Hudson Wisconsin Nightlife

Local woman makes good in L.A. with award-winning videos, with Gizmo’s help

August 1st, 2014

From “Puppies and Tiaras” to creating an award-winning web series, Jahnna Lee Randall has done it all as an actress, model and producer since moving to L.A. from the Star Prairie area a few years ago.
I met her when what was then the Twisted Grille in Hudson hosted a preview party of her stint on an MTV reality show, Meet Or Delete, where she swapped placeS with another model, from New York City, for a week, and it was all caught on camera (including her replacement’s awkwardness with cows). Randall was doing modeling in the Twin Cities at the time, and it led to an appearence on this show on MTV a few years back, and others like it.
All levels of Twisted Grille were packed with people for the preview party, and there also were cameras there from MTV and interviews done, readying for a follow-up broadcast.
Randall was wearing sometimes fuzzy, white-themed boots and sweater, and was the star of the show. This recollection I had recently led me to wonder, what’s she doing these days? That outfit from a few years ago could have been a clue.
Randall had developed her own film companies (yes plural), and her success in L.A. started with Puppies and Tiaras, which speaks for itself to a degree, and the video Fake Pocket Dial, both in 2012. In her full schedule, she spends her mornings auditioning, days filming and nights writing, she said. Often this work is in tandem with Gizmo the Chihauhau, as part of her film company Why Wait Productions, started after she dedided to move forward strongly and stop waiting for gigs to simply appear. “Why Wait” does videos in the style of series, short films and sketches.
Randall’s work has won five awards at film festivals for best web series. Most recently, a series of 11 shows called Dating Disasters began airing on Tuesdays via YouTube, and there still are a few installments left.
She currently is shooting a music video, which is bringing her back to Minnesota and Wisconsin for filming!

Local supermodel Rayder stayed under the radar, even while making SI splashes

June 28th, 2014

You may remember Heidi “Frankie” Rayder of River Falls from two consecutive years as being prominently displayed in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
That was about a decade ago. But it turns out that — you read it here — this was only the start of Rayder’s career as a supermodel. Somehow, all of the other feathers in her proverbial cap have remained mostly under the radar, possibly because she isn’t from L.A. or New York City.
For some reason, both the local and national media have left mostly untouched the fact that Rayder was one of the go-to girls for four years running in the most prime time of the Victoria’s Secret runway shows. And that GQ magazine at one point declared her the sexiest woman alive. And on and on. The local paper did get it right in saying that she had been on the cover of almost every major women’s magazine. At least once, in many cases.
Rayder made a splash all over the place starting in about 2004 when for four two straight years, she made the special SI edition with about five photos. Four of them were in the usual skimpy swimwear, and one had her nude, taking off the bikini panties but with her arms strategically placed.
All the big Wisconsin newspapers wanted the story. I tipped off the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and they focused mostly on the fact that this local girl liked to hang out with the guys at Emma’s Bar and watch baseball, taking a teasing — and giving it back — because she is a Red Sox fan.
When I contacted the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, they had more trouble because Rayder at this point wasn’t so much of a local girl anymore. They never did do a story since she was constantly in some exotic locale and they couldn’t get ahold of her.
The local paper focused on the family for sourcing, namely her dad and her two other sisters who also have strong modeling credentials.
One of the metro dailies noted that there was a special wall at a special boutique devoted to Rayder at the Mall of America.
But then the story seemingly went away. Despite the fact that she was one of the Victoria’s Secret top models, the GQ reference, the modeling competition where she made it to the top handful and was then bested by Heidi Klum, and the shoot with one of her sisters where the New York Times tabbed them jointly as the latest “it girls.”
I found this out because I wondered whatever happened to Rayder and checked online. It wasn’t hard to find out. After making her modeling splash, she married Flea, the critically acclaimed bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and they had a child. (Which I found interesting in an odd way, because I know two women who were stalwarts on the local downtown scene for a few years, who also knew Flea and had socialized with him on the West Coast).
Rayder made a shortlived comeback, then hung up her heels. That’s not surprising, since in those SI glory years she already was 29, an age where few models are being featured in their signature edition.
But, you can still find traces of Rayder around, even in her abscence. You would think that Emma’s would play up the fact that the supermodel used to hang out there, but there aren’t photos on the wall, or anything like that. A shy drummer friend of mine who I will not name was very tight with her, until she started her globetrotting and they didn’t connect very much. He’d worked at a pizza joint just a few doors down, so it made sense that he once was introduced by Rayder to Jamie King, one of her actress friends who around that time was dating Kid Rock (here I go making another rock star reference).
When SI recently celebrated a big anniversary of its swimsuit issue, and spent some time catching up with its most prominent veterans, I didn’t see any mention of Rayder. I contacted my source at the Milwaukee paper, to see if there was any interest in a followup along the lines of where-are-they-now, but she said “Heidi Who?”
I guess some things never change.

Stars, legal wranglings meant store, and strip club before that, were always the show

June 2nd, 2014

The Left of Center adult bookstore closed its doors in April, but during its time its two sets of owners and managers accumulated scores of interesting items, some of them gained by attending prominent international porn conventions.

At those annual confabs they rubbed elbows with some the biggest adult movie stars, going out to dinner or just hanging out. As a result, they came home with some impressive memorabilia.
The shop, which unlike most suburban adult bookstores had about any genre you could ask for, ended a several-year run by clearing house of all its merchandise, at very deep price reductions, and the building has been put up for sale. Among the things it had available were dozens of autographed DVDs and posters from some of the most prominent names in the business. Most were for sale and were snapped up fairly quickly, but others were not offered for purchase. One of them was a bondage model, who signed her DVD, is shown doing acts that — let’s just put it this way — wouldn’t seem logistically possible.
The shop’s owners blamed the closing, in part, to a legal battle conducted against them by the city of Hudson, which claimed that it was selling paraphernalia that could be used for smoking drugs. They have said that all proper care was taken to ensure that such items were only used for legal purposes. A sign outside the club’s door on main street pointed to mounting legal costs, in the five-digit range, to defend themselves, and this helped put them out of business. They had catered to patrons in the east metro suburbs, who didn’t want to travel all the way into Minneapolis to obtain their adult items.
There weren’t as many patrons from the immediate area, who probably were squeamish about being seen going in. The shop was never fully accepted locally, as its location was not typical — it was nextdoor to a bike shop that catered to families with small children and was just over a block away from a church. (At least like the bike shop, Left of Center had a pair of very affectionate cats who wouldn’t let you leave without being petted).
The adult bookstore’s former use was an exotic dance club, called Centerfolds, which was even less popular among the local do-gooders, a group of whom picketed the joint for a while, claiming amongst other things that they feared it would bring prostitution. Oddly, there often were freedom of speech counter-picketers across the street, which created a kind of circus sideshow aspect.
The club made news all over the metro area, and I used that popularity to milk the story for all it was worth. I called my contact at the Minneapolis-based Star-Tribune, and he assigned a reporter to meet with me so I could feed him information and collect a nice tip fee. So I ended up sitting with the reporter, for an hour, in a car a block away, watching the picketers as I told him all I knew.
One thing that did not happen was use of a great photo I had of the picketers. Most metro papers are squeamish when it comes to use of a photo by a correspondent, even it its of great quality. Like with stories, the editors feel a need to have the content be their own, so they sent over a photog late at night and all he got was a shot of an empty doorway! But that’s what ran.
A different approach was taken by a prominent national legal publication, which wanted my photo for a story they were doing on the precedent set by the fight against the club. Turns out, despite being rich lawyers, they didn’t pay me anything.
All this time, the matter was playing out in Hudson nightlife, as the entertainers and others at the club would go out for last call after they were done working. The club’s manager told me that whatever politician had the balls to vote for paying for the club to move to a more fitting area, like the industrial park, would reap political hay, as families would benefit from the better location and both sides would save tons on legal costs. Like it or not, he was right.
Some of those same people from the club were doing something a bit more unseemly in trying to recruit female bartenders to strip, they complained. Reminds me of one local server I got to know a few years later, who said she was offered to be flown free to Las Vegas for a weekend of dancing, and be paid $20,000. She turned it down.
But not everyone is so scrupulous. When taking in a band in the former Dibbo’s during the heyday of Centerfolds, a beautiful woman came up to me and said, “are you the one who writes the articles about our club?” What followed was an off-the-cuff interview where I asked her, among other things, do you ever feel less than comfortable when gyrating in front of, say, a toothless 70-year-old with bad breath?
Her answer. “No. It’s a turn-on that they want me that bad.”
Centerfolds’ main owner, the Thor Gunderson, had said that if the city succeeded in closing down his dance club, he would come back with something with even nastier content. He seemed to have succeeded, as Left of Center catered to many kinds of kinky fetishes in its extensive video section, which took up the entire back room where the dancers once were. In front were all kinds of adult novelties, but what made their business unusual was the almost complete absence of magazines.
How do I know so much about Left of Center? As a reporter for a community newspaper, I felt the community had a right to know just what was — and was not — being offered in their midst. So, every once in a while I happened in, (hey, it’s a tough job), just to make sure that the content wasn’t getting too racy, and worthy of a follow-up story. What I found was that at any given time, there was a particular type of kink that seemed to be featured. The aforementioned do-gooders seemed to think that they had won when the strip club closed, but they maybe should have been even more offended but what took its place.
One thing that I felt should have been reported was that, by all accounts, Centerfolds was not as permissive about what the dancers could get away with doing as some other clubs in St. Croix County at the time. Centerfolds even had bouncers sitting from a high perch to watch and see that no touching occurred, various employees said. Again, I felt that the public should know this, but I was essentially censored by the powers-that-be at the Star-Observer, who said that there’s was a family newspaper (whatever that is?) Better to put the mangled aftermath of a car crash on the front page.
Also, in my initial report I had any kind of content edited out that described just what happens at a strip club. It also didn’t go over too well when Gunderson made a stab at being community minded and tried to join the local Rotary Club.
In my first story, reporters became aware that a longtime business at the same site, the Sandbar, had lost it lease. So on a Thursday night, the operators threw an invitation-only party to let’s just say unload their inventory, since they had to be out the next day. That was quite a party.
Over the weekend, it became obvious that extensive remodeling was being done. Everyone assumed another bar and grill was going in. So I went over on Monday night to talk to the owners, thinking I would be doing a brief item about it for the business page. When I walked to the door and was told, “that will be a $5 cover,” I knew something more was afoot. Once inside, I saw that there already were strobe lights — and dancers — flashing.
Gunderson had found a weakness in the city ordinance on cabarets, and moved in quickly. The city fathers were not pleased, and after much legal maneuvering were able to shut the place down, by making a requirement that dancers needed to keep a certain distance from customers. Since the dance room was long and narrow, and the stage had seating on both sides, there was not enough space available to meet the new rule.

Man of the year finals foster frivolous fun, aid charity

May 13th, 2014

Soon, come the end of May, a North Hudson man of the year will be selected by the principals at Kozy Korner — whether he wants to be or not.┬áJust because he beat out 67 others, doesn’t mean he is going to pound his chest. There’s too much fun to be had.

The event, one part charitable event and another part good-natured humor that can be self-deprecating, will see a field of several dozen people, who may be brash or humble, gradually eliminated until a winner is named.
The low-key event, in its fifth year, is not just the brainchild of people at Kozy Korner, they say. The North Hudson man of the year doesn’t necessarily even have to be from North Hudson, although it helps. Contestants have also come from the city or town of Hudson or the area surrounding the village, and may even be from farther afield if they have the backing of local people.
The voting runs six weeks and helps charitable causes, and the winner will be selected during an evening number-crunching session at Kozy in the last weekend of the month, then announced the next day.
The total of 68 who would be man of the year are listed on brackets displayed inside Kozy Korner, mirroring the big posters seen during the NCAA basketball tournament, which airs on their TVs. Past winners were Kirk Nelson, Denny McGinley, Tom Boron and in a tie, Mike Hennessey and Tad Landry.
As far as this year, co-owner Ryan Nelson doesn’t want to jinx anyone, but when pushed said his inkling about a winner leans toward brother Kirk — again — or Bob Dabruzzi. Ryan said their father and one of his best friends once ended up head-to-head, which humor has it caused them to become mortal enemies. Husbands and wives are sometimes paired off against each other to produce comic effect.
In this just-for-fun event, contestants go head-to-head at Kozy each time around, and it costs $1 to vote. There is no limit on how many times you can cast your ballot, and since this is for charity, that’s all the better. Aaron Rodgers, the star Packer quarterback, was even nominated once, and he made it to the third round, Ryan said.
On one occasion, a number of members of the owning Nelson family all made it to the finals, which caused some people to jokingly suggest the contest was rigged.
Some people really get into it and want to win, while others don’t really care that much. There is no coronation, although the winners get to ride in a Pepperfest Parade float and a routine developed where they are the target of water balloons. There may be a plaque listing the winners put together at some point, although no one appears to be really pushing for that, and there have been jokes about procuring some Green Jackets, in Masters golfing style, Ryan said.
This year, the charitable recipients are North Hudson’s Todd Paulson, who has had a series of serious medical concerns stemming from a bad infection, and the Hudson backpack program. A total of $2,000 is expected to be raised.

 

From the Katwatch: Elite eight was reached with a landslide performance

May 2nd, 2014

When Kat Perkins made it to the top 10 for The Voice by singing the lyrics “ooh la la,” it was an obvious choice, said celebrities heading opposite teams, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.
Then, when it came time to record a “save” and advance to the top eight on Tuesday night, Perkins did so by a landslide.
“If that won’t be good enough to let you win (the competition), I don’t know what will,” Shelton said of Perkins, who is from the Twin Cities and still has lots of fans in the Hudson area, where she used to perform.
Come crunch time, Perkins got a whopping 58 percent of the country’s phone-in vote to advance over two other singers. Such a last-chance “save” singer has never won the overall crown before, but Levine said it now is time. If you vote for her, he virtually guaranteed she will break the drought, move up by way of the back bracket, and win this season’s Voice contest.
Local fans noticed various nuances. It was a rival who early in the show did something more typical of Perkins and performed a Heart song. And the former nanny was back with piercings prominent, in the form of a nose ring, as she has switched around from performing with that kind of hairstyle and garb, to styles that are sexier such as short skirts.
As said by one of her contemporaries who plays Hudson, singer Amy M of the “Miniskirts and Mustaches tour,” Perkins is a small person with a big voice, originating from her big chest.

Singer ‘Kat’ purrs with Heart, and performing ‘Magic,’ to rock the Voice — minus lip ring

April 19th, 2014

A Twin Cities singer who has often played venues in the Hudson area has advanced to the fourth and live round of The Voice, which is no surprise to her local fans.

OK, now Kat Perkins as an update has made it through the fifth round, too, covering Magic Man by Heart — a rock band led by Ann and Nancy Wilson that as a little known fact also got its start, in part, singing in Wisconsin watering holes decades back. There’s was the Howard Johnson’s lounge in Wausau, which was advertised in the local paper with postage-stamp-size ads sporting just their faces.

But not to digress, Perkins had changed her look, too, ditching the lip ring she’d sported in the earlier rounds.
One of her local fans, Thomas Bothun, said he would have liked to have seen more of the less is more in her new look — going back to her old trademark fishnet tights, short skirt and puss and kitty boots.

Bothun wasn’t surprised to see”Perkins cover a song by K.T. Tunstall to advance to the third round earlier in the month, since he had seen her perform this and at least one other tune by Tunstall a number of times with her band, Scarlet Haze. Over an almost ten-year period during which he’d seen her perform, that’s a lot of hits covered.
Bothun added he was a bit shagrinned to see that the Tunstall song selected included the lyrics “You’re Not The One For Me,” from “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” since in former days, Perkins had the habit of sometimes looking his way if she’d spot him in the crowd.
Perkins also had a habit of once in a while approaching someone like Bothun between sets and giving them a peck on the cheek.
That kind of interaction also made her popular with Bill Heffron, who attended concerts in Hudson for decades and later moved to New Richmond and is an active part of the local scene there. With the recent news, Heffron got a reminder from Bothun and others of late that he still owes them copies of an especially cool video of Perkins he shot (more on than later).
Bothun also said about that recent individual contest on The Voice, that it was noteworthy she triumphed while going up against a duet, not just a single vocalist like herself.
That upward movement was allowed, in part, because judge and coach Adam Levine, of Maroon 5 fame, seems to have a thing for Perkins, Bothun said. It was he who exercised his option earlier in the week to get her to advance, the last singer of the night to do so, by performing an improvised version of Journey’s Open Arms while wearing a sparkly black dress. Her sex-appeal was one of the things that initially gained her fame amongst Twin Cities and Hudson area audiences, and it was sometimes bolstered by singing in a catsuit that complimented her long dark locks, complete with tail, especially on or around holidays such as Halloween or New Years.
Perkins got as far as the third round on the strength of two Fleetwood Mac standards, the second contest of which also involved a duet. Both songs wowed the judges and they raved about her to the point of fighting over who would get to have her on their team. The first song covered, in live auditions, was by Stevie Nicks, Gold Dust Women, and Perkins’ long-held, wavering notes near the end served notice that The Voice had a frontrunner.
When the announcement of Perkins’ initial appearance on The Voice was making its way around downtown Hudson nightclubs in the weekend before the airing, patrons began digging up their old videos of her band playing local venues like Dibbo’s. Some even suggested trying to get them on You Tube.
One of those was Heffron, who walked into the front room of Dick’s Bar and Grill around 11 p.m. that Sunday and immediately began spreading the news to anyone whom he thought might be interested. Heffron said he was soon able to find a number of pieces of video footage he’d shot. One was taken of Heffron himself, as he and a friend dancing right in front of the Dibbo’s stage — with Perkins in the immediate background singing a number.
Chris Martin of Coldplay has been selected as a surprise celebrity coach and his musical style should be a good fit for Perkins, Bothun said. “She looked just giddy when she saw him (introduced).”
Perkins married her drummer in Scarlet Haze a few years ago, and took a few years off to work as a nanny in Edina, Minn., but the itch of the stage got her to come back, via a recent move to Los Angeles. Local followers had last seen her at a farewell Dibbo’s performance, but since then at times wondered aloud whatever had become of Scarlet Haze. But now “Kat,” as she is affectionately known, is back with more songs and even a few more tattoos — don’t tell Bothun’s mom that. She had said she was glad to see the lip ring go.
“I want to thank you for taking me to another level and believing in me,” she told Levine on stage. Another principal for the Voice, in laying the groundwork for things to come, said all the remaining contestants — and there are not many — all have different styles, but Kat is all rock ‘n roll.That even for a nanny, as Levine pointed out.

Impromptu picking by Spanish man creates Ouds and Ahhs

April 3rd, 2014

The reign of the player from Spain was definitely not plain.
When finding himself in Hudson on Sunday night, Amir-John Haddad of Spanish and German ancestry put on a show by playing his Oud, an instrument that drew comparsions to a lute and sitar.
He was joined on stage by veritable longtime bassist and singer Tom Davies, a friend who brought Haddad down to Dick’s Bar and Grill to see the Jeff Loven one-man-band. Loven played lead guitar to complete the unlikely trio of instruments, and they ripped through songs by Metallica (For Whom the Bell Tolls) and Aerosmith (Walk This Way), not to mention Dueling Banjos (without the banjo) and a couple of tunes from Carlos Santana (where the Oud was a much more probable fit). Loven is known for often bringing guest musicians on stage, usually those who are prominent in regional bands, and letting them steal the spotlight for a song or two. For Haddad it was more tunes then that, as he brought his fast, power-picking to the Metallica song, and it was often he who let loose a flurry of staccato notes, not Loven, who is known for just that.
That metal cover of a regular Sunday night song drew raves from even longtime concert-goers who have seen everything. “I know Jeff (is great), but this is the most fantastic thing I’ve ever seen,” said regular listener and occasional guest guitarist Dan McVeigh. He said that in the first collaboration of the trio’s series of songs that was a foreign style, it seemed the way the Oud was played, with its different scales and presentation of octaves, took a little getting used to by the other two guitarists.
Unlike those more conservative looking musicians, Haddad had flowing dark hair down his back, and truly looked like a rock star — and in addition to the long locks and olive skin tone, also had the short stature of the late heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio. That’s the same kind of hair Loven had when playing with Davies locally and in the Twin Cities in The Kilowatts in the 1990s. Davies went on to other endeavors, such as playing backup for Motley Crue, McVeigh remembers. That newfound fan began greeting people who were coming in the door to hurry up, because they would not believe what they were about to see and the crowd kept on growing as word spread. Many of the patrons began videotaping so they would have a keepsake.
Haddad’s instrument had a clear, see-through body and its strings were arranged in a cone fashion as they tapered to the top, which flared off at a 45 degree angle. The Oud has no frets and its strings produce a plucky sound, since they are made of nylon, McVeigh said.
Haddad, who often plays with a full band and was in the area because of a pair of Minneapolis appearances, followed by a trip to Costa Rico, plays flamenco, oriental, fusion, rock, funk, metal and world music, according to his web site, which also shows him in various poses that could be right off of a metal CD jacket. It added that there are two types of Ouds, Turkish and Arabic, the latter is the most prevalent and features five doubles strings and bass.

When besting the powers that be, be careful with whom you hang, bar patrons say

March 28th, 2014

As I look back at our often terroristic times, I see you don’t mess with the powers that be, whether they are federal, state or local, and lawmakers or law enforcement, or your partying days — or at least phone freedom to call your buds — may be cut short.
– With all the criticism of the National Security Administration this story, which was never before told, comes to mind. I used to hang with a part-time college student at Pudge’s Bar and talk about writing, and one night he told me he’d met the terrorist who had lived in the Twin Cities and took flying lessons so he allegedly could conduct an attack, and now has been put away for probably the rest of his life. We discussed the possibility of a newspaper article, since he and the terrorist by chance had ended up in the same study group. They never talked about politics or unrest, and the terrorist tried to do guy talk about sports but it was awkward. We agreed that if there was to be any story, it would not be about political agendas, but about what this guy was like — the student noted that one thing that stood out is that he was very easily influenced by other people. But still, the student at one point had a couple of men in black suits show up at his door and take him for a drive, showing him scenes along the way and asking him questions about what he had experienced in those areas. So, we decided to bunch the story, at least for a time, since (here comes the NSA tie-in) we didn’t want to get our phones bugged.
– Here’s another news item that also never got published, from another guy patron at the same bar. It seems that he knew of a situation on Cove Road along the St. Croix River where a neighbor had complained about people walking along the beach a stone’s throw from the water — and the issue occurred about how far from the water the land ownership rights begin. The matter was set to go to court, but again a decision was made not to rock the boat as far as comments on the proceedings, by the guy with the tip himself as he didn’t want to piss off people he had to live near.
– This story was told at Guv’s Place in Houlton, about goings on across the river. A group of people had a bit too much to drink, so they sent out a sober decoy to fake a stumble over to his car. While the local police focused their attention on that person, others in his party who were merely borderline were able to make their way home unscathed.
– Also at Guv’s, another conversation about being head’s up around the authorities: A patron said that when with a fellow cosmetology student in Oakdale, Minn., she got late to class for a compelling reason. She put in gas, then opened the trunk to get her purse and go in to pay. When she came back out, the cops were looking in her trunk. It seems that someone had called in a report of body parts stowed there. The actuality is they were mannequin heads used for haircut training.
– Yet another Hudson connection has been unveiled on The Voice, and she has totally rocked the house, and the judges, in the first two rounds with her version of Fleetwood Mac songs. Cat Perkins of the Scarlet Haze band has some people locally whom she would recognize while on stage and maybe even give them a kiss on the cheek between sets, while playing places like Dibbo’s — maybe even wearing a cat suit complete with tail. When news of her Voice audition spread, people like my friend Bill quickly went to their video libraries to unearth footage of them dancing to Cat’s vocal strains, with her shown in the background.
– Jeff Loven of one-man-band fame almost raised his star to an even higher level, but it turned out he was just too busy with his almost-every-night playing schedule to fit it in. The people from America’s Got Talent had contacted him about performing live his original song — although borrowing heavily from the likes of Metallica — called the Heavy Metal Polka. Jeff trades in his guitar for an accordian on the video, which was filmed showing him in German garb about two years ago at Mike’s Em Pour E Yum in the town of Hudson.
– Do do, do do, do do, do do, as go both the Twilight Zone theme song and others that are pertinent: A bartender at Guv’s says that on two straight shifts the song Tiny Dancer ran through her head for several minutes as she started work — then somebody played the Elton John ballad on the jukebox. Much the same, a patron at Dick’s Bar and Grill said that an obscure ’70s song playing on THEIR jukebox was her fave, to which my buddy Tom sitting the next stool over said he used to play it as part of the horn section back when he was in high school.

We may still be in the death of winter, but not afraid of no ghosts (or Ghostbusters)

March 12th, 2014

Some noteworthy people have died in this, the death of winter, and my computer is over a virus of its own, so here are the cold facts:

– Yes, Shirley Temple has passed on, and not from liver or kidney disease, I’m sure. To keep that from happening locally, a man at Guv’s Place in Houlton asked the bartender to take away a half-empty — of course we won’t say half-full — glass of beer, and he then ordered a Shirley Temple drink in honor of her death. That same night, there was also plenty of talk about Flappy Birds, the popular video game. It was abruptly recalled after a gamer was killed, and prices for phones with it still on were selling for thousands on e-Bay. My friend Joe put his phone up for sale at the cut-rate of $4,000 but had no luck, possibly because a bartender said in response to his eager description of the game, “Flappy Who?”
– Actor Harold Ramus also is dead, and it’s not from a hubcap chicken bone. However, it is true that Ramus co-star Bill Murray was a good friend of the late owner of Dick’s Bar and Grill, Fred Kremer, and going back years, either of the Ghostbuster actors would dine here when they were in town on business, such as with ownership of the St. Paul Saints. Once my friend Marcy noticed that it was Ramus at a table and when serving him a drink messed with him and asked to see ID. She then gleefully showed her co-workers in the kitchen. I’m guessing that the drink was the house brand of Lucky Dog; at least it was lucky for Marcy.
– Also at that tavern, it was first seen that the Perfesser from Gilligan’s Island also had died, renewing the old debate of Ginger vs. Mary Ann. A bit later at the Oscars, there was another show biz item with a local tie-in, the nominations from a film about ocean-going Captain Phillips (by an aging Tom Hanks) who fought Somali pirates (no models themselves), and had River Falls relatives who kept a vigil while TV news unfolded. Let it be known there was no such hottie vs. hottie debate this time.
– There were three forms of “Cash” at recent Jeff Loven, one-man-band shows, (and they were not down-payments on that “new car” he always gives away at trivia contests). Guest artist Dave sang the oft-covered Folsom Prison Blues while sounding eerily like Johnnie Cash himself, longtime patron Justin was the first person in recent memory to shout out the answer while sitting far away in the other room, and a couple, while getting some money at the outdoor ATM and not having their transaction be frozen, prompted me to say, “hey, are you getting some cold, hard cash?” Ugh. Almost as hard as how I accidentally bit my lip recently when quasi-slam-danced by a groupie while I sang.
– What’s with all these people from around Miami who come to Hudson at times when there’s weather they just can’t handle? A friend of mine was at Dick’s waiting to meet up with his new on-line girlfriend, who a while back had hopped a bus from Florida and was now on her way here, facing temperatures that got colder with each state line crossed. We joked that maybe he should go there, or that she might turn around and hop a bus back to the Orange State about the time she hits Ohio. (I later found out that is indeed where she is from). Happily, I saw the couple dancing downtown the other night, so I know she actually arrived, and there was teasing about if she could fit in with the Wisconsin drinking tradition, since is was said hotter temps thin your blood. Then, at Green Mill, a couple of women who I must admit were not really that juiced, joked that “you can’t 86 us, we’re Floridians.” Apparently they thought they wouldn’t make it far if trudging back to their nearby motel rooms. Not to be outdone, earlier in March a California girl who had hopped a plane to come here but didn’t think that she could just stay at the airport, asked if someone could lend her a coat. Since this is not the beach, better give her some layers of clothing too.
– The continuing cold had brought back memories of rare such temperatures last winter, when at one time snowballs shaped like hockey pucks rolled across the snowy sidewalk outside of Dick’s, blown by icy winds and leaving a long track. Inside I had seen on TV that there is a weather term for this, but being near last call, I am a bit fuzzy on the details. As far as another weather-related term, icebergs, there is no truth to the rumor that it’s been so cold there have been some of these seen floating down the (now frozen) St. Croix River. It is true that a man was seen wearing a costume downtown of a snowsuit decorated as a skeleton.
– On the same day, metro daily newspapers harped that a officially prescribed prohibition would be kept in place despite the cold weather on the river — you still have to take down your ice house. So just after midnight on March 5, I saw a snow-plow-pulled shanty being hauled down Fourth Street North after being towed through the intersection with Sommers Street. A couple of nights later, there was a snowmobile trailer parked in roughly the same spot while also being put on ice for the season.
– A contest at Bert’s coffee shop had patrons guessing what would be the first day with temperatures above 50 degrees, which turned out to be Monday’s 53. Some jokester had guessed July Fourth. My guess is he’s either a curmudgeon, someone so patriotic he thinks the fireworks will push the number over the top, or both.
– It’s late in the snowmobile season, but this being Wisconsin, here is (at long last) a seasonal news tidbit from a long winter. Patrons at Guv’s said there’s a sorely needed snowmobile trail that should be added to take the machines from the east part of the county and Somerset area over to Houlton. This would also take them up to the Guv’s parking lot, a favorite watering hole of enough people to make such a spur worthwhile. What followed was a long discussion of rules in various municipalities of where you can and cannot drive them. Being active snowmobilers, it was surprising that they didn’t know you can’t do such sledding in the nearby village of North Hudson, going to bars or otherwise.
– A sign along Interstate 94 announced a reduced speed limit in a far lane because of construction, but it was accidentally tipped so the arrow pointed almost straight down. So I guess that when disobeying that order and going straight to hell, the necessary speed is 40 mph. Reminds me of interstate construction near Roberts this summer, when the detour sign saying that the Barnboard bar and grill was still open for business was it also tipped in such a way. Don’t think you can get a beer while curbside.
– A recent sign outside the Village Inn in North Hudson said it all about its former owner: “We love you Wolffie.” It is the second time this winter that signs outside both the Village and Kozy Korner, across the street, have mourned the loss of one of their own after a death that was anticipated finally came. Customer traffic at the Village broadened recently as people came to share their condolences and stories, and word had it that there was to be a much greater volume of people at the funeral, wearing the requested Packer green and gold and honoring one who could be a bit abrasive but still lovable.
– Bartender Jaret told me that his girlfriend is well-enough connected to get prime-seating tickets that run a hundred dollars or two — and enable them to see Pearl Jam at their home base in Seattle as the last stop of their recent tour. As you might expect, he said the grunge group’s performance was awesome and in a second version of that conversation, I pointed out that the trivia channel’s question of the moment had an answer about one of Pearl Jam’s venerable albums.
– Also at Buffalo Wild Wings, a patron was extra-chatty in the bathroom, which was unusual since we couldn’t see each other, as there was a stone divider between our two urinals that was taller than the players the establishment shows in their NBA games.
– Sure to be noticed, since it is only a hop, skip and jump from the downtown Hudson “party zone,” was the emergency scene in the parking lot outside of the Spirit Seller, where there was a recent Sunday triple shooting. Around noon there were “police line, no crossing” signs out and a sole squad car to be seen — both on my trip to and back from County Market — but by the time it was time of night for Jeff Loven, etc. all that partygoers could see remaining was a single “tale of the tape.”

Ice, ice baby! The weather’s impact on local partying has been more than just vanilla

February 5th, 2014

Who knows where the cold wind blows … But until the bad weather stops, weird things will continue to happen to local party-goers at their nightlife events.
– The PepperFest’s ceremonial pepper, which stands the height of a corn stalk, has again become part of the frozen foods. The iconic village vegetable sculpture was kidnapped by local ninja-dressed wannabes who asked a ransom for charity as part of an annual ritual, and is back where it should be, propped up to just above the snowbanks, which is a tall order, outside of the house of my neighbor Ron. He happens to be the PepperFest king. Since its return to its rightful place, the top of the pepper was first adorned with a impressive deer rack and hide to mark the hunting season, then the bottom with a big banner that said “Merry Christmas.” Since then, the hide blew off the top for a brief time in one of our icy windstorms.
– Speaking of ice, if you glanced to the north side of Coulee Road after a night out on the town, and saw what looks like a cascading snow sculpture wider than two garage doors, it wasn’t necessarily because you imbibed. The people at Casanova Historic Liquors and The Nova have created the icescape that is across the street, and their sign directs drivers to take a look at “the eighth wonder of the world.” Recently, a truck below the sculpture was scraping snow from the street. Not sure if he was making way for more viewers, or adding yet another layer of ice to the work of art.
– Part of the recent deep freeze was that fewer people braved the cold to get a beer. That was only true to a point, however, as my friend Rich pointed out on a particularly frigid night that there would soon be two busloads of 75 people each pulling into Dick’s Bar and Grill. (And that wasn’t even on a weekend).
– Despite the cold, the band Saving Starz really packed them in at the Village Inn in North Hudson, and guitarist Geno, who always has something to say, spent some time talking about things like how in extreme cold, beer can freeze before it even hits your lips. That was applicable because one of his cohorts, Jethro, had Packer tickets the next day on the 50-yard line, in a game whose temps would rival the Ice Bowl.
– The next day, Guv’s Place in Houlton was actually closed for business because of the cold, although the night before, as far as conveying the bar’s coming status, the bartender’s knowledge was a little “green.” (Sorry if that tropical reference hurts).
– Jeff Loven at Dick’s also drew quite a crowd, and the reason people risked near frostbite was the birthday of Brandon, a longtime worker there. A photograph of his face on a stick was a popular part of the evening, and one friend even sported a pair of the images — one in front of his face and another propped into his pants. For his part, Brandon said celebratory shots had a bomb theme, Jag Bombs and Irish Car Bombs (which could have the abbreviation of an ICBM missile).
– With the cold come certain (libation) advantages. The beer of the month at Dick’s had been, fittingly, Alaskan Amber, and Kozy Korner in North Hudson took a reverse turn and had advertized Summer Shandy. Across the way, Village Liquor in keeping with the season had their “Elf on the Shelf” special for two dollars off the top — is that off the price or the height of a typical elf?
– Love to see, shortly, what they give this guy: It goes to show, never leave your driver’s license on the car seat after a hit and run, even if it’s just with a building. That’s what one person did late last year, in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, when allegedly weaving and then driving over great big stump, then hitting the porch of the Octogon House. The person, wouldn’t you know it being from the Twin Cities, then allegedly left the scene. Police soon after made plans to take the person into custody, so the matter could work its way through the courts. Should be pretty easy to find, since they’ve got the DL — unless of course it’s a fake ID.
– Snippets from back in New Year’s celebrations: The cold theme continued, as a couple stood outside the Agave Kitchen and did not go inside for their extended kiss (they must be in the new infatuation stage). At Dick’s, the PDA continued as despite the limited room, there was a lot of twerking going on, (word to the wise, or not so wise, in tight quarters you have about ten square feet to dance with, so respect it. The guy ordering a drink in front of me, and I could only see the back of his shaved head, complete with ears sticking out, was a splitten’ image of President Obama. Lastly, a friend of mine said she had this opportune night to celebrate her 21st birthday, and sat on the curb to linger outside Ellie’s and (1) get my well wishes, (2) continue the B-day experience and (3) most importantly make sure her ride was indeed coming.
– And now snippets from the Christmas season: At Buffalo Wild Wings, there was a big, red and green colored mistletoe in the doorway to the back room, although no one seemed to be taking advantage. Shortly before Christmas Day itself, their was a Santa wandering aimlessly by himself down the sidewalk in downtown Stillwater (don’t know what he was doing). We do know what this other guy was doing, as Santa himself appeared to be a music lover and was seen taking in the band at Guv’s Place back in late November, the first such sighting of St. Nick this holiday. Around the same time, a deer was seen running around the shoulder on the main highway just south of Guv’s, alternately traipsing between the ditch and the edge of the road (could this be construed as Run, Run, Rudolph?) Lastly, an area holiday party played The Grinch Stole Christmas on big screen TV, then had, of all people, the Grinch himself come in the back door and give presents to the kids, who didn’t seem to mind the change-up. There was no immediate word on how many sizes this made this heart grow.
– And lastly at Buffalo Wild Wings, during the NCAA championship football game between the far-afield teams of Florida State and Auburn, there were some people in the house who didn’t look too local and just had to be alumni of those southern schools, based on how loudly they were cheering each small gain.