Meet Marco: A treasure in eccentric Milwaukee's trove
Podcast: Marco cackles and talks high school sports with Molly
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Marco also loves to take words apart. At one point, he says the word "people" then stops mid-sentence and says "People?! Did I just say 'people' or 'peephole?' YES! 'People' are the 'peepholes' to the world!"
Another time, Marco mentions Milwaukee musician Willy Porter, and then says his last name again, this time as "Porthole" instead of "Porter."
"Willy Port-hole. WILLY PORTHOLE!" he yells out, followed by his signature cackle.
Spending time with Marco naturally makes one wonder how he became so unique. Marco claims drugs have nothing to do with his personality and lifestyle, but admits to a period of "transformation" after a happy, suburban childhood and a frustrating young adulthood.
Born Jan. 8, 1948, Marco lived as a small child near Lake Winnebago with three brothers and a sister. Later, his family moved to Shorewood where he attended Shorewood High School and lettered in track and swimming.
Marco speaks fondly of his childhood, particularly his deceased mother and her commitment to his love for sports. One of his most precious possessions is a light fixture from the Shorewood High School ticket booth where his mother volunteered during his football games and track meets.
"It didn't matter how cold it was," he says evenly, dusting the fixture with his sleeve.
At first, it's hard to decipher if Marco is more shtick than self, but over time, it's evident that he's genuine. Just when you're about to write him off as an acid causality or a complete kook, he reminds you -- through steady eye contact or a linear story -- that's he's really right there with you.
Marco says that he attempted to live a conventional life. After graduating from UW-Milwaukee in 1971 with a degree in physical education, he taught gym at a school in Waukegan, Ill. During that era, Marco married and fathered a son.
"After three years, I couldn't feed the alligator anymore," he says. "There were teeth all around me."
To escape the "alligators," Marco moved back to Milwaukee, split up with his wife and opened a sub shop on Wisconsin Avenue called The Hungry Head.
"This was not a good time, but finally, I transferred out of an angry group of people to the art people. The life drawing and anatomy people. The good people," he says.
In the late '70s or early '80s, Marco started working as an art model and befriended the late Dick Bacon. He claims to have joined an informal group of artists he refers to as "The Art Squad," featuring photographer Francis Ford and musicians Robin Pluer, Paul Cebar and Jim Liban.
"These people did beautiful things inside their bodies and beautiful things for Milwaukee," he says.
Although Marco rarely sees his biological son, now 37, he nurtures lots of peoples' "inner children."
"The inner-child sees the 'wow' in all of this," he says. "This place is a play area to re-energize the inner-child."
Frequently, Marco invites newfound friends into his living space, from BBC drinkers to people he meets on the street. He says only one time did he have a bad experience with a stranger, and that was with a very drunk woman who found his apartment sacrilegious.
"She was on her knees, crying for Jesus," he says.
There are a lot of words one could use to describe Marco. He is gentle, entertaining and deeply interested in people, nature and forgotten possessions. But Marco describes himself best:
"I'm a vibration of harmlessness with an open heart," he says.
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Marco taught me how to roll my first joint when I was like 8 years old... Maybe it was a cigarette, but I still doubt that, he also hid all these rocks in my mothers riverwest home when we moved in... Rocks with good vibes, 20 years later I still find them when I visit her there... Great guy, great article
I have known Marco since I moved to Milwaukee almost 30 years ago. Always the shepard of the flocks...and a great friend to know and love.
Thanks for doing a reverent and respectful expose on Marco. He's part of a generation of people who eventually will be gone. The Eastside has been defined by these unique personalities.
Marco's rocks exude positive karma. If you meet him, ask him for a rock! He always carries some and loves to bestow them to others.
Never heard of this guy, but great article. I would say Freeway Mike or Ray from UW-Milwaukee next. I used to talk to Ray all the time at bars on the east side. This could be a great series of articles.
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