Seen by many as a Madison original, Gonzalez was actually born in Cuba. Since the early 1970s, he's been a fixture of the Madison community, as owner and perennial savior of the Cardinal Bar, an openly gay man, a three-term Madison alderperson and community leader, and a key player in the struggle for improved Cuban-American relations.
Gonzalez opened the Cardinal in 1974, rebuilt it after a fire in 1981, remodeled it extensively in the mid-1980s, sold it in 2003 and reclaimed ownership in 2009, to keep it alive. He's approached his work there with the same moxie he showed as a young altar boy in Camagüey. There, on New Year's Day 1959, as news spread that Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista had fled the country, he rang the church bells so vigorously that the rope broke "and then we couldn't ring the bells for Mass later."
Keep ringing those bells, Ricardo.