Writing about a writer is intimidating business, particularly when the subject is as talented and experienced as Dominique Noth. If the name sounds familiar, it is because Noth has been a stalwart part of the Milwaukee journalism community for more than 50 years. A longtime member of the Milwaukee Journal staff, in post-retirement Noth became of editor of Milwaukee Labor Press. Still writing at age 76, there are few Milwaukee publications that have not carried his well-regarded byline.
Noth’s Milwaukee story began at Marquette University, where his father was a professor of Languages. It was there the Theater and English major met the love of his life, a Speech major a few years his junior, Louise. The pair later married and had nine children- all of them notable talents in their own right.
After graduation, Noth moved to NYC, with plans to launch an acting career. In between gigs, he picked up some writing work at Time Magazine. The regular paychecks appealed to the young man, and soon he was spending more time writing about the theater than appearing on stage. Later, Noth returned to Milwaukee to join brother Pierre on the Journal staff, at first as a copy editor who wrote an occasional review, and then feature editor as well as a critic, and later pioneering an internet presence for the paper as its first Online Producer.
Noth and I sat down to talk about his Pfister memories during the time he was the film and drama critic at The Journal. Then, as now, the historic building was the destination for the city’s most celebrated guests.
Noth’s Pfister memories come from a time when stars traveled the country to promote their projects, and spent individual time with reporters, unlike today where it is far more typical for reporters to travel to a celebrity and listen to the performer speak to a room of journalists. While he misses those days, he acknowledges the practice was exhausting for the actors, some of whom would be expected to do up to 50 sequential interviews in one sitting. He acknowledges he often travelled to Chicago for his interview, but if the celebrity was appearing in Milwaukee, it would nearly always be at the landmark hotel.
He conducted interviews all over the hotel, sometimes it was a scotch with a weary actor at the bar, and other times it might be a breezy snack in patio portion of the now fully enclosed Cafe at the Pfister. The critic recalled a time when he dined with a very young Ron Howard in the much beloved former English Room. The one time elegant hotel restaurant is now the location of the WELL Spa. Howard was in town to promote his directorial debut, Grand Theft Auto, in 1977. The writer and Louise joined the former child actor and his wife, Cheryl, for a dinner where the talk revolved around babies and family life, rather than Hollywood.
It was also in the English Room that the Milwaukee Repertory Theater created early promotional pieces for their new production of what is now a staple of the Milwaukee holiday season, A Christmas Carol. The photo shoot contained the full cast in their costumes, seated for a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a camera-ready turkey, beautifully browned on just one side.
Time quickly ran away from us and this was one Narrator chat that ended altogether too soon for me. Noth was effortlessly charming, whether he was talking about the time he went to Gimbel’s with Cary Grant, or explaining the evolution from hot metal to cold type printing, he had me hanging on his every word. We talked of the past, but Noth is very much of the moment, offering his thoughts on the hits and misses of Milwaukee’s current theater season, as well as his predictions on the 2018 Oscar winners.
After more than five decades, Noth is still working to inform and entertain Milwaukee. If you want a glimpse of the work that made him Milwaukee’s most important and influential entertainment critic, this is a great place to become acquainted with his work.