One Night Only in the Lobby Lounge…DeLorenzo and Rivers!

Victor DeLorenzo and I share a few things when it comes to Milwaukee. One of those is history. The other is the Pfister.

Let’s get the history right out of the way, ailment shall we. Many years ago Victor and I first crossed paths when we had both been cast as performers in a play about how one man got swallowed up by the Nazi machine in 1930s Germany. Victor had been cast as the one Jewish character, and I had been cast as a Nazi. We had lovely times together in rehearsal until one day our director announced to the cast that Victor had gone to the doctor for a physical, feinted and broken his ankle in a freak accident. Victor was out, diagnosis I got promoted to his role, and because of his bum ankle I went from Nazi to Jew overnight.

That’s the history, and I was so delighted to see Victor again after many years when he and his musical partner Janet Schiff in the cello and percussion duo Nineteen Thirteen played for a recent art opening at the Pfister’s Pop Up Gallery. All of a sudden we had the Pfister in common, cialis and it felt nice to be in the same place with a man I admire for his many talents.

Then one recent day as I was passing Todd Mrozinksi’s studio at the Pfister I peeked in to see that Victor and Janet were getting their silhouettes traced by our Resident Artist for paintings Todd will include in his collection.

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I stopped in to have a chat with Victor and catch up since I hadn’t had an opportunity to do so prior.

I find more and more that the Pfister is a place for reunion, and when those reconnections happen in the hotel, the folks making contact again after weeks, months or years invariably have their own Pfister tales that they share with each other. It’s as if the walls just draw out the stories, and listen hard enough and you can hear some doozies.

Victor and I did the general catching up that men of our age do. This hurts, that hurts, getting older isn’t so bad. Victor also told me he had some great memories of years gone by at the Pfister with a twinkle in his eye saying, “But you could never write about some of those.”

One tale he did tell me is beautifully quaint. It is so sweet, and surprising from a man who was responsible for forming one of the hardest driving alternative rock ensembles of all time (The Violent Femmes for those of you who need a little refresher).

Victor explained that he grew up in Racine and always dreamed of trips to Milwaukee. But as a boy prior to having his driver’s license, those trips were few and far between. He longed for the freedom that a license allowed him, and had big plans once he could get behind the wheel and follow his own path.

As he dreamed about that new sense of freedom and discovery, he also reveled in the great entertainment of the day, and for Victor the greatest of the great was Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Victor explained that he was a tremendous fan of the former talk show host and would stay up and watch the show each and every night. From time to time Johnny would have a guest host fill in for him, and his favorite of all was the uncompromising Joan Rivers.

The time had come for Victor to test for his driver’s license and as he prepared he made a discovery. Rivers was scheduled to do a series of concerts at The Pfister’s old Crown Room, a classic spot for comedians and musicians. Through the grapevine Victor discovered that Rivers was also set to stay at the Pfister. With the blind resolve and confidence that only youth can bring, Victor made a decision.

“I thought to myself, I am going to get my driver’s license, drive right to the Pfister Hotel, walk in, and meet Joan Rivers.”

The plan seemed fool proof to Victor who couldn’t see any possible obstacles towards success. That’s the beauty of youth—anything seems possible.

Now perhaps because of timing, perhaps because of luck, perhaps because of a combination of lots of random factors, a miracle occurred.

Victor’s plan worked.

I like to call it the Pfister Blessing, sort of the stroke of good things that can and do happen to you once you make a decision to walk through the door. On that day so many years ago Victor climbed into a car with his shiny new driver’s license, drove North from his Racine home to the Pfister, walked in, and moments later met Joan Rivers. He tells me that she was an absolute delight and spent the evening in conversation with him, a moment he will never forget. It certainly couldn’t have played out better for Victor if he had tried, but I did forget to ask him one essential question, something I’ll have to clear up next time we see each other. I gotta wonder whether the former queen of runway commentary had anything to say about teenage Victor DeLorenzo’s haircut. That’s another Pfister story that I for one would love to hear.

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

 

Art and Stuff? I Mean, What Do I Know?

I’m not a cultural critic. I mean, treatment what do I know?

I’m just a guy who hangs out in classy hotels with his mouth open in awe most of the time.

Case in point…at the opening of Biography of a Stitch, the first show in the Pfister’s brand spanking new Pop-Up Gallery welcoming the world through inviting windows on Wisconsin Avenue, there my mouth was open, dragging on the floor, fully in awe throughout the evening.

This isn’t some kind of critique, remember. I mean, really, what do I know? I’m just a guy with an open mouth.

But if I were a cultural critic and if I knew anything about things of beauty, I would give this past Friday night at the Pfister and the work presented by Todd Mrozinski (our current Resident Artist) and Timothy Westbrook (our fourth Resident Artist who returns for an inspired visit) a resounding rave.

But I’m not a critic, so what do I know?

If someone ever asked me to weigh in with a critical eye, I guess I would have to talk about things like texture and how Todd’s paintings of clothing have a vibrancy because of the dynamic layering of the paint he applies to canvas. I guess I would talk about how I love that he made an image of his dad’s favorite tie into a very personal work of art. I’d talk about how images that could verge on sappy sentiment never veer into that realm, but end up becoming vivid and uniquely personal stories for the eye.

If I had a critical bone in my body I would probably also be pulled into speaking about Timothy’s clothing designs. I might mention that Todd Mrozinski’s wife Renee Bebeau was resplendent in a Westbrook gown that seemed to be tailor made for her even though she had simply slipped into it earlier in the day upon Timothy’s urging. Perhaps it was because the designer intuitively knew that he had found the perfect model for that particular divine pearl colored frock. Perhaps it is because Renee’s joyful heart and easy, honest beauty make Timothy’s clothes soar when she wears them they way they are to be worn. Perhaps it’s a combination of all those reasons.

But what do I know? Right?

Maybe being a cultural critic would also require speaking about the stunning Westbrook combo worn by Deb, Timothy’s figure skating instructor. Maybe I’d write about the special alchemy Timothy seems to have as he weaves together the magnetic tape from old cassettes used in past figure skating routines, a retired scarf from a belly dancer, and someone’s recycled clothing from Goodwill into an ensemble fit for a rock star.

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Deb. Skating Instructor. Model. Rock Star.

But, I don’t know anything about clothes. I just keep my mouth open with wonder.

I’d also probably be asked to weigh in on the music, food and service as an opinionated cultural critiquer. But how many ways are there to say “stunning” about Janet Schiff and Victor DeLorenzo of Nineteen Thirteen providing the ideal musical track for the evening, a pitch perfect spread of gallery noshes, and smiling bar service that submitted to my request for extra cherries and grenadine in the sodas I ordered for the three children smacked with artistic wonder that I brought to the event? I’d struggle with how to address that, I’m sure, because, let’s face it, what do I know?

I guess I do know that Todd Mrozinski and Timothy Westbrook’s creations are on display in the Pfister’s elegant Pop-Up Gallery on Wisconsin Avenue right now. And maybe, just maybe, if you want to know a thing or two, you’ll stop by.