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The most-streamed ‘Uniquely Milwaukee’ episodes of 2022

A spliced image shows the frozen-food aisle of a grocery store, actor Willem Dafoe and a bottle of non-alcoholic spirits.

The end of the year is approaching — a time of year that stirs emotions for a lot of us. I tend to get sentimental, saying goodbye to parts of myself while building new expectations for the coming year.

A big part of my year, alongside the rest of the content team, has been turning our short-form FM Community Stories into a focused episodic podcast: Uniquely Milwaukee. Reflecting Milwaukee’s diverse community, these are stories that stick with you. They’re exuberant, empathetic and sometimes even gut-wrenching while always focused on the people who make up our city.

As an end-of-year treat, we curated a list of Uniquely Milwaukee’s most streamed episodes while giving you behind-the-scenes insight into each one.

10. When was it illegal to be LGBTQ in Wisconsin?

Episode two of Be Seen, our LGBTQ history podcast with the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project, was surprising for two reasons. First, it revealed how progressive Wisconsin was at one time, as it was actually the first state in the nation to create legal protections for gay and lesbian people. Second, it serves as a reminder of how recent this history is as well as the work that remains.

9. Wisconsin’s most notable women’s bars

Lesbian bars are rapidly disappearing in cities across America, but Milwaukee is home to one of only about 20 women’s bars left in the country. In episode four of Be Seen, Walker’s Pint owner Betsy Boenning spoke to the unique challenges of keeping the business thriving for lesbians and the entire LGBTQ community. We recorded in the dead of winter on the back patio of the bar, which was the quietest place we could find during a packed karaoke night.

8. Specters, scents and inspiration: An interview with Willem Dafoe

A milestone moment was when Willem Dafoe became Willem DaFriend in this episode. One of the main things I remember was how he commanded the room with his presence. He walked onto UWM’s Peck School of the Arts stage, looked up, smiled and immediately told us a ghost story.

7. When was Wisconsin’s first drag show?

Take a guess when the first drag show was advertised in Milwaukee. If your guess started with a 19xx, you’d be off by at least few decades. In episode three of Be Seen, we traced the state’s first drag show back to the 1800s and spoke with local drag legend BJ Daniels, who has graced Wisconsin stages since the 1980s. They share their experiences as a performer and final audio recordings with their late drag mother.

6. The beginnings of Milwaukee Film

Milwaukee Film took a gamble opening its doors in 2008. It wasn’t long after film productions across Hollywood (and the world) shut down because of a writer’s strike. Then the 2008 financial crisis happened. This episode delved into those perilous beginnings and the subsequent growth of Milwaukee Film, as well as whether its origins are a butterfly effect story.

5. How Milwaukee is creating empathy in its architecture

This episode came from walking and looking around the city, which helped me clear my mind. I was dissecting the term “empathy,” going in circles about what it means to be empathic, where it comes from and if it can evolve. And then a thought passed by, can an environment be empathetic? This episode aims to answer that question.

4. Wisconsin’s first LQBTQ uprising

When you listen to Be Seen, it’s best to start at the beginning. Our first episode introduced listeners to gender nonconforming queen Josie Carter, who led Wisconsin’s first LGBTQ uprising at the Black Nite bar in 1961. The episode includes intimate conversations recorded in 2018 between Carter and Jamie Gays, her longtime friend and drag performer. In a surprising twist during our research, we uncovered two additional hours of recordings never before heard by the public.

3. The plague of sexual assault violence in Milwaukee’s music scene

This episode was a bit frightening to put out. It probably would’ve never happened if I didn’t speak with Fortune, a Milwaukee-based DJ. I commend her for starting the conversation on the real violent power that allows rape culture and victim-blaming to happen in Milwaukee. Her fearless approach allowed me to share my assault for the first time in a public manner.

2. Do bodegas exist in Milwaukee?

This was our first episode and an intentional choice. Our team wanted to start the podcast with a celebration that highlighted and honored our neighborhoods and complex identities. So we looked to our corner stores and grocery stores that carry cultural significance. This episode was a bit different because it centered around a specific question. Find out if we ever answered it.

1. Living without alcohol in America’s drunkest state

Ask someone about our city, and beer is bound to come up. Schlitz’s slogan may be “The beer that made Milwaukee famous,” but Milwaukee is arguably the city that made beer famous in America. So what does that look like for people abstaining from alcohol? I started the journey to this episode by following a Milwaukee Reddit thread with over 50 responses about feeling like an outsider simply because they don’t drink.

Audio Storyteller | Radio Milwaukee