Though 1998 was only 15 years ago, it feels like a lifetime. It was the year we launched OnMilwaukee.com. Milwaukee has changed dramatically in some ways since then. Here is a look back at Brew City and beyond in 1998.
Music – 1998 was an exciting year for Milwaukee music, even if most of the big hitters had no releases during that 12-month period.
Citizen King had inked a deal with Warner Brothers records and was busy working on its major label debut, "Mobile Estates," issued in March 1999.
The Promise Ring offered the "Boys + Girls" EP in 1998 as a link from 1997's "Nothing Feels Good" to 1999's "Very Emergency."
Singer-songwriter Willy Porter had signed with Six Degrees Records and was prepping his label debut, "Falling Forward," which also arrived the following year.
The Gufs had released their self-titled major label debut in 1997, and spent 1998 on the road and readying "Holiday From You," their second and last for Atlantic Records.
Meanwhile, Paul Cebar was still gigging heavily, focusing on material from his 1997 Don’t Records set, "The Get-Go," which was his last studio release for 10 years, until "Tomorrow Sound Now for Yes Music People," released in 2007.
All four of these Milwaukee heavyweights were working with – or had worked with – homegrown Don’t Records, which, in 2008, issued "Like Mercury," by Comet9, a pop-rock project of Peter Buffett.
Summerfest 1998 ran from June 25 to July 5 and featured headliners like BoDeans, Phil Collins, Boyz II Men, Kenny G, Mary J. Blige, Widespread Panic, Shania Twain, James Taylor and Smashing Pumpkins. – Bobby Tanzilo
Media – The 1998 media world was a fraction of what it is today, without Google, Twitter, Facebook and other places we look to for information in an instant on our computer or smart phone.
What we did have was the 50th anniversary of the Emmy awards, where people couldn’t get enough of the Crane brothers on "Frasier," six "Friends" living in New York and cop and lawyer dramas "The Practice" and "Homicide: Life on the Street."
News channels were obsessing on what was on an intern’s blue dress and the impeachment of a sitting president, while Will Smith was "Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It" and Celine Dion overstayed her welcome with the over-played "My Heart Will Go On."
Closer to home, WTMJ-TV and WISN-TV were mainstays as the NBC and ABC affiliates in the market. WDJT-TV Ch. 58’s news department was two years old at this time, only becoming a CBS affiliate a couple of years prior. WITI-TV Ch. 6 had fully transitioned to a FOX station, and in 1998 launched its "FOX 6" branding and introduced viewers to "Milwaukee’s Newscenter" and the "Weather Deck."
On the radio, Magic 103.7 died and gave way to contemporary hits station, "The All-New, All Hit 103.7 KISS FM." WLUM-FM changed formats twice in 1998, first to the failed "Great Rock. Real Variety" and then over to its "Rock 102one." And the music industry as a whole changed with the roll-out of the then-new Music Choice stations on Time Warner Cable. – Steve Kabelowsky
Dining – If anything has changed in the last 15 years, it's the Milwaukee dining scene. Virtually transformed from a nearly unremarkable landscape to a burgeoning food scene, our Cream City is finally earning its due when it comes to food.
Back in 1998, Grenadiers was the place that put Milwaukee on the dining map, having become the only Milwaukee restaurant to have garnered a four-star rating from the Mobil Travel Guide, a national guide to restaurants and hotels. But, other restaurants were pulling their weight. Sanford was nearing its 10th anniversary, with James Beard Award winner Sandy D'Amato at the helm. And the Bartolotta's restaurant empire was beginning to pick up steam after the opening of Lake Park Bistro in 1995.
Walker's Point was still a dark dive-y spot, with cheap Mexican fare and gay bars, but not quite ready for the local food stylings of chefs like trail-blazer Peggy Magister and RSA-wielding Dave Swanson. And it would be another four years before Roots would enter the Brewer's Hill neighborhood and change the way diners thought about local fare. Even The Social, opened by now-Pabst/Riverside chef Kevin Sloan, wouldn't open until 2001.
The beer scene in Milwaukee, too, wasn't yet what it is today. Miller Coors was still locally owned. And, in 1998 Lakefront Brewing Company, which was still located in Riverwest, began to contemplate a move to its current location as production had reached nearly 3,000 barrels in the small 3,600-square foot space on Chambers Street.
The glimmers of hope for Milwaukee dining lay with new spots like the Milwaukee Ale House, which opened in 1997 in a relatively new spot called the Third Ward. Places like Hi-Hat and Dancing Ganesha were also springing up along Brady Street. And Comet (still just a coffee shop) was holding down the fort for the developing generation of coffee-swilling, smoking (yes, smoking ... this was before the Milwaukee smoking ban) hipster types. – Lori Fredrich
Bars – If memory serves – and it might not due to beer-binge-induced lost brain cells – Milwaukee's happening bar scenes were primarily on East North Avenue (Vitucci's, Hooligan's, The Globe East) and North Water Street (McGillycuddy's, Rosie's, London Bridge Pub).
Sure, there were a few popular joints in Bay View (Frank's Power Plant, Club Garibaldi, Bay View Bowl), but nothing like the large selection of bars and restaurants today. And in '98, Walker's Point was not an eclectic dining destination. Instead, it was primarily the place for cheap Mexican food and gay bars. Steny's and Timers added other dimensions to the scene. – Molly Snyder
Sports – Football and soccer were kings in Wisconsin during the 1998 calendar year.
On Jan. 25 the Green Bay Packers lost Super Bowl XXII 31-24 to the Denver Broncos, giving John Elway his first championship and ending the Packers’ hopes of back-to-back titles. It was a disappointing loss, as the Packers entered the game as heavy favorites (11½ points) following a 13-3 regular season in which Brett Favre won another Most Valuable Player award.
At the collegiate level, the Badgers went 11-1 overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten under Barry Alvarez and future Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne. A day after 1998 ended – Jan. 1, 1999 – the Badgers beat UCLA 38-31 to win the Rose Bowl.
The Milwaukee Wave went 28-12 in the regular season – including 19-1 in front of nearly 200,000 total fans at the Bradley Center – and beat the St. Louis Ambush in five games to win the franchise’s first championship in the National Professional Soccer League. Goalkeeper Victor Nogueira was named league MVP, playoff MVP, All-Star MVP and the Goalkeeper of the Year.
While the Milwaukee Brewers weren’t very good in 1998 (74-88) it was a historic season as the team switched from the American League to the National League. They finished fifth in the NL Central Division under manager Phil Garner and owner Bud Selig. Team leaders were Jeromy Burnitz (38 homers, 125 RBI) and Bob Wickman (25 saves).
The 1997-98 season ended in disappointment for the Milwaukee Bucks, as they finished 36-46 under Chris Ford and were led by Glenn Robinson (23.4 points per game) and Ray Allen (19.5). But, in the summer of 1998, George Karl was hired as head coach, putting the franchise back on the playoff track. – Jim Owczarski
Pop culture – RIP, WinterFest. Summerfest’s chilly sister since 1989 was spread out over various outdoor locales in downtown Milwaukee, but never generated the buzz of the Big Gig, and the final event took place on Jan. 18, 1998. A new and unrelated festival of the same name has been staged the past two years at the Wisconsin Center.
In 1998 Summerfest got a new(ish) stage – Old-Style Heartland Stage became the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard – and a new neighbor, with the designation of the 22 acres east of the Henry Maier Festival Grounds as Lakeshore State Park.
On the national scene, there was no bigger news than the day President Clinton assuring us in January that he did not have sexual relations with "that woman" (nee Monica Lewinski). He did, it turned out, and was impeached in December for perjury. – Colleen Jurkiewicz
Film – In just one year, Milwaukee and Wisconsin would be on Hollywood’s radar with the little indie documentary that could: "American Movie." In 1998, however, it seems Milwaukee’s greatest gift to cinema was donating our sports stars to act in movies, like former Milwaukee Buck Ray Allen as the wonderfully named Jesus Shuttlesworth in Spike Lee’s "He Got Game." Or "act" in the case of Brett Favre in "There’s Something About Mary," which ended up becoming one of the highest grossing R-rated comedies of all time (added emphasis on the gross).
Only two other movies were able to outdo Mary and her once-legendary hair gel. The first was Michael Bay’s "Armageddon." The summer of 1998 was apparently the summer meteors went mainstream, as "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact" both hit theatres, leaving crater-sized holes where audiences’ brains were supposed to be.
And in viewers’ wallets I guess, because if there’s one thing Hollywood knows, it’s that there’s always money in blowing up the planet and killing off the human race for our amusement. Even 15 years later, we can’t get enough of our impending doom (see "Oblivion," "World War Z," "This is the End," "After Earth", the list goes on … ).
The other, more dignified box office champion of 1998 was Spielberg’s war movie to end all war movies, "Saving Private Ryan." The film seemed destined to win all of the Oscars (and deservedly so) until a fancy little pipsqueak called "Shakespeare in Love" showed up and swiped Best Picture in ’99. Because if there’s one thing the Academy does right, it’s get things wrong.
The most monumental movie of 1998, however, wasn’t even from that year. "Titanic" may have been released the previous year, but ’98 was when James Cameron’s epic made almost all of its record-breaking money and won all of its record-tying Oscars. The movie took Rose’s advice to heart, never letting go of the number one spot at the box office for over three months. For comparison’s sake, "The Avengers" held the number one spot for only three weeks. And for hilariously unfair comparison’s sake, recent box office bomb "R.I.P.D." barely stayed in theatres for a month.
But lest we forget, it’s not all about money. In fact, way down the 1998 box office chart at number 96 with barely $17 million is a little ol’ movie you may have heard of: "The Big Lebowski." I can almost guarantee you’ve watched that more than any of the year’s "blockbusters." Anyone hosting a "Godzilla" viewing party anytime soon? How abut a "Patch Adams" Fest? Didn’t think so. – Matt Mueller