Local public relations ace -- and former documenter of Milwaukee's late '60s and early '70s counterculture -- Mark Goff sent a note recently to let me know that long-standing Kaleidoscope magazine photographer Gary Ballsieper passed away on May 14 at age 60.
"Gary was the original and long-standing photographer for Kaleidoscope -- I was another Kaleidoscope photographer as well as a writer and that's when I knew him," remembers Goff. "(He) later became involved in the music scene and other community activities in Milwaukee."
Ballsieper also did a stint as the distribution manager of Kaleidoscope.
Later, Ballsieper worked with the East Side Housing Action Committee (ESHAC) and was involved with Summerfest and Irish Fest, too, according to Goff. Ballsieper also worked as a cab driver and a long-haul trucker.
In an online guest book that appeared after Ballsieper's death, a number of notable local friends posted their memories of him.
"When it came to promoting live music in Milwaukee," wrote musician Sam McCue, "Gary was always ready to do anything it took to get it produced as smoothly and professionally as possible."
"Gary had a great love of music," noted Bob Reitman. "His involvement with Free City Music, Summerfest, Irish Fest and other concert events meant very much to very many people."
And David Brannan, an occasional contributor to OnMilwaukee.com, and a relative of Ballsieper, wrote:
"Whenever something about the 'counterculture' in the 1960s and 1970s in Milwaukee, or about the Hunger Task Force, would come up in the media, Gary's name would inevitably come up, and I would say, 'That's my cousin!' Though I never really knew him, I was always, and always will be, proud of him." Goff and Ballsieper's other friends hold a memorial get-together for him from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 29 at Von Trier on Farwell and North.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.