The Walls Did Talk

People watching is a skill. If you’re good at it (and I really want to believe I am) you can master blending in, even if you’re taking notes and keeping your eyes up, about and above your coffee. People often sit, trying to go unnoticed, and to do so, they revert to the childhood understanding that if “I can’t see you, you can’t see me” and bury themselves in their work, their food, their drink, their smart phone or even clean out the contents of their purse with such dedication you might wonder if they’d even notice a fire alarm.

Not me.

I keep eyes up. I don’t face front, I face all directions and turn frequently. I suspect people are wondering about me the same things I’m wondering (and writing down) about them, but after awhile, much like the cameras on Big Brother or any other mess of a reality program, they forget I’m there.

As your Narrator, I’ve had the great pleasure of being forgotten frequently. That’s when the magic happens. Once I’ve disappeared right next to someone, I’ve heard all versions of amazing, hilarious, sad and complimentary kinds of conversation.

The wisdom I’ve gained from this is important to us all. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re doing it right—life, that is—I’m here to say, odds are you are. Old, young, professional, career newbie, women, men, couples, singles, families—all of them engage in very similar conversations. People ask about others, share their concerns. People talk about common events. People discuss frustrations at work (and about co-workers). People express genuine thanks or appreciation to one another. Doesn’t matter who you are, I was an equal-opportunity eavesdropper.

But it was for your own good. What I overheard is evidence that we’re moving through this world, this cocktail hour, this hotel, this dinner, this town in very similar ways. We’re in it together, we’re getting it right.

So, below, I’m including for you as one of my last treatises to the ways the Pfister filled me up these past six months, a Mad-Lib of sorts of the random, detached comments I absorbed as an invisible observer in the hotel. They’re flying solo, detached from their owners and conversations, but you may recognize their themes and guess at which stories they fit.

What I hope you recognize is yourself.

I hope you see them as a story starter and that they inspire wonder and you create in your own mind the speaker and the connective narrative that surrounded these singular ideas. I know what they’re linked to. I know who said them. Those are my secrets, but I leave them for you to write your own story.

“Either you’re a Pfister person or you’re not”

“We become celebrity immune”

“Our Chicago friends don’t get it”

 “That’s the New York you’re hearing, honey.”

 “Is it too early for a cocktail?”

“The masseuse needs wine to see my body!”

 “I like your new look, it’s great!”

 “He wanted a martini, not a bloody Mary, a mimosa, something ‘morning’”

 “I like ‘em here.”

 “No, I’m waiting for someone”

 “You gotta kiss a lot of frogs, honey”

 “You hope the young people come, but…”

“I don’t get the Clooney thing”

“Frumpamuffin” (referencing Harrison Ford)

“If your dad and I ever hook up we could conquer the world!”

 “He used to ride.”

“Now, I’m not a marketing major…”

“You get the golden star!”

She’s a narrator, eh?” “There are a lot of other words for it…”

“Huh, Facebook.”

“Hmm, photographers… or really bad spies.”

 “It’s a made-up holiday—a Hallmark holiday…Now that’s marketing”

 “To get their favorite fix.”

“I have to have a wicked burrito from Taco John’s”

 “Mmm…it’s roastier.”

“We need another prohibition to get rid of this bad music.”

 “I can get that done for you.”

 “Ha! At two in the morning!”

“Well, we can wait at Blu!”

“Ha! The kids would never look for us there!”

“What’s your cholesterol?

“150.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“I wasn’t getting any action just on the mixer alone.”

“I’ll make you famous

I’m already famous; I was on three episodes of Dallas.

You shot JR?

No, but I met him.”

“Are you somebody?

No, I’m just the singer.” 

“She’s on the edge; she just needs to be pushed.”

 “I don’t know, will you write it?”

Yes. I loved writing it.

I’ll keep writing it. I promise.

Personal Baggage

         Sometimes I forget the Pfister is a hotel, click meant for housing travelers and providing room and board. So much else happens there that it becomes its own community of comings and goings, drinks and dinners, events and celebration. So of course it struck me when I was headed out through the lobby and saw a line at the registration desk.

            Sure, that’s what the desk is for—checking people into rooms—but more often I see the staff checking in on people, rather than checking them in. “How was the pizza?” “How was the show?” “Did you make it to the pool like you’d been planning?”

            The line today was full of order and patience and a stunning number of people who weren’t casting their eyes about. How can you not? The ceiling above the central desk alone is breathtaking. Yet, these road-weary travelers, each of whom seemed to represent a different happening at the hotel, were blinders-focused on the desk.

            I know that feeling, that need to settle in first. I forgave them that. But in reflection I have to report to them (hope you’re reading, guys!) what a fantastically motley crew they created. The line jutted out past the bell stand, near the stairs. Tromping down the stairs was one of the dancers in the annual ballroom dance extravaganza the hotel hosts. Her hair and make up were show ready. Her shoes—heels I wouldn’t dare touch—clicked down the stairs calling attention to her descent. Yet, her sweatshirt and jeans belied that she was about to swirl in gorgeous rounds on a dance floor. I was captivated by her, but the folks in line were dedicated to their task. There were even other dancers in line, waiting to get to their rooms to make ready to compete. They, too, were wearing the stiletto dance footwear that spelled only broken ankles to me, but perhaps a victorious foxtrot to them.

            After the dancer passes, I notice nothing else can turn the heads of those awaiting a golden key. Each methodically moved first their luggage, then their bodies forward toward the desk as a guest in front of them would clear. The routine shuffle was familiar to them all, and revealed that it wasn’t their first day traveling. Kindergarteners everywhere could have taken a lesson from the perfunctory straightness of the line.

            But what set each guest apart from the others was their luggage. Portable wheelie bags designed for carry on luggage—bespeckled with colorful tags and strings for distinction made way for my favorite bag in the line: A cumbersome old vinyl brown suitcase from decades ago. Even better, the case was transported by a gentleman who clearly was younger than the luggage. I liked the vintage appeal of grandpa’s brown suitcase partnering with a contemporary traveler in a historic hotel. Decades of adventure were well-represented in Samsonite.

            It wasn’t just how they marched to the desk, waited in line, or shepherded various forms of clothing containers along with them…on this particular day, they were each there for different reasons and from different places: the dance competition, a visit with family, a business trip and more.

            The perfect diversity of this line of guests reminded me that while so many locals make use of the Pfister for its romance and ambiance, it provides shelter to so many from afar. I laughed at myself as I remembered the hand game we learned in school where you folded your fingers together, layering thumbs and pinkies properly and turned your hands inside out to reveal wiggling fingers, matched to the chorus “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people!” 

That’s the case at the Pfister. The doors are beautiful, the tower views breathtaking, but in the end, it’s always about the people.

Meet ‘n Greet Monday! Do you know Perry?

Well it’s Meet ‘n Greet Monday! While the Pfister Hotel has housed many celebrities over the years, viagra the true stars are our staff. Every week you will meet a member of our staff, and have your chance to share your memories and interactions with them. Today, case it’s the man who tickles the ivory, Perry, one of our Lobby Lounge Pianists.

Name – Perry

Position – Pianist

How long have you worked at the Pfister Hotel? – 14 years, unhealthy since 1997.

Why do you like working at the Pfister Hotel? – The Lobby Lounge has the best atmosphere, friendly people, whats not to like?

What’s your favorite Pfister memory? – When I first started, Mr. Ben Marcus would stop by the piano, just to say hello.

Tell us something we don’t know about you? –  From about 1978 until 1988, I was playing Theatre Pipe Organ in Pizza Restaurants in Chicago and Milwaukee.

What is the oddest/weirdest request that you have ever gotten from a guest? – One late night in the Lobby Lounge, the bartender had stepped out for a moment, and a woman who had obviously been enjoying her beverages that evening, sat right down next to me with an odd request.  She asked, “Hey, you, can you stop playing and make me a drink?”

Thank you Perry for being a participant on Meet ‘n Greet Monday.

Have you met Perry before?  Tell us a story about meeting him.  Thank you so much for being fans of the Pfister Hotel, and look forward to a new person to meet every Monday.

Perry ~ Pfister Pianist

The Inner Circle

So, drugstore I got to meet her: my replacement. There are so many lessons in life out there waiting for you and only a few you’re fortunate enough to catch. I am lucky enough to have started a project and to have the opportunity to hand it off. I’m not the CEO of some big company (yet), not an entrepreneur (yet) and not any of the other typically tenured folks in high ranking positions who perform very public changings of the guards. I’m no Tony Soprano, sitting at the head of the table, handing out orders.

But I was (am! Still am!) the first Pfister Narrator and I truly cannot decide which part has of the entire role has yielded the best life lessons. Right now, I’m realizing how completely unprepared  I was  for the process of watching other writers talk about writing and process and how they’d do it differently. I read other writers all the time, but I don’t often have breakfast with them.

Stacie Williams cannot be contained. After she was chosen, one of the persons who coordinated the interviews leaned in close in the hall and said knowingly, “Oh, you’ll like her, Julie.”

And I do.

 Even when sitting, listening, she’s the most active listener you’ll meet, though not in that disconnected Aunt Susie “mmhmm…mmhmmm..” kind of way. She buzzes and receives every word.

I felt like we were planning world domination when the hotel manager, PR director and Stacie and I huddled in a corner of the newly remodeled café. Our table seemed very VIP and in a very non-narrator, non feng shui move, my last-to-arrive status had me with my back to the room. So this is what the end feels like—my back to the room. In all my watching, and listening and talking at the Pfister, I’ve never seated myself with my back to the room.

Repeat after me: Change is good. Change is good. Change is good.

What offered the most comfort is, each time I opened my mouth to speak, Stacie had my words. I suspect Joe Kurth, our hotel manager, was really having déjà vu when she asked, in nearly the exact same phrasing, the same questions I did when I started. It wasn’t just asking about the rules or the limits. The morning was full of questions about possibilities. I wanted to point out the things I’d learned—stop by this corner on Tuesdays to see so and so. Make sure to eat the oatmeal. Ride the elevator in the opposite direction than you intend so you can ride it longer and chat with more people. Then, I realized, as I watched Stacie’s eyes constantly watching, her body positioned to see the entire café: she was already working; she’s already slipped right into the job.

Suddenly I felt like I was at Tony Soprano’s table, but instead of handing out orders, our inner circle of news, policies, information and process was much more ordinary. There aren’t a lot of rules. There’s one big general framework that we’ve been following and hopefully, been wrapping you—the blog readers—into. You create the stories, the feeling, the character. You have drinks here, you get married here, you stumble in after an amazing night on the town and wind down in the lobby here and you meet with clients right here on our couches. The best part of my role is realizing that the inner circle at the Pfister is you.

Gallery Night with Shelby Keefe [VIDEO]

Shelby Keefe put on quite the show on Gallery Night on Friday, here April 15 at the Pfister Hotel.

With a great display of a few of her current pieces and a live performance of a completed piece in 20 minutes on her first Gallery Night, buy viagra we are in for a treat this year with Shelby Keefe as our current Artist-in-Residence.

Listen in to hear about her approach and the culmination of her first Gallery Night as the new Artist-in-residence.

Brunch at the Pfister [VIDEO]

Gather family and friends and hop into one of Milwaukee’s most loved dining destinations for a delicious Easter and Mother’s Day Brunch.  With chef-prepared favorite entrees, mouthwatering pastries and complimentary treasured memories.

$49.95 for adults
$24.95 for children 12 and under
Four (4) and under are FREE

Follow along as Joshua Wolter puts on another hat and takes a crack at making some egg omelets with Darin at the Pfister Hotel.

The Rouge is a Milwaukee classic, a historic dining room serving the finest Sunday Brunch. The brunch menu features over 40 unforgettable items including carving stations, made to order pasta and omelette stations, fresh fruits and cheeses, and a decadent dessert display. Mimosas and signature bloody mary bar also included.

To make reservations, please contact Café Rouge directly at 414-390-3830.

Promenading Through History

Everyone spotted them immediately (and I hope I don’t embarrass them by saying so). The young couple, and he matched her with a colorful vest and tie under his tuxedo, she was in the most amazing shade of teal green. Her dress fluttered against the floor and I was in complete agreement when the photographers posed them on the stairs to highlight its length and ability to cascade (it’s not too often in life you have the opportunity to wear a dress that “cascades” down the stairs).

It was prom night and after all the up-dos and gowns were assembled and the corsages (matched wonderfully, good job, boyfriends), the Pfister was the backdrop for the essential parental photo shoot. Two moms, armed with digital lenses, were squeezing this adorable young couple into every corner, every angle and every stairway they could find. The pair was truly promenading through the lobby. I was particularly fond of the impromptu shot taken on a luggage rack, squeezing the teens in close together. Camera clicked, photo taken, and the gentleman’s trusty cell phone came out and texting began. The scene was perfect.

I had to make sure my guess was right—the photographers were the mother of the girl and the mother of the boy, respectively. When I asked, they both agreed, though they took little time to talk to me as the students had just found a new perfect location and a photographer’s (mom’s) work is never done.

A few minutes later, more teen red-carpet readys came down the steps and now commenced group shots—with more moms.

I remember being photographed for my school dances—by both families. I remember feeling awkward and angry that it was taking so long. I remember wishing they’d be done with it already, the corsage was itchy, the boning in my dress felt strange and there was uncomfortable couples dancing (aka “swaying”) to be done. I smiled as I watched the young dates go through the same process—only the backdrop wasn’t a recently vacuumed living room, but rather a historic hotel. I wondered if I would have liked my photo sessions any better had they been at the Pfister. I wondered how many of the girls secretly thought “maybe this could work as a modeling shot?” I wonder how many will return, having made this memory. Tomorrow they won’t remember the hotel or the pictures as much as the dance, the dates, the snacks, the drama…but later, looking back, which part will stick? The grand staircases? Their mother’s excitement? The boyfriends may come and go, but these photos will be dragged out frequently. Their fiancé will see them; their children will take a look. The dresses won’t be in fashion anymore (though of course, once pulled out for their grandchildren, the style will surely have come around again), hairstyles will get a chuckle…but the Pfister will be the same.

I’m jealous of the girls who were being photographed on perhaps the most beautiful night of their lives so far. It was like a movie to watch them descend the stairs while the shutters clicked. I’m just as jealous of the mothers, though. They knew what they were doing. They know how to treasure a moment because they’ve had so many more than these young men and women. They didn’t feel awkward or embarrassed taking over the space. They didn’t mind telling the teens just where to stand. They knew just what they were capturing and years later, they’ll be thanked for it.

Anatomy of Giving

        My after work cocktail turned instantly into a lesson in event coordinating and I learned there’s no better school than the prep hour before a celebrity Blu-Tender event at the Pfister’s Blu. 

        I arrived very early and witnessed an incredible transformation. See, find I’m a part of many charity and fundraising events myself. I’ve been on the “Who has the nametags?” end of things, the “We need a 9-volt battery, stat” side of the event and the “What do you mean our host/guest of honor/celebrity’s flight didn’t come in?” fringe of fiasco. Now, here I was, witnessing the breakdown and build up of an event like a fly on the wall, ailment or maybe more like a monkey on the wall because I think my grinning and darting glances around the room at all the players and organizers weren’t too subtle.
        The ladies at the bar weren’t there for the autism event, they were simply sharing an after-work drink (and cholesterol numbers and worries, which I thought was perfectly acceptable as they sipped their red wine). The couple in the corner was enjoying the view and had bypassed the first few steps of having drink at Blu* and were easily engaging each other. The white-haired man in the pair talks with his hands and the story moves from wiggling fingers to double-handed expansive gestures which then incorporate his shoulders and he finishes with a head bob and a smile, purchase dancing through one fantastic tale of gardening. He moves on to the next topic, one hand paralyzed by the drink he holds, he executes the details with an overactive pointer finger. They are not there for the evening’s event. 

            The next couple that walks in is. And the next, and the next. The gorgeous pair in crisp summertime looks, egging on our warm weather and full of wishful thinking, sneaks in the back and the woman, tugging at the man, strides into the middle and looks cautiously around, asking “where are people?” and immediately answers her question with an outstretched arm and a dragged-along husband as she crosses the bar to the others who are now pouring in the main entrance to the bar. 
             There’s a singer. You’ll know her by her sparkle. Big jeweled, glittery studs adorn her cardigan and though she spends most of her prep time worrying about her three microphones, her voice, unamplified, booms through the room as she works the early crowd with jokes and pushes them to start drinking and donating. She’s a natural, and she’s not just ready to make a great evening, she’s clearly in it to fundraise. She’s got plans with the bartenders, the charity staff and more. She doesn’t just sing; she strikes a perfect chord with donors. 
            Men with pins start arriving with their wives. Lion’s Club, Rotary, American Legion and the blue autism support ribbon pin. Suit jackets and loafers and big grins and handshakes that come with pats on the back for free—the crowd is arriving. A battery for the microphone is found, the wireless mic is on the ready and the singer is threatening folks with it—order a drink (proceeds to charity) or she’ll be over to your table to incorporate you in her act. It’s ten minutes after the start time for the event and the population of the room has tripled. Ten minutes later, it’s a party. The bar top is full, literature on the cause is everywhere, organizers have passed out nametags and the bartending talent has arrived. This is the moment I love the most when it’s an event I’m organizing. It’s that moment where I step back and sigh and start having fun, that moment where it’s all worth it.
            I’m sure it will be worth it, too. The faces and eagerness of attendees were bright and ready. The cause was one everyone was ready to champion. The music, the drinks, the scene…all perfect. And just as I left them to their charitable partying, the sun made ready to set. 

*it should be mentioned, all people who come into Blu perform similarly. Step 1: take a seat at the windows; Step 2: watch out the windows to the point of nearly fully ignoring your compatriots because the view is so amazing (but that’s ok, they’re ignoring you for the same reason) and Step 3: after the scenic sensory overload hits, then begin relaxing and enjoying your company.

Kevin Bacon Meets his Match

In three characters or less, can you connect yourself to the popular actor Kevin Bacon? How about if I give you six characters? Or, we can go back to the standard version of the game (that was actually made into a board game, by the way) and ask that you use six movie actors and their films to draw a line between Kevin Bacon and what ever actor whose name you draw.

The Pfister should design such a board game. They can give Mr. Bacon a run for his money as more than A Few Good Men have passed through these hallowed halls. I’ve met people in the hotel who have had life long experiences here—beginning as a child, they have had traditions built around pizza, the holidays, the lions (now available as stuffed souvenirs in the new gift shop), teas and brunches. I’ve met those couples who share a regular date at the hotel or who met there. Others are introduced to the space through work, and name badge still attached testify “oh, yeah, I’m glad they booked the program here! I’ve never been here before!”

But in conjunction with my plein air tribute to AIR Shelby Keefe, I have to say, my favorite “Six Degrees of Pfister’” comes when the six degrees unite Milwaukee, past and present, local and newbie, to the hotel from outside its walls.

 Recently, I’ve met a young woman who just moved here from out of town. I invited her to join me at a dinner for a group of the oldest women in town—oldest women’s group in town, that is. Since 1894, the AAUW Milwaukee Branch has been creating historic moments and hosting speakers.

As this Newaukeean met with those steeped in the city’s history, recommendations for where to go, who to meet and what to join flew. As testimony to her own efforts at building roots, the Newaukeean explained she had participated with another professional organization she’d joined in town…at an event at Blu, “at the Pfister Hotel, have you ever been there?”

I couldn’t help but smile. I shared my Narrator card. We talked about the beauty of an event that starts during daylight hours and extends into evening and what happens to you when you witness that from 23 stories above the city. There are no Tremors up there, but great stories about times when Joan Rivers and the gang got Footloose. I explained my role and all that I’d seen so far in my tenure—I warned her “Many who report to you on Milwaukee are Flatliners, but don’t believe them. Sit at the Pfister and watch how much we love our community and how many people continue to return to it time and time again.”

I realized it’s not my new city anymore, it’s hers.

The Pfister has been my Kevin Bacon. Either someone says to me “hey, have you ever stopped for a drink at the Pfister? We were just there, it was great” and I have to explain it’s my home. Or, I become the lever for someone else, “You work with the Pfister? I was just invited to an event there and I’ve never been!” It’s the perfect connector in the city and it’s never had a flop. I dare you to play the game—are you at least three degrees from the Pfister Hotel? What’s amazing is, whether or not you’ve realized it yet, you are.

Historic Hotel Selects Next In-House Storyteller: Welcome, Stacie Williams.

The historic Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee has named Stacie Michelle Williams as its second ‘Pfister Narrator.’ In the role, she will spend time in the hotel’s lobby, interviewing visitors and guests and sharing their stories on the Pfister’s blog (blog.thepfisterhotel.com). As narrator, she will be posting blog entries twice-per-week over a six-month period.

“To say I’m excited to be the next Pfister Narrator would be inaccurate and a little bit of an understatement,” says Williams. “More accurate would be to say that I’m a little nervous, as there’s great pressure in telling people’s stories with truth and honor. I am also more than excited, I’m thrilled: this is a chance to share the love of my adopted city of Milwaukee, to do so through such a beautiful historic establishment and via the voices of those who, often, like me, are not natives either.”

With a love of stories and storytelling, Williams has worked at a local Milwaukee bookstore for more than five years, and has experience in travel writing and blogging. She studied theater at University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee and is active in its creative writing program.

Williams was chosen to serve as narrator based on her writing style and outgoing personality from a significant pool of qualified applicants by a review panel, which included publisher of The Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee, Mark Sabljak; executive director of the East Town Association, Kate Borders; Judith Moriarty, a longtime local writer; and representatives from the hotel, including Julie Ferris, The Pfister’s first-ever narrator.

“We were thrilled with the success of the introduction of the narrator program last year,” says Joe Kurth, general manager of The Pfister Hotel. “Our guests have a special connection to The Pfister and interesting stories to tell—it has been wonderful sharing their unique experiences and backgrounds with the rest of Milwaukee and beyond.”

Williams will begin her stint as narrator on May 1, 2011. More information about the Pfister Narrator program can be found at www.ThePfisterHotel.com/Pfister-Narrator.

Meet Stacie Williams, our next Pfister Narrator