Danny Gokey's book "Hope in Front of Me" will be published in October by NavPress.
Danny Gokey's book "Hope in Front of Me" will be published in October by NavPress. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

Gokey opens up in new book

Everyone knows that Danny Gokey, Milwaukee’s favorite idol, has faced his unfair share of adversity and loss. He rose to fame in 2009 on "American Idol" while struggling with the untimely death of his young wife, Sophia, who had passed away the previous summer. The bespectacled young performer’s vocal talent and personal charm always carried with it a deeply tragic dynamic.

But some stories that Gokey shares in his new book, "Hope in Front of Me" (NavPress), will be new even to his biggest fans. Even before Sophia’s death, the Gokeys faced plenty of heartbreak and hardship – especially financially, with Sophia deferring her dream of attending college to work full-time as a nanny while Gokey took on a truck-driving job in addition to his duties as worship director at a Milwaukee church.

The newly-wed couple moved in with Sophia’s employers and struggled to get out of debt and achieve financial stability.

"The hardest part about going through this season of life was feeling like we were so far behind other people," Gokey writes.

The Gokeys struggled to make ends meet as Sophia battled her congenital heart defect; Gokey reveals in the book that money concerns compelled him to work a shift at the Cheesecake Factory during the surgery that would eventually be Sophia’s last. When she succumbed to her illness in 2008, her widower was emotionally exhausted and embittered.

"I am a person of faith. I believe miracles do happen...but I was tired of believing with nothing to show for it," he writes.

But through his personal faith and strong sense of determination, Gokey overcame the loss of Sophia and found love again with his current wife Leyicet, who is the mother of his nine-month-old son Daniel. Together they run Sophia’s Heart, a foundation that assists at-risk and disadvantaged children and families.

Gokey just signed with BMG Records, and expects to release his next record in early 2014. He sat down with OnMilwaukee.com to talk about his new label, h…

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Untapped Tours of Milwaukee has been showing off the best of Brew City to tourists and natives alike.
Untapped Tours of Milwaukee has been showing off the best of Brew City to tourists and natives alike. (Photo: Untapped Tours)
Untapped Tours has its own 11-person minibus for round-trip transportation.
Untapped Tours has its own 11-person minibus for round-trip transportation. (Photo: Untapped Tours)

Get in a spooky mood with haunted pub crawl

October and September is high season for haunted houses, haunted corn mazes, haunted hikes ... but if you prefer a little liquid courage while you get your spook on, check out Untapped Tours’ Haunted Hops and Evil Spirits Pub Crawl.

Pub crawl organizer Mike Awve has recently returned to his hometown of Milwaukee after spending several years in other cities cutting his teeth in the tourism industry. He enjoyed stints in Alaska, San Francisco and at the Grand Canyon. "After that, I got a lot of good experience and decided to move back home and start up my own business," he said.

He began Untapped Tours of Milwaukee in May and spent the summer giving tourists and natives alike the a whimsical and historic look at the city. July was his biggest month, he said, when he had over 228 people tour throughout the month – and since he can only fit 11 in his bus, that amounts to a lot of sold-out tours.

On a traditional Untapped Tour, participants will get to see the city’s main attractions, starting with City Hall and The Pabst Theater and followed by a photo op with the Bronze Fonz, a jaunt to the East Side, lakefront and Third Ward and a stop in Walker’s Point for a cheese and ice cream tasting at Clock Shadow Creamery.

Other highlights include the Milwaukee VA Soldier’s Home and a drive down Wisconsin Avenue to the Tripoli Shrine Center and Marquette campus. The tour wraps up at Lakefront Brewery, where everyone gets a tour of the facilities and a beer sample.

The autumnal incarnation of the Untapped Tour is geared a lot more towards locals – showing Milwaukeeans a side of the city they may not know about.

"The summertime is when we have a lot of visitors in town, but once it starts getting colder and dark, people in Milwaukee are looking for something to do," said Awve.

Untapped Tours is partnering with Horny Goat Hideaway, 2011 S. 1st St., for a tour of its facility and a pumpkin beer for all participants. Then, it’s on to Great Lakes Distillery, 616 W…

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Wisconsin author Kathie Giorgio will give the keynote address tomorrow at the Southeast Wisconsin Book Festival.
Wisconsin author Kathie Giorgio will give the keynote address tomorrow at the Southeast Wisconsin Book Festival.

Giorgio debuts sequel to "Clocks" at Southeast Wisconsin Book Festival

Waukesha author Kathie Giorgio had no plans to write a sequel to her award-winning novel "A Home for Wayward Clocks."

She just wanted a massage.

"When I went on a book tour for ‘Clocks,’ people would ask me, ‘Oh, are you going to write a sequel?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely not,’" recalled Giorgio. "Actually, I was about 176 pages into another book that I was writing, and I was at a warm stone massage and I was laying flat on my face on the therapist bed and all of a sudden, it was like it scrolled across my eyes – I saw the opening line. ‘Cooley never expected to cry when her mother died.’ And I swore – I said, "Oh sh*t!" And therapist said, ‘Oh god, did I hurt you?’ And I said, ‘No … I have to go home, and I have to write a book.’"

So began the creation of "Learning to Tell (A Life)Time," which picks up the story of "Clocks" 16 years later. Clock curator James is dead, Ione suffers from garden-variety dementia, and Cooley Dander struggles to come to grips with the death of her estranged mother. In a series of captivating chapters that also stand as short stories, the reader comes to understand the complicated background between Cooley and her disturbed, alcoholic mother.

Giorgio will debut the book this weekend at the Southeast Wisconsin Book Festival at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. She delivers the keynote address on Friday, Sept. 20.

She sat down with OnMilwaukee.com to talk about what went into writing a sequel to "Clocks" and how she plans to address the festival’s theme of "literacy without limits."

OnMilwaukee.com: What made you want to continue the story of "The Home for Wayward Clocks" with "Learning to Tell (A Life)Time"? I read somewhere that you said you had no plans to write a sequel?

Kathie Giorgio: I honestly didn’t have any plan to write a sequel ... it just sort of unfolded, and I knew it was going to have something to do with Cooley’s mom, who really didn’t play that big of a factor in "Clocks," all we k…

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Eric Jon Mahlum, Richard Carsey, Rob Tucker  and Andrew M. McMath in "I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett."
Eric Jon Mahlum, Richard Carsey, Rob Tucker and Andrew M. McMath in "I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett."

"I Left My Heart" delivers on the old-school glamour

I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone by saying that many classic American standards, if not performed with a certain verve and originality, can sound just that – standard. Old. Boring. Done to death.

In fact, it’s one of the most frequent complaints I hear about Tony Bennett and his music, and I think it’s what hit him hard at the dawn of rock – jazzy pop doesn’t have the drama that an electric guitar does, and modern audiences are addicted to drama. In a certain sense, the music itself is no longer enough.

There’s also always a certain risk with tribute shows. What, exactly, are they paying tribute to? The music? The persona? The on-stage presence? The Rep got it just right earlier this year with "One Night With Janis Joplin," a blow-your-hair-back celebration of all three of those very important elements. I was curious to see how their latest tribute, "I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett" would stack up.

First, I have to mention the venue. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been to the Stackner Cabaret, but for some reason this just really struck me last night how lucky we are to have this space. If you ask me, the Stackner Cabaret is the unsung hero of the Milwaukee date night.

Within these close-together walls of exposed concrete masonry, sandwiched comfortably in the darkness between the bar area and the stage, a certain magic happens. Less gimmicky than a dinner theater and so much classier than a bar, the cabaret space evokes an era of culture, gentleness and refinement. You feel like you’re in an old movie.

It was, of course, the perfect spot for this salute to Tony Bennett, whose voice and music also represents that era. The Stackner added a nice touch by placing vintage photos of Bennett on the walls.

The show started off with high energy as Eric Jon Mahlum took the stage to sing "Steppin’ Out With My Baby;" he was soon joined by the other two starring tenors Andrew McMath and Rob Tucker. The three gave a nic…

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