Letter: Iconic beer ad re-homed in Superior
Prompting the telling of this story began when my son, Matt, called from his home in Green Bay to tell me he and his wife, Donna, had been shopping at a local sale when he found a serving tray featuring the "The Girl in the Moon." He remembered the story of his grandfather's unique advertising placement, so he brought the tray, a wonderful souvenir of bygone days.
It began in the late 1930s, when the Miller Brewing Co. of Milwaukee created a promotional advertising piece for its Miller High Life beer. The piece featured "The Girl in the Moon," a young woman sitting on the edge of a half-moon, holding a bottle of Miller High Life in her hand.
The moon was about as high as one could be in those days.
My father, Gust DeRiemaker, the local area distributor for Miller High Life beer, contacted one of his customers, Tony Zukaitis, owner of Tony's Cabaret, on North Third Street. Tony's had been in business since 1926 and they were good friends as well. Gust convinced Tony that that "The Girl in the Moon" would be a perfect promotional piece for the ceiling of the tavern. Tony agreed.
During the 1940s World War II years, Tony's and North Third Street were the place to be. Nearby wartime shipyard workers, sailors, grain elevator workers and customers from the city of Superior came to recognize "The Girl in the Moon."
It wasn't until the late 1950s that I became familiar with the cabaret. My husband, John, and I would often join our college friends there on a Saturday night. I remember asking Mike Hennessy, a local artist, if he new of "The Girl in the Moon." He responded: "Remember her? I pulled a Michelangelo and painted her!"
Hoisted high on the ceiling, Mike had freshened the faded paint on "The Girl in the Moon." At that time, Angie, the Zukaitis' daughter, and her husband, George, were the owners and faces behind the bar.
Times changed and Tony's Cabaret closed in 1987. "The Girl in the Moon" was removed before the building was demolished and she was stored in a North End garage until she was rescued to her new home: Thirsty Pagan Brewing at 1623 Broadway St. She is not on the ceiling, however, as her new owner, Steve Knauss, chose to bring her presence close and more evident on the wall.
Nor is her story over, because "The Girl in the Moon" will be traveling with Steve Knauss to the former railroad depot in January. As Thirsty Pagan has built a reputation for handcrafted beer and gourmet pizza, they need more room. The depot offers that space for their business to expand, and I am just waiting to see the history of the Miller Brewing Co.'s most famous promotional advertising carried on at the new location.
I'll be there to check it out. I invite you to do the same.
Joann DeRiemaker Gidley