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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

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Ron Cuzner, the legendary host of "The Dark Side" radio program, died 11 years ago today.
Ron Cuzner, the legendary host of "The Dark Side" radio program, died 11 years ago today.

Remembering "The Dark Side" and Ron Cuzner

It was 11 years ago today when my mother called me from Milwaukee and told me Ron Cuzner had died that day at 64. I was stunned into a Cuzner-like pregnant-pause silence. I had moved to Madison in 1989, so I lost my close connection to Ron in those pre-radio streaming years.

He had spun his last Ellington "Solitude" intro and uttered his last golden catch-phrase. He and his jazz program "The Dark Side" had finally moved on to the light.

Cuzner was the one-of-a-kind disk jockey who exposed countless nocturnal Milwaukeeans to his beloved music on various radio venues, starting in the early 1970s with an "underground radio" station (along with WUWM's Bob Reitman). His longest tenure was at the otherwise-classical music WFMR. Cuzner’s preferred time slot was midnight to sunrise. Hardly a vampire, he also emceed high-profile jazz concerts and ran a small jazz record store downtown.

Long-time Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel media critic Duane Dudek deemed him probably "the most singular stylist in Milwaukee radio history," who "took a slow drawl, meticulous diction and an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz to almost every radio station in the city." 

His on-air silences involved exquisite timing between words or phrases, inserting languid grace into his delivery – the opposite of Top 40 DJ hyper-prattle. And sometimes, after the silence, the concluding phrase would be in a slightly lower, softer register ("With a song … in my heart"). He knew how such a deflation of tone could convey emotion and sometimes pathos. 

This guy from Racine would quote a humbling lyric: "They’re playing songs of love, but not for me." He faithfully carried the torch for jazz but also another flame, for all the lonely people listening to him. Yes, his music kept him company through all those long, dark nights. But back then, he never knew really who or how many people were actually listening.

Cuzner surely spent countless nights utterly alone until sunrise, feeling sometimes like the …

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The poolside patio at the Camelback Inn.
The poolside patio at the Camelback Inn.
Looking out over the concourse at Maryvale Baseball Park.
Looking out over the concourse at Maryvale Baseball Park.

Cactus rookie

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. – This is my first trip to Arizona.

Why? Well, it's probably not a coincidence that I've been friends with Andy Tarnoff, one of the founders of OnMilwaukee.com for over 20 years, and a baseball fan for as far back in my 42 years I can remember.

The first day of our trip saw me leave Washington, D.C. and its never-ending polar vortex cycle, only to touch down in sunny Phoenix, Ariz., where I felt a sunny 88 degrees burn my pasty skin.

Watching baseball and leapfrogging from winter to summer left me missing spring, which really hasn't come yet to the D.C. region.

Springtime is all about renewal so I'm taking this opportunity to renew a few things this year:

  • Obviously, my authorship in this space is the first thing being renewed. It's been six years since I last wrote for OnMilwaukee.com (remember my Phillies/Brewers blogs in 2008?) like this so I figured it would be safest to start with a nice simple list.
  • Friendship comes next in the list. This is the weekend I renew friendships started before Bill Clinton ever set his sights on a young Monica Lewinsky.
  • Baseball never really leaves me. But committing to a season that lasts 162 games is easier some years than others. This is the year I renew my commitment to the game I love. The Phillies are always my first love, but I enjoy watching every team, visiting new (to me) stadiums and seeing different home crowds enjoying their teams. It will be a pleasure to watch your Brewers – some players I know and a few I want to learn more about.
Miley Cyrus played the BMO Harris Bradley Center Sunday night.
Miley Cyrus played the BMO Harris Bradley Center Sunday night.

Cyrus' Bradley Center bash brings the noise

As soon as the lights dim at the BMO Harris Bradley Center Sunday night, an explosion of noise hits my ears. Tiny lights flicker from all over the stadium as cameras aim to capture any glimpse of the start of the show.

Hundreds upon hundreds of girls, clad in short skirts and leopard print, scream madly at the stage.

The screen on stage is illuminated with a giant picture of Miley Cyrus winking at the audience and sticking her tongue out. Suddenly, the tongue stretches out beyond the screen, becoming a slide and out pops Miley, sliding down her own tongue like a kid in a playground.

The show is just one stop on Cyrus' ongoing "Bangerz" tour.

The music is blasting, but I can barely hear it over the roar that somehow has managed to become even more deafening. The lights flash as Cyrus makes her way center stage and begins to sing.

The audience is comprised mostly of girls, all dressed in the appropriate Miley attire. Some have adopted the short, blond boy cut, and others have made do with decorating their outfit with Miley Cyrus’ face, tongue and all.

While many appear to be about high school age, others look like they could be in college. Regardless of age, they all chatter away excitedly, snapping pictures of the colorful, balloon-decked stage and, of course, themselves.

The concert is a success, complete with twerking, a golden car, a giant silver dog that fills almost the entire stage and an enormous flying hot dog.

Miley undertakes several costume changes, all of which are scandalous, teetering on the edge of partial nudity. It is not necessarily distasteful, but anyone who showed up expecting the Disney-era Cyrus probably suffered a heart attack.

There is one outfit that stands out in particular. It resembles a leaf-green bathing suit and is bedazzled with gold, orange and green sequin marijuana leaves. Around her neck, Cyrus wears a gigantic, diamond-studded pot leaf, as if the reference wasn’t already obvious.

It's clear that the child star has g…

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Get ready for Miley Cyrus to go #bangerz in Milwaukee this weekend.
Get ready for Miley Cyrus to go #bangerz in Milwaukee this weekend. (Photo: Miley Cyrus Facebook)

Miley Cyrus is Milwaukee-bound

You know her from the hit TV show "Hannah Montana," and more recently from her dramatic makeover and insane award show performances (the word "insane" not always meaning good, as in this case). Either way, megastar Miley Cyrus is Milwaukee-bound and lands at the BMO BC this Sunday, March 9, as part of her "Bangerz" tour.

Cyrus was first introduced in the film "Big Fish" in 2003 as Destiny Hope Cyrus. The actress/singer later legally changed her name to Miley. She later took a role on the Disney Channel television show "Hannah Montana," as Miley Stewart, an average teenager who is secretly a famous pop star.

Since the show, Cyrus has released several albums, the most recent being "Bangerz." The album has spawned the hits "We Can’t Stop" and "Wrecking Ball." The rest of the album’s heavily dedicated to her venting about her recent break-up with actor Liam Hemsworth. Although "Bangerz" has a wide range of opinions and criticisms, the music still offers plenty of energy.

Cyrus' reputation has morphed greatly since her Disney days, and with the change has come more controversy about how she portrays herself. Because her previous audience was mainly "tween" and teenage girls, Cyrus is often critiqued for being too scandalous or sexual.

Whether you’re a fan or a critic, Cyrus’ concert this Sunday is sure to be one that Milwaukee won’t soon forget. It’s still unclear as to who will bring more insanity, Cyrus or her Milwaukee fans. Expect plenty of tongues sticking out of their owners’ mouths, and enough hashtags to make your head spin.