The Brunchers, or Mooning Over Each Other and Some Eggs
As a baby, nurse Ted screamed during his christening party some 73 years ago filling the 7th floor with bouncing baby echoes.
As a boy Ted walked to school past the entrance to the Pfister every day in awe of the obvious grandeur inside.
As a man of distinction, Ted wisely understands that the best way to woo a lady is to humble brag his way to a date by masterfully cooking an Italian feast and casually doing all the dishes to boot.
As a Sunday bruncher, Ted had the Eggs Benedict.
His love and companion Ian did, too. As she poses for a picture with her beau, she gives a smoldering vixen look for the camera. She breaks it with the sweetest smile, and her courtly companion gives her arm a tender squeeze. I make a mental note to give my squeeze a squeeze…I want to be just like this two.
Ted and Ian have invited me for coffee. Ian explains to me that Ted has stories—many, many stories. In the time it takes to drain my cup of jo, Ted proves her right.
Ted freely and happily shares all the bits about growing up in the Third Ward where families lived close to each other in apartments and homes that were the undisputed center of Milwaukee’s Italian community. Ted reminds me that back in the day you didn’t just have the family you lived with, but you also had the folks in your building and on your block watching your back and bringing you a plate of food when you needed it most.
We discuss opera, as Ted is a fan. He learns that my wife works in the field, and says, “You’ve got something I want…your wife.”
I know he’s not a cad, because he’s so polite and well dressed, and Ian, who is clearly a lady of great refinement and bearing wouldn’t put up with any shenanigans. She tells Ted to tell me “that one story.” I lean in because I love “that one story” that everyone seems to have.
Ted tells me he was a family friend with long-time Milwaukee music impresario John-David Anello. Annello decided in 1932 that Milwaukee needed a grand opera company and formed the Florentine Opera. Serving as principal conductor, Anello did what he needed to get a show up, even if it meant putting his own money where his mouth was. Ted remembers sitting around the dining room table with Anello years after the company had formed, trying to sort out a particularly sticky problem.
“He had a tenor pull out of this production of SAMSON AND DELILAH at the last minute,” explained Ted. “It was a disaster, and we needed to find a replacement quick.”
Calling around, they found a young singer who had gotten panned in Detroit and slammed in Washington, DC, but he knew the role. Anello got him on the phone at Idlewild airport just before he was to head back home and convinced him to come to Milwaukee on short notice once he promised to wire the dead broke tenor some money to get to town.
“The performance was a triumph,” recalled Ted. “And at the opening night party Maestro Anello lifted a glass to the tenor who had saved the day and claimed he would be one of the greatest singers of our time. His name? Placido Domingo.”
Ted has that Zelig kind of quality. He was the guy standing next to the guy during some classic moments. But for this always curious gentlemen, one of the most important moments in his life was when he first met Ian.
Ian recalled the set up for their first meeting. “I had been invited to a Lutheran group for singles, and I thought, ‘Oh…how boring!’ But my friend in the group said they were having an Italian dinner, and I like Italian food, so I gave it a try.”
Ian showed up and discovered that a feast had been prepared. When she found herself seated next to Ted and discovered he was the chef, curiosity soon got the cat. Watching him clean up all the dishes after dinner, didn’t hurt either.
A date was planned, and Ted went to Ian’s home to pick her up at the appointed time. Entering Ian’s he was greeted with, “I can’t talk to you right now!” Ian had just started a job as a crisis counselor for an airline, and she had a telephone receiver strapped to her ear dealing with families who had questions about a plane crash that had just happened. It was an auspicious first union, and hours later they had their first real date and second shared meal. This time, it was Chinese food that Ted ran out to pick up.
“I knew she was a special lady when I watched her handle the concerns of all those people as she dealt with their feelings and the plane crash,” said Ted. “You wanna talk about a WOW moment—that was it.”
Ted and Ian are truly partners, and their time together at the Pfister for a shared brunch is only part of a full day to come. The coming hours could mean a movie date, some quiet time at home, or a simple walk. Wherever they go from there, they agree that brunch has kept them full for the day. It will be a light meal that evening, and if I were a betting man, I’d say that there’s no way that Ted would let Ian touch a dirty dish.