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Gracie Gold is favored to win the gold medal at Skate America.
Gracie Gold is favored to win the gold medal at Skate America. (Photo: Uusfigureskating)

Skate America gets down to business with Friday's short programs

The hard work came to an end Thursday when the contestants in Skate America finished their practice rounds under the watchful eyes of coaches and a few die hard skating fans who had passes to the session.

I watched the practice sessions with several people who were part of the figure skating scene, a couple of coaches, a couple of bloggers and even the hosts of a YouTube site called The Skating Lesson.

The way the practices work is that half of a particular field (men’s ladies, pairs and dance) take the ice and warm up. The each of the skaters gets to run either the short program or the long one.

The most interesting thing is that during the program practice the other skaters don’t leave the ice. They continue to work on their stuff until it’s time for them to practice an entire program.

While the skaters work, they often stop and talk briefly with their coaches who line the rink like proud parents watching their kids take their first steps.

One of the most intriguing pairings was Gracie Gold and her top-hatted coach, Frank Carroll.

Gold is the best American lady skater and the current U. S. champion. She placed fourth at the last Olympics and fourth at the last World Championships.

Carroll, who is 75, has coached three world champions: Linda Fratianne, Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek. He watched his athlete like a hawk, never changing his expression of dead-on concentration. When Gold skated to him, he’d put his hands on her waist or shoulders and talk earnestly as she clearly carefully listened.

The experts around me, including Dave Lease, one of the hosts of The Skating Lesson YouTube show. He shot Gold’s performance with a handheld video camera and returned to the experts after he watched the long program.

"She didn’t look great," he said. "She has all the skills. She should be out here looking to kill someone. But looking into her eyes, it looked like she was going to get killed. It’s all about attitude and confidence."

Skate America…

A photo of the original Giovanni's.
A photo of the original Giovanni's. (Photo:

New Giovanni's can match food but not the mob dreamer who ran the old one

For the ninth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, dining guides, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, aswell as voting for your "Best of Dining 2015."

As Jeff Sherman and Lori Friedrich reported, Giovanni’s restaurant, once the best place for a veal chop in Milwaukee, will reopen next week on Old World 3rd Street.

I have great hope that the new location can capture the same magic in its food that the old place, located at 1683 N. Van Buren St., had. But no matter how good the food is, it won’t be the same without Max Adonis.

Adonis was as much a part of the lure of Giovanni’s as was the veal chop or the Sicilian steak.

Max was about 5-foot-6 and weighed well over 250 pounds. He had only one arm and always kept the empty arm of his suit coat tucked into the pocket of his jacket. And while Max wanted to serve great food, his most profound desire was to have everyone believe he was a member of the mob.

Max was Polish not Italian; he was born Max Ludwig Gajewski; but, somewhere along the way he became Max Adonis and tried to pass himself off as an Italian.  He invited all the local mobsters to eat at the place, hoping that the atmosphere would rub off on him.

Going to Giovanni’s was an experience unmatched at the time. You’d park your car in the crowded lot and Max would come running your way to see if you were the kind of person who merited a parking spot. If not, he swore and shouted and waved his one arm until you got into your car and began to search for street parking.

Then he’d stalk back to his spot just inside the front door and take on the persona of someone who might just pull out a gun and shoot you.

Max Adonis was a myth. I knew all the Balistrieris back then, including Frank, the head of the Milwaukee mob, and his two sons, John and Joseph. Frank used to laugh at Max an…

Alexandre Ferreira and Annia Hidalgo rehearse Milwaukee Ballet's "Dracula"
Alexandre Ferreira and Annia Hidalgo rehearse Milwaukee Ballet's "Dracula" (Photo: Rachel Malehorn)

World famous "Dracula" opens weekend run at Milwaukee Ballet


The name riles the imagination with snapshots of fangs dripping in blood, hands like claws reaching for flesh in terror-filled moments.

How about Dracula as sex -symbol?

That is part of what’s in store for audiences when Milwaukee Ballet opens a run of Michael Pink’s world famous production of "Dracula." Oct. 22 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

This Dracula is being danced, for the first time, by Brazilian dancer Alexandre Ferreira, a dewy-eyed combination of Omar Sharif, Benicio del Toro and Julio Iglesias. To say this young man has sex appeal doesn’t begin to capture the magic that surrounds him both onstage and off.

Ferreira grew up in Rio de Janiero where his younger brother sparked him into the world of dance.

"My younger brother was dancing and he got to travel a lot to competitions," Ferreira said during a break from the grueling rehearsals for Dracula. "I told my mother that I wanted to travel, too, and she said then I had to do something. I had to come up with something where I could travel around the country. I picked dance. And I’ve been doing it ever since."

He danced in his country until he was 17 and was accepted at the Miami City Ballet School. He studied and then joined the company and danced a variety of roles until he came to Milwaukee years ago.

"Dancing this role now is a big deal because four years ago when I joined the company, 'Dracula' was the first ballet I did," Ferreira said. "I did another role by Michael, who asked me to come to the studio and learn the role because I was a new dancer and he wanted to see what I could do. Not only dancing-wise but artistically. If I could play a character and bring some sort of emotion to the role."

He is frank about four years ago.

"I would say I wasn’t mature enough as an artist (to play Dracula then)," he said. "Now I have a much more solid base in my dancing and my artistry . Now I can work and develop consciously such a strong role. In the past I wasn’t read…

Alyson Cambridge will sing the title role in "Madama Butterfly."
Alyson Cambridge will sing the title role in "Madama Butterfly." (Photo:

Florentine brings another Puccini opera with "Madama Butterfly" this week

Sam Cooke, Willie Nelson and Giacomo Puccini.

All three giants in the world of music. All three of them writing perhaps their greatest works, one after another. Three great ones in a row.

For Cooke, it was "What a Wonderful World," "Chain Gang" and "A Change is Gonna Come."

For Nelson, it was "Crazy," "Hello Walls" and "Funny How Time Slips Away."

And for Puccini, it was "La Boheme," "Tosca" and "Madama Butterfly."

Milwaukee is going through what might be called "Puccini season,’ with two of the greatest of his operas getting the treatment from two wonderful companies. It opened with a brilliant production of "Tosca," which closed its run at Skylight last weekend.

There won’t be any withdrawal symptoms, though, because next weekend the highly respected Florentine Opera opens "Madama Butterfly," the last of Puccini’s trio of great works, for a two performance run Oct. 16 and 18 in Uihlein Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

The opera is an ultra-romantic and ultra-tragic story of a U.S. Navy officer who takes a 15-year-old Japanese geisha for a wife. Officer Pinkerton, though, leaves Cio-Cio San and returns to America. She delivers their child and raises him, all the while resisting efforts to get her to remarry and pining for the return of Pinkerton. She is convinced he will be back. 

He does return – with his American wife but believing he has made a mistake leaving Cio-Cio San. His wife, Kate, has agreed to raise the child, and Cio-Cio San says she will give the baby to them if Pinkerton himself comes to see her. He does, she blindfolds her son and gives him to Pinkerton, then walks behind a screen and stabs herself with her father’s knife.  

The role of cio-Cio San has one of the most beautiful and famous arias in all of the world of opera, one many people have heard at one time or in one version or another. The aria is "Un Bel Di" – or "One Fine Day" – and you can hear the famed Maria Callas sing it here.  

In Florentin…