Thursday, January 19, 2006

Doug Moe Knows Who Wrote the Oscar Mayer Jingle -- and at least a few things about Central High School

Doug Moe knows a lot of things about Madison and he shares his knowledge in a column he’s been writing for The Capital Times since May 1977.

If you’ve been reading his columns on a regular basis, you’ve learned a lot about "Snowball," the window washer who was a familiar face on State Street for many years; you’ve read the story about how Elroy Hirsch acquired the appellation "Crazylegs;" and your curiosity about the fates of Howie Olson and Cowboy Eddie has been satisfied. You’ve also learned about some of the fascinating denizens of Madison’s demi-monde and followed Moe’s search to verify whether or not Playboy ever ranked the UW-Madison as the number-one party school in the United States.

If you haven’t yet become a regular reader of Moe’s column and you want to know what he had to say on these subjects, as well as a host of others, you’ll have to buy the book. "Surrounded By Reality: The Best of Doug Moe on Madison" (Jones Books, 2005) is a great read -- even if it doesn’t mention our alma mater.

Doug Moe graduated from Madison West High School in 1974, five years after the last class graduated from Madison Central High School (by then renamed Central-University High School) in 1969. So, because good writers often tend to write about what they know, if you’re a regular reader of his column, you might occasionally whine that Moe -- who claims to remember when the KK used to serve breakfast, but doesn’t tell us if he’s talking about the old, atmospheric place on State Street, or the less wonderful, post-Memorial Library expansion incarnation on N. Lake Street -- gives an awful lot of ink to guys from the West Side of town and people whose butts have spent a lot of time on barstools.

But to be fair, Doug has given a some ink to alumni of Madison Central High School, even if none of those columns were included in "Surrounded by Reality."

Moe mentioned the 1998 all-Central reunion at the end of a column and wrote a great story, "Central High Gone, But Not The Memory," in 1999. In 2000, he mentioned the high school in a piece about magician Ben Bergor , who attended Madison High School (the school’s name until it was renamed in 1922). And in 2001 he penned a fine remembrance of Sid Knope, a Central alumnus who started as an usher at the Capitol Theatre in 1928 -- and later, well into his 80s, led tours of the Oscar Mayer Theatre (formerly the Capitol Theatre).

In 2002, Moe wrote a fascinating column about Central alumnus Joseph Petrus Wergin, author of books on skat, cribbage, euchre, and sheepshead, as well as the first living person elected to the Cribbage Hall of Fame, who died in November 2005. He also mentioned Central grad Roger Boeker, a member of VFW Post 1318, in a 2002 column about how members of the VFW helped ship books to the troops in Afghanistan.

In 2003, Doug wrote a column about the new biography of Alfred Hitchcock written by Patrick McGilligan (President of the Class of 1969). In 2004 he wrote a heartfelt column about Central grad (and former reporter for The Capital Times) Frank Custer.

In 2005, musician-composer Chris Michie (Class of 1966), who wrote the soundtrack for documentary "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," shared space in Moe’s column with historian Stanley Kutler and poet John Tuschen.

Do you sense a pattern here? A Moe column with a Central connection appears about once a year.

The 2006 column with a Central connection arrived early. On January 6th, The Capital Times ran a Moe column about Russ Loniello titled "Dino's Alive, Well And In Town." The column was about how Russ finally made it to Broadway.

The column about Russ told a great story, but it also confused me. I was under the impression the show Russ was appearing in would run for a long time in New York City. But Moe’s story said Russ was back home in Madison.

I emailed Russ, but there was no reply. So I emailed Moe, who promptly sent me a different email address for Russ, one that elicited a speedy reply.

Russ told me the show at the Supper Club in New York City had run for two weeks. Here’s what he wrote:

Yes the show ran for two weeks but they may want to take it to London and I am not sure if I will want to go. There are some ideas I have and may want to try something different with my own show. In the meantime Madison will be my home base and I will fly out for events I will be doing. It’s nice to be back home with family and friends. Wish I could of made it to the class reunion.

So now you know -- and if Russ didn’t answer your email, contact me and I’ll forward your message to the new address.

As for Doug Moe, let’s thank him for what he’s written about Madison Central High School and encourage him to write even more.

And while we’re waiting for that next Moe column about Central to appear, here are a couple of things you can do to while away some time, enjoy yourself, and maybe learn something new:

1) Read all the Moe stories about Central I’ve mentioned in this post. I’ve created a link to each of them (click on the underlined words to go to an archived copy of the story).

2) Buy and read a copy of "Surrounded By Reality." If you can’t find a copy in your local bookstore, give our classmate Terry Doyle a call at the University Book Store on State Street. He’ll be happy to sell you a copy and ship it to your home or office.

3) Start reading Doug Moe’s column on a regular basis. If you live too far away to subscribe to The Capital Times or pick it up on a newsstand, use your lunch hour to check it out on the Internet.

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