The Over Under of 40

Milwaukee is a city built on the honest, malady dedicated hard work of men and women who generally choose to tilt towards the “make the world a better place” ideal. Sure, we’ve got a couple thousand things to make better in this Lake Michigan coastal hot spot, but by and large folks are keeping the health and prosperity of the world at the forefront of all their thoughts. This week at the Pfister, some of the younger members of that good people group gathered to be honored at the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Celebration.

As a matter of full disclosure, healing I am a proud past recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 honor. They told me I helped add to the cultural life of the city…I just kept telling stories because I never knew better. I can’t really recall the exact dates of my selection, of course, because now being solidly past 40, the old memory isn’t what it used to be.

It was an intensely special moment for me to have been recognized as a young Milwaukee leader. It was also one of the most humbling experiences of my life since my class of fellow Under 40 achievers included the types of people who make your jaw drop because of the great strides they were making in business, health social service, science, and philanthropy. Sure, it felt real good to be called out for the small contribution I had made to the city, but the big take away I remember from the whole honor was that there are truly remarkable people working to make Milwaukee an even better place to work, live, and play.

It was gratifying that our own Greg Marcus, President of the Marcus Corporation that owns the Pfister, was inducted into the 40 Under 40 Hall of Fame during this year’s celebratory dinner and presentation in the Pfister’s Grand Ballroom. I would say it even if he wasn’t the big boss–Mr. Marcus is not only a smart business leader, but he’s savvy about living a rich life and is no slouch behind the 88 keys (you’ll be happy if you ever catch him tinkling the ivories at Blu some night.) I particularly like what he has to say in this short video about how, “You shouldn’t leave a good party in pursuit of a better one.”

Not really ever wanting to leave the Business Journal’s party at the Pfister, I stopped a smiling man clutching a 40 Under 40 plaque. I congratulated him on his honor, but he demurred and sheepishly grinned back at me.

“Oh, no, this isn’t mine,” said Terrance. “This belongs to my fiancée. She really deserves it.”

Terrance is the kind of big, huggable, steady teddy bear that you can quickly think of as a shy guy of few words. But get him talking about something he loves, and the floodgates open. Needless to say, he had more than a few fine words to say about his fiancée Arletta Cobb, part of the 2016 class of 40 Under 40 honorees.

“The thing I love most about her is her incredible passion and heart,” said Terrance. “She goes into the hardest schools and works with kids to improve their lives.”

Terrance and I had one of those talks that could have easily gone long into the night as we chatted about the obvious adoration he has for his fiancée, a woman he’ll marry this summer after meeting her in church choir. Over his shoulder, I noticed Arletta warmly chatting with a couple of people who had attended the event. She finally wrapped up her conversation, and joined Terrance and me. His chest immediately swelled when she walks up to us, something I sensed happens to him a lot whenever Arletta enters the room.

Helping youth is built into Arletta’s DNA. She currently is program director at Milwaukee Christian Center, promoting healthy life choices for Milwaukee’s teen population. She has worked in and out of the classroom with young people, her heart leading her brain as she has developed programming and initiatives that allow children from at-risk backgrounds to develop positive coping mechanisms for some of life’s more thorny issues.

In a room full of impressive people, Arletta more than holds her own. As a past 40 Under 40 recipient myself, I remain humbled to know that I’m tangentially linked with someone who is doing such transformative work to help improve the lives of our area young people. I don’t profess to ever be the smartest guy in the room, but I do know enough to try to learn from those wiser than I am. Arletta has some great thoughts to share.

“I tell the young people I work with to always follow their passion,” says Arletta. “It’s not enough to just show up, but you should always try to make an impact.”

Arletta believes that impact can come through mentorship and asking and listening. I’m struck hard by an important statement that Arletta makes to me, something I will always remember when I consider how I might lend a hand to making the world a better place.

“I asked the teens I was working with today one question: ‘What do you want to do?’ And then I listened. When you show that you want to listen and work with a group of people, things can start happening. Today, we started. Tomorrow, we’ll continue.”

Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.

The Crumbs of My Shame

I just made a complete fool out of myself for the gazing eyes of the Pfister public, prostate and boy was it tasty.

Call it hubris, call it horrifying, call it so astonishing that you have to shake your head in my general direction. However you slice it, I’m relieved that I have worked through the inevitable so early during my time at the Pfister.

I didn’t split my pants or forget to zip my fly. No wardrobe malfunctions for me; nothing of that ilk. Instead, with no regard for my waistline, I consumed more bar snacks in the Pfister Lobby Lounge and at Blu than any self-respecting middle aged man should ever shove in his mouth.

I love lounging in bars, even though I’m a teetotaler. Though I don’t toss back drinks as I lounge, tadalafil I can eat bar snacks with the best of ‘em. I may be a little late to the party on this one, but, man, oh, man, there are some truly irresistible bar snacks lurking around the Pfister.

At the end of a busy day, I siddled up to a seat at the Lobby Lounge bar and, Mr. Excitement that I am, ordered a glass of ice water. I felt great as I sipped away at my cold and refreshing drink. There is nothing better at the end of the day than a nice crisp, clear, clean glass of water.

I’m lying, of course. Water is kind of boring. But it’s so good for me, and a man of my advancing years and baldness really must think about not drinking a 14th cup of coffee at the end of the day. Water is safe. No one has ever gotten into a bar fight because of overdoing it on H20.

Feeling like the model of health with my tasteless beverage, cialis I noticed a gentleman who took a place a few seats away from me and ordered two cocktails, one for himself and the other one for…well, for himself. Looking at the poor fella, it was clear to me that he had had a heck of a day. He was clearly in for the night and certainly seemed to be the perfect candidate to enjoy a couple of expertly mixed drinks before retiring to the comfort of his room.

I had chatted a bit with the bartender Katrina as I sat down, and with her great personality, warm heart and smile, she confirmed that everyone who works to serve the Pfister’s guests is delightful and charming. As the two-drink guy down the bar started to chat her up in a pretty friendly way, I was impressed with how she was able to redirect his cute come-ons into a fun conversation. It made the atmosphere at the bar even merrier than it naturally is on any given day.

It was a happy time, and my joy ramped up when I glanced down at the bar and saw for the first time the Holy Trinity of bar snacks in front of me. Triple snack choices were there before me in a silver container separated into three distinct bowls. In one, there was an assortment of crackers, in another, some sweet and salty nuts, and in the final, a mix of rice crackers, smoked almonds, wasabi peas, dried cranberries and other miracle bits so delicious that I almost faint thinking about them.

I reached into the bowl and grabbed out a tiny bit of the nuts. “Oh, my goodness,” I thought. “This is phenomenal.” My hand shot into the other bowls. Rapture. Bliss. It was heaven.

Something happens to me when I encounter a delicious snack. The rest of the world fades away. This is precisely what occured as I got cozy with the Pfister’s bar snacks for the very first time. There, in full view of the public, I showed myself for what I really am—a snack addict of the highest degree.

Mind you, I was sitting next to a man who had just ordered two drinks, seemed beaten down by the day, and was making goo goo eyes at the bartender. A stranger coming upon this scene might have thought, “Oh, poor guy…that’s a little sad.” But, no…this guy had pulled it together. He was suave, in control, not abusing alcohol, but slowly savoring his drinks while having a delightful chat with our bartender. I, on the other hand, was scarfing snacks like a dog and dropping crumbs all over my suit.

As I rapidly emptied the snack bowl, I sensed that the gentleman down the bar was looking at me. It was the sort of look you give a kid who has been given permission to eat all of his or her Halloween candy in one sitting. His eyes said, “Oh, little boy, how sweet that you can fit all of that into your mouth. Good luck to your poor tummy!”

I knew it was time to move on, so I gathered up the pen and notebook I had been writing in while I hypnotically ate all the bar snacks before me. I had to get away, and I was silently grateful that the man next to me seemed concerned that I might start eating my water glass. Crisis averted.

Now when you find yourself unable to stop eating all the delicious bar snacks in the lobby bar at the Pfister but don’t yet want to leave the Pfister, what’s the best thing for your no-will-power self to do? Why go to the Pfister’s other bar, Blu, for a Blutender Celebrity Bartender event where the tips support the United Performing Arts Fund.

I entered Blu and noted that a mime was serving drinks.

Someone to tell your troubles to over a drink who will never talk back.
Someone to tell your troubles to over a drink who will never talk back.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get him to speak. I tipped him a few bucks for his steel jawed silence, but I also gave his competitor, a stocky guy wearing a tutu, a few sheckles for style points.

I then settled in to enjoy the view and another glorious glass of locally sourced Great Lakes tap water. My smiling waitress swiftly and promptly brought me a tall glass of water and made me feel like I had just ordered a bottle of the finest French Champagne. She leaned in with a smile as she served me, and as she pulled back, I noticed that along with the glass of water, she had left me another surprise.  A fresh bowl of snacks.

Reflecting back on the moment, I realize now that the smart thing to do would have been to focus all my attention on the mime bartender, the mixologist in the tutu, the gorgeous view from the windows at Blu, or Greg Marcus who was taking a turn at the piano (who, by the way, has some real swinging chops). But the first step towards recognizing you have a problem is to admit that you finished another bowl of snacks in the Blu bar and then said, “Yes, please!” when your bright and attentive waitress offered you what turned out to be your third bowl of snacking delights.

The third bowl just about to be killed.
The third bowl just about to be killed.

My salty fingers and crumb-flecked mouth caught the eyes of the folks enjoying their tony cocktails as they basked in the glorious sun streaked early evening. It wasn’t my worst moment, but I pray that anyone who caught me doing damage to those snacks didn’t think that I was training for a professional eating competition.

This is all to say that the problem is mine, and I own it fully but will lick it somehow. For the rest of you enjoying the Pfister…dig in. Your belly will be glad you did.

October Gallery Night and “The Art of Marcus”

This October’s Gallery night was a particularly special one, not only for Timothy and The Pfister, but for associates across all three properties owned by our parent company, Marcus Hotels.

“The Art of Marcus”

Some incredibly talented artists from here at The Pfister Hotel, The InterContinental Milwaukee & The Hilton Milwaukee City Center gathered together on Friday, October 19th in the Rouge Ballroom for a special exhibit entitled “The Art of Marcus.” Featuring twelve artists, and over 40 pieces of work, this special exhibit curated by current Pfister-in-Artist, Timothy Westbrook.

Featuring work across numerous mediums from fabric, to ceramics to painting, photography and more – Associates had a chance to display an often hidden and unknown side of their talents beyond their roles as hotel employees and members of the Marcus Hotels family. We posted early about all of the participating associates here.

As part of the event, Timothy created 5 awards in the following categories that were announced by Marcus President & CEO, Greg Marcus towards the end of the post-Gallery Night reception:

  Viewers Choice –
 Best in Show, Pfister Hotel –
Best in Show, InterContinental Hotel –
Best in Show, Hilton Milwaukee City Center –
Best in Show, Overall –

Best in Show, Overall winner, Charles Nickles will have his own exhibit at Gallerie M in the Intercontinental Hotel in early 2013

Sponsors of the event included Utrect Art Supplies and Digital Edge Copy & Print Centers.  Prizes across the categories included a Utrect supply bag, gift certificates to Digital Edge, Profolio Art Portfolios and more.

In all, four individuals were thrilled to have been recognized in the award categories, including the Pfister’s own Alison Barnick as Best in Show, Pfister Hotel and Charles W. Nickles as Viewers Choice and Best in Show, Overall.

As part of his Charles’ awesome honor (and probably the part we’re most excited about), Charles will have his own exhibit hosted at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel.

Joshua Hunt took the award for Best in Show, InterContinental Hotel and Daryl Stoll won Best in Show, Hilton Milwaukee City Center. 

Timothy Westbrook, Artist-in-Residence

All the while curating and coordinating the “Art of Marcus” event in the rouge, Timothy’s studio was jam packed through much of Gallery Night as visitors stopped in to see his progress to-date.

Featuring several of his dresses from the RunUp 2012 event at the Pritzlaff Building a few weeks earlier, and his in-progress unicorn costume for Halloween, there was really no shortage of conversation to be had for visitors to the Westbrook studio.

A personal highlight by many were the awesome PBR shoes that Timothy had made for a PBR Art Show that occurred on the same night as RunUp 2012.

 

All and all the evening made for a fantastic turnout, with arguably the best Gallery Night reception we’ve held at the Pfister yet.

You can check out our full gallery of photos from the “Art of Marcus” event over on our Facebook page (and you don’t need a Facebook account to see them). 

Patronage and the Everyman

 

The Campus Theater in Ripon, Wisconsin was the first business opened by company founder, Ben Marcus.

The Medici Family were bankers from Tuscany, Italy. Their initial family monies were made in the textile industry and they were influential in developing the double entry bookkeeping system. During the renaissance they owned Europe’s largest bank.

I’m sure their advances in bookkeeping are fascinating but that is not generally why the Medici name has survived throughout history. The Medicis were great patrons of the arts and sciences. Artists so highly regarded we don’t bother speaking their entire names; Masaccio, Donatello, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, and even Galileo.

The first time I saw a concert in Summerfest’s largest amphitheater I was 15. The headliners were Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler, and Ziggy Marley. I won two tickets by being the 14th caller though a radio giveaway. I took a friend from theater camp, and it was the first concert I was allowed to attend without any parents present to shepherd the teenage flock. As I think back, oddly enough, I worked at a Marcus owned KFC at the time.

Yesterday evening the Marcus Corporation kicked off their UPAF fundraising campaign at the Pfister. It was a night of camaraderie, speeches, prizes, and fantastic food and drink. Employees were encouraged to donate to the United Performing Arts Fund, an entity of which the Marcus Family have been patrons for many years. UPAF’s current tagline is, simply, “Life’s better with the arts.”

Mr. Marcus spoke at the event last night. I type this with a bit of a chuckle because their have been three Mr. Marcus’ over the years. Ben Marcus started his company in 1935 by opening a movie theater in Ripon, Wisconsin. His son Steve took the company helm in 1988. In the past few years grandson Greg has taken over as CEO.

Greg Marcus referenced Oklahoma City, where the company operates a lovely historic property called the Skirvin Hotel. He said Oklahoma City recently invested a great deal in their infrastructure and arts and culture community. Mr. Marcus added that this was met with some grousing by the city’s long-time and retired residents. They didn’t view the expenditure as important as they weren’t certain if they’d see the fruits of their monetary seeds. During this dialogue within their city someone asked, in response, if those folks would like to see their grandchildren. The question was met with shrugging and head scratching. Greg explained that, “If you want to see your grandchildren a city needs to be somewhere your children can be gainfully employed and not desire to move to another city. But we can’t have jobs alone, a city requires an active culture worthwhile for residents spread their earnings throughout the community. So, if you don’t want to have to drive to Tulsa, or Dallas, or any other city to see your grandchildren, Oklahoma City needs to be the place your kids want to keep living.”

This type of conversation crosses my mind when I’m at Milwaukee’s Lakefront, one of it’s festivals, or one of our many county parks. These places don’t exist on accident, and we don’t have free and public beaches because the real estate is undesirable. Decades ago, centuries even, people decided that those areas were worthwhile to keep public to increase our collective quality of life. The idea of shared park space was relatively new, as European royalty often enjoyed exclusively any desirable land. Ken Burns’ documentary on the topic was titled, succinctly, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

I may be getting a little off the direct topic, but I see a parallel between patronage toward the arts and the coexistence of natural spaces for us to share. They both require the conclusion, whether by one person or many, that,

“This has value to me.”

Over the last six months, I’ve been able to gather the stories of people traveling through Milwaukee, native Milwaukeeans, and everyone in between. But years before that a few people got together and decided that there is a history, a contemporary living history, that is worth documenting. They decided that Milwaukee and the Pfister Hotel are worth it, and they’ve invited artists and writers in to actively chronicle our contemporary lives within this cream-bricked city. I’ve been lucky to capture a few of these stories, reassemble them, and hand the bouquet back over for you to experience. Whether you’ve been a reader, a hotel guest, a new friend with a story, a conscientious employee…you’ve all acted as patrons.

I look out from Blu’s 23rd floor windows. Summerfest is visible and far to the south in white lettering across a blue background reads The Marcus Amphitheater. The venue in which I saw that first concert the summer before my junior year in high school. Summerfest; that musical playground of my teenage summers. Which someone built just for me and everybody else.