Ron Faiola's last look at a traditional Dairyland culinary institution yielded "Fish Fry Night Milwaukee," and the filmmaker has now completed his second work of appetizing nostalgia: "Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old-Fashioned Experience."
The documentary will formally premiere April 17 at The Times Cinema. Milwaukee Public TV, which aired the fish fry flick a couple times, has plans to air it some time in May.
I talked to Faiola Tuesday afternoon about the project, and started by looking for a simple definition of the somewhat vague term, "supper club."
"I think it really comes down to the fact that it's owned by mom and pop, or a family, and often they live there. The kids are working there.
"The relationships between the customers and owners is friendlier."
In short, they definitely aren't chain restaurants. While there are still a good number of them out there, supper clubs aren't exactly an expanding type of eatery.
Faiola traveled across Wisconsin to sample a diverse, yet somehow similar, collection of supper clubs. They range from city locations in Madison and Milwaukee, to vacation spots and even the hamlet of St. Anna (if you listen closely when you watch the film, you'll notice the locals don't pronounce that final "a").
And, yes, you see plenty of examples of the supper clubs' signature item: the relish tray.
A few months ago, Faiola was on a campaign to raise money to finish the project. Instead, he told me, "I just put it on a credit card."
Breathing down his back was another supper club documentary in the works. He found out about it last year, when he appeared on Rick Kogan's Sunday morning show on Chicago's WGN-AM (720). That filmmaker contacted him and Faiola realized the race was on to get it done.
With the help of a friend, who worked on the project in exchange for a hotel room and dinner in various locales, he got the filming finished.
In the end, "Wisconsin Supper Clubs" was a nostalgic exercise for the 48-year-old Faiola.
"When I was a kid, my grandpa used to take me up north fishing," he recalled, saying those trips would include a supper club meal.
"As I was making the film, I was thinking back about those days."
You can get more information at the "Wisconsin Supper Clubs" Web site, and here's the trailer to whet your appetite:
On TV: NBC has unveiled its season finale dates, with "The Office" ending May 19 with a one-hour season-ender. "Community" and "Parks and Recreation" will also have one-hour finales. Here's the complete list if you want to schedule your viewing far in advance.
- Speaking of NBC, it's rebooting its failing "Law & Order: L.A.," with a two-hour episode on April 11.
- Oxygen's "Bad Girls Club" features a Milwaukee "bad girl." She's lived in Los Angeles since she was 18, but model Jade Kayrina is presented on the show as a "rowdy Wisconsin Beauty." Here's her Web site.
- Yes, Charlie Sheen's "Tiger Blood" is now an energy drink.
In case you missed it: ABC's "Modern Family" remains one of the funniest shows on TV, and its second annual Oscar commercial was the best thing in that terrible telecast.
Thanks to TV Tattle for point me to the extended version of that promo for the show -- which airs a rerun tonight at 8 on Channel 12:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. 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 OnMilwaukee.com.
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.