By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Feb 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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The Alabama in his voice proves Taylor Hicks doesn't come from around these parts, but the 2006 "American Idol" winner did spend a lot of time here a couple years back.

And when he arrives for next week's run of "Grease" at the Marcus Center, he expects to revisit some local haunts.

"I definitely might pop up in some clubs in Milwaukee for sure," Hicks said in a Wednesday phone conversation. "I might just go club-hopping with my harmonica."

Hicks plays "Teen Angel" in the national tour of "Grease," a role he started in a Broadway revival of the 1950s-themed musical. But in addition to the role -- played in the film version by Frankie Avalon -- he performs one of his own songs after the play ends.

"The single I perform is "Seven Mile Breakdown," and it's off the "The Distance," the record. I just think it's really a grassroots way to get out and meet with the fans night in and night out."

His part is "Grease" may be small, but Hicks said it's the perfect size for this point in his post-"Idol" career.

"It allows me to get my feet wet  in acting and musical theater that will lead to bigger roles," he said, revealing some of his career strategy.

"This is a marathon, not a sprint, as far as a career is concerned. The smaller parts and the smarter parts that you play, the better your chances are to build the arc, so to speak, with your career."

He enjoys the extended periods he stays in a city, as opposed to one-night stands on a musical tour. Hicks is finishing up a two-week run of "Grease" in Washington, D.C.. And he experienced the massive snowstorm that hit the nation's capital.

"I compare it to some of the snowstorms that I've seen in Milwaukee," leading him to wax nostalgically about Milwaukee.

"Loved it," he continued. "I hate to say it, but I wanted to experience in Milwaukee in the winter."

You may recall that back in 2007, when he was spending a lot of time in Milwaukee and even got a house in town, Hicks was the subject of national tabloid reports linking him to Caroline Lyders, then an anchor/reporter for Channel 12.

Neither talked publicly about their relationship, other than saying they were friends.

Lyders is now an anchor at WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., so I asked Hicks if he had talked to her during his weeks there.

His answer was a simple, straight-forward "No... Period."

Tickets for "Grease": Tickets are available for the six-day run of the musical, which opens Tuesday. They start at $25, and are available at or at

On TV: Milwaukee has been the top-rated market for NBC's Winter Olympics coverage for the first five nights of the game, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers. The average rating for Milwaukee is 23.2, which translates to 210,000 southeast Wisconsin households, a 36% share of TVs on at the time. The top five markets are Milwaukee, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Minneapolis.

  • Channel 12 received more than 900 digital pictures for its Day in the Life project  chronicling life in Milwaukee on one day, last Friday. Patrick Paolantonio will report on the results on Friday's 10 p.m. newscast.
  • Short-track speedskater Alyson Dudek, from Hales Corners, is scheduled to visit Comedy Central's Stephen "Colbert Report" a 10:30 tonight.
  • If you've been waiting for the third season of "Breaking Bad," AMC has scheduled it for 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 21. Yes, spring is just around the corner.
  • Kevin Eubanks tweets of his "Tonight Show" future amid reports that he's leaving: "I'll still be around on the show, but less as of now. I'll tweet when a definite plan is set."
  • If you're watching network TV at 10 a.m. Friday, don't be surprised if your program is interrupted by coverage of Tiger Woods' incredibly late mea culpa.

The return of Jay Leno: NBC has started running promos for Jay Leno's March 1 return to his old 'Tonight Show" slot at 10:35 p.m. USA Today reports that the network had toyed with a "Dallas"-like "it was all a dream" promo, but dropped the idea.

Here's what they went with instead of that:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.