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Fish Frys

  Greta Van Susteren was having a busy month. Besides hosting Fox News’ On the Record, the highest rated cable news program in the 10 p.m. (EST) time slot, Van Susteren spent a week in Atlantic City judging the Miss America contest before hitting the West Coast to hobnob on national television talk shows, attend a California gubernatorial debate, and drop-in on the Scott Peterson trial. After a week back home in Washington, D.C., she returned to the West Coast to cover the California election results.

Such is life for the Badger State native who cheers the Packers on Sundays and still misses Wisconsin after nearly 30 years on the East Coast. In fact, Van Susteren’s weblog, the GretaWire at www.foxnews.com, contains regular mentions of her home state, including the details of a recent spat with Madison’s Capital Times newspaper.

Van Susteren was born and raised in Appleton, graduated from Xavier High School, received a degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and went on to earn a Juris Doctor and Master of Law from Georgetown.

After representing clients in civil and criminal trials, including cases appearing in federal appellate and state supreme courts, she joined CNN in 1991 as a legal analyst, eventually hosting the primetime program, The Point with Greta Van Susteren. She joined Fox News in 2002. Van Susteren resides in Washington, D.C., with her husband, two dogs and three cats.

It was during her coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial in 1994 that Van Susteren became a household name. She has since won recognition from the American Bar Association for her 2000 presidential election analysis, and made some news on her own after undergoing cosmetic surgery last year. Van Susteren discusses these topics and more in her book, My Turn at The Bullypulpit: Straight Talk About the Things That Drive Her Nuts (Crown 2003). In the book, Van Susteren touches on several items close to home, including her father’s friendship with controversial U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy and her in pride in owning stock in the Green Bay Packers.

Her hectic schedule pre-empted a number of planned phone interviews, however, Van Susteren corresponded with classicwisconsin via e-mail recently. The following is a transcript of that interview:

Q: Your father was a circuit court judge in Appleton, but give me a little bit more of the Van Susteren family history. It sounds like a good Dutch/Fox Valley name…

A: My father was one of 13 children. He grew up in Little Chute, Wisconsin. His father was Dutch but I know very little about him (he died in the 1940's). His Mother was French and German. Of course, the Little Chute area is very Dutch. In fact, growing up in Appleton, just 3 miles from

Little Chute, it seemed like everyone in my class had a last name that began with "Van." I must add that my Mother, who grew up in New York, was 100% Irish.


Q: What years did you attend Appleton Xavier and the UW, and how did your education (either the private Catholic education or the UW) impact your life?

A: I was at Xavier from fall of 1968 until 1972. I made my best friends in high school -- well, maybe even earlier in elementary school since most went on to high school with me. To give you an idea of how close I am to my old friends, I went to a grade school/high school party last summer in Wisconsin. We invited "the boys," to our party. To our great surprise, 49-year-old men showed up for the party! How time flies! In 1972 I went to Madison for college. There I met people from all over the world, and all walks of life.


Q: What were your UW days like? Were you involved in or influenced by the campus activism? What places did you frequent in Madison?

A: By the time I ended up in Madison, much of the anti-war activity had subsided. One year earlier there was the bombing which left a researcher dead but much had quieted in that year. I loved the Terrace at Memorial Union and the Plaza Bar on Henry Street. Yes, I also spent time in the library.


Q: What are some things you miss about WI and how often do you get back? Do you still consider Appleton home?

A: Appleton is my home. Whenever anyone asks me “where are you from?“ I don't answer Washington, D.C., although I have been here almost 30 years. I respond, "Appleton, Wisconsin." I try and make one trip a year to see my old friends. Until my Mother died in 2001, I made many trips a year there (she lived with my husband and me in Washington, D.C., but I took her back often to see her friends.) Here is what I miss about Appleton: cruising the "Av," Cleo's, Amy Wallace's house, my childhood home and the ravine behind it.


Q: Now that you have lived away, what distinguishes the Midwest from other places?

A: The Midwest has a certain sense of decency that I just don't feel in other places. Maybe I live in a fantasy world, but it seems to me that Midwesterners are a cut above everyone else.


Q: Is the East/West Coast media, and to a greater extent the east/west establishments, out of touch with the Midwest?

A: I think often the media "skips" over the Midwest. In fact, I think, and again maybe I am in a fantasy world, I try and remind the rest of the country about the Midwest. I try to ask questions I think are relevant to the Midwest.


Q: There’s a new sit-com called A Minute With Stan Hooper about a New York City couple living in Wisconsin, where the locals are portrayed as “cheese-obsessed eccentrics.” Does a show like that help or hurt Wisconsin’s image?

A: I have not seen the new sitcom. As for me, I am proud to be a cheesehead. I tell people I am a cheesehead.


Q: Do you still follow the Pack, and what are your favorite Packer memories?

A: Not only do I still follow the Packers, but I own one share. My favorite memory is getting my picture taken at Conkey’s bookstore with Paul Hornung.


Q: In your book you discuss the pride of being a Packer stockholder and bemoan the big business of pro sports today, pointing out that Lambeau Field is one of the few remaining stadiums without a corporate name, yet there is a chance that the city could sell the naming rights. Where do you stand on that?

A: If Green Bay "sells" the naming rights, I will be very mad. It would cheapen the Packers and its rich history.


Q: Growing up, when and how did you first realize what a controversial figure Joe McCarthy was?

A: Joe McCarthy died when I was 2 years, 10 months. As a child, I was consumed with children's activities. I probably did not know about the controversy until college. I knew that my father had known him very well - he was the best man in my parents' wedding - but only knew that he was "Joe" and had been in the US Senate.


Q: It must have made for interesting dinner conversations…

A: Dinner conversations in my household were NEVER dull. We argued, we debated, we switched sides, we insulted but we always loved each other and always felt loved.


Q: Have you had to work at reconciling what you know about McCarthy with your father’s friendship with him?

A: No, my Father's friendship with Joe McCarthy was not a problem for me. I loved my father and I believe Joe McCarthy to have been wrong.


Q I realize you have little recollection, but are there any insights on McCarthy you can offer that maybe the public doesn’t know about?

A: I know very little about Joe McCarthy other than family stories and the family stories are not hugely historically significant.


Q: Anything else you want to add for the people back home?

A: I miss Wisconsin.

 

   


Greta Van Susteren became a household name as a CNN legal analyst during the O.J. Simpson trial nearly a decade ago, and today she hosts the highest rated cable news program in its time slot, Fox News’ On the Record With Greta Van Susteren. Not bad for an Appleton girl who fondly recalls cruising College Avenue and getting her picture taken with Paul Hornung at Conkey’s Bookstore.


 


"Not only do I still follow the Packers, but I own one share. My favorite memory is getting my picture taken at Conkey’s bookstore with Paul Hornung."

 

 

 

" If Green Bay "sells" the naming rights, I will be very mad. It would cheapen the Packers and its rich history."
 
 
                 
                       
       

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