Street Smart Chicago

Fiberglass Giants: The last bastions of marketing kitsch

Chicago History, City Life No Comments »

By David Witter

You are driving along Ashland Avenue near 63rd Street and there he is. Geronimo, standing forty-five feet high on the roof of Midwest Eye Clinic, holding up his arm to say “how!” to the people below, wearing glasses and holding up a massive optometrist’s eye chart. But Geronimo is not alone. Near the corner of Grand and Pulaski is another legendary figure, Paul Bunyan. Towering some forty feet over Ceds Auto Service, the dark, bearded giant extends what looks like a tire iron to beckon customers below. On the far Northwest Side, Maurie, a twenty-foot hotdog dressed in a Tarzan tunic flexes his muscles as Flourie, a female version of the popular American sausage, gazes at him admirably from the roof of Superdawg.
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411: Building onto the Future

Architecture, Chicago History, City Life, Events, News etc. No Comments »

With 2009 on the horizon, Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago, the nation’s first feat in metropolitan planning, will look at its one-hundreth year as both an urban and regional standard. So, without much further ado, Chicago will welcome two of the world’s most renowned architects, Zaha Hadid and Ben van Berkel, to erect pavilions in Millennium Park next June to inaugurate the city’s greater involvement in the Burnham Plan Centennial Celebration. Read the rest of this entry »

Pride 2008: Out Intersection, Filmmaker Ron Pajak shines a light on history

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By Elise Biggers
After accommodating more than 400,000 people last summer, some speculate this week’s Pride Parade may very well top the half-million milestone. Given Chicago’s turbulent LGBT history that had, within the last eighty years, witnessed the transformation of lightly attended, sidewalk-confined Pride demonstrations into a highly acclaimed yearly celebration, a rich oral tradition had been awaiting documentation up until its translation onto film in 2007. Since filmmaker and Columbia College instructor Ron Pajak’s screening of his documentary “Quearborn & Perversion” last November, Chicago’s LGBT community has connected to stories that have seldom been told by earlier generations—stories that reveal the little-known history of the Chicago’s LGBT cultural identity that began just north of the river not too long ago.
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Pride 2008: Book of Record, Tracy Baim and the new “Out and Proud in Chicago”

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By Jeremy Gordon

Chicago’s gay community stays pretty busy in the month of June, but Tracy Baim, a born-and-raised Chicagoan and executive editor of the Windy City Times and “Out and Proud in Chicago,” an upcoming book that delves into the history of Chicago’s gay community, isn’t just looking forward like everyone at the parade, but back through time.
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Pride 2008: School of Thought, Retired Northwestern prof David Hull reminisces about a life in the community

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By Andy Seifert

When retired Northwestern professor David Hull sat down to write his memoirs with the aid of forty scrapbooks to help remind him of his past, he couldn’t stop remembering things that had been lodged in the back of his mind and forgotten for years. “I didn’t think it’d come to four volumes,” he says, before revealing the title of the first installment. “‘Where Were the Child Molesters When I Needed Them?’ What I really mean was, where was one gay person who could take me aside and tell me what the dangers are and what you can get away with and what to do when you got busted.” He pauses, and then simply says, “Nobody.”

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Pride 2008: Out of the Closet and into the Museum, CHM shines a spotlight on Chicago’s gay history

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By Sam Feldman

In 1924, German immigrant Henry Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago. It was the first known gay-rights organization in America, and among the most short-lived. Seven months later, the police raided Gerber’s Old Town home without a warrant, putting an end to the organization and arresting its officers. “Strange Sex Cult Exposed,” blared the headline in the Herald-Examiner the next day.
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411 Seven Days in Chicago: Out-Speak

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Grab a cocktail, grub and a gay-and-lesbian history lecture at the Chicago History Museum’s “Out at CHM” lecture series kick-off event Thursday. The first lecture of the three-part series—titled “Sexual Politics: From the Lavender Scare to Larry Craig”—will be an examination of the history of how the sexuality of gay men has emerged as a hot-button topic in American politics. “We try to keep it so it’s the topic in mind, so it’s geared toward what people are talking about in their homes,” says Chicago Museum spokesperson Melissa Hayes. This lecture marks the fifth year for the “Out at CHM” series, a program brought to the public by The Center on Halsted and The Chicago History Museum as a continuing effort to bring LGBT history to Chicago’s public. “Gays and lesbians in Chicago is such a part of this city’s history,” Hayes says, “and try to tell that history from all different perspectives.”

411 Seven Days in Chicago: All Is Wells

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Vaguely remember the name Ida B. Wells from your history lecture? If Deloris MeBain has her way, you’ll see that name on street signs, statues and parks. MeBain, manager for V. Holmes Entertainment’s Motown show, has set aside fifteen minutes during their concert on November 17 at the Harold Washington Cultural Center to honor Chicago’s anti-lynching activist with an intermission devoted to educating the audience on Wells’ legacy and inviting her grandchildren to the stage. “All I have to do is look outside to see her name being torn down,” MeBain says, referring to the building being torn down across the street from where she works, one that’s a part of the Ida B. Wells Housing Project. “There’s nothing being done to keep the name alive.” MeBain cites Wells’ bravery as an activist against lynching as well as her work as a journalist as inspiration for her own career. “Just growing up, you know the history. Sometimes in these areas you don’t have a lot of role models.”

Requiem for a Dream: Marshall Field’s Last Christmas

Chicago History, City Life, Essays & Commentary, Holidays, Loop No Comments »

By Brian Hieggelke

“Marshall Field & Company, one of the world’s great department stores, is as legendary to Chicago and the good old middle west as Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. It’s as sturdy as the tracks on the Loop, as timeless as the Lake, and almost as vast as the westward prairie. It is said that Marshall Field’s is Chicago.”
—“Store” by Nan Tillson Birmingham, 1978

Marshall Field arrived in Chicago from New England and got a job in the retail business in 1856. 150 years later, in 2006, he’ll leave Chicago for good. In the interim, the store he created, Marshall Field’s, will have survived the Civil War, the Great Chicago Fire, the Great Depression, two World Wars, the advent of electric lighting, the automobile, the airplane, the television and the computer. But it will not survive the merger of two corporations from Midwest towns that once challenged Chicago for primacy in the Midwest and lost, Federated Department Stores of Cincinnati, Ohio, and May Department Stores of St. Louis, Missouri.
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Jury’s out: The wheels of justice grind to a halt in the wake of the terrorist attacks

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Monday, I was chosen for jury duty.

Tuesday, I woke up and took the bus downtown and went to the twenty-fourth-floor courtroom of the Daley Center. Security was tight and there was a big line, but I assumed it was the usual morning rush of court cases. I was the first juror present in the courtroom because I had written down the wrong time. Soon, a few others appeared.

A policewoman told me in hushed tones, “They bombed the World Trade Center.” I wondered who the “they” was, as I stood contemplating the way we tend to say “they” meaning a monolithic enemy, some generic presence from outside the comfortable “us.” Read the rest of this entry »