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In Travel & Visitors Guide

We like Fonzie, too, but he doesn't have much to do with Milwaukee.

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Bowling isn't as big as it used to be.

In Travel & Visitors Guide

Who remembers slogans, anyway?

Smashing Milwaukee's stereotypes, part one


You've heard them all before. When your friends from out of town think of Milwaukee, they think of lots of things: Fonzie, bowling, beer and brats ... you know, the stereotypes you really wish would go away.

Some stereotypes, of course, are based in reality. But others just aren't true. Here are a few perceptions of Milwaukee, and whether they hold a shred of truth in 2006. Please add -- and debunk -- your own using the Talkback feature below.

Milwaukee as Fonzie-land

If you've ever stepped over the state line you've heard the "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" comments after answering the question, "Where are you from?" We asked an Italian what the name Milwaukee conjured, and the response was no surprise.

"I watched a ton of great American TV shows," recalls Federico Cane, who lives in Cerrina Monferrato. "Maybe some of these were shot in Milwaukee but certainly my favorite was 'Happy Days.' Every episode was unforgettable, even the beginning with the signature Bill Haley song. As kids, we tried to be like (the characters), but it wasn't easy, it took a lot of fantasizing and a willingness to dream. Also 'Laverne and Shirley,' which I miss a lot."

Does Cane think that Italians believed these TV shows were actually filmed in the cities they were meant to depict?

"They could have told me they were all shot at a studio like (Rome's famous) Cinecitta' and it would have been the same," he says. "I never thought about it. It was never very clear, but I was content anyway."

Of course, neither show was filmed in Milwaukee nor featured Milwaukee actors.

On "Happy Days," Arnold's drive-in was loosely based on a number of Milwaukee businesses frequented by one of the show's writers, who grew up here, but other than the occasional mention of Whitefish Bay, there was little "Milwaukee" in the show.

Laverne and Shirley lived on the real-life Knapp Street and worked at Shotz Brewery, which was a take on Schlitz, of course, but, again, the show appeared to have little that specifically represented Milwaukee.

Brew City in the 1950s would have rocked to the same music and worn the clothes seen in the shows, but that's true of any American city of the day.

Incidentally, Milwaukeeans will likely be unsurprised by the two other things that come to Cane's mind when he hears the word "Milwaukee."

"The second thing is Harley-Davidson," he says, "the dream of anyone who wants to travel not to get somewhere but for the pleasure of the ride. The third thing is the story of the Milwaukee monster (Jeffrey Dahmer), the unforgettable images of which we saw on the TV news."

Milaukee's big bellies are from beer

Go to any festival or sporting event in Milwaukee, and you'll see quite a few "beer bellies" -- hopefully covered by a shirt and not just hangin' in the breeze. However, there is debate over whether or not the "beer belly" -- a human trait that features an overhang of fat above the waist with little or no fat on the rest of the body -- is a physical reality or not.

Dr. Meir Stampfer of Harvard School of Public Health is a leading authority on alcohol and health and says, "Though it's often called a 'beer belly,' beer does not promote weight gain any more than any other source of calories."

Milwaukee surgeon Dr. Paul W. Loewenstein agrees. He says that drinking beer alone will not give you a beer belly -- also referred to as a "beer gut" - but because beer is high in carbohydrate calories, if someone drinks a lot of it and doesn't burn off the calories, they could indeed develop what appears to be a beer belly.

Also, many beer drinkers consume high-fat snacks like potato chips, and are more likely to consume fast food, which is arguably the leading factor in obesity.

Loewenstein says that males are more likely to develop the beer belly than women, who have a tendency to store fat in other places.

"Since males tend to accumulate their fat inside the abdomen as opposed to females who tend to accumulate it in their hips and thighs and abdominal wall, they get a beer belly," he says.

Also, after many years of excessive drinking, people tend to get cirrhosis of the liver, which results in a fatty, enlarged liver, and ascites, which is fluid build-up inside the abdomen.

"They would thus display a beer belly," says Loewenstein. "Think David Crosby."

However, a few years ago, Pasquale Strazzullo of the University of Naples worked with a team of scientists and came to the conclusion there was a "beer belly gene." He found a genetic variant known as "DD" which is linked to developing fat around the stomach, and discovered through studies that men with the "DD" gene were more likely to develop beer bellies as they grew older, depending on what they ate and drank and whether or not they exercised.

Is plastic surgery an option for someone with a beer belly? Loewenstein, who is president of Greater Milwaukee Plastic Surgeons, says no.

"There is not much plastic surgery can offer to someone with a true beer belly," he says.

Milwaukee needs a slogan

When it comes to city slogans, there are really only three that connect: "Big Apple," "Windy City," and Denver's "Mile High City." And, in realty, these three aren't slogans as much as they are phrases or second names for New York, Chicago and Denver.

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Talkbacks

OMCreader | July 28, 2006 at 11:33 p.m. (report)

China said: As a foreigner and a ten-year resident at Wisconsin, I really enjoyed in reading this article. It made me laugh and think differently about Milwaukee now. I think the city did change a lot of its image recently. Somehow, I still like to see Milwaukee to be associate with Beer. To me, beer has bring up a hospitality feeling.

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OMCreader | July 13, 2006 at 7:15 a.m. (report)

brad said: hey whats up... just read your article--every state has a stereotype and they stereotype every other state. if you don't like the the typical Wisconsin stereotype...then move.

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OMCreader | June 8, 2006 at 12:38 p.m. (report)

Antek said: Im lovin deez Milwaukee stereotype's dont you know. Polka music,tail-gate parties,bratwusrt,"gimme a cole beer here!" It's how I like to envision Milwaukee. These are Good stereotype's to have there eh.

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OMCreader | June 1, 2006 at 8:35 a.m. (report)

RE-Cozen said: Funny this is the first time I have actually posted. I usually read your "Arguments." Believe me you have nothing, on anything. Have a nice sad, sorry life.

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OMCreader | June 1, 2006 at 12:05 a.m. (report)

Cozen Beguile said: RE- I still don't get it? I bring the the facts for a debate. Not insults, unless I'm insulted first. You are the one that posts more than me. All you ever do is attack peoples opinions. Ever notice how you never have a real comment about a topic? I guess you can say, I have what you want. ;) That is more than enough for me. LOL! PEACE!

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