy Days inspiration came from--Gilles and Pig 'n' Whistle (closed burger/custard diner on Capitol) were bandied about.

Michael and Scot had their first custard. It was a little meltier than it should have been and I was a bit embarrassed.

6. A visit to Boswell Books was of course on the schedule. I couldn't find anything appropriate for our tour (no Laverne and Shirley flip books to be found). I let them search on their own while I...well, went to my desk and worked. Scot was excited to find the two sequels to Cathy's Book and by the time we got back to my house, he was reading and interactively using the clues. By the next day, I knew enough about the series to recommend it to one of my customers.

You don't have to follow this tour when you visit me, though please add #6 to any itinerary. We can do museums, or beer tours, movie houses (the Oriental and Downer are walking distance from the store and the Times and Rosebud are worth a car or bus detour) or Harley-ana. Wait till fall for my "favorite quirky chocolate outposts" because though you can visit Northern Chocolate and a few others, Franklin's is closed until September.

Or snub me. Design your own tour. Be careful, however, about using the new Moon Milwaukee and Madison guidebook. It's got the new museums--Harley Davidson, Discovery World, the Jewish Museum. But the restaurant info is spotty, and not updated. The African Hut closed in February of 2008 on Yanni's closed last August. America's Black Holocaust Museum also closed. It's got the new Iron Horse, but is missing the spectacularly renovated Inter Continental. And that's just a quick perusal. Call ahead.


Jenipher said...

Stumbled on this looking for Milwaukee tourism info. Can I just say this one entry is infinitely more informative that the official tourism site. Will be visiting the bookstore for sure!

MomOf2AtHome said...

Great article! Betty Brinn museum close to the lake is a must-see for all parents with little ones! The children's at the Library is also great! Complete with story time on Saturdays. Another comic shop to check out is Earth's Mightiest Comics on 60th and Forest Home. It's family oriented and even has a couch for parents.