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A trip Downtown wasn't complete without a stop at The Moon Fun Shop.
A trip Downtown wasn't complete without a stop at The Moon Fun Shop. (Photo: James McCarthy Facebook)

Remembering the Moon Fun Shop and Downtown '68

I just heard U2’s "Pride (In the Name of Love)," the band's 1984 song about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Whenever I hear the lyrics ...

Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

… I can’t help but remember that April 4 in 1968.

When I was a kid growing up on the Northwest Side of Milwaukee, whenever I had a little extra spending money beyond my consistent forays to buy candy or baseball cards, I couldn’t wait to get Downtown. And it seemed that aside from unloading my snow shoveling income for a pair of Bucks tickets in the winter, the only time I was flush with cash was right after my birthday on April 3rd. Those trips were also pretty consistent.

With my $10 or $15 secured deep within my off brand jeans, I would – with semi-full knowledge of my parents – take the #64 bus east on Capitol Drive, remaining diligent on the lookout for Fond du Lac Avenue where I knew I would have to transfer. There were probably times I was so nervous about losing my transfer ticket that I ran the risk of rubbing off the ink.

Sometimes with a friend or occasionally with my younger brother (not my neighbor Gino Salomone; his parents wouldn’t let him go with me), we would wait for that next bus in a manner unfathomable to the current existence of a ride within minutes available to today’s adolescents with a phone and Uber app. 

I had very little comprehension of where Downtown started and ended, but I sure knew Wisconsin Avenue was what to look for. I pretty much knew it by seeing statutes of old guys on horses. Same statues I probably drive by a hundred times a week now without even noticing.

First stop was always The Moon Fun Shop, where I risked spending all my money on the necessities that only they had – such as fake cigarettes, tricks, counter-culture items such as political pins and other harmless clutter. I loved that place.

Next, we would usually wander …

Put down that beer and take your hat off, too, punk.
Put down that beer and take your hat off, too, punk.

Stand up, damn it!

Can I run something by you guys?

I am well aware that I have faults, enemies, shortcomings, sins and I get very excited when I eat and forget to chew. As a quasi-media member, the general public has a right to remind me of those issues and I can take it But please do not ever question my patriotism I grew up happily pledging allegiance to the flag.

I’ve traveled the world and have no doubt that the United States of America is the best country on earth. I pay my taxes (although I do usually file an extension). I love the USA. And I always stand and remove my hat for the national anthem. Always. And if I am not holding both a beer and hot dog, I will often put my hand on my heart, as well.

Now, a couple of my other faults include being passive-aggressive, as well as vindictive. So while at a sporting event I will tend to get more frustrated than vocal when I see people oblivious to the disrespect they show by not standing for the anthem. I might glare and imagine tripping them later, but its not my nature to say anything. I can cut a little more slack to those standing but still wearing hats.

Maybe they just don't remember they have it on or I have mistaken their headwear for their actual hair, But again, I am not the guy that will yell out "Hey Rob Ford, what the hell is wrong with you, put the crack pipe down and stand up?" (By the way, Rob Ford gets a pass if it is a Blue Jays game.)

Watching the Brewers on TV the other day I saw a guy standing next to the woman singing "God Bless America" (more on that later) with his hat on while eating french fries. Really?

If it is the national anthem, you SHOULD stand up. You of course live in the USA. In Cuba or some Soviet remnant country like Cubeskestan, you risk being taken away and disappearing for a lot less. Of course, you do have freedom here and you can in fact make the conscious choice to remain seating. And if it is a conscious protest, then I will respect that.

But, you also have the choice to walk around…

Steve and "Mike & Molly" star Billy Gardell sharing a moment.
Steve and "Mike & Molly" star Billy Gardell sharing a moment.

Looking back on a year of television addiction

No one on their deathbed ever said, "I regret all the time I spent watching TV."

While I have a lot of divergent interests – including commercial real estate, radio, sports, music, family, food, working out and drinking with Andy Tarnoff – I undoubtedly spend more time watching TV than any other activity in my life.

So as the calendar changes to another year, I found myself reflecting on the past year of my TV viewing.

I just accidentally watched "The Blacklist." James Spader is awesome and does what most of us can't: wear a fedora.

I always cringe when HBO series have their season finales. "Veep," "Eastbound & Down," "Real Time with Bill Maher," "The Newsroom," "True Blood" and especially you Nucky. It doesn't get much better than "Boardwalk Empire."

I am glad I am not exclusive to HBO. I really like "Nurse Jackie," and "Masters of Sex" might just be my new favorite show.

The hardest thing I do every morning is get out of bed. I couldn't do it without Susan and Nicole and Marianne and Sally and Kim and Jessica and Caitlin.

"NCIS" is a guilty pleasure. And no, I am not yet retired. 

I have been enjoying "Packers Live with Larry McCarren." It's sincere (is that finger thing a special effect?). Plus, I have memorized and sing along with their two great songs, "Chalk Talk" and "In The Huddle." 

I also enjoy "Brewers Live" after games hoping to see if Davey Nelson says something Shakespearean.

Ron Swanson makes "Parks and Rec" worthy of what Thursday TV used to be. Meanwhile, I don't know why "Whitney" got cancelled instead of Cummings' other show, "Two Broke Girls." I can watch it, but I don't listen to what they say.

I admit to still watching "Two and a Half Men," and I also watch "Anger Management." I watch and like "Mike & Molly," and "The Mindy Project" is just plan good. There's something about Mindy. 

Recently binge-watched "Scandal" on demand. I get it. It's good. So is On Demand.

I go back and forth between "The Daily Show" and Colbert …


Hard Rock CEO responds to casino controversy

As if Wisconsin hasn’t had more than our share of polarizing politics, the Kenosha casino project now has an international participant, but with a potentially game-changing brand and a different focus on the issue of "splitting the same pie."

Hard Rock International announced yesterday their alliance with the Menomonee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin to develop and manage the proposed Kenosha venue. I had the opportunity today to talk to James F. Allen, the Chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming.

Much like the eclectic aspects of the Hard Rock casinos, hotels and cafes, our conversation started and ended with a couple of interesting topics. 

I couldn’t resist the chance to start with one of my hardest rock trivia questions and I asked Allen if he knew who played lead guitar on the Tom Jones 1965 song "It’s Not Unusual." He freely admitted he didn’t know it was Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. 

"We have a tremendous relationship with Jimmy," Allen said. "And he is in our branding video which we showed yesterday in which he says ‘It was a cool idea then and it’s a cool idea now.'"

Page was of course referring to the first Hard Rock which started in an old Rolls Royce dealership in London. Allen is talking up the idea of the Hard Rock brand collaborating with the Menominee Tribe at the old dog track in Kenosha.

"When the tribe was evaluating us, part of our presentation to them was the brand is one of the more iconic and global brands in the world about entertainment," Allen said. "We look at Kenosha with the proximity to the Illinois border with five million people within 50 miles." 

Before a Hard Rock casino such as those in Las Vegas, Punta Cana, Biloxi and Tampa comes to Wisconsin the effort is a little more complicated than simply printing "Kenosha" on one of their iconic T-Shirts. The hurdles for the Menomonee proposed casino may have received preliminary approval from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs,…