Al in Milwaukee

I’m back. The Marcus Corporation, Steve Marcus, and son Greg, invited me to come celebrate their 75th anniversary, and sing at their black tie gala. I was 22 years old when Papa Ben Marcus, founder of the corporation, hired me to sing in their lobby lounge. The marquee outside advertised, “Singing Psychologist Al Jarreau.” I was still a student studying rehabilitation at State University of Iowa.

Get a load of this—Ben Marcus’ first corporate venture was to buy and operate the Campus Theatre-Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1935. As a student at Ripon, I was often in that theatre between 1958 and 1962, and had no idea of Papa Ben’s relationship to Ripon when I worked for him between ’62 and ’64. He has always been a major financial donor to the college, none more important…. I didn’t discover this until 13 years and 11 albums into my career. Surprise! There we were on the same rostrum receiving honorary degrees and it blew my mind to make the above discovery. During those days, I saw and interacted with Steve Marcus (we’re around the same age), who was already very active at the Pfister Hotel and the corporation in Milwaukee. Today there are 19 hotels and resorts, and 55 theaters with 684 screens around the world- Way bigger than the Campus Theatre in Ripon… It is still going.

Many of the dignitaries at the gala have attended inaugural balls in Washington, DC. The gala raised a check for $75,000 each to United Way and United Performing Arts Fund. They even made a wonderful donation to the Tom Cheeks Scholarship Fund, one of my pet projects.

At the end of the dinner and presentations, the band and I—you know the guys—did a 50 minute burn that I would describe as one of the most intense and delightful performances of my life. It was ‘the zone’ where time slows down to the point where you can reach out and move the pieces on the chessboard at will and in slow motion. Athletes talk about it all the time.

I know they got it, and told me so at the reception. My handwritten letter of thanks to Steve and Greg and the Marcus Corporation included congratulations on building a corporation with thousands of happy employees who understand and live with a couple of great mottos of Papa Ben Marcus: “Our people are our most valuable asset.” And “We do well by doing good.”

I beg you to teach that in our great Universities. AND… I got to see my family and friends from grade school. I was glad to be me this weekend. Thank you everyone

I’ll talk to you after the Airmen of Note Air Force Big Band Extraordinaire event in Washington, DC.

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