Windy City Memories of the Way We Were A few weeks ago I picked up a really cool matchbook from a long closed girlie show/burlesque club in Chicago. The club was located on West Madison in a stretch until recently known as skid row and now gentrified and pricey. This sparked an idea about researching the history of a few select defunct places based on my personal matchbook collection. I have an unusual clear glass lamp that is filled with matchbooks, as well as a few other jars stuffed to the brim. Perusing this collection resurrected memories of places I had visited with my ex-husband, as well as unearthing matches for places I had never frequented but collected because they were visually intriguing. Think about it – with smoking banned in most public places, promotional matchbooks have really become a thing of the past and have a decidedly nostalgic vibe. Club So-Ho at 1124 W. Madison gave out some of the coolest matchbooks I have ever seen. According to this blog, this girlie show was housed in a 220-seat theater and sparked the attention of the Chicago Tribune in 1948 as quite risqué. What exists at this location today – apparently nothing at this precise address, but The CrossRoads Bar & Grill is doing business at 1120 W. Madison.
I was very sad today when I heard about the death of actor Don Grady, known for his role as Robbie Douglas on My Three Sons. The show aired from 1960-1972 and I don’t recall watching it much back then – after all, I was still in diapers when it started. It was actually my older sister Debbie who had the mad crush on Robbie and plastered pin-ups of him from 16 Magazine on her wall. But since losing my full-time job last June, I admit I have been waxing nostalgic and vintage TV helps me stay lighthearted about my situation. I am grateful to Me-TV for airing these programs since I don’t have cable.
As an impressionable young woman, I journeyed to fabled Manhattan from my relatively sheltered life as an art student at RISD in Providence, R.I. Upon alighting at Penn Station for the very first time, there was a bit of a glitch. My older, worldlier sister who had already been living in the Big Apple for 3 years had not given me clear instructions on where we were to meet. Those were the days before cell phones – there was no way to get in touch with her. I was an innocent 18-year-old in New York City wondering what the hell had happened to my sister – after about 40 minutes or so I decided to go search upstairs and there she was … my street-smart sister nearly as frantic as I. For a good part of this visit I was on my own – marveling at the gritty, wonderful streets of NYC. Camera in hand, I attempted to summon the spirits of dead immigrants on the Lower East Side, admired the Art Deco lines of the Empire State Building – imagining King Kong and Fay Wray at the top, and prowled Canal Street for Vintage. A longtime admirer of the photography of Bernice Abbott, Jacob Riis, Walker Evans, and Helen Levitt, I too desired to capture a moment in time in “The City that Never Sleeps.”
Like millions of other 9-14 year-olds in the late 1960s, I was in love with Davy Jones. It is with nostalgic sadness that I reacted to news of his death – he is forever ensconced in my memory as a young and adorable lad, despite the fact that I saw him perform in 2003 at the Arlington Heights festival Frontier Days. And by the way, he was still very good looking and charming.
When I was 13, I became obsessed with everything French, which led me to take 3 1/2 years of high school French instead of the far more practical Spanish. I vowed to visit Paris one day, which I did for the first time in 1979 with my Dutch boyfriend, who became my husband and then ex-husband. I did not snag that suave French lover as I dreamed of, but alas I was sort of fulfilling my dream and much sooner than anticipated. Well, the wind blew out of my sails pretty quickly when Parisians mocked my ridiculous American accent and pretty pathetic command of their language. While I could read and understand French fairly well, in retrospect, the French taught in my high school was totally impractical when confronted with the real thing. While Paris was beautiful and I certainly enjoyed Normandy and the Loire Valley, somehow my French obsession waned with the rudeness encountered in those Parisian cafes and bistros. My Francophile obsession was replaced with a Dutch obsession, and when I learned een beetje Nederlands while living in Rotterdam in the early 1980s, my paltry knowledge of French dissipated. Still, a love of the European remains, and I recently rediscovered that je ne sais quoi and what attracted me to everything French decades ago. I discovered Serge Gainsbourg by chance when I saw his and Jane Birkin’s ultra-talented daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg in 21 Grams, The Science of Sleep, and I’m Not There. Serge was not just a tortured French bad boy, as evidenced in his 1986 alcohol-fueled Gitanes-puffing televised exchange with Whitney Houston, but a brilliant singer/songwriter/stylist with an undeniable je ne sais quoi. And then I became obsessed with Jane Birkin, or should I say the model-gorgeous, youthful Jane Birkin, circa 1960s-1970s. I devoured everything I could find about this iconic couple and uncovered some gems and a few duds along my path of discovery. I didn’t…