Famous people get lots of publicity. That's partly why they are famous. The fame drives publicity and the publicity drives fame.
But for every famous person in Milwaukee there are hundreds of other people, not famous, who do things that make this city a better place to live. They don't get recognition much beyond their own borders, but this is going to be an attempt to rectify that.
I don't pretend that this list is exhaustive or complete. It's not. But it is a starting point, and you can feel free to add names. Some of these people I know. Others I have never met. But they all deserve some recognition. These aren't all big things, but many are, in their little way, just as important as all the big stuff.
Paula Suozzi. Paula is a mother of two who lives in Bay View. She is a very talented theater person. She's directed at the Metropolitan Opera. She led Milwaukee Shakespeare into one of the best regional Shakespeare companies in the country until it abruptly folded when they lost their biggest ﬁnancial supporter. She was out of work. But she turned to physical training and started a place where, mainly women, could work out, improve their bodies and their outlook on life. She ran an iron man competition. She and her husband garden and entertain, although I've never been invited. She used to be kind of frumpy but now she's a sculpted vision. And she is a driving force for women in the Bay View area who want to get started doing something that is just for themselves. She climbed out of the ashes and changed her life, and the life of a lot of other women.
Bob Jennings. You've probably never heard of Bob, but you have probably seen him. He plays keyboards and sax and accordion and works with Paul Cebar's band. He's a great musician and a wonderful, gentle man. He's worked with Cebar and John Sieger and dozens of other musicians, setting an example for how you ought to act when you entertain people. He's a great keyboard player and probably even better with the sax. He's brought a lot of joy to the people who have listened to him.
Bob Babisch. Bob is the guy who is responsible for booking acts at Summerfest. He's done this forever, it seems. I can't even count how many years I've known him. Just think about it. He brings world class music to Milwaukee every summer and strategically places it around the grounds at the lakefront for people to enjoy, almost for free. He's had lots of hits and a few misses. But his taste is impeccable. Buy this guy a beer.
Ricardo Diaz. Ricardo runs the United Community Center, a big social service agency on the South Side which serves a primarily Latino population. There has rarely been a better advocate for Milwaukee's Latino community. He has worked in government and in social services. He is a board member and moving force for Latino Arts, Inc., a great organization that helps Latino kids explore the wonder of artistic pursuit.
Frank Gimbel and Gary Grunau. I'm putting these two together because hardly anybody can understand the impact they have had on this city. Gimbel is a lawyer and Grunau is a developer. Both come from prominent Milwaukee families. Gimbel has been a spearhead for ﬁnding the political will to get things done in this city. He is the epitome of the warrior with a heart of gold. Grunau has been a developer of dreams and has helped create a vibrant quality of life in areas of downtown. They are a couple of war horses who have scars but more notches on their belts than anyone would suspect.
Gary Witt. Gary runs The Pabst, Riverside and Turner Hall Ballroom. He has created a panorama of entertainment that has something for everyone. Traditional and cutting edge all have found a home under his umbrella. Michael Cudahy brought him to Milwaukee from Chicago and their loss has been our gain. He's a very impressive impresario (I loved writing that phrase).
Maryellen Gleason. She's jolly, tight-fisted and disciplined and she guides the Milwaukee Symphony through its continuing troubled waters. The symphony doesn't attract a lot of Milwaukeeans, but it's a lot better to have one than not. And ours is very good. Surprisingly good. Running a symphony is not an easy task. Running any artistic organization is a royal pain in the butt. Artists don't understand much else beside their art. But she has brought a sense of business smarts along with artistic joy to our town.
Sue Black. She directs Milwaukee County's Parks. Anyone who has ever had to deal with her describes her desire to get things done as "zealous." She is a marvelously effective leader and a tireless advocate for what may well be one of our most important resources. She should be an example to anyone in this city who wants to be called a leader.
Mary Louise Schumacher and Molly Snyder. Two women writers in this city, one for the Journal Sentinel and the other for OnMilwaukee.com, and a colleague. Mary Louise is the art and architecture critic. She has expansive taste and great judgment, but more than anything, she can write so that people can understand something about art. She is an advocate for both traditional art and testing the limits. Molly is an edge warrior. She understands and demonstrates the importance of families and art and music and she provides all kinds of great writing that is both informative and challenging. When you describe her work, you think of tattoos and piercings and spiked hair. Solid with the bass, but not afraid to step out onto a ledge now and then.
Neil Willenson. I met this kid back in the early '90s when he had this dream of setting up a camp for kids with AIDS. Now Camp Heartland has been going for almost 20 years. Kids and families who are poor, disassociated, lonely and suffering spend time trying to heal. It's not magic and it doesn't work all the time. But it works enough times so that Willenson's vision has been realized. What he's built is nothing short of amazing.
None of these people are famous. But they ought to be.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.