On Wisconsin http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com For UW-Madison Alumni and Friends Wed, 25 May 2016 11:27:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.3 Gwen Jorgensen http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/contender/gwen-jorgensen/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/contender/gwen-jorgensen/#respond Wed, 25 May 2016 11:27:14 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17522 Gwen Jorgensen

Triathlete Gwen Jorgensen ’08, an All-American for the UW track team, is headed to the Summer Olympics. Felix Sanchez Arrazola

Gwen Jorgensen ’08, MAcc’09 has taken a roundabout way to Rio that began in Madison.

The Waukesha South High School standout runner and swimmer didn’t plan to attend UW–Madison — thinking that it was too close to home — until she visited campus and fell in love with the atmosphere. Though she had more raw talent as a runner, she followed her passion by walking on with the swim team.

Left behind when teammates competed in an NCAA swim meet, she felt discouraged. Her high school track coach suggested that she switch to running for the UW. She told him no. “I knew what it took to get to the next level and didn’t think I could,” she says.

He arranged a mid-season tryout for her anyway. “I was on the team the next week,” she recalls. The 5’9” phenom went on to All-America honors in track and cross country in 2008.

After finishing her master’s degree in accounting, Jorgensen began working at Ernst & Young in Milwaukee and considered her days of elite competition behind her. But then a recruiter from USA Triathlon headquarters called with a life-changing question: Ever consider triathlons?

Jorgensen hadn’t. “I didn’t even own a bike,” she says.

Realizing that she missed competition, she decided to try the grueling sport that combines swimming, cycling, and running. Jorgensen did so well in her first race in 2010 that she achieved elite status, putting her among the best in the world. In subsequent events, she qualified for the 2012 Olympics. A flat tire during the cycling stage dropped her to thirty-eighth place, but when she crossed the finish line in London that year, she set a goal of winning gold in Rio this summer.

Jorgensen committed to training abroad, but two years later, after another discouraging finish — this time in Auckland, New Zealand — she wanted to abandon the sport. Her fiancé — now husband — Patrick Lemieux, urged her to persevere.

Jorgensen did exactly that, going on to conquer the competition by winning twelve consecutive events in the International Triathlon Union’s World Triathlon Series. Her progress is astonishing: she has become the most dominant triathlete since the sport became an Olympic event sixteen years ago.

She looks forward to once again representing the United States on a world stage, but the woman who used to race with Bucky Badger painted on her cheek says she has not forgotten her roots: “I’ll always be a Badger.”

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Terrace time http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/vision/terrace-time/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/vision/terrace-time/#respond Mon, 29 Feb 2016 16:52:29 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17034 Students get an early jump on Terrace time in March 2015. Temperatures soared into the sixties, giving Madisonians a chance to get some sun even though Lake Mendota remained frozen.

Photo by Bryce Richter

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Allen Centennial Garden http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/destination/allen-centennial-garden/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/destination/allen-centennial-garden/#respond Mon, 29 Feb 2016 16:52:29 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17038

Twenty-seven distinct spaces fill the horticulture department’s public botanical garden. It is named for the late Oscar Allen PhD’30, a UW bacteriologist, and his wife, Ethel ’28, MS’30, a renowned naturalist and former faculty member.

Ben Futa, who became the new director of Allen Centennial Garden last summer, wants the living laboratory to inspire lifelong gardeners. “We don’t want people to think of it like it’s behind a pane of glass.”

The garden’s Victorian Gothic home, built in 1896 for the agriculture dean, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is under renovation to become a student center for the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences.

The 2.5-acre garden is open year-round, from dawn to dusk, and admission is free. Last year it began hosting yoga and tai chi classes, as well as student-run pop-up cafes that serve lunches featuring produce from the garden.

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http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/diversions/17045/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/diversions/17045/#respond Mon, 29 Feb 2016 16:52:29 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17045 the_russian_woodpecker

Nuclear conspiracy

The title of director/editor Chad Gracia ’92s debut documentary film — The Russian Woodpecker — invites so many questions, but, it turns out, it has nothing to do with birds and everything to do with Fedor Alexandrovich: an eccentric, Ukrainian artist who is investigating the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.

His conspiracy theory goes like this: Soviet officials caused the meltdown to mask a failed plot to penetrate Western communications systems (and minds?) using a massive radio transmitter — nicknamed “the Woodpecker” for the pecking sound it made. Fantastical? Perhaps. But the more Alexandrovich’s inquiries unnerve the old-guard officials, the more credible his theory seems.

The Boston-based Gracia has worked in New York theater for nearly two decades as a producer, dramaturge, and playwright, focusing on plays in verse. He was in Ukraine doing a theater project when he met Alexandrovich, whom the film portrays as both protagonist and antagonist. Gracia hopes it will enlighten audiences about Ukraine’s history and its difficulty shedding its Soviet past. And, modern-day tensions between Ukraine and Russia give it renewed relevance and resonance.


Chad Gracia

The Russian Woodpecker won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival; it’s one of Yahoo’s top forty movies of 2015; and it’s a nominee for a 2016 Film Independent Spirit Award, among other honors, nominations, and best-ofs. Gracia and Alexandrovich showed it at the 2015 Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison, and it opened in theaters and as video-on-demand this fall. Indie film distributor FilmBuff has also bought the worldwide rights to it.

Gracia said in a statement, “I’m excited to share Fedor’s incredible journey with audiences around the world, who I’m sure will be as charmed by his character as they are stunned by his investigation.”


All about agriculture

Few folks are as quintessentially “Wisconsin” as celebrated rural historian Jerry Apps ’55, MS’57, PhD’67, who splits his time between Madison and his farm in Waushara County. He’s had a career as a UW-Extension agent, professor (now emeritus) of UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural & Life Sciences, and now full-time writer and creative-writing instructor. He’s also the subject of Wisconsin Public Television programs.

The latest in Apps’s forty-plus books — memoirs about growing up on a Wisconsin farm and fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books about many facets of the state’s history — is Wisconsin Agriculture: A History. But what about being the Dairy State? Well, Wisconsin has been a farming state from its start — and it’s one of the nation’s most diverse agricultural states as well.

Hailed as the first expansive volume on the subject in nearly a century, Apps’s book features first-person accounts from the settlement era to today and more than two hundred photos. It covers artisanal cheeses and cranberries, of course, but it also explores the state’s relationship with its terrain, weather, and natural resources to highlight Christmas trees, honey, cattle, goats, fur farming, beekeeping, maple syrup, ginseng, hemp, cherries, sugar beets, mint, sphagnum moss, flax, and hops.


Jerry Apps

Ethnic and pioneer settlement patterns also play into Wisconsin’s agricultural profile, as do changing technologies, ag research and education, government policies, and endeavors such as aquaculture and urban farming. Finally, Apps contemplates ethical growing practices, sustainability, food safety, and the potential effects of climate change.

Wisconsin Agriculture is a giant undertaking, but then, would we expect any less from Jerry Apps?

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Living the Wisconsin Idea http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_alumni/living-the-wisconsin-idea/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_alumni/living-the-wisconsin-idea/#respond Mon, 29 Feb 2016 16:52:28 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=17111 Forward Under 40 cover

For nearly a decade, the Wisconsin Alumni Association has honored UW–Madison alumni under the age of forty who have excelled in both careers and community service with the Forward under 40 award. This year’s eight winners have demonstrated their commitment to the Wisconsin Idea, the principle that students, faculty, and alumni should improve lives beyond the borders of campus. To nominate an alum for next year’s awards, visit forwardunder40.com. The nominations deadline is July 10, 2016.

Virgil Abloh ’03 is best known for his high-end fashion label, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh; his RSVP Gallery clothing store in Chicago; his work as a DJ; and his role as the creative director for music icon Kanye West. But he also makes time to give back to his alma mater. In 2015, he designed limited editions of WAA’s The Red Shirt™. All proceeds from sales of the shirt went to a fund Abloh created called the Off-Scholarship, which provides need-based financial aid to incoming freshmen.

Leslie Anderson ’04 is the vice president of human resources at the Gap-owned brand Athleta in San Francisco. As a UW student, she held down a part-time job in human resources and partnered with university job-placement centers to lead free workshops for students. In 2015, she was named Retail Innovator of the Year and was invited to the White House to participate in the Upskilling America movement, which brings together business, nonprofit, academic, and labor groups to help improve opportunities for American workers.

AnneElise Goetz ’02 is a partner at Higgs Fletcher & Mack, one of San Diego’s oldest law firms. Additionally, she appears weekly on HLN’s Dr. Drew and on Fox television networks to provide viewers with legal tips and insights. She also writes and produces her own podcast, AnneElise Goetz Your Life and the Law, to help listeners with major legal issues. Goetz is dedicated to helping women seek out leadership positions in government, law, and business.

William Hsu ’00 has lived and worked all over the United States. But for him, there’s no place like Wisconsin. He runs Hsu’s Ginseng Enterprises in Wausau, a business his parents founded in 1974. Through it all, Hsu has not lost his passion for UW-Madison. Working with the UW Foundation, he helped develop an innovative social-media fundraising campaign that launched in 2011 and helped endow a Great People Scholarship. He also serves on the UW Foundation Board of Directors.

Laura Klunder ’06, MSW’07 studied social work at UW-Madison and was involved with the university’s MultiCultural Student Coalition. As a representative for Adoptee Solidarity Korea, she engaged fellow adult adoptees in strengthening Korea’s social welfare system and fighting discrimination against unwed mothers. After four years of grassroots organizing in South Korea, Klunder returned to campus in 2015 to serve as a social justice education specialist with the Multicultural Student Center.

Aaron Lippman ’98 is the principal of Carmen High School of Science and Technology in Milwaukee. During his first year on the job, Carmen was named School of the Year by Milwaukee Charter School Advocates. During Lippman’s second year, Carmen took Wisconsin’s top spot on the Washington Post’s list of schools that challenge students to achieve through college-level exams. Lippman also mentors administrators in Milwaukee-area schools with the goal of closing the racial achievement gap.

Tom Rausch ’04 is the cofounder and director of strategy and innovation at Good World Solutions, which helps workers in the developing world who do not have a secure channel to share complaints about workplace conditions. The organization’s flagship product, Laborlink, has reached more than 500,000 workers across Asia, Europe, and South America, maintaining worker anonymity and delivering participation rates that far exceed those typically achieved during social audits.

Tonya Sloans JD’01 serves as counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ethics in Washington, DC. As a student, she decided that she wanted to use her education for community service, and she now gives back to the DC community as a licensed minister. She also founded PowerWoman Enterprise, an organization that aims to improve the lives of women by providing resources to achieve their full career potential. This venture utilizes her skills as an attorney, minister, and entrepreneur.

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Annie Pankowski http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/contender/annie-pankowski/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/contender/annie-pankowski/#respond Mon, 29 Feb 2016 16:52:07 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=16810 Annie Pankowski

Sophomore Annie Pankowski continues to score big following a standout freshman season that garnered her Rookie of the Year honors. Jeff Miller

Annie Pankowski x’18 grew up in Laguna Hills, California, wanting to be good enough to play hockey with her older brother and her sister, Ali, who went on to play for Princeton.

She reached for a bigger dream in 2014 as the U.S. women’s hockey team prepared for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But Pankowski, a member of the 2013 national team, didn’t make the final Olympic roster. The U.S. lost to Canada in the gold-medal match in overtime.

Two years later, Pankowski views the devastation of being one cut away from winning the silver medal as a major turning point.

“It definitely hurt. Even though the outcome wasn’t exactly what I had wanted, it was probably one of the best experiences I think I could have had at that point in my career,” she says. “It’s just kind of been almost a secret weapon I can tap into to say, ‘I don’t want to feel that way again.’ ”

In her breakout freshman season, Pankowski scored twenty-one goals, including three in the NCAA tournament, and won National Rookie of the Year honors. This season, she’s won WCHA Offensive Player of the Week multiple times, and the Badgers are once again ranked among the top teams in the country.

“We spent all summer training and then to start playing games — it’s really exciting, especially when we’re doing as well as we are,” she said when interviewed last November.

Pankowski’s expectations have been high since her first trip to Madison, which served as a memorable introduction to the UW’s big-campus atmosphere and the strength of the women’s hockey program.

On that visit, Wisconsin defeated Mercyhurst in a playoff game at the Kohl Center to advance to the Frozen Four. “It was insane. I just thought it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” she says. “The camaraderie of so many people with so much Badger pride is pretty cool to be a part of.”

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War Anthems http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/war-anthems/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/war-anthems/#respond Mon, 29 Feb 2016 16:52:06 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=16767 Jimi Hendrix

Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/GETTY IMAGES


© ABKCO Records

Ten songs most mentioned by Vietnam veterans in
We Gotta Get Out of This Place:

No one song defines the Vietnam War for the more than 2.5 million U.S. soldiers who served, but a new book reveals a rich playlist.

Craig Werner, a UW–Madison professor of Afro-American studies and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s nominating committee, and Doug Bradley, a retired academic staff member and Vietnam veteran, spent ten years working on We Gotta Get Out of This Place. Rolling Stone named it the magazine’s Best Music Book of 2015.

They conducted interviews with hundreds of Vietnam veterans around the country to capture their voices and memories. The initial idea of building a list of top twenty songs multiplied into hundreds of songs and experiences. They learned that the soundtrack to the war is highly personalized.

Many veterans mentioned the song by The Animals that inspired the book’s title. While many civilians thought of it as an anti-war song, service members heard the echo of their desire to go home. A former Armed Forces Radio DJ, who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969, says that most soldiers regarded “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” as their “We Shall Overcome.”

At its heart, the book is about survival and healing. “There’s still an awful lot of healing that needs to be done,” Bradley wrote in a Veterans Day blog post last fall. “And we’ve become convinced that music can help.”

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Boom Box Parade http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/bygone/boom-box-parade/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/bygone/boom-box-parade/#respond Mon, 29 Feb 2016 16:52:06 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=16797 Leon Varjian leads a boom box parade

Leon Varjian (foreground) leads a boom box parade down State Street in June 1983. The marchers wore old Indiana University band uniforms that Varjian bought at an auction. Ed Stein/Wisconsin State Journal.

When former student Leon Varjian passed away last September, UW–Madison lost one of its true legends. Varjian, who was the vice president of the university’s student government from 1978 to 1980, was a leader of the Pail and Shovel Party, the outfit that put the Statue of Liberty on Lake Mendota and brought pink flamingos to Bascom Hill.

When the Pail and Shovel Party arrived in Madison in the 1970s, the campus had nearly worn itself out with political earnestness. Opposition to the Vietnam War led to riots and the bombing of Sterling Hall; civil rights demonstrations evolved into a student strike.

Into this scene stepped Varjian, a graduate student from New Jersey with a sense for street theater. Varjian and Jim Mallon ’79 created the Pail and Shovel Party with the openly stated intent of wasting as much time and money as possible. (The party’s name came from a proposal to exchange the entire budget of the Wisconsin Student Association [WSA] for pennies, and then give it all away on Library Mall, where students could scoop up their refunds with buckets.)

While at Wisconsin, Varjian was a more successful politician than student. He got himself elected WSA’s vice president for two years, but he never finished a degree — in fact, he appears to have earned only one academic credit.

The photo above shows one of his Madison pranks: a boom box parade that had Varjian and his cardinal-clad crew high-stepping through downtown Madison with giant radios, tuned to stations playing march music, on June 1, 1983. It followed “the First Annual April Fool’s Boom Box Parade,” which was held on April 1, 1982.

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Bet on It http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/bet-on-it/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/bet-on-it/#respond Mon, 29 Feb 2016 16:52:06 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=16871 Anders Holm

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Anders Holm ’03 was in New Orleans when he got a call from his manager about a job opportunity. The following day, sitting in his hotel room, Holm auditioned for The Intern via Skype. Hours later, he was on a flight to New York City to meet with the movie’s director, Nancy Meyers, and its stars, Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro.

And that, as Holm puts it, “was that.” He nailed the audition and landed the job.

Garnering a starring role opposite megastars in a Warner Brothers romantic comedy is just the latest career triumph for Holm, who grew up in Evanston, Illinois. Since moving to Los Angeles twelve years ago, he’s made a name for himself in a town known for its cutthroat mentality.

Holm’s real-life Cinderella story began five years ago when Comedy Central greenlit Workaholics, a series the thirty-four-year-old co-created, produced, and wrote with Blake Anderson, Adam Devine, and Kyle Newacheck. The single-camera comedy centers around three slackers (played by Holm, Anderson, and Devine) who “work” at a telemarketing company during the day and party at night. The underachieving trio proved an instant hit with viewers.

The show and its go-getter stars also caught the attention of Hollywood.

Since the 2011 debut of Workaholics, Holm landed a recurring part in Mindy Kaling’s television series The Mindy Project, as well as a slew of highly coveted small roles in major Hollywood films, including Inherent Vice, The Interview, and Top Five. And while Holm is best known for his improv and absurd comedy, he earned unexpected praise at 2015’s Sundance Film Festival for his dramatic acting chops in Unexpected, an independent film about an unlikely friendship.

The writer-actor closed out 2015 on a high note both personally and professionally. In December, Holm and his college-sweetheart-turned-wife, Emma Nesper ’04, celebrated their son’s second birthday. That was preceded by The Intern’s splashy Manhattan premiere; news that Comedy Central extended Workaholics for a sixth and seventh season; winning yet another noteworthy role in a Hollywood romantic comedy, How to Be Single, starring Rebel Wilson and Dakota Johnson; and being chosen to write a screenplay for a project that he’s developing with Seth Rogen.

But Holm is quick to point out that while his rise in the entertainment industry came quickly, it certainly didn’t happen overnight. His big breaks in both television and film required the Roman philosopher Seneca’s recipe for luck — loads of preparation paired with opportunity.


Holm returned to campus to speak at commencement in spring 2013, when he told graduates, “Be prepared to work harder than anybody else for what you want. … but always take time to watch cartoons.” Bryce Richter

Holm’s preparation began during his college years at UW–Madison, where he was a member of the varsity swim team and majored in history. In between the 50-meter freestyle, homework, and hanging out with friends at the Essen Haus, Holm wrote screenplays. A lot of screenplays.

“I’d go out on Thursdays and Fridays, and then stay in on the weekends to write,” he says. “None of the scripts I wrote in college were that good, but at that point, it didn’t matter. I was just trying to just write as much as I could.”

The effort paid off. One year after graduation and nine months after moving to Los Angeles, Holm landed an internship at power producer Barry Josephson’s Josephson Entertainment. That led to a meeting with Bones creator Hart Hanson, who, after looking at some of Holm’s screenplays, hired him as a writer’s assistant. It was while working on Bones that the actor had a revelation.

“When I moved to LA, I wanted to be a writer and write movies,” Holm explains. “What I didn’t know then is that you write the movie, you sell the screenplay, and usually it’s out of your control. It could be rewritten or changed significantly. So it’s no longer yours. You just hope for the best. But in television, the writers hold a lot of creative control. If you create a TV show as a writer, then you are in control. You’re the auteur. So I quickly learned that my ego was better suited for TV.”

During this time, Holm also learned that he didn’t exactly enjoy being an assistant. “I’m just not very good at getting lunches,” he says. “Dealing with somebody who can’t handle that their favorite soup isn’t available is frustrating. But I never got too down about it, because when I moved to Hollywood, I was naïve and confident enough to [tell myself], ‘You’re going to be making money in this town for your writing.’ The problem was I never knew how it was going to come to me. So I got by with the help of my then-girlfriend, now-wife [Nesper], and doing the classic charge-everything-to-the-Visa. I told myself that I’d pay it off when I ‘made it.’ It definitely wasn’t the safest bet, but I decided to bet on myself.”

While Holm never planned on becoming an actor, he soon found out that as a comedy writer, the quickest way to prove to people that his words were funny was to perform his own material. In 2005, right before starting a job as an assistant on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Holm met his soon-to-be Workaholics co-stars Devine and Anderson while performing at the renowned sketch-comedy group Second City LA. In 2006, the trio, along with Kyle Newacheck, formed Mail Order Comedy — a group devoted to writing material, performing at various venues, and filming their own skits, which they uploaded to YouTube. Cut to 2011. After viewing their online content, an executive at Comedy Central approached the group to make a pilot. While Holm considers that call a highlight in his career, he doesn’t regard it as his “I made it” moment. That came a few months later, when Comedy Central ordered a second season of Workaholics before season one had even aired.

“It’s such a timing thing that comes into play with Hollywood,” Holm admits. “There is no ladder in the business of entertainment. You can’t just put in hard work and work your way up. Out here, it’s more like you can do no work and get a big break in two weeks, or you can work hard for ten years and never catch a break. So it’s kind of a crapshoot.”

While betting on himself paid off for Holm, he still experiences moments of insecurity about his career. “When I was shooting The Intern, I would look at Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro and think, ‘I come from the land of fart jokes.’ So I started to think to myself, ‘All right. Who really thinks I should be here?’ But then, by day two [of shooting], it wasn’t as wild as I thought it might be. And listen, it’s amateur to not think you should be there. You have to show up and do your job and have the confidence.”

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The Man Who Saved Pinball http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/the-man-who-saved-pinball/ http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/the-man-who-saved-pinball/#respond Mon, 29 Feb 2016 16:52:06 +0000 http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=16970 When I arrive at GameWorks arcade in Schaumburg, Illinois, Roger Sharpe ’71 escorts me upstairs, sets up a two-player game on an Iron Man pinball machine, and tells me to go first.

My turn is over before I can turn around to see if he’s laughing. It could be a while before I play again. After all, this is the man who saved pinball.

“The big thing with pinball is understanding the geometry of the game, the sequences,” he says, describing a game that has evolved since the eighteenth century. In today’s version, players hit a steel ball with “flippers” on a decorated board. He starts calling his shots, drawing paths on the glass with his finger. “See? I’ll hit up the right lane now.”

Calling his shots is what Sharpe is known for. In 1976, as the New York City Council reexamined the city’s ban on pinball as gambling, Sharpe testified that the game involves more skill than luck. After he successfully called several shots on a machine of the council’s choosing, the officials had seen enough. They voted unanimously to lift the ban, and then-mayor Abraham Beame signed it into law. “So I’m now a historical footnote,” Sharpe says.

Before he became a star in the pinball world, Sharpe studied marketing at the UW, where he and his Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity brothers would kill free time playing pinball at hangout spots such as The Pub or the old Kollege Klub. The turning point, Sharpe says, came as he watched a friend expertly balance a burger, fries, soda, and a cigarette as he played.

“He was controlling everything,” Sharpe says. “It was an epiphany of sorts.”

After graduation, Sharpe moved to New York, taking an editor position at GQ magazine. His desire to play pinball, which had been banned in the city since 1942, led him to pursue a feature story that eventually evolved into a book, Pinball!, establishing him as the expert who could save the game. After his famous testimony and time at GQ, the Chicago native returned to Illinois, working in the gaming industry for twenty-six years. Today he leads his own company, Sharpe Communications, which specializes in the design, marketing, and promotion of gaming systems.

After my defeat on the Iron Man machine, Sharpe moves down two places to a game that’s based on the television series 24. He starts slowly, but soon seems unaware that anything else exists outside of the game. One ball seems to become dozens, dancing around under the glass in controlled chaos.

When his three turns are up, he’s set the new high score on that machine. He turns around with a knowing grin and shrugs. “I showed off a little bit,” he says. “I got caught up in the moment.”

He still plays competitively, and his sons have followed his lead. Zach and Josh Sharpe are ranked fifth and eighteenth worldwide, according to the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA), and they compete often in tournaments sponsored by IFPA and the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association, which their father cofounded. Despite a very early influence — Sharpe recalls rocking them to sleep as infants in one arm while he played an Evel Knievel game with the other — he says he never expected them to pick up where he left off. People have since joked about them as the “first family of pinball.”

As our time together comes to a close, I ask Sharpe if he worries that pinball will fall by the wayside as new technologies such as virtual reality gain attention.

“It’s not going to disappear,” he says firmly. “I’ve said it before: if anybody can offer me something that provides the same type of entertainment experience as pinball, tactilely, sensorially, in every which way, then I’ll consider it. But until then, pinball is pinball. It’s that incredible wonderland under the glass.”

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