By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 30, 2010 at 9:02 AM
Although he's not from Milwaukee and no longer lives here, Peter Buffett made a mark on the city during his tenure here, recording some of his award-winning music in Milwaukee, collaborating with Comet 9, The Gufs' Goran Kralj, members of Citizen King and many other local musicians, staging his "Spirit" show at the lakefront, and helping to get 88Nine Radio Milwaukee up and running.

Though based in New York City, Buffett -- an Omaha native -- remains linked to Milwaukee, so no one was surprised to see that Buffett returns to town to perform a benefit for 88Nine at The Pabst Theater on Wednesday, June 2 at 6 p.m.

The event is called "Life Is What You Make It: A Concert & Conversation with Peter Buffett," and it's either based on Buffett's eponymous new hardcover book, although Buffett says that the book grew out of the event, not the other way 'round.

We recently caught up with Buffett via e-mail to ask him about the performance and the book. For further background on Buffett, read this two-part interview I did with him in a Soho restaurant in 2007. What inspired you to write the book?

Peter Buffett: For years, people would say, "you're Warren Buffett's son? You're so normal!" Which I thought was a nice compliment at first. And then I thought it was sort of a sad commentary on a number of things. Add to that the assumptions around what the definitions of privilege and success are -- and it adds up to the thought of writing about how I found my own path in life.

OMC: Was it something you'd been thinking about and working toward for a long time or was it kind of a flash of an idea and then you got started putting it all down on paper?

PB: It actually came out of performing my show. Rob Goodman at MYAC actually coined the term "Concert and Conversation" when I performed there a number of years ago. That really stuck as an idea. I developed the show into a multimedia/conversation with the audience/musical evening about my personal life journey and after one show, someone came up to me and said, "that's a book!". That was in 2008. I was introduced to an agent and wrote a proposal and off it went.

OMC: How would you describe the act of writing it? Did it come fairly readily for you or was it really challenging to write your first book?

PB: It was a challenge in some ways. But so many of the ideas were formulating for many years. And I had an absolutely wonderful personal editor (everyone should have one!). He really helped shape it and keep the whole thing on track.

OMC: What advice or lessons folks will glean from it.

PB: I really do hope that it reminds people of what real success is. Not the version society or friends or even parents tell you is success - but what it looks like and feels like to you.
There's a lot more to it, but that's the basic takeaway.

OMC: Any plans to do another book or take this one off into another realm or medium?

PB: Absolutely. I don't know what it will look like yet. But I've learned so much already by having this out there and touring to support it. It may be a combination of book and online serial of some sort.

OMC: What's new on the music front these days?

PB: Well, I've had new songs coming out every month for the past year! If you join my Ning site you get a song free every month along with all sorts of exclusive content. It's really kept me on my toes! I've also been doing a few scores for documentaries. The latest one that's been released is about the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.

OMC: Finally, what can people expect at The Pabst -- concert? Talk? A little of both?

PB: It will be me at the piano and Michael Kott on cello. I play, talk -- with audience interaction throughout -- and show some clips of old commercials, film work and more recent images that accompany some of my new songs.

Tickets for Peter Buffett's Pabst performance are $25 for general admission and $100 for reserved seating, admission to a VIP reception and a signed copy of "Life is What You Make It."


Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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 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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.