tom smith | make green bay weird | may 2018
As a member of the print media, I'm sad to announce that the Entertainer, the iconic free newspaper advertising Green Bay's nightlife, printed its last issue at the beginning of April. I'm saddened to the point that I feel like a member of the Justice Society of America in Adventure Comics No. 462. I first met Al Andress, the owner of the Entertainer, when I placed an ad in 1988 for a show I set up at the VFW on Pine Street. The promotion of the Concert Café in the '90s was immensely aided by the Entertainer and every single Concert Café calendar flier you saw was designed by Entertainer employee the Rev. Norb. This month in Frankly Green Bay I talk to Rev. Norb about his tenure at the Entertainer.
How long did your tenure at the Entertainer last?
I worked there from the day the Berlin Wall came down in late '89 until Independence Day, 2006, so almost 17 years. I hope everybody had a nice 4th.
What were your responsibilities at the Entertainer?
I was the art department — all of it. We were primarily a three-man operation (with some part-time delivery people coming in once a week). Al Andress ran the paper and sold ads, Shane Reno sold ads and I did everything else — typesetting, graphics, layout, Photoshopping out the strippers' boobs, etc. Since the Entertainer's business model was based on creating a paper that was 100 percent paid advertising, I also generated content to fill any ad space which might've gone unsold that week, drawing the occasional cartoon and writing ridiculous columns with names like The Hooterville World Guardian, Record Reviews from Heck, Moron Sports, etc. I think Al let me do that primarily to humor me, because he hated having anything that wasn't paid for running in the paper, he thought it made us look like losers who couldn't sell ads. I shudder to think of how low an opinion he must've had of the New York Times.
What aspect of working at the Entertainerdid you enjoy most?
Well, we put out two papers a week — one in Green Bay and the Valley, the other in the Lakeshore — hence we had two hard-and-fast deadlines a week. There's a certain amount of stress involved when you're dealing with deadlines. That said, our customers were nightclub owners and bar owners and strip club owners and porn store owners and people who ran escort services out of their homes. When those are the people with whom you're dealing on a day-to-day basis, you don't really have to worry too much about your workplace stifling you in a choking mass of rigid company policies and red tape — you just kinda show up in your sweatshirt, pop in a CD, crack a two-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi and get to work. Apart from the stress that was induced by the constant deadline pressure, there was really no stress at all in the workplace. I hung out and did my work and nobody bothered me or looked over my shoulder or made me fill out an annual review or any of that other crap. I think an important component of the American Dream is just to be left the hell alone when you're doing your job, so we nailed that one.
Any chance you will be putting out your columns you wrote for the Entertainerin book form like “Fear of a Norb Planet"?
Boy, I would have to dig those things up and see if they merit seeing the light of day again. A lot of that stuff was written before we migrated to a computer-based (i.e., “desktop publishing") system, I wrote those columns on an ancient Varityper photoelectric typesetting machine. They're not saved as Word files somewhere, they exist only as pieces of typesetting film, which were waxed on the back and physically pressed into place onto a big piece of paper which became the printed page. I assume I must have a good stack of them stashed in a closet somewhere, but I really couldn't say that with certainty. I think a lot of that stuff was probably pretty local in scope and I'm not so sure that the world is dying to read twenty-five-year-old references to eating at the Port Plaza Mall. Then again, I got stopped at a Kwik Trip a few months ago by a guy who told me he always read The Hooterville World Guardianand still couldn't believe anyone could eat that much Taco Bell, so maybe demand is percolating. I guess I wouldn't hold my breath.
Who would be the most famous person you met working at the Entertainer?
Probably some comedian like Steven Wright or Sam Kinison. I hope it wasn't Wattie from the Exploited, that would be a lame career pinnacle.
Any musicians you worked with at the Entertainer provide any memorable stories?
Oh god, musicians are the worst. What a bunch of self-important knobs! And bear in mind, this is a guy who's been in bands pretty much straight thru from 1980 to the present saying this! Thanks to working at the Entertainer, I stopped identifying as a “musician" sometime in the '90s. I couldn't stand the shame!
Any great stripper stories?
Er, no. If I ever see another “exotic dancer" again in my life it'll be too soon.
Tell us about your boss and Shane Reno. How was working with them?
Both those guys were great. If you work with the same two guys for 17 years, you better all like each other! Al was the kind of guy who couldn't do anything but make money. He couldn't figure out how to put staples in the stapler but he could make cash hand over fist. Anything I know about business I learned from him, he was just relentless in identifying and pursuing opportunities. Here's a Shane story that also doubles as a stripper story: Back in the day, we had a few Polaroid cameras that we used for various purposes, including taking photos of whatever dancers were going to appear in whatever strip club's ad that week. So, one day, Shane comes in with this stack of stripper Polaroids — which was not at all unusual for him — but this time, the stripper in the photos is completely buck naked, smiling and posing as carefree as can be. I inspected the stack of nude photos, and, duly impressed, was like “dude, how'd you get these?" Shane shrugged and said, “I told her that dancers always pose nude for the photos, and then the art guy just adds the outfits back at the office." It was so stupid and so messed up on so many levels that it was sheer genius.
Any other stories that stick out from the Entertainer?
My boss used to trade the local wrestling promoter ad space for tickets. I guess there was an understanding of some sort that the tickets were earmarked for personal use, but what was actually happening was that my boss was sending me to go stand outside the Brown County Arena to sell the tickets on the sidewalk for him, as the promoter didn't know me. So I'd be standing outside the arena on the nights they had wrestling with a pocketful of tickets, being the weird guy who asks you if you need tickets on your way in. It was cool because I got to keep a pair of the tickets for myself, so I got to go to wrestling for free for years. Anyway, one night I'm standing outside the Arena, “TICK-ETTTTS!!! Who needs TICK-ETTTTS???" and this car drives past me, towards the service entrance in back that the wrestlers used. One of the guys in the car is screaming and pointing at me behind the window, shaking his head around and ranting and raving. The window is up, so I can't hear a damn thing he's saying, but he is clearly yelling things at me as he passes. I look closely, and it's Diamond Dallas Page doing the yelling! I was like, “Wow! Diamond Dallas Page just cut a promo on me!" I wish I knew what he said.
Please rank the Entertainer in your top 10 jobs ever. Feel free to include the whole 10.
1. Art Dude at the Entertainer
2. Video Game Developer
3. Ink Technician
4. Pizza Delivery Dude
7. Chicken Gutter
8. Taxi Driver
9. Everything else there possibly could be
10. Political Canvasser
Anything you would like mention?
TWO E'S IN “PEAVEY"!
Please enlighten us on the Entertainer TV show and the segment they allowed you to run wild with.
In 1991 and 1992, we branched out into doing a thirty-minute TV show. We bought time on channel 32 first, then 26 (I think). It costs a lot less to buy late-night spots on TV than you'd imagine; those stations are more desperate than you think. We had two camcorders and an editing deck, and we managed to fill a half-hour with stories on bands and events and crap like that. It was fun, but a ton of extra work and not particularly profitable. If you've seen the “Descendents" movie, “Filmage," that bit in the intro where you hear a voice saying, 'this band has played blah blah blah different shows in blah blah blah different countries ... and you've probably never heard of them,' that's Al, from an episode of theTV show. Some of the other footage in that movie is also stuff I shot for the show. So, you can't say we didn't sink without a trace! My segment was called Rev Up, it was two minutes of me doing some ridiculous monologue that generally ended in a top ten list of some sort. I shot the whole thing myself, so I'd put the camera on a tripod, read a few lines, change clothes, read a few more lines, change clothes again, and keep going, then edit it all together. You could tell I was just stopping and starting the camera every few lines, but since every edit was accompanied by an instant wardrobe change, it added to the ridiculousness. I think I used “Wakey Wakey" by the Toy Dolls as my theme
song at first because I didn't own the Rezillos record with “Rev Up" on it at the time.
Long live the Lakeshore Edition.
Since 1984, when he first began selling records at Galaxy of Sound inside the Port Plaza Mall, Tom Smith has been part of the Green Bay music scene. Promoting his first show in 1986 and hitting his stride with the Concert Café (1995-2001), Smith continues to promote shows in Green Bay. He first honed his journalistic chops while serving as a student DJ at WGBW, interviewing such icons as Motörhead and the Ramones. Today you can find him championing live music and managing The Exclusive Company in Green Bay.