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Chicago’s Lost Department Stores
The Elmhurst History Museum will present “Lost Chicagoland Department Stores” beginning Friday, October 6. The nostalgic exhibit will tell the story of the evolution of the retail industry and brick-and-mortar stores beginning in the late 1800s. All exhibits are free. More here.
Is The Trump Tower Sign Permanent?
In 2019, avers Neil Steinberg at the Sun-Times, “I suggested the [Trump Tower] sign be landmarked, to remain there permanently as a grim reminder of our national tragedy, a version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial… But that was four years ago. Now Trumpism has settled into a kind of sickening permanence that seems like it will just keep going with or without him… Pushback is important. Just as after World War II, the Army dynamited the giant swastika over the stadium where the Nuremberg rallies were held, so the Trump sign should come down to show the country has entered a new era. Which it hasn’t, yet… A Wall Street Journal poll last week showed Trump leading Biden by a point. [Now] as far as anybody knows, rather than losing the one we’ve got, in a few years all the buildings downtown will have a huge Trump sign.”
Mayor Johnson Proclaims Fine Arts Building Day; Tim Samuelson’s Appeal To Preserve The Fine Arts Manned Elevators
The Fine Arts Building, 410 South Michigan, relays that Mayor Johnson has proclaimed Friday, October 13 as Fine Arts Building Day in Chicago “in recognition of [its] milestone 125th anniversary” and to “encourage all residents to support this historic landmark.” The full Mayoral Proclamation is here.
“The development of efficient elevators was a key component in Chicago’s nurturing of the modern skyscraper. The Fine Arts Building elevators constitute the last surviving place where this emerging technology can be seen and actually experienced. Installing new elevators” will eliminate that experience, writes City of Chicago cultural historian emeritus Tim Samuelson to the Sun-Times. “This situation calls for a creative rethinking of what encompasses the practices and priorities of ‘historic preservation.’ Can forces be organized by the preservation community to financially endow continued operation of these elevators as they are but with reliable and renewable tweaks of contemporary technology to make them efficient for the long haul? These elevators run on the fundamental physics of machinery and electricity that will never irreparably go out of date like their computer-chip counterparts of today. If the skills and devotion of classic car buffs can keep their 1957 Chevys and vintage Thunderbirds running, so can the same skills and attitudes be devoted to the Fine Arts Building elevators.”
Short-Term Rental Crackdown Nationwide
“Legal and regulatory hurdles for people offering their homes for short-term rental on sites like Airbnb Inc. and Vrbo are upending the market for vacation properties,” reports Bloomberg. “From New York to California, cities are cracking down on short-term rentals with bans, license requirements or limits on how many people can offer their homes for stays of thirty days or less. Airbnb and property owners are fighting back in court, but their lawsuits so far have had little success.” But “Running an Airbnb in Los Angeles has never been more profitable,” says the Los Angeles Times. “As the city tries to crack down on illegal listings, and advocacy groups complain about the company’s effect on L.A.’s housing crisis, hosts are charging higher rates than ever while raking in bigger and bigger payouts.”
DINING & DRINKING
Hurricane Dollop Hits
Controversy at Dollop Coffee after an alleged recent officer-involved incident at their South Loop location: “Hurricane Restroom” is the company’s moniker in heated postings on Twitter (the one here has 252,000 views) and in their case posted at Medium. “The Dollop staff’s interaction with police officers wasn’t a political statement… Hurricane Restroom is a funny thing to call this, and yes, this began with one of our baristas at one of our locations telling two Chicago police officers that restrooms are for customers only. But the real story here is that uniformed Chicago officers shamelessly exploited marginalized people to harass the employees of a local business in retaliation to a very small perceived slight. I would very much like to have our restrooms open to the public, but every day, without exaggeration, I have staff members who must clean up feces smeared on windows and walls and dispose of needles and other drug paraphernalia.”
“Our barista had been asked twenty times by non-customers to use the restroom in the hour prior to the officers coming in. Those officers may rightfully have been annoyed about our bathroom policy, about being asked to grab a coffee if they want us to clean up after them in our [toilets], but their response was horrifyingly inhumane and is the real story here. The officers returned twice with individuals who they claimed were ‘homeless’ and drug-addicted and harassed our staff members about them being allowed to use the [washroom]. These officers were offended that they were being treated like everyone else and they were bullying employees. And using unhoused and impoverished people to do so. It was disgusting… I won’t stand by and be quiet while people are mistreated by a few bored cops… I want to be a good community member, especially as a business owner. But I’m not a public servant, those police officers are.” (Reddit’s commenters are brewing-hot.)
FILM & TELEVISION
Friction At CAN-TV
“Current and former CAN-TV employees said they battled upper management for years and faced opposition when advocating for redress on health and safety issues, harassment, budgetary cutbacks, decreased station access hours, favoritism, and poor staff retention,” reports South Side Weekly. “The City Council chartered the Chicago Access Corporation (CAC) in 1983 to oversee public-access cable following years of advocacy work by community groups such as Citizens Committee on the Media…” Interviewees said that executive director Darrious Hilmon, hired in April 2022, “exacerbated longstanding problems at the television station, relaying incidents such as a near-electrocution, denials of bathroom breaks and interrogations by upper managers.”
CAN-TV “airs programs on channels 19, 21, 27, 36 and 42, is financed largely by a charter agreement requiring corporate cable providers… to fund the community programming.” CAN-TV “has aired tens of thousands of programs over decades of operation. The organization’s YouTube page reveals the most popular videos are from groups often marginalized by other media, such as particular religious perspectives, political orientations, identity groups, academic work, and government meetings.”
Chicago Filmmakers Celebrates Golden Anniversary
The first of several celebrations of Chicago Filmmakers’ fiftieth anniversary comes this Saturday, September 9, 2-6pm, at a fundraising event at Le Piano. The afternoon’s honorees include Sharon Zurek, Christine Dudley, Joe Chappelle and Colleen Griffen, whose generous contributions and passion for building community have had an important impact on the Chicago film scene. More here.
First Chirp Music Film Festival Sounds Off
CHIRP Radio 107.1FM will hold its inaugural music film festival at the Davis Theater, September 14-17, featuring eleven music-related films, from documentaries to concert films to narratives. Among the attractions: “Moonage Believer,” “The Blues Brothers,” “Repo Man,” “Almost Famous,” “Wattstax” and “Stony Island.” “Out of Time: The Material Issue Story” will be accompanied by live performances by local bands. More here.
Chicago Film Society Restores “Demon Lover Diary”
Documentary classic “Demon Lover Diary” (1980) is to be preserved by the Chicago Film Society, “a behind-the-scenes look at the production of an independent horror film shot in Michigan in 1975. ‘Diary’ director Joel DeMott chronicled the unglamorous reality of low-budget moviemaking—everything from amateurish mistakes to borrowing firearms from Ted Nugent—and provided present-tense commentary. The result was acclaimed by Film Comment as ‘positively crucial to documentary film history.'” (“One of our favorite films ever,” CFS posts on Twitter.) It’s one of sixty “orphan films” receiving funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation’s 2023 grant cycle. More here.
True/False Names Programmers
True/False, the Midwest’s world-class nonfiction film festival in Columbia, Missouri, has named its 2024 programming team on Instagram. “Khaula Malik and Eynar Pineda will be joining the team as film programmers working with Artistic Director Chloé Trayner on the film line-up. Both Khaula and Eynar have previously worked with T/F in our curation team and hospitality team, respectively, and have demonstrated their commitment to nonfiction cinema in their wider careers. The film team will be supported by program coordinator Lindsey Arrington. The wider curation team will be rounded out by returning music director Ashwini Mantrala and art curator Sarah Nguyen.”
Taylor Swift Concert Film Is A “Barbie 2”
A fiscal sequel to the worldwide smash of “Barbie”—nearly $1.4 billion at the box office only days before dropping on digital—would be the immense, record-breaking advance sales of “Taylor Swift: Eras Tour,” distributed by AMC Theaters but slated to be released beginning October 13. It set a single-day record of $26 million in presales, reports Variety. The movie will be seen in other theaters as well, including Landmark, Cinemark, Alamo Drafthouse and Regal, but their figures have not been reported.
An opening weekend gross, with the film taking on an untold number of screens, isn’t even worth predicting: it will be huge, and unlike the screens missing held-back products like “Dune 2,” it will be profitable for the ailing exhibition industry. My wildly sunny guess for the nearly three-hour concert film’s opening weekend? $170 million. (Multiple movies, including the first of David Gordon Green’s “Exorcist” trilogy, quickly moved out of its path.)
Swift shot the three nights of Los Angeles concerts August 3-9 and received a SAG-AFTRA waiver in order to make the picture, reports Billboard. “Because the Swift film is covered under the interim agreement… the singer’s post promoting it does not run afoul of any strike rules and there are no restrictions on her promotion of the project.”
Printers Row Lit Fest Is This Weekend
The thirty-eighth annual Printers Row Lit Fest runs Saturday, September 9-Sunday, September 10, 10am-6pm, rain or shine, the largest free outdoor literary showcase in the Midwest. More here.
Portland’s Powell’s Books Workers Strike
In Portland, “Powell’s employees walked off the job and shut down the flagship City of Books for Labor Day,” reports Willamette Week. “The conflict between Powell’s unionized workers and company management is largely about money. Employees at three stores… say wages haven’t kept pace with inflation and many of the bookkeepers make below the Portland region’s living wage. Powell’s says its contract offer includes competitive wages and a generous health plan… ILWU Local 5 filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the Oregon Employment Relations Board, accusing Powell’s of failing to meaningfully consider its contract proposals and stalling the negotiations.” The company then declared it would close stores on the day of the strike.
League Of Chicago Theatres Honors Eileen LaCario And Rosario Vargas
The League of Chicago Theatres announces the return of its annual gala, with “It’s Showtime, A Celebration of Chicago Theatre,” an evening celebrating the legacy of Chicago theater and the theater community’s resilience. The community will honor Eileen LaCario of Broadway In Chicago with the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Rosario Vargas of Aguijón Theater with the Artistic Excellence Award. The Broadway In Chicago Emerging Theatre will be announced at the event, along with the first-ever Broadway In Chicago Backstage Champion Award, which will recognize an individual within the Chicago industry who has made a positive impact on the community. The Backstage Champion Award was designed to call out theater workers who are not traditionally recognized. Tuesday, September 19, 5pm-9pm at Amazing Space, 625 West Adams. More here.
Goodman Theatre Sets Monthlong Pearl Cleage Festival
Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Susan V. Booth begins her first curated season with a monthlong citywide celebration honoring her longtime creative collaborator Pearl Cleage, Atlanta’s first Poet Laureate, the Goodman relays in a release, “whose career spans forty years and more than thirty plays, novels, poems and essays… Cleage brings to vivid life the joys and sorrows of Black womanhood in twentieth-century America. Conceived by Booth and curated by Malkia Stampley, Goodman Theatre BOLD Artistic Producer, this first-of-its-kind experience aims to acquaint audiences with the breadth of Cleage’s work.”
The festival includes two productions—”The Nacirema Society,” directed by Lili-Anne Brown at the Goodman, and “Blues for an Alabama Sky,” directed by Mikael Burke at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company—along with events produced in partnership with six of Chicago’s Off-Loop theaters: “Mad at Miles,” featuring Jackie Taylor (Black Ensemble Theater); “Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous” (Congo Square Theatre); “A Song for Coretta” (Definition Theatre); “Chain” (eta Creative Arts Foundation); “Bourbon at the Border” (MPAACT); “Pointing at the Moon,” directed by Lydia R. Diamond and “What I Learned in Paris,” directed by TaRon Patton (Goodman Theatre). The Pearl Cleage Festival runs September 14–October 15. Tickets and more here.
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Frank Harris, Chicago’s Tailor To The Stars, Hangs Up His Tape
Frank Harris, owner and proprietor of Frank’s Alterations And Tailoring, a tailor shop that became a Roosevelt Road institution, retired over the weekend after almost fifty years, reports the Chicago Defender. Harris’ clientele “reads like a who’s-who of Chicago and beyond in politics, entertainment, media and sports.” The walls of his shop were filled with framed photographs of his most notable clients. “It’s the Frank’s Alterations And Tailoring Wall of Fame. He was a tailor to former Mayor Harold Washington, Muhammad Ali, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Chicago Bears great Otis Wilson, legendary soul singer Jerry Butler, political consultant David Axelrod, ABC7 Chicago News Anchor Cheryl Burton, Rev. Clay Evans and the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team from the 1994 World Cup.”
Automakers, Making Billions In Profit, Still Resist UAW Contract Proposals
“A forty-six percent pay raise. A thirty-two-hour week with forty hours of pay. A restoration of traditional pensions. The demands that a more combative United Auto Workers union has pressed on General Motors, Stellantis and Ford—demands that even the UAW’s own president calls ‘audacious’—are edging it closer to a strike when its contract ends September 14,” reports AP. Recently elected UAW president Shawn Fain “has characterized the contract talks with Detroit automakers as a form of war between billionaires and ordinary middle-class workers.”
The Wall Street Journal profiles Fain as “the man who has Detroit on edge.” “The new president and his executive board, many of whom ran as part of the same reform-minded caucus as Fain, are negotiating new labor contracts for about 146,000 hourly workers at General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis, the global car company that now owns Jeep, Ram and Chrysler… Fain has said he is ready to strike—potentially not just one automaker but all three. Elected in March, he became the first candidate outside the group’s ruling caucus to unseat the incumbent in more than seventy years.”
Seventy-Thousand Child Care Centers Expected To Close
Federal funds dry up: “An estimated 70,000 child care centers are expected to close, leaving parents with even fewer—and less affordable—options,” reports the Washington Post. States are about to “run out of $24 billion in stimulus money Congress had set aside for child care during the pandemic. That record investment has helped keep the industry afloat by propping up workers’ salaries, boosting training programs and waiving family payment requirements. This will cause 3.2 million children to lose care, [translating] to $10.6 billion in lost U.S. economic activity.”
Climate-Struck States Fast Becoming Uninsurable
“Some of the largest U.S. insurance companies say extreme weather has led them to end certain coverages, exclude natural disaster protections and raise premiums,” reports The Washington Post. “At least five large U.S. property insurers—Allstate, American Family, Nationwide, Erie Insurance Group and Berkshire Hathaway—have told regulators that extreme weather patterns caused by climate change have led them to stop writing coverages in some regions, exclude protections from various weather events and raise monthly premiums and deductibles. Major insurers say they will cut out damage caused by hurricanes, wind and hail from policies underwriting property along coastlines and in wildfire country.”
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