On July 2, Rosemary Silagy celebrated 17 years of owning popular Riverwest club The Mad Planet, and despite the bar's ongoing success, Silagy still pours every Saturday night -- just for the fun of it.
With its eclectic crowd and funky motif, The Planet is a unique Milwaukee hangout and a people watchers' wonderland. Punks, goths, hipsters, bachelorette parties and everyone in between mix it up on a regular basis inside The Planet -- or outdoors on the tree-canopied patio. Plus, the fantastically crazy art collection continues to grow, and includes the infamous octopus mural strangling a corner of the dancefloor and the "flying monkey" painting in the back room.
Almost every Milwaukee nightlifer has a story about The Mad Planet, and not surprisingly, Silagy has a surplus of her own.
OnMilwaukee.com: How long have you lived in Milwaukee?
Rosemary Silagy: I have lived here 17 years; I moved here to open Mad Planet.
OMC: What were you doing before The Planet?
RS: I lived in Chicago my entire life, and was working in bars there. At the time, I was working at the Lizard Lounge, and the owner wanted to open a club in Milwaukee, but didn't want to live here. So, he asked me if I would open it with him and move to Milwaukee to run the place, and I said yes. (Silagy became the sole owner of The Mad Planet eight years ago.)
OMC: What appealed to you about Milwaukee, other than the opportunity to own your own club?
RS: I always loved coming to Milwaukee to go to thrift stores and taverns. It's just so easy to be here.
OMC: How would you describe Mad Planet to someone who never heard of it?
RS: It's a fun, comfortable place to have a good time and let loose. Basically, it's comfortable, affordable, funky and psychedelic.
OMC: What's the craziest thing you ever saw happen in the bar?
RS: Well, there have been hundreds of things, but one of the best was when Marilyn Manson came here in '91 or '92 after his show, and he brought his bodyguard with him who ended up picking a fight with my boyfriend.
OMC: Speaking of "famous" people, a number of bands have played at The Mad Planet before hitting it big ...
RS: Yeah, Arcade Fire played here before they got big. We've also had The Raveonettes and Electric 6. The Smoking Popes are already pretty big, and they're playing here July 25.
OMC: What's the worst pick-up line you've heard from behind the bar?
RS: "Can I buy you a drink or do you just want the cash?"
OMC: Do you have a specialty drink that you like to whip up?
RS: We have a drink called the Blue Planet. It's made with vodka, blue curacao, a dash of peach schnapps and lemonade.
OMC: So do you plan to keep Retro Fridays ('80s Night) around for a while?
RS: Absolutely. As long as Milwaukee wants it, we'll have it.
OMC: You're into riding motorcycles, right?
RS: Yeah. I just decided I'm riding out to Sturgis (motorcycle rally) with a friend in two weeks ... I love riding, but I would never get on the back of a bike. Ten years ago I was on the back of a bike and the driver hit a parked car on Humboldt going 90. I was thrown from the bike and I wasn't wearing a helmet. I was in a wheelchair for four months and on crutches for a year.
OMC: When did The Mad Planet start hosting live shows?
RS: Actually, I had live bands the first couple of years we were open on Saturday nights. Then, for 13 years, Saturdays were "Teen Night" which was insanely successful, but after a while I needed a change and decided to try live music on Saturday nights. It's been great.
OMC: I've always loved the behind-the-bar munchies at The Mad Planet ...
RS: Ho-ho's and Cracker Jack? Yeah, people crack up about them -- and I go through a lot. About a box of Ho-Ho's a week.
OMC: So many dance clubs open and close in the Downtown area. Why has The Mad Planet in Riverwest passed the test of time?
RS: I have a super staff, including four employees who have been with me for 15 years. And I try to keep the drinks and cover inexpensive. But mostly, I've been really lucky.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.