History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Businesses - Restaurants

Ski Glow Cafe and Laundry
Location: 1106 S. 1st Street


early 1986

Cafe (Restaurant) &



Ski Glow Cafe and Laundry is an unusual name and combination of businesses, gay or straight. It advertised "Good Food & Prices 24 hours", saying "Do your wash while you have lunch".

The following history of the Ski Glow was contributed by the owner, Conni Bielinski, in December 2005:

    "The 3 buildings (cafe, laundry, and flat in the back) were purchased for $10,000 in 1972. The restaurant was not operating at that time, although it had been one for several years. Originally the restaurant building was a shoe store on Washington and moved to it's current location, I believe sometime in the 40's.

    "In 1972 the restaurant was open from 6am to 9pm. Coffee was a dime, donuts 15 cents, plus a penny for tax (it was 4% back then). In 1975 we opened it 24-7. Our clientele at the time was mostly truck drivers and factory workers in the area. The flat in back was rented to Helen Joslin who worked nights for the George Webb on 1st & Mitchell. She had a spat with her boss, we needed a waitress for the night shift. She came to work for us, and she had quite a following. So this was about the time the place became known as "gay friendly".

    "Helen called the customers her "boys".

    The bar next door was called The TeePee. We put the laundromat in the building next door that same year. We leased it out to a man named Dave for a short time, that's him in the picture (under the menu board). My husband at the time and myself are the ones in the back of the group picture, he passed away in 1992.

    All the buildings were sold (late in 1985 or early in 1986) and it then became Walkers Point. The laundry was removed and I think they sold antiques there for awhile. Helen retired and moved to Oklahoma City, and I believe she's still there. I moved to Chicago area and have a sign business."

This business closed about March 1986 and reopened as Walker's Point Cafe.

Recollections: The following are recollections of others who have been kind enough to submit their personal memories to the webmaster. You are welcome to do the same! (Recollections collected and organized by Jamie Taylor.)

    ---> "It was my first time in there and I ordered a cheeseburger and fries. When I got the plate the cheese was missing from my burger. I told Helen she forgot the cheese. She went to the kitchen, got an unwrapped slice of cheese, flung it across the restaurant and said “There’s your cheese you cheap fuc*er.” I was kind of offended at first but she later came over and said “I’m just teasing you.””
                                    - Bob Sobie

    ---> "I went to see her one day in the back cottage and she opened the door only wearing a towel between her boobs”
                                    - James, Triangle

    ---> "Someone ordered steak & eggs for breakfast. Helen brought the plate over set it in front of the customer and walked away. The customer said “this steak tastes rancid.” Helen retorted “The only thing rancid was the dick you had in your mouth last night.” She picked up his plate, started walking away when she turned around and tossed the contents of the plate at the customer. That customer was rumored to be Jamie Gays.”
                                    - Bobby Mansen

    ---> "By the way, this was not the famous 'Dirty Helen' of Milwaukee. The much publicized 'Dirty Helen' was from the Prohibition Era and ran a gin joint on St. Paul Ave. around where Sobelman's bar now is. The (other) 'DH' on south 1st street was clearly borrowing from an already famous personality from her youth. Yes, she was lots of fun, playing the irascible, throw-a-mop at you if you spilled your milk waitress, but then would always come over and sit and joke around.”
                                    - Rick Stabler

    ---> "I remember many a late after bar night at the famous Ski Glo cafe. The place would be packed! It was almost like the bar just moved over there, and they we're all there to see one person - Dirty Helen. The first time I saw her I thought this bitch is really nuts, but came to learn what a truly sweet person she really was. You always made sure to order enough so she wouldn't yell out "cheap fucker" across the restaurant and point at you. Even if she did call you out, she always made a point to then say something nice to you. She loved her "boys" and we loved her. She was definitely a Milwaukee gay icon.”
                                    - Jonn Michael Nuter

    ---> "I’ve never met the famous “Dirty Helen” but I have heard stories about her. I don’t know how she got that name but can make some assumptions based on some of the stories. Here are a few things I heard about her:

    "If you ordered scrambled eggs and the kitchen sent you over-easy and you complained, Dirty Helen would come over to your table, pick up your fork and scramble them right on your plate… “There, now they’re scrambled”

    "If someone came in and ordered just coffee, she would look at that person and say loudly “CHEAP FUC*ER!”

    "That being said, all the “boys” loved her. They never knew what to expect out of her but knew it would be funny… even if they themselves were on the receiving end.

    "Helen has since retired and moved to Oklahoma, in the early 1990’s (There seemed to be some confusion about where she moved. I have 2 sources who tell me it was indeed, Oklahoma.)”
                                    - Jamie Taylor

    ---> "As far as Dirty Helen, well, I came out right after all of that, but my older friends and mentors at that time told me many stories of how the restaurant was run, and how fun and 'camp' it was back then. I can share some blippets if you want.

    One time a customer complained: "These are sunny side up, I ordered scrambled eggs..." Dirty Helen then took a fork, and thoroughly mangled up the guys breakfast plate in front of him and said: “There, now they are scrambled. Enjoy." and walked away. This left the customers laughing in stitches, and is probably one of her most memorable moments in history."
                                    - Tony Aiello

Exterior view of the Laundrette building
circa 1980
Street view outside the restaurant building
circa 1980
Son of owner, and chef Dave
circa 1980
Customers at the counter in the restaurant
circa 1980
Closeup of the menu board
circa 1980
Owners standing behind
family & customers
at a table in the restaurant
circa 1980

Advertisement, 1985

Advertisement, Feb. 1986
(In Step vol 3 issue 1)

Triangle holds a party for Dirty Helen
after the restaurant is gone, Oct. 1988
(In Step vol 5 issue 18)

buildings in 2005

Credits: Bulk of information and photographs contributed by Conni Bielinski, who owned the business
with addiitonal recollections collected and organized by Jamie Taylor.
Website concept, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: September-2009.