May poles and stripper poles

Published on: 1/14/2011

One of the great pleasures of growing older is tormenting people with your fond recollections of the past.

I, for example, can remember a time when the word "pole" brought to mind tether balls and the month of May.

The May pole was a quaint custom to welcome spring. Pretty ribbons were attached to the top of a pole, and young girls in sprightly frocks each held a free end. Music would start and we'd dance around the pole, half circling one way, the other half the other, weaving the ribbon around the pole.


They tried to make the boys do it too, but they rebelled and usually managed to muck up the dance by running wild, tangling things up hopelessly.

That reminds me of a political metaphor but I'll leave it to your imagination.

We danced the May pole on the first of May. That day, we also made little paper cones with pipe cleaner handles, filled them with flowers or candy, and left them on our neighbor's doors. It was a sign of goodwill and shared pleasure in the end of winter.

My sister and I made sure we left May baskets at Mrs. Tebo's door. She was one of those charming old ladies who kept you supplied with gum and cookies and did not yell at you for stepping on her grass.

Nowadays (signal for here it comes: the world going to hell in a handbasket!! statement), young girls are more likely to be familiar with stripper poles. Mylie Cyrus announced her move to adulthood by gyrating on one. Oprah and lady magazines like Redbook endorse them for their audiences of earnest, efficient women eager to burn calories and gain the attention of their husbands. There's even a movement to make pole dancing an Olympic sport.

And now Wauwatosa may be getting its own stripper poles at a place to be called Mad Dog Saloon. Dominic LaLicata wants to take over the Applebee's family restaurant on 68th and State, installing a large stage and poles.

Apparently, sports bars now require actual athletic performance beyond lifting the sudsy adult beverage containers.

"We might have a contest where if people climb to the top of the pole they get a prize," LaLicata said.

Oh dear. If I were the owner of a bar, I wouldn't call it Mad Dog on account of that seems to set a certain tone, invite a certain unruly sort. And that tone suggests a whole lotta drinking going on. Which is good for the owner's bottom line. However, a prudent person might be a little concerned about enthusiastic inebriates climbing poles on their premises. Think of the liability!

And a sceptical person might wonder about the athletic performances to take place on the stage. Greco-Roman wrestling, perhaps? Fisticuffs--I mean, boxing? Gymnastic floor exercises?

Kudos to Mayor Didier for asking the hard questions. My guess, most men and women with daughters are not delighted to think of them displayed grinding on a pole.

But maybe I'm paranoid. Maybe Mr. LaLicata is preparing for the more genteel May pole dance. Or tether ball.

Yeah. That's the ticket.

I probably won't be visiting this bar, nor will most of my neighbors.

Unless, of course, it's firemen who will be demonstrating the proper uses of the pole. . .