Pin the Eagle On the Mother

Five moments of learning from the past week at the Pfister.



A kid from Chicago comes to my typewriter and gawks. I allow him to type whatever he wants:

“HAa Liamisthe greatest Pat and Kerianne suck and wish they could do this hahah”





A girl comes up and I also explain the typewriter to her as she has never seen one before. She tells me that she didn’t realize it came with a keyboard, sovaldi she just thought it was a machine that cut paper.



An able-bodied man is admiring a painting in the seventh floor.


Man: Sometime I want to rent one of those walkers with the seats and go to the Milwaukee Art Museum so that I can just sit in front of the paintings.


Me: Well, capsule I’m sure they wouldn’t say no to you if you wanted to rent one.


Man: But then I’d look like I’d need it. (Pauses) Well, maybe one day I will.



I order just the bone marrow

without the bread.

is that too weird?


Elizabeth, my waitress says,

“Nothing is too weird to order at the Mason Street Grill. There is a vegetarian woman who comes here all the time ordering just a plain baked potato with broccoli.”


The Mason Street Grill’s lighting is the color of gravy.

Were I a vegetarian I would come here just to satisfy my carnivorous cravings

with a plain baked potato in this restaurant illuminated by steak essence

without betraying my principles.


I have a spot at the chef’s counter.

Close exposure to the sizzle and clang of the kitchen

makes dinner much more exciting

these cooks know they are on stage

they grind pepper with great ceremony

they cut pizza with broad sweeping gestures

one usually reserves for ironing a king size bed sheet.

She is very aware of her audience.


I watch steak after steak leaving the kitchen.

Before they depart they are dribbled with white sauce

and resembled chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.


When my bones come out, I am surprised and delighted to see that they come with a just arugula salad.  The significance of which you will understand if you read this story.


Anyways, Elizabeth looks at the bones on my plate

and tells me,

“You know in Columbia we make a soup with bones like that. Sancocho soup! We put in plantains, corn on the cob, real cilantro (that’s our secret, it turns it green), potato and bone marrow with the oxtails. The plantain has to be green, those sweet ripe kind are for frying.”


Elizabeth admits the friendly, unique, polite people of Wisconsin

tip her extra for having an accent.

Moving here four years ago

she feared she might not survive the cold

but she had to live here,

after she had visited Summerfest

she knew she had to stay.

She had to learn how to drive in the snow.



Lillian at Coat Check tells me that one of her sons became an Eagle Scout at age 12, which is unusually young. At the Eagle Scout award ceremony it is customary for the new Eagle Scout to present and attach an eagle pin on their mother. Lillian’s son fumbled and avoided making contact to her blouse with the pin. She asked him what was wrong and he said, “I don’t want you to burst!” Lillian was very pregnant at the time.

This relates to nothing else, but these two people got married yesterday.

This Is His Fifth Wedding In Three Years

I’m drinking tropical hibiscus in the lounge

when a woman enters the vicinity clopping

her tongue like a horse

along to the ambient music.

I record this occurrence in my notebook,

take a swig of tea,

and stand

to meet the clip clop woman

so as to tell her how much I appreciate

triumphal people who enter rooms with song.

“I did?  I don’t remember doing that.”

says the lady who mere seconds ago

was a verifiable songhorse.

I wonder if any of the other loungers

here can recall it,


I notice more than I should

like when I ask the man with all the loose leaf notes

and who is scrawling with an extra wide sharpie

what it is he is doing

and he says

“writing an obituary”

and then thanks me for leaving him alone.

Today I overhead a woman saying,

“A successful marriage requires falling in love several times.”

Plenty of advice like that can be overhead inside the Pfister

on the seventh floor

I overhear the rehearsal of marriage vows,

a man and a woman,

scripts in hand

“Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

(Which I still always hear as “Do you take this man to be your waffle-y wedded husband?” because that’s what I thought it was when my grandma and I played Barbies back in 1990 or so.)

Maybe it is none of my bee’s wax biz nizz

but I ask them if they are about to marry each other

“No!  That’s my sister!”

says the man named Jesse

who is an officiant for weddings.

This is his fifth wedding in three years,

he only marries close friends of the family.

“If I know them I will do it,”

he will marry them.

Jesse informs me that “you could even marry yourself if you want to”

or at least you could according to the Wisconsin state statue of five years ago

when last he read it

as part of getting ordained by the Universal Life Church

“I’ve paid my dues, Miss.”

His first wedding was up in the Porcupine Mountains of upper Michigan,

how waffle-y romantic sounding

I think

it is time to wish Jesse and his helping sister well

so that they may get on with the ceremony,

but there is no bride and groom,

no wedding party,

where are they?


I almost say, “Well, break a leg!”

but that’s not quite appropriate,

maybe “Go jump the broom!” is better?

Jesse recommends, “I hope you’re sure!”

or if the conditions are right, “I hope this is the last one!”

Jesse and his sister Valerie rehearse the ceremony. They came in from Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“I’m getting concerned that no one is up here,” says Jesse regarding the wedding party.







I Will Get To Wear Tights & Meeting Two Presidents

The lobby

wears red roses today

when I meet Caroline

from South Carolina.

Tomorrow Carolina’s Caroline will

toss plant pluckings on the floor

as flower girl for a wedding.

She tells me

I will get to wear tights

she tells me

there will be champagne!

Who told this kid to get excited about champagne?

Perhaps Harry or Dick?

Those lobby lions have

watched a centuries worth

of revelry

their manes are worn

by a century of child fingers

right now

Harry is getting stroked by Harry, search

Caroline’s little brother

whose shoulder droops

from wearing a plastic shopping bag

containing hot cocoa powder,

I tell them

there will be hot cocoa!

Caroline has decided

the other lion’s name

is not Dick as they say

but really it is Caroline.



This is a poem

in which I must mention

“international association of administration professionals”


of which

Mary of Kansas

is division president

she does something

financial for work

but on the side

with the pickle

she has iaap


like this one

with seminars on juggling.

That topic peaks my interest

until I learn they mean

juggling as an expression

for responding to three bosses

rather than three burning tennis racquets

or three rusty nail studded baseball bats

or even three plush bean bags,

however, IAAP transformed

Bonnie of Texas

from a timid woman who

at the time she joined the association

stared at the floor enough

to tell me that there were

forty-two tiles between the elevator

and her desk at the oil and gas company

to the Bonnie who approaches strangers

with typewriters at hotels

to make conversation

about what it is like to be

Houson’s division president.

Both presidents

Bonnie and Mary share corporate gossip:

Google’s bosses must remind

the young workers

to wear shoes,

but pajamas in the office

Mary, President of Kansas on the left, Bonnie President of Texas on the right. In the background, a stranger.

are okay.

Newlyweds at 90

Sure, lots of brides and grooms stay at the Pfister Hotel, but as 90-year-old newlyweds, Ernie and Harriet are quite special.

Their unique situation was apparent to their families who lovingly helped plan their wedding – and it was also recognized by every guest in the Lobby Lounge on Saturday night. When the couple rolled through with “just married” signs on the back of their wheelchairs, the 20-plus guests in the lounge gave them a standing ovation.

“It was quite a reception,” says Jennifer, who is married to Harriet’s son, Jay.

The wedding took place on Saturday afternoon at a local church. Twenty-five guests, all family, attended and Ernie’s two great grandchildren, ages 8 and 10, were ring bearers.

Harriet, who kept her last name, wore a light green suit and jacket with a matching blouse.

“I bought a pair of new shoes and a brand new purse,” she says.

At the last minute, Harriet realized her shoes were not very comfortable and so Ernie suggested they run out to Kohl’s for a new pair.

“I wanted her to have the right shoes,” says Ernie, who was decked out in black pants, a herringbone suit coat and a very pale yellow shirt for the nuptials.

After the ceremony – which according to Harriet was “wonderful” – they had a dinner at the Open Flame in Hales Corners. The couple feasted on ribs and their guests ordered ribs, chicken or salmon.

Then, they went to the Pfister for a three-night honeymoon. When asked why they chose the Pfister, Ernie chuckled.

“Actually, I wanted to go to Vegas,” he says.

Ernie has been to Las Vegas three times and wanted to take Harriet there to see a show, but their children were concerned about their safety and suggested the Pfister instead.

Harriet’s son, Jay, comes to Milwaukee from Minneapolis about once a month to visit his mother and always stays at the Pfister. Ernie and Harriet met at an assisted living facility in Hales Corners called Harmony.

Ernie was married for 65 years to a woman named Audrey. They raised three daughters. For the last 18 years of their marriage, Audrey suffered from Alzheimer’s.

“Ernie’s wife was very sick. He took very good care of her for 18 years. Cooking, washing clothes, taking care of the house. All while working two jobs. He is a very nice man,” says Harriet.

Harriet was married to John, who passed away in 2001, for 51 years. The couple had two sons.

Neither expected to fall in love again.

“It’s a miracle,” says Harriet.

For Ernie, it was love at first sight. Harriet became smitten after Ernie appeared at her door singing “happy birthday” to her.

Some of the other ladies at Harmony expressed their romance envy to Harriet.

“They come up to me and say, ‘How did you do that? We’ve been trying to find somebody ourselves for a long time,’” she says, then, looking at Ernie, “I guess I just meet the right people.”

Ernie and Harriet are the first married couple to live at Harmony. In order to accommodate their bond, the facility – which does not have double rooms – agreed to let them use one room as their bedroom and the other, across the hall, as a living room.

“Our days go by so fast and we just enjoy being together,” says Ernie.

The couple shares a love for gardening and are the only members of Harmony’s gardening club. Ernie says they left a sink filled with ripe tomatoes and will have even more when they return to the facility after their honeymoon.

He then told a story about the time Harriet playfully sprayed him with the hose and got him soaking wet.

“Luckily I dry off pretty quick,” he says.

Ernie and Harriet also like to watch sports together. Harriet never cared much about sports before meeting Ernie, but she knew it was something he enjoyed.

“So I learned about them quickly,” she says.

“Now, she’s the one who says ‘let’s watch the Brewers game,'” says Ernie, patting her arm. “I’m just so happy we’re together.”

Carla and Tommy

“I made a song!” she declared with a Christmas-morning smile. Dan invited her over to the piano in the lobby to play a few notes. “He knows that Jeff always plays ‘Summertime’ for me, because that’s the song my mother used to sing to me when I was a baby girl,” Carla explained as a juicy tear welled up in her coffee-colored eye. Now, her adoring husband Tommy calls her baby girl.

Carla and Tommy Shircel have one tradition – they celebrate their anniversary every year at the Pfister Hotel.

“Dan asked me to pick the first three notes and from there, he taught me how to compose a song. It’s called ‘Carla’s Song.'” She continued to boast about her song like she had just earned an A on a term paper.

Carla and Dan, the piano man
Carla and Dan, the piano man

Carla and Tommy met in 1994 and wanted to get married at the Pfister on April Fool’s day, but had to settle for March 31.

“I started coming here when I was this big,” Carla puts her hand about two feet from the ground, which translates to about four years old. “This has been my home-away-from-home. We used to sit here in the lobby and watch the Circus Parade,” she recalls.

Her Aunt Rosy was a catering manager and after all these years, she still works at the Pfister in the engineering department.

Carla and Tommy’s wedding ceremony, back in 1995, was held in one of the suites and the reception continued in the Cafe Rouge before they left directly for Jamaica. Tommy had just started a new job with Rockwell Automation and because he didn’t have much vacation time, he went into work the morning of his wedding to afford them one extra day on their honeymoon.

“There is so much history and culture here. It feels you’re walking into your grandma’s big mansion, doesn’t it?” insists Carla. “Every bride has posed on that marble staircase, I know I did!”

Walking in the front door is Carla’s favorite view of the Pfister. As a devout Italian, she particularity loves all of the Italian frescoes. Every year they return to the Pfister to celebrate and they always pick a new room to stay in. Carla and Tommy had dozens of funny stories about run-ins with celebrities, maids, Charlie Pfister’s ghost, and more. They finished each other’s sentences. I guess that  happens when you share 18 years of memories. And may they continue to share many more, at the Pfister.

Carla and Tommy
Carla and Tommy


Lindsay the Magnificent Bride

“We were staying at the Pfister when it  happened.” That phrase could apply to a million different situations. Lindsay was at the Pfister for the Magnificent Bride show earlier this month, where I captured her story.

Shaun and Lindsay met at UW-Milwaukee. He – a studious PhD candidate in psychology and she – a curious lab assistant. The courtship started with a roller derby and the engagement started with a derby of a whole different kind – a bet on a Kentucky Derby race horse. Shaun was watching the derby at Maxie’s Southern Comfort when he entered his name in a raffle and won an overnight stay at the Pfister. So, he and Lindsay decided to stay at the Pfister for their one-year anniversary.

When the weekend arrived, they enjoyed dinner at the Mason Street Grill and then set out to re-create their first date at a Brew City Bruisers roller derby bout. Lindsay boldly asked Shaun out after noticing him in class. Immediately on their first date, he warned her: “You know, we can’t really date because I am your teacher’s assistant.” By the end of the night, Shaun had changed his tune. “You know, it’d be stupid if we didn’t date. Let’s talk to our professor and see if we can’t work something out,” he suggested.

Shaun and Lindsay
Shaun and Lindsay

One year later, back at the reenactment, Shaun and Lindsay sat trackside at the bout and she noticed that he was acting a little odd. “He didn’t want to converse with or hang out with any of our friends that were there, but I did’t really think anything of it.” Of course, he was just focused and didn’t want anyone or anything to deter him from his plan.

He watches her as she’s recounting the details and smiles sweetly. She’s vivacious an verbose, telling the story with the same excitement of the first time.

After the bout, they returned to the hotel to change into nice clothes to go up stairs to Blu. As Lindsay was putting the finishing touches on her look, her back was turned to Shaun and he said, “Before we go downstairs, there is something I’d like to ask you,” and he immediately got down on one knee. With her back still turned and after about a minute of dead silence, Lindsay turned around to see that the Shaun had been waiting on his knee with the ring in hand.

“That minute seemed to last forever,” confessed Shaun.

Although they had talked about marriage, Lindsay had no idea that the proposal was coming.  He had consciously stopped conversations about marriage so he could surprise her. The string of serendipity continued…

“So then we go up to Blu and there happened to be fireworks in honor of Chinese New Year!” proclaimed Lindsay. They ordered a set of chocolate-covered strawberries (Lindsay’s favorite) and the waitress came out with Congratulations written on the plate, though she had no idea that they had just gotten engaged. “It was so crazy, by pure coincidence she used this plate that was just laying around back there.”

Shaun and Lindsay are planning on tying the knot in May 2014 after graduation. “The Pfister has been a significant presence in our journey,” she said and after all this good luck, they fully intend to include the Pfister in the wedding plans.


Lindsay and Shaun at Blu post-engagement
Lindsay and Shaun at Blu post-engagement


The Bride in Repose

Annie was unlike any bride I’ve ever seen – totally relaxed. Before she endures an afternoon of coiffing and dressing tomorrow, she was getting polished down at the Well Spa. The pale pink polish on her hands and toes matched her demure personality. Annie has to run out to pick up a card box – “Who knew you needed a special box just for the cards?” she shrugs, but agrees to meet me in the lobby to catch up when she returns.

The pomp and circumstance of a wedding can often set even the coolest cucumber into a fine frenzy. Not Annie. Maybe she was blissfully ignorant since she didn’t really start planning for her December wedding until October.

Annie and her flower girl.
Annie and her flower girl.

Everything was put on hold until she finished graduate school though. At least she’s a girl who’s got her priorities in line.

Annie returned promptly with her mother, Fern, who also seemed relatively calm. “Chris and I drove the moms crazy, at least that’s what his mom said,” Annie admitted. “Oh, I am glad you were making her crazy, I thought it was just me,” Fern voluntarily chimes in.

Shortly after, her brother and sister, Jaime and Jeremy, showed up with their own entourage of curious and adorable kids. There was a chorus of questions and plans to accommodate last-minute needs before they dispersed to get ready for the rehearsal dinner. Annie’s dad also popped in to check up on everyone and then retreated to his room after he felt reassured (and relieved) that his help was not needed.

We had yet to talk about a major part of her wedding – the groom. Annie and Chris met in college in 2003 and dated for a while before she moved to Manhattan and he took off to Colorado. A few years later, they met up in Florida and agreed that they wanted to be together. They’ve been living in Chicago for the past five years, and plan to stay there while Chris finishes law school.

Annie did have one wedding detail on lock down. She and Chris booked MeatBute, a Meatloaf cover band, to make a special guest appearance and perform a few songs at the wedding – mainly, a rousing rendition of “I Will Do Anything for Love.” She was giddy with excitement, like a kid talking about Santa Claus, “We heard them in Chicago and were just blown away. But shh…don’t tell my mom, it’s a surprise and no one knows about it.” Nothing like a surprise cover band to kick things up a notch at a wedding.

Throughout our entire conversation, I continually comment, “You’re so calm, I can’t believe that you’re getting married tomorrow.” She looks at me point blank and replies, “What’s there to be nervous about?” Now that’s a blissful bride.

Annie and family getting ready for the big day.
Annie and family getting ready for the big day.




A Palace for the People

The King of Hospitality knows a thing or two about throwing a party. I, along with 500 of Mr. Marcus’s closest friends, attended a dinner celebration last week to commemorate his 50th anniversary of Pfister Hotel ownership.

Both Mayor Barrett and Governor Walker declared December 6th “Steve Marcus Day” in Milwaukee. Guests even took home Steve Marcus bobble heads. If there’s any indicator that you’ve made it in life, a mayoral declaration and a personalized bobble head should really top the list.

Stephen’s father, Ben, handed the hotel over to him in 1962 in total disrepair so Steve undertook a $7 million renovation and added on the 23-floor tower. He later found out that the collection of Victorian art was worth more than the hotel at the time. Steve was able to carry out the original vision for the hotel, creating a “palace for the people.”

A few other fun facts I learned:
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  •  Every president since McKinley has stayed at the hotel
  • Rosemary Steinfest was the first female GM and worked there from 1962 to 1996 (She’s a lovely lady – more on her to come in January)
  • Dr. Jeffery Hollander has been the musician in residence for 30 years
  • There was a piano piece commissioned in 1894 called The Pfister March



The three Marcus boys talked about the historical significance of the hotel and its impact on their life and family. Greg, Steve’s son, put it best when he said they think of it more as “caring for” the hotel, rather than owning it.

Andrew, Greg, Steve and David Marcus

The Pfister is filled with special memories for so many other people too. I shared a table with George and Anastasia Papageorge, who married at the Pfister on October 26, 1958. Their daughter also got married there in 1972 and they even celebrated their 25th and 50th anniversaries there. Now, they are hoping their granddaughter will carry on the Papageorge tradition and tie the knot at the Pfister soon! They say that the “Pfister was, and is, the one and only hotel in Milwaukee.”

Anastasia and George Pappageorge


Through all the remarks, laughs and historical details, the most touching part of the evening was that after all these years, the Pfister is still relevant and marvelous things still happen every day.

Timothy’s 2nd Gallery Night + “Wedding” After Party

Photo Credit: Alison Barnick (who also happens to be a Pfister Employee)

Pfister Artist in Residence, Timothy Westbrook’s second gallery night took place on Friday, July 27th. With the intention of creating a piece that referenced Elizabethan, Timothy decided to tell a story with his second gallery night piece.  Using guides from the 1890s, he created a piece that reflects Queen Victoria’s popularizing of the color white in wedding gowns.

Much like his first piece, Timothy’s fiber art is composed of re-purposed materials, and this piece was no exception.  Utilizing white plastic bags, Timothy weaved a fantastic  Wedding dress – a dress that tied in surprisingly well with Art Milwaukee’s “Wedding”, a Gallery Night after event that was held in the Pfister. But don’t take our word for it, hear Timothy’s thoughts about his second Gallery Night and the privledge of being involved in the event in the video below.

Timothy also used the Gallery Night event as an opportunity to exhibit some of his dyed gowns from earlier in the summer with the help of some local models, and the help of Botique B’Lou.

After Gallery viewing ended at 9pm, the evening commenced upstairs with Art Milwaukee‘s “Wedding” in the Pfister’s Imperial Ballroom.

Artists from throughout the city were on hand to ‘live paint’ through the evening while mock wedding events occurred throughout.

“I have a Much larger sense of accomplishment…” 

Check out some of the great photos from the evening below (for a full gallery, visit us on Facebook)…

So Fast

… and then it was over.  More than a year of searching, planning, budgeting and finger crossing, reduced to a memory in an instant.

“Everyone tells you it will go by fast,” said Ashley, “but I remember thinking ‘it’s a whole day, how fast could it go?’”

I’m with Ashley and her husband, Luke, on the mezzanine above the lobby. We’re surrounded by art, antique furniture and display cases filled with artifacts. This sitting area is the quickest to access from the lobby –just up the marble staircase- and often the quietest. We tucked ourselves into this enclave to mute the bustle of incoming guests, fast-moving staff, bee lines for the bar and a scampering cluster of bridesmaids.

Exactly one year ago, the gang of girls crossing the lobby in matching dresses would’ve belonged to them.

“It took a whole week to recover from all that work,” Luke said with a laugh. Fortunately, they “convalesced” in Cabo San Lucas.

Ashley and Luke were invited to return to the hotel as winners of the “I Do: Part Deux” Pfister wedding photo contest.  They won a weekend stay, services in the WELL spa, flowers, dinner and a photography session. The unexpected bonus was winning the package in time for their anniversary.

Sitting with me, Ashley responds to most of the questions. The couple look at one another often.  Checking in. Transmitting messages with their eyes. Comfortable.

“Now that you have a year under your belts,” I asked, “what part of married life has surprised you most?”

They look at each other, smiling and gauging.

“I realize how much I enjoy my personal time,” Ashley braves.  “When he’s out, I can veg out, watch what I want.”

Luke chuckles, unfazed by the admission. He said, “I realize that when she wants the dishes washed, she wants them washed now.”

We all laugh.

Luke and Ashley knew each other in high school, but never spoke until years after graduation when they recognized one another at a bar.  The romance was intense and fulfilling.  Luke said the wedding went just the way he’d grown up seeing them in the movies: surrounded by friends and family; everyone gushing about the beautiful room, the beautiful food, the beautiful dresses; the wedding party all cleaned up and strutting their stuff; showing off the rings; drinking; dancing. I asked Luke if he’d had any requests (or demands) for the day.

“Bow ties,” he said.  “That’s all I wanted. Everything else was all about her. ” He’s easy going, leaning back in his chair, unhurried in his responses, generous with his smile.  He’s not a big guy, but he looks sturdy and strong.  “I think that’s the way it should be. This was her dream.”

I raise an eyebrow toward Ashley. Behind the flush, she’s beaming, not at me but at Luke.

“Every morning when he leaves for work, he kisses me goodbye and tucks me back under the covers,” she said.

“I don’t have to ask for things,” Luke adds. “She makes my lunch, lets me watch my sports shows.”

They make more Couple Eye Talk.

We talk a bit about the planning, the changes, a missing tuxedo shirt, the long greeting  line. I realize it’s almost time for their next itinerary treat.

“What’s your favorite moment in that blur of a day,” I asked.

“My dad telling me jokes down the aisle to help me keep it together,” Ashley said.

Luke said, “When the door opened and I saw her in this dress I kept hearing about.”

Ashley looks at him warmly. Luke doesn’t turn, just smiles.


…and then it was over.  The calendar date, anyway.  Their lifelong celebration, on the other hand. That’s just getting started.