Odd, obscure, historic, humorous, random and/or relevant items from the archives of the Duluth News Tribune. Duluth News Tribune and Herald file photos are copyright Duluth News Tribune; direct questions to akrueger(at)duluthnews.com.
As with the previous post on the bear in the boat, this one features a reader-submitted photo from years back that was left in the News Tribune files.
The photo, credited to C.F. Sager of Duluth and dated Oct. 22, 1961, is a view of the old Interstate Bridge linking Duluth and Superior, as seen from its replacement, the then-new High Bridge, later named the Blatnik Bridge. Click on the photo for a larger version:
Here are a couple of zoomed-in views:
The Interstate Bridge has been featured in several past Attic posts:
Most of the span was removed in the years after the Blatnik Bridge opened. Part of the Interstate Bridge remains in place on the Duluth side and is used as a fishing pier; find more information at the links listed above.
Duluth’s Homegrown Music Festival, which opened Sunday, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Here is a gallery of News Tribune photos from – or associated with – Homegrown Festivals of years past:
Galynn White of the duo Gabel and Galynn sings Thursday night at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Andy Gabel of the duo Gabel and Galynn performs Thursday evening at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Galynn White of the duo Gabel and Galynn plays the violin Thursday night at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
The Keep Aways perform at the NorShor in April 2005. The all-girl punk band will be performing at the 2005 Homegrown Music Festival. (Amanda Odeski / News Tribune)
Zach Stofer fronts the Hardcore Jollies during the semi-final round of Grandma’s Sports Garden’s “True Music Nights” competition in April 2004. The Hardcore Jollies also will play their first Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Pizza Luce is one of several stops for people attending the 2002 Homegrown Music Festival. (Renee Knoeber / News Tribune)
People groove to the music of Super D and the Double Chucks at the Norshor Theater in April 2002. The Norshor will be one of several venues for this year’s Homegrown Music Festival. (Renee Knoeber / News Tribune)
Mayfly performs during the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival at the NorShor Theatre. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Al Sparhawk of the Black Eyed Snakes grits out a tune as Brad Nelson drums in the background during the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
The band Both performs at the NorShor Theatre during the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Ann Forsman belts out a tune while Jason Loop accompanies her during their band Mayfly’s performance at the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Bryan Johnson (left) breaks into a solo on the congas during a performance by the band Crazy Betty in front of a tightly packed crowd at the Norshor Theatre on Friday night. Crazy Betty is one of 10 Duluth bands that will perform in the first Homegrown Music Festival at the NorShor in spring 1999. (Josh Meltzer / News Tribune)
Zack Cannon, whose rap name is simply “Cannon,” performs early Friday morning at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
A sign at Twins Bar reveals the lineup for the opening night of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. For Thursday, the Twins Bar would host hip-hop bands from the Duluth area. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Adam Baumhardt of Smokey Bogart plays the guitar late Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth, MN as part of Homegrown Music Festival 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Jiggity Jaze (left) and Bliss (right) perform as part of Kritical Kontact early Friday morning at Twins Bar in Duluth, MN as part of Homegrown Music Festival in 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Kritical Kontact performs early Friday morning at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Mike Hietala of Smokey Bogart gets into the music Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of Homegrown Music Festival 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
DJ Derek Delgado works on the turntable while rapper Cannon, whose real name is Zack Cannon, performs Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the Homegrown Music Festival in 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Eeirearq’s Amy Ugstad (right) bangs away on the drums as Bret Walczynski and Jason Szumowski play at the Red Lion in Duluth on Friday night during the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
Dylan Kesti, drummer for Anti-Anne, attacks the cymbals during their performance at the Electric Fetus Friday night during the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
Low’s Mim Parker shares a quiet moment with Al Sparhawk before they take the stage at the NorShor Theatre on Thursday night as part of the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
Sam Rodman of Anti-Anne plays during their set at the Electric Fetus Friday night during the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
A large crowd turned out to watch Low perform at the NorShor Theatre’s reopening after an 8-month closure imposed by the city for fire code violations Thursday night as part of the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
The NorShor Theatre re-opened Thursday night, May 4, 2006, for the first time in eight months after being closed for fire code violations. The theatre played host to Low and the Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune staff)
“It’s tough to celebrate someone dying, but the figurehead of terrorism is gone now,” said Adam Depre (left) of Duluth in reaction to late-night news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. “Now it’s time to look at the underlying reason for terrorism.” He was getting his hair trimmed by stylist Diane Fernholz of Duluth after attending a 2011 Homegrown Music Festival concert at Pizza Luce late Sunday night. (Bob King / News Tribune)
Coyote band members Marc Gartman (from left), Jerree Small, and Matt Mobley perform Friday evening at Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth as a part of the 2011 Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth. (Clint Austin / News Tribune)
Leane Marie performs Thursday evening at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Mike Wilson will be playing three instruments in seven bands during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Doug Lefebvre of Die(ode) enters a shaft of light Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
You may notice that the captions are pretty sparse on a few of these photos; if you can provide any names where they are missing, please post a comment.
Duluth native Lorenzo Music uses the studios at Minnesota Public Radio in downtown Duluth in April 1998 to tape commercials and other voice-over roles. “Cartoon (characters) are very hard to do remote,” he says. “Everyone has to be sitting in the same room. You really have to react to each other. That’s one thing I no longer have a shot at. But I’m willing to give it up to be here in Duluth. It’s worth it for what I have instead.” At the time, and for many years, Music preferred not to have pictures taken that showed his face. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
THE VOICE IS FAMILIAR, BUT WE CAN’T QUITE PLACE THE FACE
By Chuck Frederick, News-Tribune staff writer
In a downtown Duluth recording studio, Lorenzo Music snaps a headset over his ears, smooths out a script and leans into the microphone.
“Do you wanna know what I’m wearing,” he teases as producers and engineers in both Los Angeles and Duluth wiggle patch cords and adjust sound levels before taping a radio commercial.
A voice from California considers Music’s question. Her short, startled laugh spills out of the overhead speakers and fills the Minnesota Public Radio studio inside the Holiday Center.
“Uh, let’s see,” she says. “Hawaiian shirt?”
“Hey, this is Duluth!” Music declares, smiling broadly.
“Oh yeah,” she says. “Denim?”
Lorenzo Music has been wearing his comfortable jeans and loose-fitting denim shirts a lot lately. He has a Duluth Pack slung over one shoulder, a spectacular view of Lake Superior over the other, and in between, the contented, easygoing smile of a man at home.
One of Hollywood’s hottest sitcom writers of the 1970’s, Music left the grind of L.A. in December to visit his old hometown.
And now, like someone reluctant to trade in a favorite pair of sweatpants after a long weekend, he’s finding it hard to leave.
The man who helped create “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” who co-created “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Rhoda,” whose voice is that of Rhoda’s never-seen-but-beloved Carlton the doorman and later of Garfield the cartoon cat, is rediscovering his roots.
He also is writing his autobiography and a slim volume of poetry and he is working as a voice actor, taping commercials and voice-overs in Duluth via digital telephone lines.
“I came back to Duluth because I wanted to remember my memoirs,” said Music, whose visit in December was a birthday gift to his wife, a chance for her to visit her mother, Margaret Johnson, in West Duluth.
“I just felt so good here,” he said. “This place is where I was formed and it’s so far removed from the stress of L.A. I felt I could come here and be here. (A friend’s) house was available on the lake. All I had to do was write and listen to the waves — and be here. I had to do it.”
Duluth roots are deep
Music came to Duluth for the first time in 1942. He was 5 years old then and had moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., with his parents, Harry and Sophie Music. A master mechanic, his father worked in the Superior shipyards during the war and played a drum in the company band that marched each time a new ship was launched.
Performing and comedy filled the Musics’ home in Central Hillside. “I was even forced to entertain as a child — or they wouldn’t feed me,” Music deadpanned, slipping into that goofy, Carlton-like, singsong voice of his. “I was a stand-up baby.”
He graduated from Central High School in 1955 and went to the University of Minnesota-Duluth to study speech and English.
But he spent more of his time playing banjo and performing comedy in the UMD cafeteria. He also performed for the Owl’s Club, the Eagle’s Club, pretty much anywhere that would have him, even the faculty wives’ tea.
He took to acting, too. During rehearsals for “Guys and Dolls” at UMD he met Myrna Johnson, the West Duluth woman who would become his wife.
Jerry and Myrna Music pose for a publicity photo in 1961, they year the former UMD students appeared at the school’s Homecoming dance in October. They later changed their names to Lorenzo and Henrietta. (News Tribune file photo)
Chases his dream
“I remember wanting to be an actor when I was 7, or maybe a comedian,” said Music, 60, a short round man with a smooth head and a quick wit. “I always knew I was a performer.”
In 1959, he chased his dream to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco. One night, he watched the yet-undiscovered Smothers Brothers perform.
“I can do that,” he thought.
The next morning he auditioned, performing the same little folk music and comedy act that had underwhelmed the Owls back in college. It went over better this time. He landed the nightclub gig.
“It was a cute act in the UMD cafeteria, but I didn’t know if I could do it in front of the Smothers Brothers and the owners of the club,” Music said. “To me, this was the big time.”
Hours before his first performance, he blacked out with fear. His bride-to-be fed him chicken soup and helped him dress. She drove him to the club and literally pushed him onstage.
He was a hit. The two were married, and not long after, she joined him on stage.
Together, though, the act didn’t gel. It was hard to tell who was funny and who was playing it straight, Music said.
The club fired the Musics. They hit the road, intent on making another run at the limelight. They played coffeehouses and nightclubs across the country. They toured with the USO, doing shows in the Far East, Europe and the Mediterranean.
By 1967, they liked their act. It was good. It was ready.
But it was too late.
The Byrds were hot and the Beatles had all that hair. Rock ‘n’ roll was in. Their folk-music-and-comedy act was out.
Myrna and Jerry Music use a Japanese tea service they brought back from their USO tour of the Far East, during a visit to Duluth in fall 1963. (News-Tribune file photo)
Lands Smothers Brothers job
The Musics wound up in Las Vegas, opening for Julie London. On the other end of the strip, the Smothers Brothers were on the verge of mega stardom. They had been signed by CBS to do a weekly series and were looking for writers. They remembered Music. He had never written professionally, but accepted the job.
“I didn’t think you needed to be professional to be a good writer,” Tommy Smothers said from his car phone in Burbank, Calif. “I flavored the writing staff with new guys. We all learned our craft as we went along.”
Music was one of 15 writers for the Smothers’ show. Others included Steve Martin and Rob Reiner. In 1969, they won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Writing.
“(Music) was one of the fun guys,” Smothers said. “I was a big fan of his. I always loved his delivery and his act. I figured he’d be a good television writer because he was funny. He and his wife had a great act.”
Two and a half years later, Music left “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to become head writer of the new “Glen Campbell Good Time Hour.” He bounced to another variety show and also started moonlighting, writing in evenings and on weekends with longtime friend David Davis. Davis had been a director of “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” and associate producer of the spy spoof “Get Smart.”
The moonlighting paid off. The new writing team sold scripts to “Love, American Style.”
Helps create ‘Mary’
And in 1970, when Davis was asked to produce a new show based in the Twin Cities about an independent-minded TV newswoman, he brought Music along as his writing partner. For 2 1/2 years, Music and Davis wrote or contributed to nearly every script of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
“Everyone working on the show was from somewhere not Minnesota,” Music said. “I was their Minnesota expert. Things like, ‘How long does snow stay on your shoulders after you come in out of a storm.”‘
“He didn’t even have a desk at first,” Davis said of Music. “He sat in my office and I pulled out one of those boards that come out of desks for your typewriter. That was his area.”
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was a huge success. The network was eager to cash in. “Why don’t you guys come up with another show,” a CBS executive asked Music and Davis. “If you guys could write a new show for any actor, who would it be?”
“Bob Newhart,” they said in unison. They had written for him before, including a sketch he performed on the Smothers Brothers’ show. They knew his stammer. And they loved his dry, straight humor.
“He was easy for us to write for,” Davis said of Newhart. “I had grown up with him on the radio.”
So they started writing, back at the same secluded Santa Barbara, Calif., beach hotel where they had written their first Mary Tyler Moore episode and where they would later write the pilot for “Rhoda.”
“The Bob Newhart Show” was another hit, thanks in large part to Music and Davis, the show’s star said.
“If their concept hadn’t worked, the show wouldn’t be on the air. It wouldn’t have done so well,” Newhart said from Los Angeles. “The best tribute is it’s still on (in reruns). It’s still being watched and it’s finding a new audience.
“Being a writer myself, I always felt the most important thing in the world is the written word,” Newhart said of Music’s and Davis’s scripts. “If you don’t have the words on the page, nothing is going to work. And this show worked.”
Lorenzo (Jerry) Music, right, the Duluth Central High School graduate voted “wittiest” of the Class of 1955, returned home in June 1976 to give the commencement address for his alma mater at the Arena. He was welcomed at the Duluth airport by a delegation which included, from left, Central Principal Richard Carlson, Joanne Maddox and Mary Forseth. (News-Tribune file photo)
The show also prompted one of the 1970s more unusual and talked-about drinking games — “Hi Bob.” To play, participants took a drink each time someone on the show said Bob’s name or “Hi Bob.”
Music insists he and Davis didn’t invent the game, though they may have helped it along. They did write all those “Hi Bobs” and “Bobs.”
But for good reason, Music said. Actress Suzanne Pleshette had a habit of calling Newhart, her on-screen hubby, “honey.”
“The ‘honeys’ bothered us and we thought they’d annoy the audience,” Music said. “She put them in when we didn’t write them and they made her character sound whiny, so we started writing fewer and fewer ‘honeys’ and more and more ‘Bobs.’ “
Rhoda and Carlton
Newhart was a ratings machine, and CBS was hungry for more. The executives wanted a Mary Tyler Moore spinoff based on best friend Rhoda Morgenstern. They tapped Music and Davis to develop and produce “Rhoda,” a show that forever changed Music’s life.
It was based in New York and needed a New York feel, Music said. The characters lived in an apartment building. And down in the lobby, there was a doorman — Carlton the doorman.
In the debut episode, Carlton’s now-famous slow, somewhat-drunk-or-stoned voice stumbled from an intercom box in the apartment of Rhoda’s sister, Brenda. “There’s a woman here who says she’s your sister,” Carlton said. “She doesn’t look anything like you.”
“The lines weren’t necessarily funny,” Music said. “It was the way they were done. The guy was gooney. He was out there. I do good gooney, I guess.”
Music and Davis had tried to hire a different actor to deliver Carlton’s lines. But no one did it quite right. They either played him too big. Or too drunk.
Music delivered the lines during rehearsals. “You should have seen him,” Davis said. “He was practically falling over, he was trying to do the lines so sleepily. The first time he did it, everyone just busted out laughing.”
With auditions going poorly, it was Mary Tyler Moore who finally suggested Music stay with the part. She was a guest star on that first episode.
Music did. And got huge laughs from the live studio audience during taping.
Carlton’s appeal can be traced to the days before television, when families huddled around the radio. Imaginations painted pictures of the characters. Carlton allowed Americans to do that again.
“It was a fun thing that people tuned in for. I thought it was hilarious from the very beginning,” actress Valerie Harper, who portrayed Rhoda, said from her New York home. “Lorenzo was great. He’d do the voice live on the side with a microphone so the audience could hear. And it was always incredible. I can’t remember a line from Carlton that didn’t work. I don’t remember Lorenzo ever bombing out.”
One hot doorman
Carlton the doorman was one of Hollywood’s hottest stories that television season of 1974-75. An air of mystique surrounded him. Who was he? What did he look like? A fan club started. Several hundred fans joined.
In the final episode of the season, “Rhoda” viewers thought they’d finally get to see the mysterious character.
A knock on Rhoda’s door. It was him. Rhoda cracked open the door but didn’t unhook it. Upset with Carlton, she delivered a severe tongue-lashing. When she finished, Carlton, played by Music, stuck in his arm, extended his hand and asked, “Will there still be a tip?”
The two characters worked well together, Harper said. The contrast of the out-of-it, laid-back Carlton against the high-strung, speak-her-mind Rhoda made for many comic moments.
“It was another character to play off, another super, funny character,” Harper said. “He just had a terrific voice for Carlton. He didn’t do a trick voice. He did a character. He used his own voice and that’s what helped make it work. It was honest.”
In 1976, Music was on top of the world. He had four hit shows on his resume and two Emmys, the second for an animated CBS special he created and produced called “Carlton Your Doorman.” He returned to Duluth that summer a hero, the guest speaker at graduation for his old high school.
But just three months later, the bottom fell out. “The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show,” a syndicated daytime talk, comedy and musical variety show starring Music and his wife, fell flat.
It was a “suicide run,” Music said. “It was a total disaster. An absolute bomb. I was always good on my feet, but I wasn’t that good.”
The show was canceled after six weeks, its ratings abysmal.
Lorenzo and Henrietta Music in a publicity photo for their short-lived “The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show” in 1976. (News-Tribune file photo)
Now a top voice actor
About that time, Music’s phone rang. It was an agent who provides voice actors for radio commercials, cartoons and other voice-overs. He said he had been getting requests for the Carlton the doorman voice. Was Music interested?
Two decades later, Music is one of the top voice actors in the business. Of the thousands of actors available to do voices in the Los Angeles area, Music is one of only a few who works consistently, said casting director Carroll Day Kimble.
“He’s a love. And he’s very well respected in the business,” said Kimble, who runs Carroll Voiceover Casting Co. in Los Angeles. “He’s extremely creative behind the microphone. He can change a couple little things and really make a spot sparkle. He’s a genius in the booth.
“And in the advertising world, people love to know they just booked Carlton the doorman,” she said. “They like to say, ‘Hey, I booked Garfield the cat.”‘
After Carlton, Garfield is probably Music’s best-known voice role. In 1983, he won another Emmy Award for co-writing a Garfield TV special. And from 1988 to 1995, he provided Garfield’s voice for the Saturday morning cartoon series.
Music’s other voice characters have included a crash test dummy in those you-can-learn-a-lot-from-a-dummy public service announcements that encourage motorists to buckle up, and, more recently, a store announcer on “The Drew Carey Show.”
“I believe voice actors should be heard and not seen,” Music said. “If you don’t know what I look like, I can be the crash test dummy. I can be Garfield the cat. I can be anything. But if some kid knows what I look like, then Garfield becomes me, and I don’t want to be Garfield. Garfield should be Garfield.
“As a voice actor I can be an ugly frog or I can be a handsome prince,” Music said. “If I worked on-camera, I could only be the handsome prince. You know?”
All of which helps explain why Music doesn’t like his photograph published. And why he was reluctant to be interviewed for this story.
He craves anonymity. It’s good for his career, he said, to maintain that mystique about his identity that started with Carlton the doorman.
Music wants you to know the voice, not the face. It’s the voice, after all, that puts lunch in his box, gas in his car and his kids in college.
“All I need is a studio, and this is the studio here,” Music said between takes at Minnesota Public Radio. “We have everything we need here. And this is all I need to bring. A pencil and my reading glasses. And if I didn’t bring a pencil, it wouldn’t matter.”
He doesn’t even read the script before arriving.
The radio commercials he is taping this day are for a casino near San Diego that’s giving away a pair of Volkswagen Beetle cars. Music portrays an excited caller who asks an exterminator if they’d heard about the bug infestation.
His head bobbing, his hands waving, his eyes popping to emphasize certain words, Music performs the lines. Between takes, he sips from a glass of milk left over from lunch. After one run-through, he pauses.
“At the ‘heck no,”‘ he says into his microphone, talking to the producer in California, “I feel like I could do that line a different way. Should I just do what I feel is best?”
“Always,” says the producer.
And the next time, Music does it differently. He drops some words, adds others, changes the emphasis. He does the lines better. No question.
“This is feeling really good,” the producer says. “The character sounds fine. The acting sounds fine.”
One more time.
“Wonderful. That was awfully good,” the producer says. “I can’t imagine anything else I’d want. Except for you to come back to L.A.”
Music smiles again.
“Oh, please don’t make me come back to L.A. just yet,” he says.
And this time, there’s not even a hint of teasing in his voice.
— end —
Lorenzo Music died from cancer on Aug. 4, 2001, at age 64. He was survived by his wife and four children.
Here are a couple of YouTube clips featuring Lorenzo Music’s voice acting. The first is from the pilot episode of “Rhoda” – you can see his name in the opening credits, and then hear him as “Carlton the Doorman” at about the 1:10 mark:
And here’s a short “Garfield” clip from the 1980s:
Share your memories and stories by posting a comment.
This News Tribune file photo shows Interstate 35 under construction through West Duluth. It has two dates written on the back – 1969 and 1970 – so perhaps an alert reader can pick out some details from this image to determine which year is correct.
This photo certainly shows how important Cody Street was as an entrance to Duluth before the freeway was completed.
Click on the photo for a much larger version of the image. Here are a couple of zoomed-in views, starting with the West Duluth commercial district (this was a time before Kmart and Super One):
And here’s the area around Laura MacArthur School, what was then Shoppers City and the long-gone railroad viaduct:
Here are links to a couple of past Attic posts on West Duluth:
Here’s a story from the Duluth Herald files from 1981, profiling an old-fashioned downtown Duluth cafe and its proprietors. It’s kind of a long article, but it’s a pretty fun, charming story with some memorable anecdotes. Enjoy…
Art Rode mans the counter at the Sunnyside Cafe in downtown Duluth in October 1981. (Joey McLeister / Duluth Herald)
Cafe owners keep their Sunnyside up
By Lynnell Mickelsen, Duluth Herald
At 6:15 a.m. there are four regulars in the cafe, people who drove past McDonald’s, Burger King, Hardee’s, Sambos and the 7-11 to get to this place. The waiter knows their names and their orders. He also knows their fishing stories, hunting stories, idiot boss stories and their political views. The cook knows all of this plus their dietary restrictions. This morning she tells a regular she will boil his eggs instead of fry them because his doctor has repeatedly told him to lose weight. “It will save you 55 calories,” she says.
The Sunnyside Cafe, 214 E. Superior St., has nine stools, four booths, no chrome and no cute names on the menu. It’s open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Owners Art and Marion Rode are also the waiters, cooks, dishwashers, busboys, buyers and bookkeepers. They have been in the restaurant business for nearly 40 years.
They have, in other words, a 30-year jump on Egg McMuffins, which came out in 1972 and sparked the Great Breakfast War among the fast-food franchises. McDonald’s, Hardee’s, Sambos and the others compete fiercely among themselves for the breakfast crowd. They can deliver the food faster and cheaper than the Rodes, although this suggestion raises a chorus of protest from Sunnyside regulars.
“They can’t give you ham that comes off the hog,” says one.
“They fire the waitresses so often … they don’t know what the hell they’re doing and it takes forever,” says another.
“They don’t even know what hash browns are,” says another.
Even so, the franchises seem to be winning and the Rodes’ nine-stool cafe and other ma and pa operations appear to be a fading phenomenon, dying off by attrition, because no businessman in his right mind would try to start one now.
Marion Rode, a cook with more nearly 40 years of experience, wraps up a sandwich to go at the Sunnyside Cafe in October 1981. Five days a week from this window, she watches the sunrise over Lake Superior. (Joey McLeister / Duluth Herald)
The Rodes, however, don’t think about the future of breakfast cafes. For one thing, they have to get up too early to be philosophical. They arrives at the cafe at 5:15 a.m. in order to have coffee ready and the stove hot for people who, either by neurosis or necessity, east breakfast at 6. They have risen so early for so long that even on weekends, back home in Duluth Heights, they are often up at 5 a.m., drinking coffee.
Getting up early is hardly glamorous, but it has its compensations. The cafe’s back kitchen window looks out over Lake Superior and, over the years, the Rodes have watched one superb sunrise after another.
“We watch it move with the season,” Marion says, cracking two eggs into a cast-iron frying pan. The sunrise moves from the left side of the window across to the right and, for three weeks in December, disappears behind the wall of the Muffler Clinic before emerging and switching directions. They watch the storms brew up over the lake and, in the winter, they say the spray from the surf nearly hits the window.
At 6:30 a.m., a regular, his limbs shortened by dwarfism, swaggers into the cafe. Before the man is two feet inside, Art orders a cheese sandwich to go and Marion is reaching for the bread. Art and the man banter over the counter.
“He’s always giving me grief,” the man says to another customer as Art walks back to the kitchen. “Someday I’m going step on him.”
“What’s that?” Art asks, coming back.
“You’re always giving me grief,” the man repeats happily.
“Bacon and eggs,” Art calls into the kitchen. Another regular has just walked in. Art has been serving breakfast to some people for 20 years, watching them go from scrawny to paunchy. Marion remembers changing the diapers on a man. (“I don’t bring it up because it would embarrass him to tears.”) Regulars need to order only if they are feeling talkative; otherwise, Art can do it automatically.
It’s one of the few automatic processes in the place. Outside of an electric mixer and the cafe’s technological hub, a Bunnomatic coffee maker, this is a restaurant devoid of gizmos and shortcuts. There is no microwave. No pastry steamers. No Cuisanart. No dishwasher. Two years ago they unplugged the Hamilton Beach blender because it was too distracting.
As Art points out, it came down to a matter of priorities: by the time he made someone a milkshake, he could have served three people meatloaf.
“That machine,” Art says, pointing to the forsaken mixer, still sitting on the shelf, “kept us from doing the work we were meant to do.”
A close-up view of the Sunnyside Cafe menu from the photo above. Click on the photo for a larger view.
The same spirit carries over to the kitchen. “Nothing here is artificial,” Marion declares. In the fall, they bring in apples from the tree in their back yard and make pies.
Marion got her start in the restaurant business in 1942, in a place where the Radisson now stands. It was during the war, the shipyards were busy and they served 1,000 people a day. She made $14 a week and worked with a crew of veteran cooks. “Real old-timers,” she says. “I mean, they were purists. One lady used to save up lard and make the soap herself.”
Marion saved her money, and after the war started a place of her own. Art was one of her customers. “I was hard-boiled then,” she says. “One day I was throwing a drunk out of the place and he landed on Art.”
Art was out of the service, working at the Duluth airport. He had no known aspirations for the restaurant business until the drunk fell on him and he fell for Marion. But he has taken to it well. A smooth breakfast-bartender, he pours coffee with an instinctive, generous hand. A well-informed man, he doesn’t read the newspaper because, by noon, the entire paper has usually been read aloud to him, interspersed with editorial comment and unpublished details. He knew by 6:15 a.m. that Egypt’s Anwar Sadat had been shot.
Art comes back into the kitchen. He and Marion are trying unsuccessfully to remember the last names of veteran customers. The highest price on the menu is $2.95 and people don’t write checks. The only last names they know are for the doctors at the medical center who apparently never had first names.
The Rodes ran a cafe in the 500 block of West Superior Street in downtown Duluth for many years before urban renewal forced them out. This photo was taken in about 1954; Art Rode is behind the counter.
Marion glances up at the wall that separates the kitchen from the dining area. Someone’s waiting to pay the bill,” she says.
Art disappears. The cash register rings.
“You get to be able to feel that kind of stuff in your bones,” Marion says, shaping a meatloaf with her hands. She is a well-fed cook, the kind who “never eats” and must diet subsequently. She reads cookbooks “like novels” but doesn’t use them in the kitchen.
“When I was a girl, I wanted to be a research doctor. I wanted to find the cure for cancer. Never got enough education.” She now tests out various theories of the cause of cancer and finds them wanting. For example, she says she served bacon every morning to an attorney who not only did not succumb to cancer, but lived to 95 and died in his bed.
There are five calendars in the kitchen: odd decoration for a woman supposedly without a sense of time. Marion is vague on the years, vague on her age. Art, on the other hand, is 62, and can tell you the deer season starts in “four weeks and two days.” Every year they close for three weeks during deer season, but, by the third week, they are both restless to come back.
They don’t want to retire, but have heard the building will be sold in two years to make space for access across a planned freeway. “Urban renewal,” Art says, shaking his head. The Rodes have never sold quiche lorraine and their restaurants have never survived urban renewal. Urban renewal, according to Art, forced them out of their old restaurant about 12 years ago.
“We could never start up again today. Never. Too many health regulations,” Marion says. She sweeps her arm across the kitchen, pointing at the wooden shelves and countertops. “Now everything has to be stainless steel. Counters and booths have to be so far off the floor. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. You can’t be too careful. Eat off a low counter and it might kill you.”
– end –
The shelves behind the counter in the first photo stocked Snickers, Milky Way and 3 Musketeers candy bars, among other items.
The Sunnyside Cafe closed by the mid-1980s, and a few years later its building was gone. As alluded to in the second-to-last paragraph of the story, it’s now the location of an access point to Lake Place Park, next door to Perry Framing.
Art Rode died in August 2000 at age 80. Marion Rode died in July 2001 at age 89.
Do you remember the Sunnyside Cafe? Share your memories by posting a comment. Direct questions about the Attic to akrueger(at)duluthnews.com.
Bars line the north side of North Fifth Street in Superior on Oct. 15, 1978. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
Does the scene above look familiar? If so, you have a pretty good memory, because all but one of these bars lining North Fifth Street in Superior have been gone for years. The stop sign by the vintage van marks the corner of Ogden Avenue in this view looking east. From left to right, the bars visible here are the Heartbreak Bar, Burke’s Place, the 5th Street Hotel, High Times Saloon, Nickel Street Saloon, the Viking Lounge and the Handlebar. Click on the photo for a much larger image.
This area was largely cleared to make way for commercial and industrial development in the 1970s and 1980s. Here’s the same stretch of North Fifth Street today:
A surviving tavern is the Viking at the corner of Fifth and Hughitt, visible in the distance with the same vertical LIQUORS sign as it had in 1978. Here’s a close-up present-day view:
There may be one other tavern structure still standings – is the “Handlebar” in the distance in the 1978 photo the same building that houses Schultz’s Sports Bar today? I don’t know.
So when did all those bars get torn down? Was it all at once, or did it happen over a few years? Again, I don’t know, so perhaps one of you can fill in some details.
A March 29, 1981, News Tribune article on the redevelopment effort in the North End mentioned how “the project is creating open spaces in the once heavily settled district between Tower and Hammond avenues and North Third and the east-west rail corridor at Eighth Street.
“The 20-square-blocks are being transformed from one of old frame houses ‘so close together neighbors could shake hands through open windows’ to an area of potential high value as a commercial and light industrial district, Superior community development specialist James Kumbera said.”
The city was buying up houses as it could and demolishing them to create large areas of open land.
What are your memories of the bars along North Fifth Street? What more information can you offer about when they were torn down? Share your memories by posting a comment.
Old aerial photos always offer a lot of interesting opportunities to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. Here are a few aerial photos of Duluth from the early 2000s, from the News Tribune archives. Click on the images for a larger view:
This photo from October 2003 shows the area just east of downtown Duluth, prior to major expansion by what is now Essentia Health, and also before construction of the Sheraton Hotel. (Derek Neas / News Tribune)
The reconstruction of Piedmont Avenue is under way in this view from June 2004. (Derek Neas / News Tribune)
An aerial view over downtown Duluth and the Central Hillside in June 2002. (Derek Neas / News Tribune)
A view of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center in August 2003, before the addition of the Duluth 10 movie theater, Amsoil Arena and an additional parking structure. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
The Heartland Band, a Northland country music group, as seen in February 1982 – clockwise from lower left: Mark Russell, Steve Johnson, Al Oikari, Greg Brown, Jack Purcell and Craig Erickson. (News Tribune file photo)
Heartland Band lifts area’s country music profile
By Bob Ashenmacher, News-Tribune staff writer
Maybe it’s just that its audiences are so polite. Why else would country music’s profile be so low in this area?
After all, it may well be the most popular kind of music between Pine City and the Canadian border. Consider: It’s big news when a rock act like Loverboy sells out Duluth Arena, but routine when the Staler Brothers do it (or Kenny Rogers, although these days he’s about as genuinely country as Ralph Lauren).
Country radio stations like Hibbing’s WKKQ-AM and Duluth’s WDSM-AM have been enjoying very healthy ratings in the local market for a good while now, with no signs of slipping.
Finally, there’s the recent experience of Jim Nostrant at WKLK, Cloquet’s country radio. His station and half a dozen others around the state recently sponsored a country talent search. Each region’s winner has been chosen and the state finals will be in Cloquet’s middle school gymnasium at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“We for sure had the most entries of any region in the state,” Nostrant said.
“Some of the other contests had like 13 entrants. We had 42, and after the cutoff time something like another 50 wanted to sign up.”
The contest had to be conducted over two Sunday afternoons, rather than the orginally planned one. Its site, the Register bar in Scanlon, was filled with upwards of 400 people each day, Nostrant said. The would-be stars wanted a shot at $50,000, a televised performance in Nashville and a recording and bookings contract. That’s the top prize in the national competition, sponsored by Wrangler Jeans.
The local entrants ranged from a 7-year-old singer to a 67-year-old former logger who played the harmonica and guitar. The winner was the Heartland Band, a sextet formed specifically for the contest.
“We’d been talking about getting together anyway,” said organizer Greg Brown of Carlton. “This seemed like the perfect opportunity. I’d worked with a lot of these guys before.”
Brown supplies vocals and plays guitar and fiddle. The rest of the lineup is Steve Johnson or Grand Marais, guitar and vocals; Al Oikari of Grand Marais, piano, guitar and vocals; Craig Erickson of Cloquet, bass and vocals; Mark Russell of Duluth, steel guitar; and Jack Purcell of Cloquet on drums.
The band’s sound is highlighted by its harmonies and instrumental variety, according to Brown. It won its chance at the state championship by doing an old Cajun tune, “Diggy Liggy Lo,” as a warmup, and Rusty Weir’s “Don’t it Make You Wanna Dance” as its to-be-judged song.
The winner of Friday night’s state finals gets $1,000, a trip to Nashville, an appearance on a televised show with Ray Price and a chance at the top prize, performing on the show and the above-mentioned 50 grand and recording and booking contracts. Tickets to the state finals will cost $6.50. “But some of the other states, I know, are charging eight bucks,” Nostrant said.
And all the talent won’t be homegrown. Nashville’s Legarde Twins will perform and emcee, and Texan swing band Texas Tradition will play backup to solo acts who want accompaniment.
— end —
Do you remember the Heartland Band? Does anyone know if they advanced to the national competition? What other long-ago local bands should we search for in the News Tribune archives? Share your memories and suggestions by posting a comment.
Michael Aguirre, alias Velvet Sam, performs a song-gram for Tom Pratchios (left) as Scott Campbell watches on Dec. 18, 1980. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
This music man turns songs into gifts
By Ann Glumac, News-Tribune staff
Guitar slung over his shoulder, music stand in hand, Velvet Sam heralded his arrival at Natchio’s Restaurant in Duluth by shouting for the owner: “Is there a Mr. Tom Pratchios in the house?”
Pratchios smiled as Sam — alias Michael Aguirre — set up the music stand before him. He laughed as Sam began singing the personalized song-gram chronicling — humorously — Pratchios’ life story. He was laughing, crying and kissing friends when Sam ended the song.
Pratchios’ friends ordered the “Unforgettable Gift Delivered Anywhere” from Velvet Sam’s Song-Grams, an enterprise begun a month ago by Aguirre, 27, and his wife Kitty, 22, of 17 W. Oxford St., Duluth. They have since delivered about 10 song-grams for $21.50 each, plus mileage.
Practhios’ reaction isn’t unusual, Sam said. “People just sit there in awe. It’s such a surprise. All of a sudden, their past is being revealed to all those people, but it’s a happy embarrassment.”
Song-grams can be written for any occasion — birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, thank-yous and I-love-yous, Sam said. The recipient of the song-gram receives a copy of the lyrics, also.
When a prospective sender calls, Kitty Aguirre said, they sell themselves as well as the song-grams. “We get the people into it and get information out of them,” she said. “We really dig to get neat things, but they’re all meant with love.”
The recipient’s history becomes the subject of the four- to five-verse song Sam takes about two hours to write. “The songs have a country flair because country music is fun, jumpy music,” Sam said. He forms a mental image of the person before he writes, picturing what the person looks like and even what kind of clothes the person wears.
Velvet Sam does his thing at a birthday party for Tammi Marshall at Duluth’s Town Crier Restaurant on Feb. 11, 1985. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
A song-gram delivered to a UMD medical student during a lecture detailed the student’s habit of eating in his sleep — information provided by the student’s wife. Pratchios’ message included incidents from his military career.
Many of the songs contain “connotative adult humor,” which Sam said he grew to appreciate while writing comical songs for a Los Angeles television show.
“A lot of people have been helping us,” Kitty said, including an artist friend who designed the logo for the song paper. “They wanted to make sure we weren’t just talking. They wanted to see it happen in Duluth.”
“We have so much fun with it,” Kitty said. “I like the laughing while writing the songs and the anticipation because you know it’s a good song.”
Sam likes the reactions. After several years of playing original music in nightclubs with smatterings of applause, he enjoys being the center of attention, even if it’s only for five minutes.
“This is like a five-minute concert and you get a standing ovation every time,” Sam said. “You feel like you wrote a Top 10 song in the country. You have the number one song in that room at that moment. You leave, and you can still hear the people laughing.”
Sam’s wardrobe includes a tuxedo, a messenger’s uniform, and his cowboy outfit. He’s hoping to make enough money to buy an array of costumes to fit any occasion.
The customer chooses the costume. But, Kitty said, he or she must choose some costume — “Sam won’t strip.”
Sam won’t sing a nasty song-gram, either, he said. “I wouldn’t want to insult anybody or hurt anybody’s feelings. These are all sent with love.”
He’ll travel long distances to deliver the song-grams, although the customer must pay mileage costs. Long-distance song-grams are also offered at a lower rate, with the customer paying the telephone costs.
Michael Aguirre continued to perform as Velvet Sam in Duluth through at least the mid-1980s. He’s the father of pro snowboarders Mason and Molly Aguirre. The family moved from Duluth to California in 2001.
Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.
This detail from an 1890 map shows part of the village of Lakeside before it became part of the city of Duluth. (2007 file / News Tribune)
The end of one year and beginning of another can be a time of great change, as new laws and ordinances take effect. Such was the case 120 years ago, when the arrival of 1893 meant that the village of Lakeside became part of the city of Duluth.
As 1892 ended and 1893 began, “the new year was whistled in at midnight by all the mills and industries on the bay shore which had steam up,” the News Tribune reported on Jan. 1. There also was “a fusillade of revolver shots on Superior Street,” but police did not arrest the gun owner, “some license being allowed for exaggerated fun on such an occasion.”
And with the shots and whistles echoing around town, Lakeside residents found themselves living in Duluth. The News Tribune marked the annexation of “Duluth’s handsome, prosperous and cultured suburb to the east” in a Jan. 1, 1893, article:
“After about four years existence as a village under the general laws of Minnesota and with special powers since the legislative session of 1891, beautiful Lakeside, loveliest village on Superior’s shores, became at midnight, with the ringing of the new year’s bells, a part of Duluth, the solid and superb. As a bride to the altar, she came with good wishes and in rich attire. There was no formal marriage ceremony at this time, it having been performed by the legislature two years ago, to take effect on this New Year’s day, and by the mere striking of the clock she passed from an independent suburb to an inseparable part of the twinless city. …
Another detail from an 1890 map shows the village of Lakeside before it was annexed into the city of Duluth. (2002 file / News Tribune)
“In two years from today the whole head of the lake on the Minnesota side of the bay will be a single city stretching from Lester river to Fond du Lac, West Duluth coming in next New Year’s say and participating in the general municipal election of February 1894. Thus the several parts of the future great city are beginning to get together, and while congratulating Lakeside on the alliance it has made, it is equally in order to congratulate Duluth on this early exhibition of her magnetic powers. With excellent street car and steam railway service, delightful carriage drives, fine schools and churches, charming houses, beautiful and even romantic scenery, and a cultured, enterprising people, Lakeside is truly a gem of a city — an agate on a rock-bound coast. …
“With the mists of her own beautiful river as a bridal veil, with snow drops and snow drifts as flowers beneath her feet, we salute again the sunrise suburb, now our own, that has ever been a handsome frontispiece to Duluth.”
And so the village of Lakeside became the Lakeside neighborhood, and the city of Duluth took one more step toward consolidating various municipalities into the city we know today.
And, of course, the terms of the annexation agreement between Duluth and Lakeside stipulated that no bars or liquor stores were to be allowed in the neighborhood – and Lakeside remains “dry” to this day.
Now here’s a little New Year’s bonus from the News Tribune of Dec. 31, 1912…
As Duluth prepared for New Year’s Eve 100 years ago, the Bridgeman-Russell dairy announced a special menu of its “velvet ice cream” to accompany celebrations to welcome in 1913. The flavors? Maple mousse, macaroon, bisque, almond, walnut and nesselrud. “Nesselrud” probably was Nesselrode, a mixture of preserved fruits and chopped nuts named after a 19th-century Russian statesman. The Bridgeman-Russell Co. advertised two locations — 13 E. Superior St. and 14-16 W. First St.