The First Forty Years

When you have been married to someone for 40 years, practical wisdom on how to really keep a marriage strong comes easy.

“Late at night when you’re watching television loud, make sure the room you’re watching it in is plenty far away from your wife so you don’t disturb her,” said Keith with an all-knowing grin. Sue Ellen, his wife of 40 years flashed her pearly whites in agreement. It seems he wasn’t kidding. Hearts and rainbows be damned, these love birds really got it going and understand the brass tacks of happy matrimony.

Keith and Sue Ellen had come to the Pfister this past week for brunch to celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary. It was a “to-the-day” celebration, coming to the Pfister on an overcast, slightly rainy day just like they had some 40 years ago. It was a trip down memory lane with friends, complete with a couple of special surprises.

The Pfister’s Chef Concierge Peter Mortenson proved once again that he has mad powers of astonishing force by researching the exact room that Keith and Sue Ellen had spent their wedding night in 40 years ago. Along with the couple’s married friends Greg and Sue, and Mary and Dan, I had the distinct pleasure to accompany them for their journey back in time.

Peter had kept the whole thing under wraps, and as the couple arrived prior to their brunch reservation, we greeted their wedding anniversary party so he could inform them that he had organized a little hotel tour prior to brunch. We all snuggled into an elevator stopping briefly on the seventh floor to visit the beautiful glittering ballrooms before our final destination, their bridal suite of years gone by. As we tucked into the elevator after our pit stop, Peter had a brief interchange with a fabulously mustachioed man sharing the ride up.

“Is everything set for the picture later today, Mr. Fingers?” said Peter, politely addressing legendary former Brewer pitcher Rollie Fingers, who still sports his trademark handlebar mustache, even if it’s a bit more salt and pepper these days than jet black like it was when he was throwing heat on a regular basis.

Rollie Fingers gave Peter a thumbs-up and exited a floor before our party. Keith and Sue Ellen, baseball lovers of note, arched their eyebrows and with looks of amazement said, “Peter, did you arrange for Rollie Fingers to be in our elevator, too?” Peter explained that it was just a chance meeting, but I’m going to chalk that one up to divine providence.

We arrived at the couple’s 1976 honeymoon suite and Peter explained that he had figured out which room Keith and Sue Ellen had stayed in and was delighted to share this treat with them as a special bonus for their day of celebration. I’ve seen some pretty appreciative people during my time as Pfister Narrator, but the looks on everyone’s faces that day will be burned in my memory forever. The sort of excitement that everyone was feeling as they stepped through the door made it seem like we were back in the bicentennial year when Sue Ellen had been decked out in an elegant frock and Keith and his groomsmen had sported red, white and blue bow ties that bridesmaid Mary had made for the boys.

Peter, major domo master of revels, is high charm mode.

The friends all gathered together and reminisced about the day. Sue Ellen’s bridesmaids Sue and Mary recalled that the newly married couple left their reception without any of their wedding gifts. I learned that the bonds of friendship amongst the group had been formed over 40 years earlier prior to the wedding when all the couples had lived in the Normandy Village apartment complex west of downtown Milwaukee. Jokes flew through the room the way that they do between people with an easy shared shorthand, and it was clear that these six had surely had some high times together over the years. I took cameras and snapped pictures back and forth, the girls together, then the boys, then all the couples, with smiles growing bigger and bigger on each shot we took.

Keith, Sue Ellen, Sue, Greg, Mary and Dan…friends for life.

I couldn’t help but notice that the room we were in was set up with two double beds separated by an aisle. It seemed oh so 1950s television for a honeymoon suite. Teetering towards an indelicate question, I asked Keith and Sue Ellen, “Were there two beds in this room the night of your wedding?”

The married couple bridging the divide.

Keith and Sue Ellen smiled devilishly at each other, and gave me a laugh. “No,” said Keith. Sue Ellen finished his thought saying, “I remember that there was only one bed back then.” Forty years and counting, and all the memories of brides, grooms, wedding parties, and the secrets of pillow talk are absolutely keeping the love fires aflame for this happiest of happy couples.

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

Pfister Files: 120 Years

Over the next few months, I will be dusting off pages from the Pfister’s history books and sharing bits of the Pfister’s prolific history. This is the second post in this series.

A lot can happen in 20 years. Nipping at the heels of the 120th anniversary of the Pfister Hotel, I thought now might be an interesting time to find out what things were like around here at the 100th anniversary.

I found a six-page newspaper supplement from 1993 commemorating the centennial celebration of the Pfister Hotel, which gave me a good sense of sentiment for this momentous occasion. Jean Towell from the Milwaukee Journal said it best: “Entering the lobby of The Pfister Hotel is like stepping into another era – one that’s more gracious and civilized than the one you left. Courteous service prevails and you feel a sense of gentility that’s some how lost in the choas of everyday life outside.” Twenty years later it’s still true, but the best part is that The Pfister has that same elegance and you wear jeans and even bring your dog.

In 1993, Rosemary Steinfest was the General Manager (the only female GM in history), The English Room was the place to be for fine dining and they just wrapped up a five-year renovation to restore The Pfister’s 19th century splendor. The lobby’s original fireplace was uncovered, guest rooms in the tower were constructed, and presidential suites and 7th floor conference and banquet center were added. The Cafe at the Pfister was the final addition, along with bringing the whole building up to speed with 21st century amenities.

Recognize this guy? Yes, the lovable, loquacious concierge Peter Mortensen (and his mustache) was a fixture in lobby even twenty years ago.

Peter Mortensen, concierge and hotel historian,  in 1993. Photo by Dean E. Johnson, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal.
Peter Mortensen Concierge and hotel historian, in 1993. Photo by Dean E. Johnson, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal.
Peter in 2012.
Peter in 2012.












The Rooms have also changed quite a bit. Gone is the era of pastels and florals, replaced by the warm, earth tones and modern design.


Guest room at the Pfister Hotel, circa 1990








Twenty years passed and though the styles may change, the same century-old traditions prevail. Congratulations to all who have taken part in preserving this great legacy for Milwaukee.

The Pfister Picks: Summerfest’s 45th Anniversary

Peter Mortensen, our Chief Concierge at the Pfister, knows a lot about Milwaukee. He’s been helping people have a great time in this city for over 25 years. While he knows the ins and outs better than most, it doesn’t take a concierge to know that Summerfest is the biggest event in Milwaukee all year!

Watch as Peter gives a little history lesson about Summerfest’s origins and speaks with John Boler, Summerfest’s VP of Sales & Marketing, about what’s new this year!

This is a special year in Summerfest history; it’s the 45th anniversary. In celebration of the Big Gig’s 45th birthday, Discovery World is showcasing a special exhibit featuring Summerfest memorabilia including autographed instruments, photographs and much more. The display will go on through the fest and into September.

Summerfest is also creating an interactive timeline to be displayed at the fest as well as online. Explore tons of photos taken over the course of the festival’s history and even submit your own photos.

What concerts are you looking forward to the most?

Getting to know Chef Brian Frakes

The Pfister has received countless compliments on their Marcus Celebrated Chefs series. Many of the compliments centered around the hotel’s Executive Chef Brian Frakes. People talked about how generous he was with his knowledge and always sent them home with extra food. Guests went home energized with new ideas of how to invigorate their home cooking.

It turned out I’d met Brian briefly when I first came on as narrator. Concierge Peter Mortensen was giving me the introductory tour and we walked downstairs by the kitchen. Brian and I briefly shook hands and exchanged greetings. There were so many people and although good with faces names have never been my strong suit. We were in the kitchen but his manner was so welcoming it didn’t occur to me he could be the hotel’s chef. Most of the chefs I’ve observed in the past exude a territorial bravado (and, to be fair, it’s possible I’ve clicked the television past too many “reality” shows where the chef is always yelling about something), and Brian didn’t carry himself this way. He has a calm confidence and an “ask questions first, then respond with an informed answer,” way about him.

It’s quite possible that is why Brian’s events have translated so well. Yesterday Brian and I sat down and talked about his start in the business, his experiences in the kitchen, and how he ended up in Milwaukee as the Pfister’s Executive Chef. Listen in to give your ears a little taste of his experience and philosophy. Either click play below or download the track to listen later.


Getting to know Executive Chef Brian Frakes by Ed Makowski

A Concierge Favorite: “Sunday Afternoon”

By Keia Wegner, healing Assistant Manager at the Pfister Hotel                                                                         

Originally, sovaldi I was going to write about one of our paintings that are a bit more nationally known.  I had heard through the grapevine that one of our beloved concierges, Peter Mortensen, knew a great back story on the piece I wanted to blog about. After lingering around the lobby for a bit I finally caught Peter at a free moment to ask him about this infamous story.  His response was something along the lines of “Well…that one does have a good story, there but can I tell you about the Lorenz?”  Of course I was immediately intrigued.  Peter is a wealth of knowledge; having worked at the Pfister for 20 plus years, he knows this art collection like the back of his hand.  No matter if you are a guest, local or a random passerby coming to view the grandiose hotel lobby, if Peter has a free moment, stop by to pick his brain.

We went up to the 2nd floor mezzanine to a painting titled “Sunday Afternoon” by Richard Lorenz.  A picturesque scene of three people riding in a horse and buggy, dressed in their Sunday best enjoying the countryside; a painting I may have chose to blog about in the Spring.  From my research I knew Lorenz was recruited to come to America (Milwaukee specifically) from Germany as he was a proficient panorama artist.  When he came to the states, Milwaukee was known as the “Hollywood of Panoramas”.  Boasting two major studios, a fair number of famous American panoramas were created here.  Unlike most artists who were brought to America, Lorenz decided to stay.  He fell in love with the American West and is considered to be one of the most well known Western genre painters of his time.  He had is studio in the Mitchell Building on Michigan Ave from 1898 until his death in 1915.  Also, he often displayed his artwork at the famous Layton Art Gallery which was not too far from the Pfister.

What I did not know however was that half of the year he spent here in Milwaukee, teaching and mentoring students as well as taking on commissions.  The other half of the year he would spend out West sketching, painting and gathering inspiration.  Peter informed me that each year, he would hop on a train, take it as far West as he could and from their get a couple of pack mules and head out into the unknown.  Imagine, being able to explore the untouched landscape of the American West and having the ability to record it through artistic expression.

Unlike his more famous Western scenes, this particular painting was done locally, a little north of the city.  The two girls in the painting were daughters of the Memler Family.  Their parents ran a Gasthaus/Beer Garden in the city and their mother (in Peter’s words) was an unofficial “den mother” to new artists that were coming into the city.  The Memler’s would often times let them stay at their house until they could get on their feet find a place to live.  Another interesting fact is that one can most assuredly say that Charles Pfister and Richard Lorenz had some kind of personal interaction; he may have even commissioned the painting for the collection.  The story behind the story is what I love to learn about and I hope you enjoyed this snippet of Peter’s knowledge as much as I did.

Please stop by to see one of Peter’s best loved paintings in the Pfister!  The new self guided tour should be rolling out soon…keep checking back with us for updates.  In the meantime we still encourage guests and non-guests alike to come view or fabulous collection!

The Pfister Recommends: Lakefront Brewery

In 1987, the Klisch brothers rolled out their first barrel of beer and in the process Lakefront Brewery was born. Lakefront currently brews a specialty amber for Mason Street Grill and who better to lead us on a tour of the  Milwaukee beer making institution than the Pfister’s Chef Concierge Peter Mortensen!

What’s your favorite Lakefront Brewery beer?

To find out more about Lakefront Brewery and get your advanced tour tickets, visit their website at

The Pfister Recommends: A Pfister Holiday Tale [VIDEO]

Milwaukee is a wonderful city with a great story to tell, especially during the holiday season.

Take a seat in the Lobby Lounge, relax, enjoy a glass of the Pfister Hotel’s signature glögg, and watch a Pfister Holiday Tale.

Peter captured some wonderful moments and activities in our fair city of Milwaukee. We’d love to know what you love to do in Milwaukee during the holiday season.

What’s your favorite Milwaukee Holiday tradition? Be sure to cast your vote on our Poll on the right hand side of the Pfister Blog.

  • Milwaukee Ballet’s Nutcracker
  • The Milwaukee Rep’s Christmas Carol
  • Annual Holiday Parade
  • Pfister Tree Lighting Ceremony
  • Leonard Bearstein and the decorations at the Shops of Grand Avenue Mall
  • Jingle Bus and the holiday decorations around the city

Don’t see your favorite on our list? Comment below and tell us what we missed.

The Pfister Recommends: WELL Spa + Janice Salon [VIDEO]

Peter Mortensen, the Chef Concierge of the Pfister Hotel is full of amazing recommendations. This week, Peter stays close to home and gets his hair trimmed at the WELL Spa + Salon.

What hat should Peter pick to keep his head warm this winter? Be sure to cast your vote on our Poll on the right hand side of the Pfister Blog.

  • Baseball cap
  • Cowboy hat
  • Ushanka (Russian cap)
  • Fireman’s hat
  • Coonskin Cap

The Pfister Recommends: Peter Sciortino’s Bakery [VIDEO]

Peter Mortensen, the Chef Concierge of the Pfister Hotel is full of amazing recommendations. This week, Peter visits one of his favorite stops on Brady Street, Peter Sciortino’s Bakery.

The Pfister Recommends: Peter Sciortino’s Bakery from PfisterHotel on Vimeo.

[VIDEO] The Pfister Recommends: George Watts & Son

Peter Mortensen, tadalafil the Chef Concierge of the Pfister Hotel is full of amazing recommendations. See what he has to say about our neighbor to the north, treatment George Watts and Son and their second floor gem, cheap Watts Tea Room.

The Pfister Recommends: George Watts & Son from PfisterHotel on Vimeo.