Michail Takach wrote the following summary of Teddy's bar and disco for a Facebook post in 2021:
October 1977: Teddy's is advertising in gay media, promising a big-city disco experience on the level of Le Jardin (1970-1976, New York) or Faces (1971-1989, Chicago.) The disco was about a block away from Gay People's Union headquarters. Machi opened the bar as The Barn in 1968, but renamed it Teddy's after his son in 1973. In 1975, Tony Machi invested $25,000 to transform his tiny jazz club into a throbbing dance club.
Teddy's Discotheque was a "well-established soul disco," according to a January 26, 1979 Milwaukee Journal disco round-up. When disco died, the bar went back to hosting live bands as Teddy's Nightclub. In 1980, the bar went country-western -- with a mechanical bull -- after the popularity of Urban Cowboy.
Tony Machi had his critics in the neighborhood, including Herb Zien and Liz Levins (1442 N. Franklin Pl.) who opposed tavern licensing for Teddy's year over year. In April 1981, Teddy's announced they would sell to developer Oliver Plunkett, who would raze the building in 1984. The planned redevelopment never happened.
Teddy's closed on July 31, 1985 and became the Funny Bone Comedy Club from September 1985 to December 1988. Today, Shank Hall operates at the scene of the former Teddy's Disco. Peter Jest opened the concert venue in November 1989 to showcase smaller, more intimate shows, where nobody is more than 25 feet from the stage.
Fun fact: The Machis have deep roots in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward, the Italian Community Center and Festa Italiana. They continue to operate a wholesale produce company today. There seem to be a number of Tony Machis, and we are not exactly clear on who's who on the family tree.
What we do know: in February 1948, a Tony Machi opened a cocktail bar, Talk of the Town, at 507 W. Wells St. From 1951 to 1964, Tony and Peter Machi owned Tony's Riviera (401 N. Plankinton Ave.,) the city's most popular gay bar of its time, until it was destroyed by arson. Tony's Riviera briefly moved to 952 N. Plankinton, which was razed for the construction of Pere Marquette Park, at which time the family business seems to have settled at The Barn / Teddy's in 1968.
The bar "Teddy's" is mentioned as one of Milwaukee's Disco hot spots in a 2016 article "Disco Inferno! A Brief History of Milwaukee's Discos".
One contributor shared that he believes the owner also operated Antonio's Upper Crust Pizza, but that is unverified. More information about this business is welcomed from anyone who can contribute it.
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Last updated: October-2023.
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