Recently, I had my first mohawk spotting at the Pfister Lobby Bar, and so, naturally, I had to chat with the man rocking the spiky hairdo.
“So how long have you had a mohawk?” I ask him.
“For forever,” he says. “I just got it redone yesterday. I’m a drag queen so I need a hairstyle that lets me fit a wig over it easily. I can show you a picture of what I look like as a woman.”
“OK,” I say, pulling up a chair and deciding to order another cocktail immediately.
It turns out the mohawk-ed man’s name is Nelson and he started performing as female impersonator, “Nataja Mahal,” in November. He particularly enjoys lip synching to Donna Summer and Cher songs. And he makes a drop-dead gorgeous woman.
Nelson was at the Lobby Bar with his friends, Jayme and Alberto. If the three were in the ‘80s teen film, “The Breakfast Club,” they might be labeled “the drag queen,” “the dancer” and “the mystery woman.”
Alberto, “the dancer,” started ballet as a child and later landed the lead role in a high school production of “Footloose.” He graduated from UWM’s dance program and works with different local groups, including the Wild Space Dance Company.
“So how are your feet?” I ask him.
“Gross,” he says. “I have some serious callouses.”
Alberto lived and worked in LA and New York for a while, but prefers Milwaukee where he is also a server at Cubanita’s.
“In LA, you struggle just to get a random gig where you dance to a Justin Bieber song. That’s just not my scene,” he says. “I enjoy slinging drinks and sweating on stage.”
Jayme the “mystery woman” – who was really just more of a private person – told me the trio was having a quasi, one-night staycation in Milwaukee after unexpectedly getting the night off from work. Nelson and Alberto sip “dirties” while Jayme nods in approval after tasting her frozen cocktail.
“People who live here don’t come to the Pfister just to have drinks enough,” says Nelson. “Especially the Lobby Lounge. It gets overlooked. People go to Blu or Mason Street Grill, but here, there’s actually a lot more traffic. It’s great for people watching.”
Nelson works at Potawatomi Bingo Casino as a slot attendant and he once doled out $140,000 to a slots player. I ask if the winner jumped up and down – freaking out like when a contestant wins a car on “The Price Is Right.”
“Actually, no,” he says and went on to explain that the winner had already spent thousands of dollars at the casino. “He was just winning some of it back. But it’s nice to see when someone wins and they are genuinely excited.”
As the Pfister Narrator, I meet and interview people from all over the world who are visiting the hotel for leisure, travel and family. I meet so many fascinating jet setters that it’s easy to forget sometimes that equally-as-interesting local people stop into the Lobby Bar or Blu “just for one.”
The three friends also reminded me of the diversity of the Pfister guests which is as beautiful as the hotel’s collection of Victorian art and part of Guido Pfister’s original vision. Guido’s intention for the Pfister (which was completed after he passed away in 1893) was to create an exquisite hotel in the heart of Milwaukee that was accessible to everyone. He wanted the Pfister to serve as “Milwaukee’s living room.”
The night I chatted with Jayme, Nelson and Alberto, it was a chilly, rainy June evening and we reclined in comfy chairs while the fireplace crackled. Indeed, it was a living room of sorts. I think this would have made Guido happy.
And I wonder what he would have thought of mohawks.