Rick Chris was born and grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His higher education included the arts program at the Fine Arts school of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Additional education was at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, the Colorado Institute of Art and various in-house corporate training programs. During this time he became familiar with many of the local bars and people. Early on, Rick provided some cartooning for the GPU News, a publication for the pioneering gay organization in Milwaukee, Gay Peoples Union. (Rick remembers learning about GPU News through one of the few bookstores that carried it, a bookstore in Southgate mall.) Supplying cartoons to an early gay publication made Rick a pioneer of sorts; in those days, a simple thing like drawing cartoons for a gay publication with your signature could have resulted in great personal difficulties- and at that time Rick did use his real last name.
Shortly afterward, Rick started his own gay publication: GLIB. Rick recalls the experience:
"I was a pioneering gay publisher back in the mid-70s. Bad idea on my part and the paper only lasted a few issues. First off, the folks at GPU News felt threatened, Milwaukee couldn't support a gay paper at the time and some gay people even felt threatened by a gay paper - that it was something that was too "California". The paper's name was GLIB and I felt it was such a big mistake on my part that I didn't keep any issues from it."
(Through another private collector's holdings, donated to the UWM Special Collections, we have located two issues of GLIB, published in August 1976. To our knowledge, no other issues exist.)
Some years later, Rick moved to Colorado, working as a staff artist and technical illustrator for aerospace, defense and research companies, including one of the largest defense and aerospace contractors in the United States. Working as a tech illustrator influenced Rick's fine art, steering him towards a precise realism, an influence which can be seen in Rick's work today.
In the early part of the 21st century, Rick established rickchris.com and began to concentrate his work on producing male and gay themed artwork (using the name "Rick Chris" for his web site and gay art). A series of events also led him to begin the serialization on the web site of a gay detective novel, A PERSON IN A POSTION OF TRUST, featuring a gay detective named Lynn Gordon (Beef) Matson. The story attracted a following with readers who developed a fondness for the detective. Currently, a second book in the series, CATCH A FALLING STAR, is in the works.
But it's obvious that Rick still fondly remembers Milwaukee. He has used some of Milwaukee's most memorable bars in the "Beef Matson" running serial story on his web site: in chapters 9 and 10, the little bar called the Mouse Trap is modeled after the Wreck Room, and the heavenly disco is modeled to some extent after the Factory. His accompanying paintings of each are excellent representations. Rick has also provided a large number of excellent recollections to this web site, which are included on the pages for several bars (including Factory, Wreck Room, River Queen, and others).
Visit Rick's web site at the www.RickChris.com
Credits: initial page creation by Don Schwamb;
Last updated: September-2007.