The perception of pole dancing is changing. When Maureen Metzger and her business partner DJ Hamilton started Blush Pole Fitness & Dance six years ago, Maureen says, "people thought [the instructors] were strippers." Since then, she's seen attitudes adjust as pole dancing went from taboo to a possible Olympic sport. Maureen equates pole dancing with aerial arts, on par with performances seen in shows such as Cirque du Soleil. She leads a series of classes and workshops that focus on upper-body and core strength or hone in sensual spins and dances. "You can be sexy and sensual," Maureen says, "and it doesn’t have to be tasteless . . . I watch Dancing with the Stars, and I think that is way more sexual than anything we do."
Occasionally, she still has to spend some time fighting inaccurate stereotypes, including an episode in early 2012 that involved inviting Jim Stingl of the Journal Sentinel to studio for a fact-finding mission. But mostly, Maureen and DJ concern themselves with empowering women to be "strong physically and emotionally." There comes a time, she says, when "you stop feeling sexy, you age, you gain weight, you get so busy with other parts of your life. . . I think we lose [that] and [pole dancing] reminds us to be women." She credits pole dancing as a vital ally in boosting her self-esteem during a double mastectomy in her battle against breast cancer.
And though Maureen is the first to tout the power of pole dancing, she is also one of the first to undercut some of its weightier connotations, much like a doctor who uses a stethoscope that squeaks. "[We're] totally willing to laugh at ourselves," she says. "Nobody is taking this too seriously." The lighter mood, in particular, helps welcome shy students, who Maureen and DJ witness transform into "strong, confident, sexy, and feminine [women]."
Steve Shapson has always taken a do-it-yourself approach to his food, having cultivated wild mushrooms and started his own home-brewing store. One day, a customer entered this brewing facility in search of a thermometer, and Steve quickly discovered the man had something other than brewing in mind. As the customer explained his newfound passion for amateur cheese making, Steve enthusiastically dove into the concept, inviting the fellow foodie to his store to help him discover the process. Since then, he's become The Cheesemaker, striving to pass on hard-earned knowledge that he maintains can't be found in conventional cheese-making guidebooks.
Steve teaches techniques for making hard and soft cheeses, butter, yogurt, and kefir in onsite workshops that last either just a few hours or a full weekend. During hands-on workshops, he explains both proper and improper techniques, often citing mistakes he's made in the past as examples and telling cautionary tales about arranging rival cheeses next to each other on a serving platter. To supply his workshops and fill out his take-home cheese-making kits, Steve gathers a range of cultures and inoculants necessary for developing different cheeses, as well as basic-to-advanced gear such as curd knives, strainers, and warming vats.
After decades of winning the admiration of stock-car racing fans with his aggressive driving strategy and off-track charisma, Rusty Wallace now gives others the chance to experience the rush of racing. He joined forces with Sodikart to roll out the Rusty Wallace Kart Experience, pairing kart with driver at some of the country's most celebrated racetracks. Racers can hop in a custom RT8 (or its kid-friendly counterpart, the LR4) and hit the gas, tearing up everything from the versatile road courses and speedy main track of the Atlanta Motor Speedway to the challenging lava pits of the Milwaukee Mile.
But this go-karting business has a big brother?the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience. It's a high-speed trip into the pro-racing trade, with breathtaking ride-alongs and racing experiences in stock cars. Guests buckle up and sit shotgun alongside professional drivers as they fly down straightaways and around curves. They can even get behind the wheel themselves, finally feeling what it's like to be a professional driver.
The 74-foot tower of North Point Lighthouse stretches to meet the neighboring trees of Lake Park. Attached to it are two-and-a-half stories of wood-frame keeper's quarters that once housed historic figures such as Georgia Stebbins, keeper for thirty years.
Renovated in 2007, the bright, airy building now acts as home to artifacts and lighthouse-related curios, including an original 1928 Fresnel lens that helped guide seafaring vessels. Additionally, a Chadburn telegraph, recovered from a sunken ship, pays homage to the orders that went to and from the ship's bridge and engine rooms.
Guests can browse both the quarters and the lighthouse, and explore the site's more than 120 years of history by perusing the artwork and photographs displayed throughout the galleries. Dedicated volunteers are also on hand to dispense fascinating information and history, and to give limited guided tours that lead visitors to the top of the tower, where they can catch views of the surrounding park and lakefront.
It's rare for museums to have cozy dining rooms, but the Charles Allis Art Museum wasn't always a museum. Earlier in the 20th century, it was businessman and arts patron Charles Allis's Tudor-style mansion. Allis bequeathed it to the public along with his massive art collection, though, and nowadays, visitors can stop by to see pieces that span 2,000 years. Some highlights? Works by Winslow Homer, Classic antiquities, a large collection of Asian ceramics, plus rotating exhibits by local Wisconsin artists.
The Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum nestles in a historic mansion, too, albeit a different one. This one was built in the likeness of an Italian Renaissance villa in 1923, by architect David Adler. Its art spans a smaller period, from the 15th century through to the 18th. Visitors can browse wrought-iron work by Cyril Colnik, and explore a formal, outdoor Renaissance garden.
As vaudeville heaved its last breaths in the late 1920s, RKO's Riverside Theater opened in 1928 and served as a performance hall for just a few years before Warner Brothers took it over to screen their films. Decades of neglect followed, reaching a nadir in 1966 when a carelessly tossed cigarette butt incinerated the proscenium's drapery, prompting the cash-conscious owners to replace the opulent teal velour with workmanlike duvetyn. A slated demolition in 1982 nearly replaced the theater with a shopping mall before a coalition of citizens convinced philanthropist Joseph Zilber to save the space. In the subsequent renovations, craftsmen installed plush red drapery, overhauled the obsolete lighting, and repainted the faded French Baroque gilding of the auditorium, restoring the elegant space to its former glory and inspiring it to get back out on the theater dating scene.