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A week of mystery – Part 1

Robert Bloch often joked that his obit would begin with the listing of “Psycho,” his novel that Alfred Hitchcock turned into the film of the same name, the movie that made all of us leery about getting into the shower. And he was right. Bloch died in 1994, at age 77. And, yes, most of [...]

Meinhardt Raabe, the Munchkin who pronounced the Wicked Witch of the East most sincerely dead

I first knew of Meinhardt Raabe when I was a kid in the 1950s, watching Oscar Mayer commercials on television – you know, the hot dog and bologna people. There he was on the screen in the role of Little Oscar, the world’s smallest chef, a role he played for the company for more than [...]

Meet the creator of American Girl

If it weren’t for Madison, Wisconsin, writer Pleasant Rowland, there wouldn’t be American Girl dolls and tea parties for little girls and their moms at American Girl stores around the country. Rowland started her working life as a school teacher. Then she became a reporter and television news anchor for KGO-TV in San Francisco. Rowland [...]

Novelist and paraplegic David Rhodes returns to writing

Wisconsinite David Rhodes wrote three novels – all critically acclaimed – before a motorcycle accident paralyzed him from the waist down, putting him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. While he continued to write, he would not come back as a novelist for 34 years, until 2009 when Milkweed Editions published “Driftless,” [...]

English prof almost snags a Pulitzer

Wisconsinite Walter Havighurst (1901-1994), critic, novelist, literary and social historian of the Midwest, and long-time professor of history at Miami University, wrote a flock of books – more than 30 – in his lifetime. Most were histories. But there also was a handful of novels. Havighurst’s first, “Pier 17,” was so good that the publisher, [...]

Medal of Honor winner writes a book

Medal of Honor recipient James Pond listed Janesville, Wisconsin – my hometown – as his hometown and official residence. Kind of amazing because he was born in Cuba – Cuba, New York, that is – 1838. When he was 6, the family moved to Illinois, then, three years later, to Wisconsin – to Janesville. Here [...]

From reporter to senator to author, Bill Proxmire – Part 5

One more Bill Proxmire story. All right, two. Proxmire served as a U.S. senator from Wisconsin for 31 years. Here’s story number one. He believed if you’re elected to a legislative office, your job is to be there and vote on every bill that comes before the body. Proxmire did darn well. Between April 20, [...]

From reporter to senator to author, Bill Proxmire – Part 4

While people back home cheered when Wisconsin Senator Bill Proxmire presented some federal agency with his Golden Fleece Award, saying “go get ’em, Bill,” not everyone liked what he was doing. What was a wasteful program to Proxmire was a program somebody else wanted. Proxmire’s ridicule of NASA’s research into space colonization led Congress to [...]

From reporter to senator to author, Bill Proxmire – Part 3

Bill Proxmire made his reputation in the U.S. Senate by opposing wasteful spending. In 1971, he led the fight to kill federal financing for a supersonic transport plane. Proxmire created the Golden Fleece Award that he presented on the floor of the Senate each month to a federal agency that was funding what he believed [...]

From reporter to senator to author, Bill Proxmire – Part 2

The editor of the Capital Times, a newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin, fired Bill Proxmire in 1949. Proxmire bided his time. He took a job with a union newspaper and hosted a weekly radio labor talk show sponsored by the AFL, waiting for an opportunity to jump into politics, to run for public office. The opportunity [...]