BETWEEN SETS AT the Pfister Hotel’s Mason Street Grill, Greg Marcus, left, and his bandmates enjoy a visit from another jazz musician: Al Jarreau, middle, who considered the Pfister — and Ripon — the first steps in his “Yellow Brick Road.”					 submitted photo
BETWEEN SETS AT the Pfister Hotel’s Mason Street Grill, Greg Marcus, left, and his bandmates enjoy a visit from another jazz musician: Al Jarreau, middle, who considered the Pfister — and Ripon — the first steps in his “Yellow Brick Road.” submitted photo

     WORLDS COLLIDING.

     Two prominent Milwaukee natives who have meant a lot to our city and to Ripon College have ties to each other independent of Ripon.

     After jazz singer and Ripon College alumnus Al Jarreau died 11 days ago, I knew who I had to call.

     Greg Marcus.

     The CEO and president of Marcus Corp. ... is the 2013 of Ripon College’s Founder’s Day award. More important, of course, he is the grandson of Ben Marcus, who in 1935 started his portfolio of movie theaters, restaurants, resorts and hotels at the single-screen Campus Cinema on the north end of Watson Street.

     Through the generosity of Greg and his father Steve, that theater endures today, with $5, family-appropriate movies available for viewing seven days a week.

     Greg, 53, was a teen in the early ’80s when he met Al after Steve Marcus got Al one of his first jobs.

     “[Al] describes it as the first step in his Yellow Brick Road,” Greg said. “He played in the Pfister [Hotel in downtown Milwaukee]. My dad was running the Pfister because at that point my grandfather [Ben] had moved to Milwaukee and ended up buying the Pfister.” ...

     Greg, an amateur jazz pianist, has gotten to know and admire Al through the past three decades.

     But he laughs when recalling his first encounter with Al during the early ’80s, when Al’s career was just starting to blossom. Greg walked into the Pfister with Steve.  

     “Now when you’re a teenager, who’s the least cool guy you know? Your dad,” he said. “I noticed coming down the stairs in the lobby of the Pfister was Al Jarreau. Cool! Here’s Al Jarreau.”

     “Steve!” said Al.

     “Al!” said Steve.

     “They’re in a big embrace and I’m like, ‘How does the most uncool guy in the world know Al Jarreau?’” Greg said. ...

     To read the entire column, see the Feb. 23, 2017 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.