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St. Paul Gangster Haunts on Travel Channel

Posted byAlison Aten on 08 Dec 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, History, MHS Author in the News, MHS press, True Crime, Videos

Today’s post is by Paul Maccabee, author of John Dillinger Slept Here, which inspired a recent episode of Off Limits on the Travel Channel.

Paul Maccabee and Travel Channel TV host Don Wildman

Explorer and history buff Don Wildman had braved an underground Titan II nuclear missile silo in Arizona, prison cells inside San Quentin, and a former Nazi military compound for his Off Limits TV show on the Travel Channel. But would Wildman survive a visit to the St. Paul gangster haunts frequented by such Public Enemies as John Dillinger, Alvin “Creepy’ Karpis, and Babyface Nelson?

As the author of the MHS Press book John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks’ Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul, I got to serve as Wildman’s on-camera guide to the Minnesota underworld for a segment that was shot in July and began airing on November 17.

Easily our grisliest adventure was filmed in the basement of the downtown St. Paul Police Department.  The TV crew secured a rare view of the bullet hole-filled hat last worn by John Dillinger’s machine-gunner Homer Van Meter–a hat autographed by the four police officers who shot Homer to death on August 23, 1934, just outside the Minnesota State Capital off University Avenue. Van Meter’s hat, which had vanished and was missing for more than three decades, was rediscovered in time for display during the show. Members of the St. Paul Police Historical Society also unearthed artifacts from the 1928 gangland assassination of St. Paul’s Irish Godfather Danny Hogan, who had guided the underworld from his Green Lantern bar. Wildman was enchanted by these artifacts from St. Paul’s dark past, perhaps most by the bullet holes, blood, and cerebral matter that were still visible inside Van Meter’s unlucky straw hat.  Here’s an outtake from that creepy moment.

Appropriately, the Travel Channel’s TV crew lunched at Cosetta’s on West 7th Street, where I regaled them with tales of Minnesota mobster Rocky Lupino and other homegrown Mafioso over bites of ravioli and meatballs.

Then, Wildman toured the courtrooms of the Old Federal Courts Building (now Landmark Center), where members of the Dillinger and Barker-Karpis Gang were tried for kidnapping and other federal crimes. We retraced the steps of Dillinger’s comely girlfriend, Evelyn “Billie” Frechette, who attempted to escape from federal authorities on the third floor, and slipped inside the detention room where FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had chained Alvin “Creepy” Karpis before dragging him into court.  But Off Limits is dedicated to bringing its camera to places where the public cannot go, so we also climbed to Landmark Center’s guano-spattered roof for a panoramic view that included the 1920s Bucket of Blood brothel area once presided over by madame Nina Clifford (now the site of the Science Museum), landmarks associated with the 1933-34 kidnappings of millionaires Ed Bremer and William Hamm, the gangland caves along the Mississippi River where bootleggers kept their illicit liquor, and hotels that were frequented by mobsters Bugsy Seigel and Al Capone. Catch it on reruns, or pick up a copy of John Dillinger Slept Here and take your own personal gangland tour.

–Follow Paul Maccabee @maccabeepr

Lost Twin Cities III

Posted byAlison Aten on 06 Dec 2011 | Tagged as: Arts, History, MHS Author in the News, Videos

Today’s blog post is by Dave Kenney, author of several books, including Twin Cities Picture Show. Find out more about his current obsession at MN70s.

Cooper TheaterEarlier this year, I got a call from Emily Goldberg, a producer at TPT (Twin Cities Public Television). She was putting together a new edition of the network’s popular “Lost Twin Cities” documentary series (based on the book by Larry Millett) and was wondering whether I’d like to be one of the show’s talking heads. She wanted me to talk about two movie theaters—the Cooper in St. Louis Park and the Terrace in Robbinsdale—that I described in Twin Cities Picture Show. She knew perfectly well that authors almost always jump at the chance to drone on about the subjects of their books. I magnanimously agreed to help her out.

Emily had chosen two of my favorite theaters.

The Cooper was one of the first showhouses built specifically to screen Cinerama movies. Located near what is now the intersection of I-394 and Highway 100, it looked from the outside like a huge, orange oil storage tank. Inside, it was all 1960s swank with walnut paneling, black brick, burnt orange furnishings, and blue acoustic ceiling tiles. It was demolished in 1992.

The Terrace was a true gem, one of the finest examples of what became known as ultra-modern theater design. Opened in 1951, it featured a sunken “country club” lounge, a refreshment bar, a television room, and a soundproof nursery where baby boom parents could hide with their crying children. It remained one of the Twin Cities’ classiest movie theaters until the 1980s, when its big auditorium was carved up into three smaller theaters. It showed its last movie in 1999.

We did the shoot for the Terrace segment outside the theater itself—which survives today in depressingly boarded-up fashion. Since the Cooper no longer exists, we needed a stand-in location that somehow evoked its midcentury aura. Emily settled on the Riverview Theater in South Minneapolis, an inspired choice.

Emily encouraged me to talk in personal terms about the two theaters, but there was only so much I could say. I remember going to only one movie, the original This is Cinerama, at the Cooper, and my memory of that experience has faded considerably over time. I’m sure I saw at least one film at the Terrace (I remember a theater with tons of big picture windows, and the Terrace is the only one in the Twin Cities that matches my recollection), but beyond that my mind is a blank. Most of my “memories” of the Cooper and Terrace are bits and pieces of the past that I’ve gleaned from the surviving historical record. I guess they will have to do.

I haven’t seen “Lost Twin Cities III” yet. I’ll be watching with everyone else when it debuts Wednesday (December 7) at 7 p.m. One thing I do know, though: the likelihood that I’ll look stupid on the air is now considerably less than I thought it would be. Emily had to excise the Terrace segment due to time constraints. Only the Cooper segment made the final cut. I apparently will have to wait for “Lost Twin Cities IV” to find out what I said about that old boarded-up theater in Robbinsdale.

Dave Kenney is the author of several books including Twin Cities Album, Minnesota Goes to War, and Honor Bright: A Century of Scouting in Northern Star Council. He is currently working on a book on the history of 1970s Minnesota with Thomas Saylor. Follow him @MN70s, on Facebook, and on tumblr.

Photograph, showing a promotional prop for the local premiere of Airport in 1970, from the Star Tribune collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

“When you’re in the car long enough with your family, people start to crack.”

Posted byAlison Aten on 23 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, Event, Kevin Kling, Videos

Remember riding in the back seat of the car with your family on road trips? Imagine having these two guys (Kevin Kling and his big little brother Steven) in your back seat when they were kids! Did your Mom or Dad “do the claw?”

Kevin will be signing his new book, Big Little Brother at Birchbark Books on Black Friday from 3-4 pm and Kevin and illustrator Chris Monroe will be reading, signing, and sharing donuts at the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul on Sunday Nov. 27th at 2 p.m.

Safe travels and Happy Thanksgiving!

Illus. by Chris Monroe from Big Little Brother by Kevin Kling Illus. by Chris Monroe from Big Little Brother by Kevin Kling

North Star Cocktails

Posted byAlison Aten on 08 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, Cooking, Event, Interview, MHS Author in the News, MHS press, Videos

North Star CocktailsJohnny MichaelsRecognized as one of the Twin Cities’ best drink makers, Johnny Michaels is the cocktail connoisseur’s answer to a gourmet chef. His home base is the James Beard award–winning La Belle Vie, but he’s designed the cocktail menus for several of its sister restaurants and other top metro eateries. Together with premiere bartenders such as Pip Hanson, Nick Kosevich, Jesse Held, Thea Sheffert, and others in the North Star Bartenders’ Guild, Michaels shares nearly 200 original, crafted cocktail recipes utilizing fresh fruits and vegetables, tips on barkeep techniques and tools, and guides to artisanal liquors and bitters.

Join us Thursday evening at the Mill City Museum to sample craft cocktails and meet Johnny Michaels and members of the North Star Bartenders’ Guild to celebrate the publication of North Star Cocktails.  Johnny Michaels and five other members of the guild will be on hand to mix their cocktail recipes featured in the book. Participants will receive a voucher for three half-size cocktails with paid admission and can purchase vouchers for additional cocktails. Pip Hanson of Marvel Bar will conduct a demonstration of hand ice chipping. Nick Kosevich of Bittercube will deliver a tutorial on the art of handcrafting artisanal bitters. (See today’s feature on The Heavy Table for more on Bittercube.) Dean Phillips will have a memorabilia display highlighting the history of Phillips Distilling Company and its deep Minnesota roots. Complimentary light hors d’oeuvres will be served. North Star Bartenders’ Guild members will sign copies of the book, which will be for sale in the museum store. All author royalties earned from the sale of the book will be donated to SPCA International, an organization committed to advancing the safety and well-being of animals.

For more insider tips, check out the Star Tribune and City Pages interviews with Johnny or the School of Drinks series with MplsStPaul magazine.

Transforming Trauma

Posted byAlison Aten on 11 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, History, Interview, MHS press, Native American, Videos

Diane Wilson, author of Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life, shares how and why she came to write about overcoming the unrelenting trauma resulting from the colonization and assimilation of  the Dakota community. Her book profiles several contemporary Dakota people who are sustained by rich traditions, ceremonies, advocacy, and education and are transforming the legacy of colonization into a better way of life for their children.

Videos of Clifford Canku and Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan, two of the people featured in Beloved Child, are also available online. Video footage is from the book launch hosted by Birchbark Books and held at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Minneapolis.

Lake Superior: Facts that DO hold water

Posted byreyescarlosa on 11 Aug 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, MHS press, Nature/Enviroment, Videos

Sunday’s Yahoo News column, Who Knew, celebrated the 332nd anniversary of the first European journey into the Great Lakes. Lucky for us, we have one of those great natural landmarks in our backyard, the mighty Lake Superior.

Among the wonderful details featured in the video, here are some more fun facts about our very own great lake.

Did you know?

  • Lake Superior, by surface area, is the world’s largest freshwater lake.
  • With an average underwater visibility of 27 feet, Lake Superior is the cleanest lake out of the chain of Great Lakes.
  • There have been more than 350 recorded shipwrecks, most of them happening during “Northeasters,” when high winds and rainy low pressure systems fly over the lake, creating dangerous conditions.
  • More than 60 fish species call Lake Superior home.

For more on the majestic Lake Superior, check out Shining Big Sea Water: The Story of Lake Superior by Norman K. Risjord. A compelling history of the lake’s glacial origins all the way through its present-day uses, this book also offers helpful travel tips and new tidbits about this great lake.

P.S. Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a copy of Cathy Wurzer’s Tales of the Road: Highway 61. Share your favorite highway 61 travel destinations by leaving a comment, and who knows: you might just get to have your very own copy courtesy of MHS Press and Borealis Books!

Legacy Letters–Minnesota’s Early Moviehouses

Posted byAlison Aten on 28 Jul 2011 | Tagged as: Arts, Authors, History, MHS press, Videos

  TWin Cities Picture Show

Envision Minnesota partnered with Twin Cities Public Television to co-produce a series of one-minute Legacy Letters videos featuring individuals who talk about what they treasure most in Minnesota. The videos began airing on the Minnesota Channel in 2009. A new set of Legacy Letters funded by a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grant was created in spring 2011 and the spots began to air this past week.

MHS Press author Dave Kenney shares his passion for Minnesota’s old movie theaters in his Legacy Letter. For more on the fascinating cinematic history of the Twin Cities, check out his book, Twin Cities Picture Show: A Century of Moviegoing.

More bite-sized portions of Minnesota history can be found online at MN90: Minnesota History in 90 seconds, the radio series produced by the AMPERS radio network and the Minnesota Historical Society.

In the Mood for Munsingwear

Posted byAlison Aten on 24 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, Event, History, MHS press, Videos

Sneak a peek under the fabric of American life with the new book In the Mood for Munsingwear: Minnesota’s Claim to Underwear Fame by Susan Marks.

This richly illustrated book is not just a history of the company but an intimate look at the changing mores of America. The exhibit Underwear: A Brief History, based on the book, opens Saturday, May 7 (Mother’s Day weekend), at the Minnesota History Center.

Explore Minnesota’s racy side with author Susan Marks at the History of Hip event, Minnesota Naughty, next Tuesday, March 29, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Susan will also cohost the May 12 RetroRama fashion show with Anna Lee of MNfashion. Local designers including Project Runway’s Christopher Straub will present a collection based on Minnesota-made foundation garments. Plus, pick up something frilly at a vintage boutique courtesy of Blacklist Vintage, learn how to mix a cocktail from Iron Bartender Jasmine Poland, dance to the music of the Southside Aces, and make a pair of Munsingwear boxer shorts to take home.

Learn more about Munsingwear’s labor relations and corporate culture at the Mill City Museum on May 18 as Susan Marks talks about the company’s working conditions. Former Munsingwear employees are invited to attend and share their own stories. For more information, join the Facebook group “I Worked for Munsingwear.”

Can’t get enough of the fabulous print Munsingwear advertisements? Visit the MHS Flickr Munsingwear Vintage Advertising Set. Share your comments here, or join us on Twitter @MHSPress, #mnundies!

Listen to Susan Marks talk with MPR’s Cathy Wurzer: From long johns to sexy lingerie: The Munsingwear story

Book Trailer for Shelter and Q&A with Author Sarah Stonich

Posted byAlison Aten on 08 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, Interview, Literary, MHS press, Videos

We are pleased to announce the publication of  Shelter by internationally acclaimed author Sarah Stonich.

Stonich shares her new book trailer for Shelter and, in part one of a two-part interview, talks about family tradition in Minnesota’s north country.

Q.  What most surprised you while writing this book?

A.  In doing research, I realized how much I’d romanticized the past with a sort of soft-focus vision. In reality, the Minnesota my grandparents settled in was pretty harsh. I was reminded how difficult daily life was--laundry day alone for a family of twelve in 1903? The dozens of conveniences I don’t give a thought to, like flipping on a light, would have been ultimate luxury to them.

Q. You’ve written about your grandmother’s era in northern Minnesota before as the setting for These Granite Islands. And you mentioned your next novel is contemporary and also set there. Now, in Shelter, you’re writing about the very real place in the present. What about it keeps providing material for you?

A. A lot of writers, I suspect, find that places once thought boring or plain actually become inspiration for a lot of work, once you get far enough away from them.

Q. Most who write about the north tend to be very reverent of “God’s Country,” but you seem to have a love-hate relationship with it. Do you?

A. To a degree. If I could go back in time and convince my grandparents to keep traveling west to the Pacific Coast, I would. I pine for the ocean. I love Minnesota in spring and fall, but not during those six months I hardly ever see my feet. I don’t believe surviving the climate builds character and can’t get excited that the town down the road holds the record cold temp. Then again, you can’t beat Lake Superior in July. So, yes, a little love-hate.

Q. In Shelter the theme of land providing solace and retreat plays heavily for you as an adult. Has it always been so for you?

A.  Growing up, the lake often felt the safest, calmest place to be, especially during the years of my parents’ divorce. I went to a Catholic school, where I found the religion frightening and my studies difficult. Our cabin was a haven from all that--not the building, which wasn’t much, but the woods and water. A rowboat is as good a place as any for an awkward, introverted kid.

Q. You wrestle with how you “fit” on the Iron Range and with the political divisions there--are those still issues?

A. Well, not quite wrestle. But politics is really a toxic topic for a lot of folks up here--especially around the real land issues that make my own little dilemma a trifle. There has been a historic, constant tug-of-war over land and its ultimate best uses--it’s all about mining and money versus conservation. If the natural resources were left alone, they would become the most valuable, as a legacy. There are a lot of mines in the world, and plenty of places to jet ski, but there’s only one Boundary Waters.

Q. If there was one principal message in the book, what would you say it is?

A.  I never intended a message and can’t predict what readers will take away from it, but for me, the meaningful bit would be that material things and land only set the stages we live on, that family and the people we choose to live with are the real deal. The land, no matter how well we tend it or how badly we screw it up, will be there long after we aren’t.

Reading and Signings with Sarah Stonich:

Wednesday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Common Good Books


Thursday, April 14, at Micawber’s Books, with author and poet Kate Kysar, editor of Riding Shotgun.


Party in the Rec Room

Posted byAlison Aten on 27 Dec 2010 | Tagged as: Authors, Event, MHS press, Videos


Local author and actor Lorna Landvik hosts her annual post-holiday show at Bryant Lake Bowl starting January 1. In Party in the Rec Room, Landvik creates different characters on the spot based on prompts from the audience--guaranteed to result in a different show each night!

Landvik is the author most recently of The View from Mount Joy. She also wrote the introduction to Susan Lambert Miller’s photo book State Fair: The Great Minnesota Get-Together as “the Fair Maiden, unofficial historian of the State Fair.”

Enjoy the video from 3minuteegg.

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