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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

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In Bars & Clubs

Park Avenue, 500 N. Water St., was Milwaukee's dance destination in the 1980s.

In Bars & Clubs

Joey Buona's now occupies the building that housed Park Avenue.

Park Avenue: Hazy memories of the crazy 1980s


(page 2)


McComas recalled that Park Avenue was tolerant by the standard of the times. Gay Night, a Sunday staple, was hugely popular. McComas pointed out that the club also was "safe" for bi-racial couples.

"When my African-American friend Glenda and I went dancing there, we were not objects of attention, let alone scorn, as we were at DiscoTeen in West Allis," McComas said. "There were, in fact, many other biracial couples at the Park Avenue, too -- this in the early '80s. We don't typically think of the disco as a place of progressive enlightenment, but in terms of race, this one was."

McComas' friend, Glenda, said that Park Avenue was special for young adults.

"It was a truly awesome looking establishment that welcomed everyone, and gave you a really grown-up and accepted feeling," she said in an e-mail.

"When one was just leaving the stage in life when you feel so judged by peers and parents, it was very freeing to feel accepted and to be able to just have fun without feeling judged, especially being able to have what seemed like grown-up fun in a grown-up place."

Through much of the 1980s, Park Avenue was the place to see and be seen in Milwaukee. Like New York City's infamous Studio 54, it developed an almost mythical aura and became a place to celebrate birthdays (many Milwaukeeans went there to celebrate their first legal drink), bachelor / bachelorette parties, shore leave (the place was remarkably popular with sailors from Great Lakes in Illinois), anniversaries, divorces and just about any other occasion.

"New Year's Eve was a big deal," Lombardo said. "We would sell it out in advance and I think we charged $75 for an all-inclusive deal. We were always jammed on that night."

Park Avenue also hosted concerts, Jell-O wrestling and numerous themed nights. It was popular with Brewers, Bucks, Packers, visiting pro athletes and thousands of other guests who enjoyed the drinks, music and two-levels of atmosphere.

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Talkbacks

mikeakarange | Feb. 13, 2014 at 10:45 a.m. (report)

My fake ID (shhh) was confiscated there in 1987, but they were really nice about it! Man, I remember dancing to stuff off The Cure's "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me" there. What a great place. Great memories!

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Guygrand64 | Oct. 16, 2009 at 2:18 p.m. (report)

Ahhhh The Park - I actually worked there around 1985 as a bartender - as did a HS chum named Karl - my cousin Tom danced there alot ... Great memories! I meet my future wife there in fact ... Ah the stories to be told - hey it was the 80's - I loved the video mix, where else coud you see Dead or Alive / Love and Rockets / ABC / Alan Parsons videos all in one place. It was a GREAT crowd - sure there was some stupidty - I remember a door guy getting a shirt ripped off his body by some girl being taken out the door by force - things like that - but - all in all a very mature respectful crowd. Loved reading the posts - Shooter Chair - JA!

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dpw | Feb. 29, 2008 at 1:50 a.m. (report)

Milwaukee has not had any place since that rivals the old Park Avenue. Where else could you go on a Sunday evening and see videos by Grace Jones,Divine and Nina Hagen? Or dancing to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" with the bubble machine going full blast.

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JKrunken | Feb. 26, 2008 at 6:54 p.m. (report)

Musician; I knew some tight butt would call me on that! I'm a milwaukee musician too, and I was right there at Teddy's, Zak's, Century Hall (and whatever place you will noticed I left out) right along side you, I suppose. I was just talking about that period of time in the early 80's when seeing the new wave scene on a video at a major club was unique and special. I am sure you remember that pre-Duran Duran craze time when Soft Cell broke and for a split second Color Radio was on a commercial station and everyone thought the XCleavers would get that record contract. That summer in 1983 when everyone showed up at Summerfest to see the Femmes play, everyone knew the words, and they looked as surprised as anyone. That time when the 200 or so people in the scene wished for a day "our music" would be on more stations than WMSE. And then we got our wish... "our music" got popular and it all blew up and got boring... and by 1987 the whole thing was dead. Now if you watch MTV or Vh1 they make it look like they always loved msuic that they barely played and if they did it was once during 120 minutes. But I remember when I went to Park Avenue and it felt like a cultural revolution was going to come because they played a Eurythmics video. That's because at that time, unless you were some suburban bore with cable, in 1982, there was no place to see a music video, much less one that wasnt main stream. Even trying to imagine a time in which the Eurythmics wasnt mainstream, but actually cutting edge, is hard to imagine today.

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Myke | Feb. 26, 2008 at 6:38 p.m. (report)

Another very popular hot spot from back in the day is still open! El Robos in the Grand Hotel across from MKE used to pack em in,even with the outrageous(at the time) $5 cover.The cover is gone & so is the overcrowding.It's now called Scooter's in the Wyndam.It is otherwise essentially unchanged, with a healthy mix of the old classics along with some of today's top 40.Why the DJ has even been there about 2 decades !

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