Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Owner of Strad Violin Tips Her Identity

The violin's owner was at the scene of the crime and signed her first name to a message published by Frank Almond.

By - Feb 6th, 2014 03:08 pm
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Frank Almond

Frank Almond

At the City of Milwaukee Birthday Party last week, Police Chief Ed Flynn lightly joked about the Milwaukee inferiority complex, “you know Milwaukee,” that people here were surprised to see the theft of a multimillion dollar violin here, as though this is too small a town for such a dramatic crime.

On the contrary. Milwaukee has been in the worldwide spotlight ever since the theft of MSO Concertmaster Frank Almond‘s Lipinski Stradivarius violin, insured for $5 million. News yesterday that three people were arrested for the crime, and news today that the violin has been found, all bode well for the violinist. But even during the dark days following the theft, Almond kept his spirits — and his engagements.

As we’ve reported previously the violin’s owner is quite likely Charlotte A. Bleistein, an old supporter of the city’s once-vibrant Socialist Party, now in her late nineties. Adding further evidence is her message of support to Almond which he published on his blog, and which she signed “Char.”

“It has been my joy and privilege to own the Lipinski Stradivari in recent years,” she wrote. “I have thought of myself more as a guardian of a treasure than an owner.” Bleistein, if it is indeed her, also revealed that she attended the concert where Almond performed just before his attackers stole the violin. “I had left the concert hall just a few minutes earlier and thinking of what then happened so quickly is very painful,” she wrote.

Long before the theft, Almond was scheduled to give his “A Violin’s Life” performance and discussion at the University Club on Tuesday, February 11th. Asked after the theft  if the event was still on, management of the club answered in the affirmative.  A promotion piece for the $30 event, published in the Club’s monthly “Forum” magazine, reads as if from a more innocent time. “After ‘disappearing’ for several decades, the violin miraculously surfaced in Milwaukee in 2008.” Almond’s appearance with pianist  and Juilliard classmate William Wolfram was arranged for the club through the efforts of member Andy Nunemaker, who is also on the board of the organization.

Wall Street Milwaukee

Former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt Jr. was quoted in the New York Times recently about his investment in”Seven Deadly Sins” a group of stocks chosen for a theme. In his case, it is gluttony, so his stock market basket includes things like Brown-Forman (wine) and McDonald’s (calories). Levitt dumped a little of his money into the fund (“little” for a guy like Levitt is $5,000) and then followed his stocks’ fortunes.

And then he came up with this enticing quote:

“I followed that very closely,” Mr. Levitt said from his Florida home about his collection of stocks in “sinful” businesses. “There came a point when I said to my investment adviser in Milwaukee that I wanted to put a more meaningful amount of money into this.”

His investment adviser! In Milwaukee! Who knew that the former policeman of the trillions-of-dollars securities industry would chose to have his fortune managed from Milwaukee? I’m trying to guess who Levitt’s financial advisor is. Could it be Heartland, famed for being conservative? Artisan Partners? Robert W. Baird & Co.? Maybe Ted Kellner? It looks like people make their fortunes elsewhere, but come here to invest them. Whatever it takes!

Fun Financial Fact: Levitt isn’t the first high-profile non-Milwaukeean to have financial matters handled by an adviser here. Anthony Palermo of River Hills served as financial advisor to film star Greta Garbo for 20 years and spoke to her every day, he once said. Garbo died in 1991, leaving a $30 million estate.

New Names on Rep Board

The Milwaukee Repertory Theater named five new members to its board this week. They include W. Randall McKennie of Aurora West Allis Medical Center, Greg C. Oberland, an Executive Vice President at Northwestern Mutual, Ed Seaburg of Rockwell International, downtown resident and longtime City Hall staffer Cecilia Gilbert and Harry Richard Quadracci Ewens, PhD. He is the son of the late Harry and the late Betty (Ewens) Quadracci after whom the Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse Theater is named.

Quadracci Ewens is newly returned to the Milwaukee scene, along with the new way to style his last name. In 2004 the New York Post reported that Quadracci had run “a secret sex vault where gay men live out their S&M fantasies – atop a ritzy family-friendly building in Manhattan.” He was later involuntarily committed for mental observation by his mother and two sisters. It was a sad story that got progressively sadder.

After leaving Manhattan, Quadracci moved to the Dominican Republic, where in 2008 the New York Post reported he lodged “crazy and unsubstantiated claims against his estranged mom,” the late Betty Quadracci. Richard Quadracci claimed his mother “hired a private Dominican Republic doctor to drug, kidnap and commit him to a mental institution there to prevent him from inheriting his share of the family fortune,” according to the paper’s account. The Quad Graphics printing company filed suit against the heir for defamation, forcing him to remove certain content from his website.

Richard and his family members later patched things up, with Richard stabilized and reportedly doing well. Betty is the cover photo of his Facebook page, and Richard includes a link to Bruce Murphy‘s Urban Milwaukee tribute to Betty, who served for decades as publisher of Milwaukee Magazine. Apparently Quadracci Ewens also has the keys to Betty’s crib at the Cudahy, since he posted photographs of the Milwaukee Art Museum taken from there and captioned, “Greetings from 777 N. Prospect Ave.”

Quadracci Ewens now runs Quadracci Vieux & Sons Coffee, an importer of Haitian java. He explained his new name in a Facebook posting last month: “I got my new official Dominican Republic ID card and my passport is in process. Under Dominican law, which I learned just now, for all contracts and official government documents, my name is: Harry Richard Quadracci Ewens.” His new name, new company, and new board position with the Rep all suggest his life has rebounded.

UWM Grad to Head Microsoft

Satya Nadela, a graduate of UW-Milwaukee, has been selected to head Microsoft, one of the world’s largest companies, the firm announced this week. This should be very good news for the community and should put a spring in the step of Chancellor Michael R. Lovell. Nadela was at UWM last year when he was a mere member of the Bill Gates “cabinet” at the tech giant. He was here to receive the Chancellor’s Innovation Award. While in town Lovell discussed with Nadela ways the firm could partner with the university.

On The Campaign Trail

Selecting an entry from the boot. Photo by Michael Horne.

Selecting an entry from the boot. Photo by Michael Horne.

Jonathan Brostoff held a fundraising event at Jackalop Lounj on Tuesday, Februrary 4th. Among the attendees were such usual suspects as Chris Moews, advancing his campaign for sheriff, along with a number of officials and supporters including Mia Noel, Ben Juarez, Baraq Asher Stein, Ava Hernandez, Crystal Lund and Johnny Zagrodnek, a UWM student who will be busy with the campaign during the remainder of the year. Judicial candidate Cedric Cornwall also paid a visit while on the trail. Earlier that evening he had been at the Judges Night 2014 at the Grain Exchange Room. The annual event is presented by the Milwaukee Bar Association. It is always a good time to see the suits and robes hanging out together. They were joined by Sara Geenen, yet another of those 19th District assembly candidates popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain. Atty. Michael Guerin was in the house, as was former judge Chuck Kahn. Also in attendance was Atty. Mark Thomsen, grieving the recent loss of his namesake father, a Lutheran missionary who had traveled the world, dragging his family along to grow up in strange and exotic environs.

Proposals Unveiled for East Library Art

Ray Chi presenting. Photo by Michael Horne.

Ray Chi presenting. Photo by Michael Horne.

The four finalists for the art project associated with the new East Side Library made their presentations at a public meeting at the Central Library Tuesday, February 4th. Ray Chi, Susan Falkman, Catherine Lottes and Colin Matthes were each given about 45 minutes to explain their proposals to enliven the entrance of the new library, scheduled to be completed later this year. I caught Chi’s presentation for an undulating walkway and a series of clever bike racks. I also saw Falkman’s presentation of her “ABCeats,” a series of limestone seats carved to resemble the first three letters of the alphabet. I missed the presentations for Lottes and her colorful sculpture, and Matthes and his whimsical hand-operated book blimp and bird houses disguised as — security cameras.

Among those in the attendance were Ted Bobrow, Jim Plaisted of the East Side BID, and attorney Peter Goldberg. Members of the committee included Barbara Stein and Ald. Nik Kovac.

Take a look at the proposals for yourself (we’ve included some imagery from the proposals below), and take the survey here. Community input will be considered in the final artist decision.

Images of Ray Chi’s Proposal

Ray Chi Proposal

Images of Susan Falkman’s Proposal

Susan Falkman Proposal

Images of Catherine Lottes’ Proposal

Catherine Lottes’ Proposal

Images of Colin Matthes’ Proposal

Colin Metthes’ Proposal

Categories: Plenty of Horne

3 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: Owner of Strad Violin Tips Her Identity”

  1. Nik Kovac says:

    Jim Plaisted, not his rock star brother Mike. And Barbara Stein, not Sandra McSweeney. Please correct.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Nik. Thanks I’ve corrected these.

  3. Panda says:

    So glad Mr. Almond’s precious violin was recovered. What kind of jErKs would do something SO STUPID???!!! Hats off to MPD!!! We’re so lucky to have Mr. Almond on Milwaukee’s classical music scene. So sorry he had to go through that turmoil.

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