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Monday, Jan. 9, 2012

Bob Watt Dies at 86

”Be who you are, where you are”

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Bob Watt, whose roots as a Milwaukee legend stretched back to counter culture '60s, writing poetry for Milwaukee's underground paper Kaleidoscope and reading his poems at the Avante Garde coffeehouse. Many Milwaukeeans first meet him while having their college pads sprayed by his one-man Rid-O-Pest extermination business, using the opportunity to introduce you to his poetry.

In the '60s and '70s, he boldly took on the artificial vendors of artistic taste and culture, who were usually ensconced in a cozy university environment, and assaulted their sensibilities with his "inferior brand' of Zen poetry." He became a leader to all sorts of disenfranchised artists and people. He broke down the barriers as they say.

Watt became one of Wisconsin's most published poets. He was also an intriguing painter and sculptor, and infamous for his female nude model "folk art" photographs. He even ran for Mayor in 2000,announcing his candidacy in front of the Hooters on Wisconsin Avenue.

Bob Watt was a fixture at many major cultural events in town, including the Violent Femmes' 1983 debut album release party at Century Hall, where he read poems with other published Milwaukee poets, and the Allen Ginsberg tribute at UWM in 2008,where his stuff brought down the house.

In his last years, Watt was still producing paintings at his Riverwest pad and writing the occasional poem.

Francis Ford summed it up best when  measuring the man; "He just made you feel so good" about making your art. "He wouldn't waste his time with the sour people on  their cell phones."

A Celebration of Bob Watt will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at Paddy's Pub, 2239 N. Murray Ave.
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