Episode 11: Bars and Tone Deaf

casino_15 (1)“Vic, Les and I were actually at the casino bar toasting her good fortune the moment Mary was strutting out onstage,” is how Allen Kew remembers that big “where were you when” moment.

“You’d think someone would have asked to see my set list before then,” Mary reasoned….

“Even Vic never made Mary cry this much,” Les would joke onstage later that evening.

Vic Shell summed up the big moment as a microcosm of the symbiotic relationship of The Chat Pack.  “I’ve always said we’re a team.   When one of us falls down, the others rush in to pick up our fallen one.  When someone cries out for help, someone is there to wipe the tear.  And when one of us disappoints another, Allen is always there to say he’s sorry.”

Disastrous turn for MTalk co-host
Disastrous turn for MTalk co-host

BALLAST,  January 4, 2003 – Friday’s episode was a huge success as Milwaukee Talk made their inaugural weekly pilgrimage to The Ballast Casino and Events Center. However, co-host Mary Margaret’s weekend singing gig there may be in jeopardy.

Based on Mary Margaret’s earth-shaking performance late last year on Milwaukee Talk, she signed a contract to perform four musical sets a weekend. Her debut started out fabulously Friday evening as she solidly breezed through her opening number, “Black Velvet”, again wowing the sold-out crowd.

But as Mary tried to break into Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker” she had trouble reaching the high, low or actually any of the notes. Not disheartened after the stumble, Mary apologized to the crowd and band and tried the number over only for the audience to hear it quickly fall apart again.

Mary explained to a hushed crowd that “Black Velvet” really strikes a chord with her and is her favorite song. “I sing it around the house all the time,” she confided to the admiring crowd. Rob Tomas, lead bassist for the casino house band, suggested another Alannah Myles song, “Love Is”.  The band cranked it up but to no avail, Mary stumbled through the lyrics again.

After a 45-minute long intermission, the crowd started to get antsy.  Milwaukee Talk co-host Vic Shell ambled onstage with the show’s stage manager, Les Tremaine, and the two meandered through an amusing 22-minute explanation of why Mary would be doing only one last song to end the show.

“To paraphrase, I think Mary only knows one song, Black Velvet,” Shell surmised.

Vic and Les then introduced Margaret, who came out to an appreciative crowd, sang “Black Velvet” again and wound the evening up on a high note.


The legacy you call “The Chat Pack” started growing from here faster than weeds through a Madison sidewalk.  And as you know, once they start, there is no way to stop them.   The weeds or The Chat Pack.  There was also a movement underfoot around that time to immortalize Milwaukee Talk’s own Vic Shell.   While the origins of the aspiration are dubious, there is no question that when The Chat Pack wanted something, there was very little anything anyone could do to stop them.

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