Hasenpfeffer Incorporated

May 15 - Hershey & Milwaukee

by Lenny Hughes

Schlemiel, schlimazel....

I kept running the "Laverne & Shirley" theme through my head ever since we arrived in Milwaukee Friday for the big show at the Pabst Theatre.

Especially since that iconic city hall where L&S danced down the sidewalk loomed over the bus across the street from the Pabst.

I caught sight of Lewis heading down the walk, but he wasn't exactly dancing. Braced against the icy-blast from the lake bringing a few sparse snowflakes, he'd had enough of winter's last gasp and slipped into the hotel.

I've always loved this city. So many of the old buildings still stand, not yet dwarfed by those mirrored monstrosities that are taking over so many skylines in America.




And of course, there is that remarkable Wisconsin cheese.

Sadly, though, many of the bookstores that characterized the place for me have disappeared. Even the giant Borders that used to tower over the river has become a victim of the Kendal-Amazon-Internet onslaught. A huge used bookstore is now boarded up. Another former bookshop has become an Asian restaurant.

One good sign that all is not lost is that Downtown Books is still thriving. Another good sign out front lets you know they have cats.

I picked up a book on Walker Percy (more about him later) and one on Faulkner and film. Also got a couple of Lew's classics, which I'd hoped to re-sell in the theater last night, but they couldn't compete with the bobbleheads.

Former bookstore

Downtown Books

A good sign


The two shows at the Pabst were historic. Lewis chose Milwaukee to cut a new CD, in a place where his stand-up career got an early boost. We were joined by our favorite producer Jack Gulick and, naturally, many enthusiastic comedy fans.

Though some were a bit too enthusiastic during last night's opening, hootin', hollerin', etc., so Lewis just told the crowd we had to start over. He walked offstage, John returned and repeated his usual introduction, and the show rolled on without one slight hitch, so to speak.

Lewis at the Pabst Theatre

Last weekend, we finished that rain-soaked tour in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the city that chocolate built (just as Milwaukee is the city that beer built). Even the street lights pay tribute to the candy industry, though we're told most of the chocolate is cooked in Mexico, and the remaining U.S. Hershey factory is next to the town's sewage treatment plant.

Hershey Choclight

I was joined in Hershey by my ingenious, gorgeous, lovely, beautiful lady-friend Sandra, who helped me infinitely at the Warner merch table the week before. She brought two of her closest friends, Jack and Susie, who had introduced her to Lewis's comedy several years back.

Next day, Sandra drove me to Harrisburg where she used to work as a buyer for the state government in the capitol building.

We visited a couple fine bookstores there, including the venerable Midtown Scholar. I found a book about Walker Percy on the same theme as my aborted PhD dissertation. And it was written with some assistance by my doctoral director Lewis Lawson!

(I'm reading it now, and fortunately it doesn't contain any of the brilliant discoveries I made before I abandoned the project. Hahaha. And it's inspired me to take up the cause once more.)

Harrisburg Capitol

Harrisburg Books

Right now we're headed to the Grand Theater in Wausau, Wisconsin. Never been to Wausau, but from the looks of red barns and plowed fields along the Interstate 41, it's a far cry from Milwaukee.

One more night, and one more weekend (Michigan), and we're off for the Big Summer Break.

Meanwhile, don't miss Lewis on Larry Wilmore's The Nightly Show on Comedy Central Tuesday night (May 17).

- Lenny