By Hannah Kiddoo and Brennan Nardi
For what boils down to an essential snapshot of our city every month, we pack a lot into every issue of Madison Magazine. That’s the first thing we discovered all over again when we went paging through past issues, reminiscing about this story or that, in preparation for our thirty-fifth anniversary.
We delve into controversies—remember Monona Terrace and the caucus scandals? We take readers into the heads of entrepreneurs, governors and playwrights. We pay attention to education in Madison classrooms. We cover design in homes, civic buildings and businesses. And breakthroughs in biotechnology, glass ceilings and addiction treatment.
For thirty-five years, our pages have reflected the myriad cultural changes, the exploding population growth in the city and the suburbs, and the companies and institutions—changing or venerable or struggling to reinvent themselves.
Most of all, though, we have written about the people who have influenced Madison through the years. Madison Magazine covered the rise of women and people of color into leadership roles in civic organizations, businesses and government. More than a dozen issues devoted a swath of pages to the people who were trying to make Madison lakes cleaner, healthier and more appealing. We reported on University of Wisconsin–Madison students and leaders, on its past and future, on its sports teams and the geniuses who brought scientific breakthroughs to the world from campus labs and the University Research Park. And we touted the brilliant academics and innovators at Edgewood College, Madison College, high schools and pre-schools.
We featured profiles of smart business owners and devoted community organizers. Writers, artists, doctors, yoga teachers, scientists, famous actors, triathletes, musicians passing through town on tour, ambitious politicians—these folks and many others ended up on our pages.
While some of our issues contained harrowing tales of unsolved murders, and others reflected the panic that came with AIDS, our archives are also a record of all that was sublime, once upon a time, in Madison. One of our first issues, heaven help us, contained a feature on "the local disco scene." Not long after, we reported on the emergence of big, blocky home computers and how everyone was rushing to buy them. We opined on nudity in the arts, buses on State Street and white-collar crime. In our retail listings, we noted which types of credit cards were accepted at which stores. Seriously, that was once a question to which you needed an answer.
We also discovered that, decades after our founding, many things about Madison remain the same: our commitment to locally produced goods, which is depicted in regular tales of farmers’ markets, co-ops and successful entrepreneurships; our pride in innovation, as evidenced by the scores of stories on medicine and technology; our passion for politics; and our love of a good athletic event, as shown through countless profiles on star athletes and teams that made us stand up and cheer.
Over the course of the past thirty-five years, it would be an understatement to say that Madison has seen a steady cast of characters who have motivated, entertained and bewildered their fellow citizens. Best of all, as we realized by leafing through our own back pages, we have had the pleasure of interviewing many of them. So we wondered, where are these people now?
We caught up with thirty-five of them, and they all said that living, working or playing in Madison shaped them, often in fundamental ways. We say, in return for that influence, that they, knowingly or not, helped shape Madison. Each was featured in at least one past issue of the magazine, with many—but probably not all—of those issues noted by name.
Of our thirty-five, there are those we said would go places and, of course, they did. The water-skiing Larsen twins and the rockers of Garbage, for example. Others, like opera singer Kitt Reuter-Foss, haven’t changed much, which we couldn’t be happier about. Some, like politico Bill McCoshen, were young professionals in a hurry whose stars rose swiftly. Some, like politician Tammy Baldwin, moved steadily up the ladder to lofty heights, and others, like former police chief David Couper, made new and innovative contributions to their old professions. And then there are those who started in one place, moved forward to another, and came full circle back to where they had been in the first place. Yep, Mr. Mayor, we’re looking at you.
Regardless of what their ZIP codes are now, each of these people made their mark on our city’s incredibly rich history. They made us laugh. They frustrated us. They made us think. They inspired us and educated us.
Enjoy looking back and catching up. We sure did.