If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you know and love The Goonies. The 1985 film was, is, and will always be an all-time classic that’s beloved by generations of children and adults alike. Even if you count yourself among the millions upon millions who enjoy The Goonies, there’s a chance you weren’t aware of a strong local connection the movie has with Milwaukee.
Yes, the role of Sloth Fratelli was played by none other than John Matuszak, a Milwaukee native who grew up in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. For those unfamiliar, Matuszak was the first overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft. He played until 1982, winning two Super Bowl titles as a member of the Raiders before finally calling it a career. Along the way, he dabbled in acting. Between the late 1970s and throughout the ’80s, the defensive end-turned-thespian amassed an impressive list of television and film credits that included parts on M*A*S*H, The Dukes Of Hazard, Silver Spoons, Miami Vice, The A-Team, Perfect Strangers, and One Crazy Summer. However, he’s best remembered as Sloth, a role that put him on the map just four years before his untimely death in 1989.
For the past seven years, a group of nostalgic Milwaukee bicyclists have been honoring an important movie from their youth and, in the process, acknowledging Matuszak’s significance to the film with an annual “Goonies Night” bike ride. Milwaukee bartender and Jeppson’s Malört ambassador Matthew Roy co-founded the now-well-established ride with a couple of his friends back in 2012.
“The ride came about pretty organically,” Roy says. “Me and two friends were out on our bike, having a couple drinks, and we just decided to ride down and see his grave—stopping for a few beverages on the way. After that, a bunch of people came up to us and asked when we were doing it again.”
After that unexpected outset, the trio started inviting others to take part in the ride. Each September since the inaugural excursion, a group of bicyclists have embarked on a ride that begins in Milwaukee and includes a few stops at bars before it ultimately culminates with the group paying their respects by eating Baby Ruth candy bars (a favorite of Sloth) at Matuszak’s grave site in Cudahy. The proceedings are done with respect, both for the local actor and for the film itself.
“I think for me, the ride isn’t as much about John Matuszak. For me, it’s more about how life can be stressful and hard and it’s important to remember the fun that can be had, like when you were out as a kid riding bikes with your friends and howling at the moon,” Roy says. “That’s what Goonies reminds me of, and riding bikes around Milwaukee is by far one of my favorite things to do.”
Roy says all (ages 21 or older) are welcome to take part in the Goonies Night ride, but he emphasizes that it is not a race and that safety and respect are paramount. This year’s ride will take place on Friday, September 13. It starts at Boone & Crockett at 7 p.m., at which point participants will be given the route and told the itinerary.