Don Hedeker's day job as a no-nonsense associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Illinois couldn't be further from his persona as Polka's Clown Prince.
Perhaps in reaction to the rigidity of the academic world and the mathematical precision demanded by his research, Don's musical alter ego manifests itself with manic intensity.
A wardrobe of glittery costumes combined with antics like jumping on tables and running berserk through the audience with a cordless guitar are trademarks of Don's psycho performance style.
Prior to his addiction to polka music, Don's musical activities were channeled into his brand of classic punk (influenced by Johnny Thunders, The Stooges and Sex Pistols ).
However, after stumbling across some old polka LPs while thrift shopping for new costumes, he was surprised to discover a style of music that was an alternative to even the alternatives.
Don's polka record collection quickly grew to 400 (and counting). He soon had a hard-core polka habit that couldn't be satisfied by just listening to the music or even dancing to it. Don had to play it! Those dusty old albums inspired him to redefine polka music for a new generation by giving it a rock 'n' roll attitude.
He explained his vision to Mike Werner, a drummer who had just left country goth band, The Handsome Family. Mike quickly agreed to join since he was ready for a change of pace from The Handsome Family's repertoire of serial killer and suicide songs.
Mike introduced Don to bassist, George Kraynak, who was in an experimental punk band at the time and realized playing polka on guitars was the ultimate musical experiment.
The group called themselves The Polkaholics and played their first public performance in November 1997. Since then, they've drawn a cult following as well as the wraith of certain members of the Polka Establishment. In fact, one polka publication branded them as "Polka Enemy #1." The band responded with a song by the same name.
While dismissed as a novelty act by some, these polka clown princes received the royal seal of approval from the World's Polka King himself, Li'l Wally Jagiello in a historic show performed on Chicago's Polish Broadway last year.
This incredible event and Li'l Wally's wild, week long homecoming is featured in the film "Polkaholics."