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.

BREAKING NEWS: Marcus Theatres Mascot Missing Over Weekend

generic Marcus Theatres” src=”http://blog.thepfisterhotel.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Screen-shot-2011-11-07-at-5.40.11-PM-300×264.png” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”264″ />Stubby, the mascot for Marcus Theatres, click was discovered missing from the Majestic Theatre on Saturday morning. Several unverified sightings were reported throughout the day.

According to reports, Stubby was seen from I-94 in the parking lot of the theatre where he was driven away, cialis possibly against his will, in an unidentified vehicle. He also was seen that afternoon at The Pfister Hotel, incidentally, also owned by Marcus Corporation, receiving services at the WELL Spa, sipping on a cup of Starbucks and taking a dip in the pool. This was reportedly followed by a famous Pfister Mary in the Lobby Lounge.

“He seemed to really be enjoying his time here,” says a Pfister employee. “It’s just my opinion, but it didn’t seem like he was being held against his will.”

Hotel employees say Stubby received a key to the Heritage Suite and enjoyed a restful afternoon nap before heading to the Milwaukee Wave game. At the game, Stubby high-fived fans and went onto the field and tossed t-shirts to the crowd. According to sources, his final action was leading the crowd in a spirited rendition of “YMCA.”

Stubby mysteriously returned back to the Majestic Theatre by Sunday evening. It was reported that he was heard muttering about the Business Journal’s Brand Madness contest. “Marcus Corporation’s Theatre Division was up against its own internal rival, the Hotel Division’s Pfister Hotel. One modest hotel against a massive 700+ theatre division.” Sounds like Milwaukee’s own David and Goliath story. “I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog,” he reportedly mumbled.

Rumor has it Stubby voted in the Brand Madness contest while perusing a complimentary-use iPad in The Pfister’s Café. Only time will tell if he voted for his home team, or if he switched sides, supporting the historic hotel—the little guy.

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.