Milwaukee Calendar was one of several "bar rag" format news-magazines issued during the late 1970's and early 1980's; the group also included RAGG, Gay Milwaukee, and In Step Magazine. All of these format magazines were black & white newsprint quality publications. They typically included a calendar of events and bar specials; a listings of bars and organizations; coverage and a few photos of special shows or sporting events; and might include some brief news articles or original stories. Distributed free (mostly picked up by patrons of bars and other LGBT businesses- thus the generic term "bar rags"), they were paid for by advertising (mostly from bars and LGBT supporting businesses).
According to the editor in the third issue, when this magazine was in the planning stages, one of their worries was that Milwaukee might not have enough Gay activities going on to keep the Calendar full! But the publishers hoped that better promotion of businesses and events would increase participation and attendance, thus benefiting the community. The publishers soon realized their fears were unfounded: the third issue alone contained over one hundred and fifty things to do during the issue's 15 day coverage period, according to the editor's count.
Milwaukee Calendar included one of the earliest and most complete true calendar formats: each day of the issue's coverage period was listed, with bar specials and other activities listed under each day. It also included gay bowling standings, a crossword puzzle, a wide range of business display ads, and a Classified ad section. The "Cruise Map" was excellent, shown in aerial-view format, and the 3rd issue already listed 17 bars, 4 restaurants, and 3 bathhouses.
The first and early issues listed the following information about the creation of the Milwaukee Calendar:
The Milwaukee Calendar
About May of 1980, the owners of the Milwaukee Calendar decided to sell the publication to the publishers of Gay Chicago magazine, published by Ultra Ink, Inc. of Chicago. The owner and founder of that company, Ralph-Paul Gernhardt, was making attempts to establish several local publications aside from Gay Chicago, including Gay Detroit, Gay Milwaukee, and Gay Ohio; and in January 1981 the former Milwaukee Calendar, now published by Ultra Ink, was formally renamed as Gay Milwaukee.
Just over a year later however, in May 1981, demands of Milwaukee advertisers to exclude another advertiser led Ultra Ink to decide to cease printing Gay Milwaukee (see letter below). (The disputed advertiser was Sunday's, the Sunday-only gay bar that operated as Park Avenue on other days. Several of the full-time gay bar owners strongly objected to seeing advertisements for Sunday's in the publication that also advertised their full-time gay bars, and the dispute became contentious enough that the publishers in Chicago decided the only way to deal with it was to kill the magazine.)
Accelerating that decision was that the demands of trying to publish several publications attempting to cover activities so geographically disbursed was becoming more difficult, so Ultra Ink eventually moved to merge the various non-Chicago publications into a more regional representation of Gay Chicago covering all of the Midwest, creating the newspaper-formatted Midwest Times, in 1981.
All was not lost however. By November 1981, the Milwaukee-focused magazine had been resurrected as Wisconsin's Escape magazine, even resuming numbering with that magazine as "vol. 4 no. 11". See link for more information on that publication.
Thanks to the son of the late Ralph-Paul Gernhardt to give us this brief history and allow us to display select extract pages of Gay Milwaukee.
Credits: Special thanks to the Gerber-Hart Library in Chicago for the use of their collection
in compiling Milwaukee Calendar/ Gay Milwaukee historical materials.
and to Ultra Ink, Inc. which purchased Milwaukee Calendar and printed and holds the Gay Milwaukee copyright.
Page design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: January-2014.