Interview with Rick Gilbertson

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Joshua Ranger, Interviewer | uwcos_Rick_Gilbertson_10222020
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |

0:00

JR: Alright, so I'm going to start this interview by saying that it is August -- August, listen to me. It is October 22nd, 2020. It's about ten o'clock in the morning. I'm Joshua Ranger and this is an interview for the Campus Stories Oral History Project, and can you tell me who you are Sir?

RG: My name is Rick Gilbertson. I'm a former student UW [University of Wisconsin] Oshkosh. I was there from 1972 to 1976. And I guess my fame comes from Augmento, but that was really my best friend at the time and roommate who drew the comic strip, and I was basically just the face that he thought had comic potential is how he put it. And we actually came up with the name Augmento 1:00from my music theory dictionary, paging through and finding what look like it had interest again in terms of humor. Augmentation was one of the verb or one of the nouns we came up with. An augmented chord shortened to Augmento, and I believe he was also in the work study program an got his hours through the Advance-Titan. Was part of his job, basically was drawing the comic strip.

JR: Cool, I'm gonna -- I'm thinking just with the connection and the audio quality maybe we should turn off our cameras and allow the Internet just to handle the audio, alright?

RG: Ok.

JR: Great are you still there?

RG: I am.

JR: Super. Ok I think -- let's hope that's going to be a little better. It was breaking up a little bit, but I did hear what you were saying. I'm going to talk 2:00to bill next week. I want to talk to you about him as well, but I'd like to start with you. Can you tell me a little bit about your upbringing? Where did you grow up?

RG: I grew up on a farm, 10 miles West of Columbus, WI. It -- South of Rio. The address was Rural Route one Rio, which is where our mail came from. But Columbus was my hometown. I basically had somewhat of a sheltered upbringing, thought I was missing out on a lot until I met enough people that lived in town that said they were envious of me being out on the farm. So, I learned to appreciate my upbringing, but getting away to Oshkosh was really the first big separation from my parents and home. I was under pressure to take over the farm since I was the 3:00third child and nobody else had done it and so that was maybe one of the most difficult things, I did in my life was not taking over the farm from my parents and telling them that I wanted to move on and that was more interested in singing and dancing. Although at the time I started as a music major, and I really wanted to sing but found out that I was in the music education program. Didn't really want to be a music teacher. I had no piano skills and so after a year and a half of struggling with music theory and keyboard, there was a class, I believe his name was [Franklin] Utech was the chairman of the Art Department and he said, it was a non-major art class and he said, "you got just as much talent or more than many of my art majors. If you're struggling so much in music, maybe you should switch majors." And switch is what I did after a year 4:00and a half of the music program, I switched to art education since I had all those education credits and basically had that as my fallback plan if I didn't make it as a singer.

JR: Oh ok, when you said you had to make the decision not to take over the farm, I assume that that decision was made prior to you going to college, or was did your parents hold out-?

RG: They happened at the same time. I think the first summer between my freshman sophomore year at Oshkosh I did come home to still help in the fields. They were originally dairy farmers, but my father had gotten more and more ill and sold the cows. So basically, it was field work, and I did help that first summer. But that's when I really declared, "I don't think I can do this anymore" and they decided to start renting the land.

5:00

JR: Ok then where your older siblings -- did they go to college?

RG: My oldest sibling is my sister who married a farmer and lived about a mile and a half away. They had their own farmland and my brother in the middle did go to Whitewater and he was hoping to get into radio and TV, but this was shortly after he did a stint in the Air Force. This is back in the era when everybody was worried about Vietnam and what was going on. My brother enlisted in the Air Force right out of high school and ended up getting discharged medically. He ended up with Hodgkin's disease. And he came close to dying, was given six months to live at one point. He survived it and did end up going to Whitewater, 6:00although because it is medical history, he had a really tough time getting a job. He ended up with the United States Postal Service. Which is what my parents, when they realized that he wasn't going to farm, they were really worried about me when I went on the road performing. I did get a pretty good job with a nine-piece showband that traveled all over the US and as far away is Aruba at one point. So, I didn't really care for living on the road and eventually when my teaching certificate was about to expire if I didn't use it, I ended up searching for an art education job and did end up an art teacher for about four years. And then when we started our family, I actually did end up 7:00getting into the Postal Service which made my parents very happy. And that was actually the length of -- biggest part of my career working wise was twenty-three years with the Postal Service.

JR: Amazing. What an interesting path? So, when you were looking for colleges then what made you choose UW Oshkosh?

RG: I looked for what I thought was strong in music because of my desire to sing and try to make that a career, and I found that Eau Claire and Oshkosh -- It was rumored that they were the strongest in music other than Madison. Actually, I -- because the farm is only about a half hour to forty-five minutes from the UW Madison campus. In hindsight, I almost wonder what would have happened had I gone there? But Madison at the time was so much violence and protesting 8:00bombings, it was again -- this would have been '71 before the Vietnam War ended, and I was basically nervous about going to Madison. And I remember Eau Claire, the long bridge over the river was such a cold day when I was there. I thought this is going to be too easy to skip classes. So, I ended up picking Oshkosh, which was far enough away from home to not farm, but yet it was still about an hour, hour and a half commute.

JR: Ok, so you were worried that they would try to bring you back in on the regular to do farm work?

RG: That's correct. Yeah, I think Madison maybe would have been a stronger school and less expensive cause I could have lived in home and commuted, but I was really wanting to do the breakaway.

9:00

JR: Yep. My wife's people are from Poynette, so that's quite near where you grew up.

RG: It sure is.

JR: I'm a little familiar with that area. I'm curious what it was like in the 60s early 70s, being interested in music and performing dance at Columbus High School for you?

RG: Unfortunately, there were no musicals at that time, so I didn't get involved in any musical theatre. The madrigal actually was maybe my best singing outlet. And I've always been in the choirs. I actually started as a young child in church choir when I was about five or six years old, so I've always sung in church. The church that still there is in Kaiser, Wisconsin. It's unincorporated, but South of Rio it's about three miles from the farm where I 10:00grew up and I found the church basically not only was good for music, but I also felt in fear of the Vietnam War, I thought about becoming or my occupational goal, I remember writing down filling the blank as a singing minister. The Luther League. It was a Lutheran Church, did a lot of social activities. And because I felt very sheltered on the farm going out with kids for church activities was actually one of the more fun things I can remember. And back to Columbus High School, besides the singing, there really wasn't any dancing going on at that time. I didn't even get involved in forensics, which I regret in hindsight. So, it wasn't musical theatre didn't become a part of my life until 11:00that summer between freshman sophomore year of college when I auditioned for Mame in Beaver Dam Community Theater. And that's when I finally got it all together where music, singing and dancing, and on stage and it really fed my ego, I guess. I look -- I was told that I was good and that is what I needed to hear. It definitely was goodbye to farming and hello musical theatre.

JR: So that was 1973, the summer.

RG: Yes. Wait no. Yep. Yep, that would have to be '73.

JR: Got it.

RG: When I got started. Yep.

JR: How long of a drive was that?

RG: Beaver Dam was about twenty miles away so an hour from the farm.

JR: What role were you in Mame?

RG: I did not have an actual title. I remember in the program is said Mame's Friend.

12:00

JR: Ok.

RG: and the choreographer telling me, "Hey, you're good" and telling other people "Do what Rick's doing" and he started putting me in the front row and having me lead the chorus in, and so it was kind of a instant fix for me, I guess.

JR: So where did you learn how to dance or how to move then?

RG: I can't tell you that. I guess other than working with choreographers over the years. Now I've done over fifty different musical productions, so you meet people, you pick up, and it was just a natural ability, I guess. cause there wasn't really any dancing on the farm.

JR: (laughs) I imagine. So, when you first got up to Oshkosh, what did you think after you get settled? What do you think of the campus?

13:00

RG: I liked it a lot. I guess the freedom and realizing -- I think I was actually seventeen when I started, and I hate to admit that when I turned eighteen, I think I made up for lost time. I did an awful lot of partying, a lot of drinking and -- Not that I missed any classes or anything, but it was it really felt like a whole new life, and I enjoyed it tremendously. My wife shouted in from the other room that I should mention Arthur Murray, one of my first jobs. As I was walking the streets of Oshkosh looking for additional income, I walked up on a fluke to the Arthur Murray dance studio that existed on a second floor. It was an old radio station, and they were actually looking for an instructor, so I did become a part time dance instructor. Again, I didn't 14:00know how at the time, but I picked up quickly and. I did work as a ballroom dance instructor with them while I was going to college.

JR: Oh wow, yeah, so no experience, but the natural ability.

RG: I guess. Yeah, that's it.

JR: And where did you first live on campus then? The dorms, I assume.

RG: Nelson Hall first two years, which now I realize when I drove through doesn't exist anymore.

JR: Yeah,

RG: Down and turned into a some kind of complex. And the -- junior year when was finally legal to get off campus, we ended up on Central St. Senior year was again a different place on Central St. 1120 and 1130 Central. Next to the 15:00railroad tracks. My final semester -- actually because of that switch from music to art education, I did end up going an extra semester and with my student teaching, I think that was the year I actually got married as well. The first marriage.

JR: Ok.

RG: I'm married in 1976 and lived in Indian Trail Apartments.

JR: Oh sure. Those are still there.

RG: Ok.

JR: So, when you were in the -- I'd like to -- we'll talk about that that first marriage in a moment cause That's gotta be somewhat unusual at around campus. But back to Nelson Hall. So, what was the dorm scene light then in 1972?

RG: Well, again, it was all new for me. It was kind of wild. The first roommate 16:00I had. I believe his name was Joe. The two of us didn't really hit it off. There wasn't much communication, and I didn't realize why just we didn't click. And so, I think the second semester I actually hooked up with an old, high school classmate from Columbus.

JR: Ok.

RG: The option to switch roommates. So, Sean Briggs became my second roommate at Nelson Hall. In the meantime, I heard Beatle music coming through the window and screen and I was really into The Beatles also. So, there was a day where I sought out Ok, who likes The Beatles as much as I do? And that's how I met Bill Bukowski.

JR: Cool, so was he in Nelson Hall as well?

RG: He was indeed.

JR: Oh ok.

RG: And then in sophomore year is when we became roommates, and closer friends 17:00and I think that was the start of Augmento.

JR: So that was -- Augmento came to be in 1973, in the spring. And so do you want to give us your sort of origin of the comic, the story. Obviously, I'll ask Bill the same question, but I'd like to hear it from your perspective. You guys had been living together, then for a semester and what -- how did he come up with the idea to do a do a comic based on your likeness?

RG: Well, I think I'm not sure who inspired the doing the comic strip in the first place. Bill, of course was an art major from day one, so I know he liked to draw a lot and he had done some sketches of me in the dorm room. And I think it had to do -- he probably proposed it to the Advance-Titan, "how about a comic 18:00strip?" And he was basically the brain behind it all and thought that I had comic potential or comic possibilities. And he used a lot of -- I actually remember dressing up with -- found things in my wardrobe. The stripe tank top, the bow tie that I used with a turned up white color of a dress shirt. I tied -- it was actually from my bathrobe. Used the belt from my bathroom to turn into a homemade bow tie and the arms to look more muscular, wear cut offs from I believe sweatpants turned into shorts. The outfit actually did exist except for the cape that was fictional.

JR: Ok.

RG: Didn't actually have a cape then, but he pulled out the music major at that 19:00time. He came up with the name Murray Marquardt. Mild mannered music major, who when he found a magical pitch pipe, which I actually still have in my possession too. The original pitch pipe had the two octaves of C on it. There was a high C and a low C and supposedly when I blew that high C that's when the transformation took place and Murry Marquardt turned into Augmento.

JR: So, besides the outfit, how much of Murray resembled your personality?

RG: Oh

JR: Were you mild mannered?

RG: He picked up on a few of my traits. I remember because I love peanut brittle. I remember that was part of I think the very first comic strip, the original one was me walking down the street humming a tune and saying love that 20:00brittle but everything else was pretty much fictional.

JR: Were you -- once it started where you recognized on campus?

RG: No, I don't think. I didn't notice anybody noticing me until a year later in '74 when Mark Grunwald became a part of it and Mark had his mom update, improve, and made an actual superhero outfit or costume. And that was the year that they worked into the plot. There was a battle between me and the Iron Maiden. And that's when I actually had a photo shoot with Chancellor Birnbaum. And I believe there was a centerfold in the Advance-Titan. The center page had a big photo spread instead of being a 2D Cartoon, there were actual photos of me in the 21:00outfit with the Chancellor and the Iron Maiden. I believe we even rode downtown on a convertible or in a convertible for the homecoming parade.

JR: Is that right?

RG: There was a legendary battle that took place at Titan Stadium, which some people actually went to and were disappointed they didn't catch. That was kind of an Orson Welles thing, War of the World's and it didn't really happen in person, but they did a live broadcast, a fictional battle at Titan Stadium.

JR: Right. And that apparently was covered by WRST [Oshkosh radio station].

RG: I believe that's it, yeah.

JR: So, Michael Pendell was the photographer for that shoot. How did you all know him?

RG: Ah, I wouldn't have come up with that name, so I'm not sure if that's 22:00someone who shot for the Advance-Titan, or if there was a -- I can't answer, sorry.

JR: No, that's fine. So yeah, I'd like -- The battle with Iron Maiden seem to be deal -- You know, I think became -- well, I won't put words in your mouth. It seems to be a reaction to what happened a year earlier when Augmento returned in 1973, there were only two episodes. The Strip was cancelled. Do you remember that?

RG: I remember Bill being upset about it. There was somebody at the paper didn't think it was worth it or didn't care for it. The name I wanna say, Scott Hassett.

JR: Right,

RG: worked into the comic strip, so if he's the guy that was the editor or 23:00running the paper at the time, there was some hurt feelings. I -- it didn't really phase me much again, just being the face, but I knew all of a sudden Bill had to find a different way to fulfill his work study program. And somehow, then I don't know if personnel changed, but when Mark Gruenwald got involved, they pitched it again and brought the comic strip back.

JR: That's right, yeah.

RG: The picture of his back was kind of a takeoff on the James Bond film.

JR: Oh, was it?

RG: And everything he touches turns to excitement.

JR: (laughs) I love it. Yeah, Keith La Graves replaced Scott Hassett as the editor.

RG: Ah, ok.

JR: And as early as that spring was teasing return of a couple pieces including Augmento. Yeah, I mean there was a charge of sexism in the debut comic of the 24:00fall of 1973, which Augmento saves a woman from predatory bartender.

RG: Ah. Ok. I need to review that, I guess. I remember Iron Maiden basically stood for women's lib, but yeah, that wasn't based on reality at all. I didn't have any issues with women other than being very inexperienced and when we start talking about modern dance that was one of the things that I thought was such a thrill because there were so few guys involved in the dance program in Oshkosh and gobs of women, and that was kind of a fun thing for me. My wife wanted me a note. This is out of sync now in terms of your questions, but she wanted me to 25:00note that years later in West Bend at a laundromat there is a woman who came up to me and asked, "are you Augmento?" Years later, and she was a student at the time, so I don't remember people coming up to me on campus ever and say, "Hey, Augmento! How's it going?" nothing like that, but evidently I made an impact on some people that remembered and even recognize me out of costume years later.

JR: Well, I'll say this when I saw you on Facebook. I'm like that's him.

RG: (laughs)

JR: Other than the glasses, you know still got that that youthful face.

RG: Well, thanks.

JR: So, I read, and I think this was in an article to that that Mark and Bill both said by adding Iron Maiden, they were sort of, you know, coming to terms 26:00with that earlier issue from 1973. Do you remember who played Iron Maiden?

RG: I don't. I can picture her clearly, but I don't know her name. I wonder if Bill has any record of that. There is a photo on my Augmento Facebook site. There is a different gal and I know her because she was an Arthur Murray teacher. Kathy Karen's or her Arthur Murray name was Miss Jeffries, but Kathy Karen's is full in a photo with Bill Bukowski, Mark Grunwald, myself, and she is in that photo. But that's not the gal that was in the parade and in the photo shoot with Birnbaum, she had dark hair and her name escapes me.

27:00

JR: There was some talk right around that time of the fight of a live action movie too for Augmento.

RG: That's true. I think Bill was taking a film class and once we had the actual outfit versus my homemade goofy stuff that we used in the dorm room when we had the actual costume by Mark's mom, Mrs. Gruenwald, Bill and I and Cousin Pete Poplaski was not a Oshkosh student but also helped with the film. Went downtown and I don't believe we got permission. It was the old forgiveness is easier than permission. We started climbing up on top of the roofs, and I think my favorite shot is with the University Wisconsin Oshkosh in the background, with me standing on a chimney. I remember trying to race a train downtown, also and that 28:00didn't work so well. The Big Sharp rocks with those, I only had stocking feet at the time. We tried putting a little foam rubber layer in there, but the boots were not very superhero-like. Didn't work very well, but we did -- I think I did see that film when it was finished, and Bill is still talking about having it converted to digital so it can be shared again.

JR: So, it was done, it was completed?

RG: It was a short film. Yes. Yep, there is one out there but it's still on probably eight-millimeter and Bill has a son who supposedly has the know-how of converting that to digital, but I don't believe that's happened yet.

JR: I'll definitely bring that up to him. We would pay for that conversion.

RG: (laughs) Excellent.

29:00

JR: I would love to see that and share that, so that's the photographs that you have on the Facebook site. Is you guys filming that-

RG: Correct. Moving picture that and there is some goofy stuff. I remember having fake fistfights of course, and another challenging thing was hanging from the ladder of a fire escape, dropping and trying to avoid the shin splints, and then running off screen in reverse so that he could reverse the film and make it look like I was doing it. Take off up into the air flying right.

JR: Right? Oh, I love it. Were there any other actors then involved?

RG: Oh boy, yeah. I think the cousin Pete Poplaski was probably in that film. And I think possibly Dick Bergeson, an old high school classmate of Bill's from Wisconsin Rapids High School. As I only remember a couple villains and the again 30:00the fake fighting.

JR: That is fantastic. I'm very eager to see that. So, in the fall of '75 then Bill transferred to Mankato State, right?

RG: Uh no.

JR: Oh?

RG: Bill was still in Oshkosh the whole time. He fell in love with the gal named Sherri. Sherri Goetzke, but I believe Bill graduated from Oshkosh, didn't he? At the very end of our careers, we kind of fell apart cause I sense that his girlfriend didn't care for me. We were roommates in that Central St apartment. But I remember there being some issue where she didn't care for me and our 31:00friendship kind of -- the stronger their relationship became, the falling apart between Bill and I took place. But I thought he graduated from Oshkosh and ended up teaching in Mankato his whole career.

JR: Oh, maybe that's how I read it wrong. I think the University -- or that the paper had something about the reason that Mark took over the strip was because Bill had moved to Mankato. I maybe I took that as-

RG: Yeah, that's -- if that is what happened then, I'm somewhat shocked cause I didn't know that took place. I know he used to hitchhike back to Mankato a lot and that's where his teaching career took place. But I thought he graduated from Oshkosh, and I thought the reason Mark I think took over is the two of them were at odds often in the dorm room because I was still Bill's roommate. I heard an 32:00awful lot of arguing in differences of opinion Mark saying, "This is how it needs to be" and Bill not being on the same page and so eventually I think Bill was just tired of the battle and Mark then took over and flew with it.

JR: So that's interesting, and because it sounds like it's too bad. Sounds like you are really, really close with Bill. Your memory of his friends and Cousins names you know, testifies to just how much you guys were close. So, Sherri Goetzke, sort of the Yoko Ono of this.

RG: (laughs) Well, I do remember there was one joke Bill thought was gonna be so 33:00funny he wanted me to pretend it was kind of a long distant prank. There was a song that I had done in solo ensemble contest in high school called "Go Lovely Rose" and I remember writing her a letter and pretending that I had fallen in love with her, and Bill just got a big kick out of that. But Sherri hated it. That was maybe one of the things that turned her against me that you hadn't a sick sense of humor.

JR: And it was his idea.

RG: Yeah.

JR: So, when did you first Mark Gruenwald? Meet Mark Gruenwald, sorry.

RG: I think I met Mark through the modern dance program.

JR: Ok

RG: And I think he was in my class, but what Cecilia Brown called Terpsacore (sic), which I think was supposed to be pronounced Terpsichore after the Greek 34:00goddess of dance or something, but there will be a modern dance club and Mark Gruenwald and Chuck Hoglund or now, goes by Roy, Charles Hoglund, your set design instructor at Oshkosh for many years who also just retired. I'll be -- Mark and Chuck and I became the threesome straight guys in the modern dance program, loving it and working out choreography together. I think Mark also knew Bill though through painting class the two of them. Um, I wanna say Sam Yates, maybe it was the painting instructor back then so they kind of knew each other through art. I was still the music major, but through dance we all became interconnected.

JR: But Bill didn't do that the Terpsichore?

35:00

RG: No, he was not into the dance thing.

JR: Modern dance club starts with Cecilia Brown coming to campus and did you see this is exactly the kind of thing that you were waiting for and didn't have in in Columbus? Or did you need some convincing?

RG: It definitely didn't exist in Columbus. I think I just saw it as another dance opportunity. I was trying to become as well rounded as possible. I think I took a square and social dance class also and ended up taking some tap dance lessons, but that was off campus. I wanna say Richard Verhoeven -- it was Richard School of the Dance downtown. I believe Mark, Chuck and I all took tap 36:00dance lessons when we had done Anything Goes together. Was one of the -- my first musical in Oshkosh I think that was, I wanna say 1974 but we were intrigued by the -- we were tap dancing sailors and wanted to keep it going so, we took some private lessons. And so modern dance, tap dance, ballroom dance. I was just trying to become more well-rounded.

JR: Got it and what -- how long were you involved in Terpsichore then?

RG: I guess two years, but I don't have that written down anywhere. I do remember her doing a lot of touring. Public schools was an interesting element of that. Besides the class we had the club that met and there was a lot of 37:00choreography and taking that kind of an exposé to school systems. I remember setting up and doing our dances. It was all to prerecorded music, so that was a problem in terms of sound system or needing microphones, but that was kind of a fun thing that again kind of fit my need to perform.

JR: Um, yeah, I think you also performed with, or the group performed with the Oshkosh Symphony at one time. Do you remember that?

RG: I don't recall, but I wouldn't doubt it.

JR: It might have been later too. I didn't note the date when I saw that. So, Cecilia Brown, what can you tell me about her?

RG: Well, let's see, um, my first black instructor, I guess again where I grew 38:00up there wasn't much interracial stuff going on, so it was a good positive experience for me. I know there was some giggling behind her back because somebody had figured out that she was mispronouncing Terpsichore. I thought she was a great teacher. She had a good outlook on things. Putting myself back in that dance studio, I remember one of the awkward moments which she just kind of ignored and taught us to ignore it: there was often a lot of phi-ed or jocks hanging out, laughing and snickering at us in the doorway's not in the studio. But I remember there being some fear of being beat up, which never happened, thank goodness. But people have a tendency to jump to that assumption, if you're 39:00a guy and doing modern dance and in tights and leotards, you're also gay.

JR: Right

RG: Which wasn't the case. There maybe was a guy in there that was, but it didn't matter. Just like the Seinfeld episode line that, "not that there's anything wrong with that," so I was very open minded. Anne, I'm glad it never turned to violence, but it was something that we were concerned about the bullying aspects.

JR: Interesting. And what of Cecilia herself? She was one of the only black constructors we had at the time.

RG: Oh, I didn't know that.

JR: Do you remember her experiencing any racism or prejudice that affected the dance group or that you observed?

RG: I personally saw nothing along that line. I do remember now that you mentioned the racial bit that Oshkosh had had some terrible protests and 40:00violence prior to my starting there in '72. I heard that they had had a black doorman that there was a lot of clashing on campus, but I never experienced it myself.

JR: There was a fellow, he was a marathoner, a guy from Trinidad. I don't remember his name now. That was in Terpsichore around the same time you were or if you remember him.

RG: I do not, no.

JR: It might have been '76 now that I think about it.

RG: Ok, yeah.

JR: So, Cecilia was an expert in Afro American and Caribbean dance. They mentioned that several times after she was hired. Did she try to incorporate any of that into your dances?

RG: I can vaguely remember her doing a demonstration once, but she was very much 41:00a believer in everyone coming up with their own original stuff.

JR: Oh, ok.

RG: She did basic moves, but there was an emphasis on us creating our own expressions and moving to the music. So, I don't think I ever learned anything. No, I learned a lot from her, but I didn't learn her style of dance.

JR: Got it. That's really interesting. So, when you guys gave a recital program, a lot of that was the invention of the students themselves?

RG: That's correct. We could use other people when we wanted extra bodies, but everyone who did their own dance was the choreographer and got to choose the music and what we danced to and how we dance to it.

JR: So, a typical program would just be one dance after another, featuring 42:00different members.

RG: That's correct.

JR: Oh wow. Now Mark was at one point the leader of the group. I know that you know this was an official student organization, so it had to have a student leader, so he seemed to be really serious about dance.

RG: I don't remember that. I don't remember it that way. I know that Mark, Chuck, and I enjoyed the creative aspects of dance and ended up doing a community outreach. Our second musical in town was Hello, Dolly! with the community theater and Mark, Chuck, and I co-choreographed that. I don't remember Mark being the leader of Terpsichore.

JR: Yeah, yeah, you know it was mostly just like if you're interested in joining.

RG: Like a recruiter?

43:00

JR: Yeah, but I mean he had official, you know, official title too.

RG: Ok, wow.

JR: So, Hello, Dolly! with the community theater and -- What was it? It was Anything Goes. What were some of the other musicals that you worked on or were part of?

RG: That was it for Oshkosh: Anything Goes, which I believe was a, I wanna say Don Burdick was maybe the director of that.

JR: Sure.

RG: Hello, Dolly!, I believe, was another University professor J Patrick Walsh I'm thinking. He was in the Radio and TV Department or broadcasting, whatever classes those were because I think he was not only directed it, but he was Horace Vandergelder with the community theater production.

JR: And, well, I guess I'm thinking how well we're University students accepted 44:00in the community theater, was it where the non-University associated folks in that open to your involvement?

RG: From my perspective, they were. They were very welcoming of any talent, 'specially guys. The typical community theater production is always hurting for men, so I don't think it mattered where you came from.

JR: Cool, it seems like-

RG: The only time I sensed kind of hurt feelings was actually way after Oshkosh. I did a community theater production in Cedarburg, WI. When I played Jesus in Godspell and in that production I could tell that who are all these people 45:00coming in. There was a director from Milwaukee that I had known from Broadway Baby was done a show and met a director. And when he was invited to direct in Cedarburg, he contacted a lot of his friends that he knew were good and so there are a lot of implants and then I definitely felt the (growls), the anger and feeling betrayed, but never sensed that in Oshkosh.

JR: There is a seems like a moment where the dance world and Augmento, you know, joined. There's a character called Leotard, The Dance Master. Do you remember him?

RG: I don't. I'm gonna have to do some review.

JR: I'll send you the strip, but he has this eye make up that looks very much 46:00like one of the productions that Terpsichore did.

RG: Ok.

JR: It's sort of almost like black stars around the eyes.

RG: Oh interesting.

JR: In my mind it looks a little bit like Roy Hoglund, and I was just wondering if you would confirm that was based on him or not.

RG: I will have to check that out. I know Mark and Bill both loved throwing in friends faces and making it real as a tribute to I mean, it was a good move in that friends love seeing their faces done and there are lots of familiar faces that were used throughout the comic strip.

JR: Do you remember any of the others?

RG: Well, I know Bill used his girlfriend, Sherri, of course, was in there. Pete 47:00Poplaski again another comic artist, but he was, I think originally went to Green Bay University and was doing work for R crumb [unclear], I believe. Rather underground comic artists.

JR: Yeah.

RG: Pete would often come and visit and sleep on the floor in our dorm room, but I'm pretty sure he was in the comic strip as well.

JR: Ok. Gosh, you know hearing that and thinking about just the ways that you and Mark and Bill sort of moved among these departments, it seems like a really incredible environment of creative people. You know doing film and then art and you moved over to art out of music. I just wondered what that was like to have such a group of close creative types.

48:00

RG: It felt like the right thing to do. I remember in my education classes since I was becoming an art teacher, or at least the degree to teach art, I remember trying to make that connection through a term uses the related arts and actually tried that in my interview process to build myself as a related arts instructor. Someone who could come to your school system incorporate music and dance and art itself and talk to all the teachers in departmental meetings. In trying to create a program that involved. The mixture of cause I couldn't make up my mind. Basically, I like dancing a lot, I liked art, but I also -- music was always a strong aspect even when I was not a music major. I still stayed with the University choir and Harold Porter, I think, was the director of that. Very good experience.

49:00

JR: Interesting, so in sum of all these different creative ways you all were involved, were you plugged into the community's art? I mean I know that you did the community theater. Any other sort of you know, like in the artist community in Oshkosh whether any interactions there?

RG: Boy, I think the only thing I can picture out in the community was Park Plaza, the shopping center, had a big open mall area and I remember doing a ballroom dance promotion with, that would be my first wife then, Kathy Klister, that I'm married. I can picture us being in the newspaper doing ballroom dance promoting I think a Fred Astaire film series or Top Hat was about to be shown somewhere.

50:00

JR: Ok, cool. That's fun, so Kathy, where did you meet her?

RG: She was another Arthur Murray teacher in Appleton. And I remember thinking that as a naive farm boy, I remember thinking that if I don't find a wife now and all these women are here and available, I thought I needed to get married before I left Oshkosh. So that was part of the motivation. We cohabitated for a while and got married in, I think, June of '76. And that lasted for about six and a half years.

JR: Within -- so she wasn't a student here, she just she was working.

RG: That's correct. It was strictly -- Met her at the Arthur Ball in Chicago. We the Oshkosh Staff and Appleton staff carpooled together.

51:00

JR: But you had said before a lot of women in the Terpsichore, single, straight women in Terpsichore did you date anyone in that organization?

RG: I did not, um, we had a lot of parties. I remember being at. There was a lot of closeness and friendship, but nothing romantic came out of that for me. I did have -- hooked up with someone out of Hello, Dolly! However. I remember Minnie Fay [Cathy Mulqueen] and I connected at a cast party and that became one of my few relationships.

JR: So, I'm kind of looking back over my notes now and just trying to pick up any questions that I missed, so I apologize if these sort of go the all over the place.

52:00

RG: That's ok. That's how my brain works anyway.

JR: So, I know, and you've said this to me prior to this interview that you were the face. Were you involved in any of the story creating creation for Augmento?

RG: Not at all.

JR: Ok.

RG: I originally had input on what I thought looked good and what I didn't like, but it wasn't very welcomed. I remember Mark and I had a tense moment where I -- he like to -- when he took over the strip by himself he like to break up the format so it wasn't an easy left to right -- and I remember the uncertainty of am I supposed to read down or read across then said it was very confusing and I think he actually worked it into the script somewhere where this is college, it's not supposed to be easy.

JR: Right. Yeah, and people complained about that in the newspaper too, not 53:00liking it.

RG: That was me. I was in that bullet.

JR: He apparently promised, at least in the last run to do it a little bit more straight forward. So, when -- did you ever have to pose them for? For Mark? I know you said in the beginning you did, you had to have the outfit for Bill, but-

RG: I did post for Bill occasionally. I think Mark did more of a stylized, more of a muscular image that wasn't reality for me, so I don't remember ever posing for Mark.

JR: Ok, yeah, it's very different sort of look, but you're still in there.

RG: There was a time that I actually lived with Mark and his parents when the 54:00dorms closed. We actually cohabitated at his private home, and we listened to a Fireside Theater and there were times where he'd make me memorize so we could do bits when we were at parties. I was kind of the straight man for private performance.

JR: Was that over the Holidays or over the summer?

RG: Well, you know when dorms closed probably for Thanksgiving or whenever there wasn't a dorm room available and I actually had a job at -- before Arthur Murray, I started as a busboy at Robbins Restaurant. So, there was a need for me to stay around even when there wasn't a dormitory. So, within those first two years, they sensed my need and opened up their doors for me. It was very gracious of them. I became part of their family for a while, but I don't remember ever having -- ever posing for Mark.

55:00

JR: I was on the impression that Mark grew up in Madison, but you're saying he was from Oshkosh?

RG: Oh no, he's an Oshkosh original.

JR: Ok. And-

RG: Well, at least the time that I knew him, if their family moved in from another city, that's possible, but all the while I knew Mark, he was indeed an Oshkosh native.

JR: Well, that would make a lot of sense considering how often he you know would later incorporate Oshkosh into summer is work. So, you and Bill had had sort of grew apart. How about Mark, after graduation, after he left? Did you stay in contact with him over the years?

RG: I hate to say it. We had a falling apart at party at his house. There was a 56:00game of charades, and I thought Mark was getting way too uppity in his rulemaking and just the choices that you had to pick to do. I was feeling stupid, I guess, and I wasn't having fun and I remember standing up saying, "this game isn't fun anymore. I'm not having fun and, I'm gonna leave," and he said, "if you leave now that's it. Don't ever come back" and over a stupid game of charades I believe that was the falling out between Mark and I.

JR: Wow. Was that unusual for him? Was he prone to temper and these sorts of absolutes?

RG: Well, he's got -- a very cerebral kind of guy he like, I think he always, I guess maybe it was something that I felt, but I always felt he kind of looked 57:00down on me or thought of me as the ignorant farm boy and that I wasn't on his level. So, I don't know if that's something that I imagined and carried around, but there was a little bit of belittling going on at times and I didn't care for that.

JR: Oh, that's really too bad.

RG: Yup. And so yeah, when I heard that he became part of Marvel Comics and was like in assistant editor or really up in the ranks and doing very well professionally, but it wasn't until his shocking death and funeral that I came back to Oshkosh for the memorial service.

JR: Oh. Yeah, were you aware that he had put -- when he put in Augmento into that issue of Quasar comic?

58:00

RG: I saw it, but I wasn't in communication with him.

JR: Wonder if that was, uh, you know, I don't know some sort of reaching out or something.

RG: There was another -- when I mentioned the Arthur Murray teacher, not the one that I married, but the other Arthur Murray teacher that was in the Iron Maiden outfit in one of the posted photos of Bill, Mark, Iron Maiden, and myself, there was also some jealousies and actual switching of -- she started out as my girlfriend and ended up becoming Mark's. And so maybe there was some of that play within this charades game and feeling like ok, we're done.

JR: Wow, when was that game?

RG: Well, it had to be near the end of my car-- I'm gonna guess in '76, cause I 59:00think Kathy Klister was in the room and that's the gal that married in '76. So late '75, early '76.

JR: Yeah, according to the last strip in 1975, Mark says that he's moving to New York.

RG: Ah, ok.

JR: And Augmento is, you know, thinks he's free to do whatever he wants, but in reality, without the artist he disappears.

RG: Yeah, very fitting.

JR: Yeah. That's interesting and so at that point you and Bill weren't really speaking much to each other either. Have you reacquainted yourself with him? Or

RG: Yeah, we've reconnected on Facebook and so I've been in touch with all his current paintings. He's been doing a lot of landscapes and park images lately 60:00and so yes there has been a lot of feedback. We still have the Beetle fondness. When I see a meme that I think he did enjoy, there's sharing back and forth.

JR: Great, so you kind of acquainted me with your career showband, art teacher, the Postal Service? I guess the question that I always like to ask in these of alumni is how did you feel your experience in Oshkosh prepared you for your career, your life?

RG: Well, the another job that isn't on your list right now. I remember seeing an ad in the paper they were actually looking for an art major at Mogul-ED. It was a osteological supply company. So as another interesting job near the end of my school on thinking what am I going to do with my degree? And when I went to 61:00the interview. What I thought I was going to be working as a commercial artist and I was shocked when they actually laid a femur on the table and then gave me another femur that already had the muscle origin and Insertions in red and blue and the Latin terms and the interview was basically how well can you reproduce this on to this bone and I ended up getting the job. And became an osteological technician or basically a bone painter. And it was painting on to bones, not painting of bones. And eventually I learned to articulate skeletons themselves, human skeletons that they got in boxes from India. It was a very interesting 62:00job. A very -- I think I learned a lot of self-awareness and thanks to my art degree or being an art student got me that position.

JR: So, these would be used for teaching anatomy?

RG: Yes, they were very careful about who they would sell too. So basically, doctors in universities and I believe at that time it was the only place in the United States that was making or putting together, selling human skeletons.

JR: Wow, and that was here in Oshkosh?

RG: It was, yes.

JR: Wow, how about that? So, the question - so that helps you with that, the experience here?

RG: The learning to become a teacher. I remember student teaching being a really positive experience, also.

63:00

JR: Where'd you do that?

RG: I used a lot. Well, I think that was my last semester so '76. When I went, I want my four and a half years. It was that last semester and I believe I was in Oshkosh North [High School], I wanna say, was my high school experience. I can't remember the elementary, but I did end up getting involved with the high school musical and use some of that choreography that I gained confidence again thanks to Cecilia Brown in putting dances together. I as part of my student teacher experience. I believe they did South Pacific that year and I did the choreography for their show as well, which looked real good on my resume.

JR: Yeah, absolutely. Well, that's great. Now you have a Augmento Facebook page. 64:00That's how I found you. That was a fortuitous Google result.

RG: (laughs)

JR: And you got some neat stuff, and one of the items is a sculpture that you did, and I believe you won award for it, for the Augmento sculpture.

RG: I don't remember the award, but yes, it's still sitting in our living room on the wood stove.

JR: I think the award actually was given after you graduated apparently. It's like a Art Department Award. And then you have some great photos as well that you scanned. Those are in your possession?

RG: I believe what you've got were something that I loaned to another friend who's in LA and he never returned them. And so, he said he scanned them and said that he will send me the whole packet back. So, I think what you got was what I 65:00got digitally from California just recently.

JR: Oh, did you send me the original? I mean the scans or what I saw?

RG: No, no. The originals were taken by-

JR: No, I understand.

RG: West Bend friend to LA and he said "we gotta get this out there!" We got -- he was so excited about Augmento, and this is probably ten years ago.

JR: Ok.

RG: I don't know if anything ever happened but we kind of guilted him by using this interview as an excuse saying, "we gotta get that stuff back."

JR: Oh good. Ok, so you're gonna send me the scans-

RG: I do have in a photo album, I do have, like the original comic strip and also a bunch of ads for Lakeview Terrace, I want to say, Bill was doing a lot of Augmento for other businesses in town as well, and I do have a bunch of samples 66:00that are on newsprint. Bill, I think kept all the originals that he worked on a really thick, what they call illustration board. Everything was pen and ink on a thick white, thicker than tag border. But I think Bill has all the originals, and then when those are photograph and shrunk down, I've got the new print stuff that came out of the Advance-Titan.

JR: Yeah, he's -- we're arranging he's agreed to donate his original drawings of Augmento, too.

RG: Oh, my goodness, wow!

JR: It's really exciting. There is something on your -- the Facebook it appears that there was a comic book created.

RG: I have one of those in front of me. Yeah, I think that was a Mark Gruenwald thing. Augmento Meets the UW Oshkosh Art Dept.

67:00

JR: Right, right. And it was color too, right? At least the cover.

RG: The back and front are in color, but the inside is all newsprint. But there's a lot of just flipping through that I see Mark put himself in the image, Bill Bukowski's in there. It looks like I'm in a Harpo Marx outfit with top hat. Lot of familiar faces in that book. Looks like teachers as well. You don't have one of those, I gather.

JR: I don't have one of those. But I do wanna end on asking you; Is there anything else that you'd like to share about your time here or Augmento or Mark or Bill?

RG: I want to make sure that Birnbaum got a shout out for being so open minded 68:00and willing to deal with our silliness.

JR: That's a great point. I'm glad you brought that up. How did you guys approach him and what was his attitude about it?

RG: I was out of the loop in terms of the set up. All I had to do is get in costume and show up for the photo shoot, but I remember him being -- for looking often stereotypical, too serious to do something for fun, but I thought that was good PR for him and the University, so I don't know much about it except the feeling I got the day that it happened.

JR: Ok, yeah, he was a good egg. I had the pleasure of talking to him in his Arizona home a few years ago and he was quite young for a chancellor and like to play Frisbee with students. And-

69:00

RG: Sweet.

JR: Play his guitar and wear his cowboy hat around. So, it didn't surprise me that he would pose for this. But it was. It was great.

RG: Speaking of playing guitar, you reminded me of another memory from my Oshkosh days with Bill Bukowski and myself. He also plays guitar and still does. I remember seeing videos of him performing with other teachers in Minnesota but when we were students and roommates, we had one job that we did at, I believe it was called the House of Hereford. It was the restaurant by the airport in Oshkosh and Bill and I had one live gig where he played guitar and sang, and I harmonized, and we did a lot of Beatle music, I'm sure, Crosby, Stills, Nash and young kind of stuff. And that was one live performance in Oshkosh. I, of course, 70:00had stayed with that. I do a lot of, before covid anyway, at least once a week, go out to an open mic at a bar and have created a circle of friends to sing and play with in this area.

JR: You live in Slinger now?

RG: Just south of. Yes.

JR: Oh, that's cool. I guess there was one other thing that I wanted to mention, and remembering this from the beginning of our conversation, you were born Lutheran did you and did you continue with -- do you have any experience with the Lutheran students here on this campus when you came to Oshkosh?

RG: I tried the Newman Center I think it was. I did try the Lutheran service but 71:00didn't care for it. What I thought had a lot more going was the Catholic campus ministry. So again, being open minded and there are no rules, I actually went quite often to the campus ministry Catholic service instead.

JR: Ok.

RG: I liked the music a lot more and it was a much more fulfilling gathering. Good experience.

JR: Was it easy to be a religious person in your group of friends and some of these different areas that let's just say tend to attract less religious people?

RG: I never felt like it was being held against me. Bill Bukowski, I think was brought up Catholic and actually married into and the school he taught at was Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, which are pretty strict. So maybe there was a little 72:00weirdness with Wisconsin Synod is very, what's the good way to put I don't wanna say backward, but very opinionated and don't look fondly on the other religions. Even more so than there used to be this big thing between the Catholics and the Lutherans. But I've never felt that myself other than having interviewed pastors or did a paper once in high school when I was choosing where I was gonna go and become the singing minister. And I remember the Lutheran, not all Lutherans, I was ALC [American Lutheran Church] at the time now that's combined and were ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] still do have a church experience going. I'm a song leader at Trinity Lutheran in West Bend as we speak. Even through COVID been going in and making remote recordings that are used for 73:00virtual services. So still involved in Christian music and in my past, that first marriage was, to a Catholic, the one that really worked out with the second marriage to Sue. We are now thirty-six years of marital bliss and-

JR: Congratulations.

RG: switched from I was a Catholic ten for years. I wanna say I did my time; became Catholic for family Unity and my two children Ali and Jim. I wanted us all to be the same, but more recently Sue has jumped the fence and we all became Lutherans again.

JR: Amazing what a journey and I really appreciate your time with me today. I've really gotten a kick of exploring this little bit of history of UWO [University of Wisconsin -- Oshkosh] and you certainly have helped me understand it a lot better. So, thank you so much, Sir.

RG: You're welcome, Josh.

74:00

[End of Interview]

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