2011 drawing of Wm. Stage, by artist Ben Tegel
|Born||June 30, 1951
|Occupation||journalist, author, photographer|
Wm. Stage, also known as William Stage (born June 30, 1951) is an American journalist, author, and photographer, with a focus on the area and history of the American Midwest and St. Louis, Missouri. From 1982–2004 he worked for the weekly newspaper The Riverfront Times, producing three columns, with the best known being Street Talk, where over the years he photographed and interviewed more than 8,500 random individuals about miscellaneous topics. He is also known for his documentary work on a special kind of historical outdoor advertising: brick wall signs. He has authored several books, including Ghost Signs: Brick Wall Signs in America (1989), Mound City Chronicles (1991), and Litchfield: A Strange and Twisted Saga of Murder in the Midwest (1998). His photographs have appeared in multiple works, including the cover photograph on the Oxford University Press book, For the Common Good (2002). In 2001, Stage, who had been adopted at young age, tracked down his biological family, a search which led to a Canadian documentary as well as the 2009 memoir Fool for Life. Since 2007, Stage has been a guest commentator on the St. Louis NPR affiliate, KWMU-FM.
Wm. Stage was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan and immediately given up for adoption by his 19-year-old unwed mother. For three months he lived under the care of Catholic sisters in the St. Agnes Foundling Home, also in Kalamazoo, until he was adopted and taken to Grand Rapids, becoming the only child of Bill and Virginia Stage. As a boy, he took a keen interest in zoology and botany, roaming the woods and farmlands near his home. In 1969, he graduated from Catholic Central High School, and two weeks after his 18th birthday, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to Germany as a medic / ambulance driver. It was there he attended the University of Maryland Evening Division, studying English composition and German language. After the Army, he began natural history studies at Thomas Jefferson College, the now-defunct “hippie college,” located on the campus of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan; he graduated four years later with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree [B Ph]. In 1978, he was driving an ambulance in Grand Rapids when hired by the Centers For Disease Control in Atlanta, and assigned to the St. Louis City Health Department as a public health officer / STD epidemiologist. Soon after arriving in St. Louis, he began to moonlight as a feature writer for local newspapers and magazines. In 1982, he left his position with the CDC to devote himself to journalism and photography.
By July 1982, Stage had been hired full-time with The Riverfront Times, a St. Louis-based alternative newsweekly, founded by Ray Hartmann in 1977. He stayed with the paper until 2004, producing three different regular columns over a 22-year period, plus numerous magazine-style features. Have A Weird Day: Reflections and Ruminations on the St. Louis Experience, is a collection of expository writings that appeared in The Riverfront Times under a column titled “Mississippi Mud.” From 2003 to present, he has been a columnist with the St. Charles County [MO] Business Record. He has taught feature writing at the Defense Information School, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana; and photojournalism at Saint Louis University School for Professional Studies. He is a 1995 alumnus of the week-long Missouri Photo Workshop, offered, since 1949, by the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and held in a different Missouri town each year.
His photographs, largely falling into the genre of street photography, have been widely exhibited and purchased for inclusion in various private collections. While doing a popular column for The Riverfront Times, “Street Talk,” Stage posed quirky or philosophical man-on-the-street questions to unwitting subjects. Overall, he captured more than 8,500 faces on film, featuring people from every walk of life, including celebrities and notables such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Jimmy Carter, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jerry Seinfeld. A select collection of those portraits became a book, Pictures of People.
Stage founded two publishing companies. Cumquat Publishing Company, wholesales art and novelty postcards to bookstores and museum gift shops, while Floppinfish Publishing Company Ltd. is a small-scale book publisher.
For three years [2005-2008], Stage and his pre-teen daughter, Margaret E. Stage, produced a monthly, for-profit newspaper, Black White & Read All Over, which they distributed in the Lafayette Square neighborhood of St. Louis. In 2010, father and daughter collaborated again with the publication of The Painted Ad: A Postcard Book of Vintage Brick Wall Signs. This work followed the lead of his first book, Ghost Signs: Brick Wall Signs in America, which was the first commercially produced and distributed book on the subject. The authorship of Ghost Signs earned Stage a seat on the board of The Society For Commercial Archeology, at the time based in the Smithsonian Institute and currently based in Madison, Wisconsin.
In 2001, at the age of 50, Stage found his natural family, first making contact with his biological mother and her children, and, later, making contact with the children of his late biological father. His lifelong identity as an only child was suddenly altered; he now had a “new family,” a second set of relatives including a mother, seven half-brothers and sisters as well as numerous aunts and cousins scattered throughout the eastern United States and Nova Scotia. In 2004, Stage was the subject of an episode of “Past Lives,”  a documentary-style show on Canadian TV that focuses on people in search of their roots. The half-hour program, filmed on Cape Breton Island, ran Canada-wide and was seen in re-runs for four years. These events were humorously chronicled in a December, 2003 cover story in The Riverfront Times and formed the core of a comic memoir Fool For Life. Five years in the writing, Fool was well received by both the reading public and critics alike and bolstered Stage's reputation as a prose humorist.
Wm. Stage lives in St. Louis with his wife, Mary, and their seven daughters. A son, William Alexander Stage, attends the University of Rhode Island.
- Ghost Signs: Brick Wall Signs in America 
- Pictures Of People 
- The Painted Ad: A Postcard Book of Vintage Brick Wall Signs  with Margaret Stage
- Mound City Chronicles. Floppinfish Pub Co. 1991. ISBN 978-0-9629124-0-5.
- Litchfield: A strange and twisted saga of murder in the Midwest. Floppinfish Pub Co. 1998. ISBN 978-0-9629124-1-2.
- Have A Weird Day: Reflections and Ruminations on the St. Louis Experience 
- The Practical Guide To Process Serving 
Fiction / memoir
- Fool For Life 
- Not Waving, Drowning 
- Photographs appear in St. Louis: Home On The River – Urban Tapestry Series – Towery Publishing Inc. 1995
- Photographs appear in St. Louis: For The Record – Urban Tapestry Series – Towery Publishing Inc. 1999
- Cover photograph “Three Of A Kind” appears on For the Common Good? American Civic Life and the Golden Age of Fraternity – Jason Kaufman, author - Oxford University Press Inc. 2002
- Photographs appear in St. Louis Seen & Unseen – Michael Kilfoy, author - Virginia Publishing 2006
- Photographs appear in Outhouses – Holly L. Bollinger, author - MBI Publishing Company 2005
- Mermelstein, Aaron (2011). "It's a St. Louis Thing: I ain't afraid of no ghosts" (video). HEC-TV. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- "Cityscape - Interview with Stage as featured author". St. Louis Public Radio. May 8, 2009. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
- Stage, Wm. (December 24, 2003)). "The Son Rises". Riverfront Times. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
- The Inverness [Nova Scotia] Oran - August 25, 2004 - "American man finds new friends and family in Inverness County"
- "Author Q & A / Wm. Stage Through The Lens: St. Louis' 'Street Talk' Photographer finds wonder in everyday people". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 13, 2006.
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine - September 28, 1986 St. Louis in Postcards
- Suburban Journal - September 13, 2006 - Neighborhood Paper Chronicles Lafayette Square
- The [Washington] Missourian – June 15, 2011 'Painted Ad' Authors to Hold Booksigning Here
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch - March 5, 2004 - Deb Peterson column
- The Columbia [MO] Daily Tribune - May 3, 2009 - "You're Served By A Hilarious New Memoir"
- The Inverness [Nova Scotia] Oran - March 11, 2009 - "Fool For Life is a great read with Cape Breton Connections"
- St. Louis Beacon - January 30, 2009 - "Review: 'Fool For Life' moves quickly"