Top

Movin’ On Up

bjdaniels92.jpg

The 19th Annual Leo Feldman Christmas & Craft Show, a longtime staple of the Riverwest holiday season, is changing venues this year. Like George and Weezy Jefferson, Leo Feldman is “movin’ on up, to a dee-luxe apartment in the sky.” For many seasons the show haunted the Uptowner, a Riverwest bar and landmark, but now the cutting-edge craft fair has found swanky new digs on floor twelve of the Wells Fargo building at 735 W. Wisconsin Avenue in the heart of downtown. Milwaukeeworld.com and Michael Horne are sponsoring the event. Mr. Feldman explains, “The last couple of years have been very diffcult for me. I don’t mind admitting that I needed to see a therapist. She was so helpful in getting my head on straight, that I invited her to last year’s adult-themed XXX-mas & Craft Show. Well, the invite had Santa with two semi-nude female elves on it, and I think she took it the wrong way, seeing that she works at a shelter for women.” Before Feldman knew it, the therapist had allegedly contacted TV 6, who Feldman claims, “featured this misunderstanding, this debacle, as the top story three days before last year’s show. The resulting media pandemonium turned an already well-attended event into a seething mob of protesters, well-wishers and hangers-on.” But according to Feldman, last year’s show was an unprecedented success in need of a larger venue and tighter security. “Past shows have been XXX rated, but this year,” he says, “we’re toning it down a bit. It will still be ‘adults only,’ but more like NC-17. The new space is exciting…luxurious, with panoramic vistas of the Milwaukee skyline.” For Feldman, it’s all a labor of love, a yearly critique of crass commercialism, holiday hypocrisy and world events, which had humble beginnings in the basement of the now defunct Hotel Wisconsin “…sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s,” Feldman recollects. He remembers preparing for the show and sweeping up thousands of dead cockroaches from the floor. The roaches perhaps served as inspiration for artist Dan Clarke, who crafted miniature xmas trees (encased in clear plastic) crawling with dead cockroaches. Other items from that memorable era included Jimmy Von Milwaukee’s tree-ornament dioramas in Spam cans (titled X-mas in River Hills)_a comment about the controversial thinning of deer herds in that community. Former exhibits have been themed “Santa Vs. Satan,” “It’s a Telletubbie Millennium A Coming,” and the infamous “Night of The Infidels,” which explored Yuletide and Islamic fundamentalism. According to a 1998 press release, the “Heaven’s Gate Show” provided an evening of “mass culture diarrhea that forces the consumer to confront modern man’s fear of the gutter.” And what can viewers expect to see at this year’s event on Saturday, December 18th from 6 pm until 11 pm? Master Zaster Blaster for starters. They’ll entertain while folks browse crafts themed around “cultural events of 2004″_for example, Martha Stewart and Saddam Hussein doing hard time, Mark Belling’s fall from grace, the phenomenon of desperate housewives, the Olson twins and Paris Hilton, the sainthood of Ronald Reagan, red and blue states, the legitimization of George W. Bush and the extreme makeover of everything. Local icons exhibiting crafts are too numerous to mention, but as in years past, photographers John Shimon and Julie Lindemann will be around to take holiday photos of visitors posing with Santa. Also on hand, will be their new book, Season’s Gleamings, The Art of the Aluminum Christmas Tree..a perfect gift for nostalgia seekers. Inside the pink hardcover is a listing of contributors to Shimon & Lindemann’s efforts, and yes, many of those same zanies will also be exhibiting their crafts. If you can’t think of any reason to celebrate the holidays, this one’s for you!
bjdaniels92.jpg