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Favorite Chicago Club tales...

27 Feb 00 - 01:45 PM (#185804)
Subject: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Art Thieme

Just got this idea from the Riley Pucket thread. Are there any good tales out there about happenings on , in or around the Chicago folk club scene---60's, 70's, 80's, 90's ?

an example: In the early 1970s I was doing Monday night gigs ($35.00 a night) at a pizza restaurant near the Northwestern University campus. Monday night was "all the chicken you could eat" night. "Gordy" was a regular. He'd get angry if the chicken was anywhere near cooked. He'd gross out the customers with blood dripping down his face. The boss offered me $50.00 extra if I could embarrass him enough to make him stay away from the place. One night "Gordy" not only ate 3 baskets of nearly raw fried chicken, but he'd consumed 3 pitchers of beer. I was doing a set just putting up with the noise of the place and using the time to practice while on stage. There was one song that was a request and I was hoping I could do it in relative quiet. Half way into the song, there was george wildly yelling and raising his arms in a heated argument with the 8 peopele eating pizza at the front table--right in front of me. His butt ras right in front of me. I lifted my foot and pushed him, without breaking stride in my song. He went sprawling and sliding on top of the table --- into about 4 large cheese and sausage pies. Gordy went balistic. Swore he'd never come back. The boss replaced all the pizzas for free and I got 100 dollars extra that night.

A fine time was had by all---except Gordy.

Art Thieme

27 Feb 00 - 03:43 PM (#185827)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)

I remember drinking at Shakey's Pizza Parlour and a restaurant called Shipwreck Kellys in 1969. Our ship was docked in Calumet harbour, we were ashore for a breeze. About two AM we went for a coffee in a small cafe and they refused to serve me, not because I was drunk but in those days there was a curfew for anyone under nineteen. (I was sixteen)One guy who was twenty one years old was constantly being asked for his id when he went to the bar, no-one ever bothered me, until I went for a coffee. Kinda funny to be kicked out of a cafe after drinking booze all night. We had made friends with a small party of people,a schoolteacher and his wife were with us; you can imagine their surprise in the cafe...True story mates!

28 Feb 00 - 01:40 AM (#186033)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: GUEST,Gordy

Yeah, and I used to like "the Spot"

28 Feb 00 - 02:04 AM (#186038)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...

OK. It wasn't at a folk club, but it should have been.

"Big John", my son's father, told me this one on himself with great delight.

Big John is in a raunchy C&W club, looking for his girlfriend of the moment, a bisexual white trash junkie "ho" he thinks he can save, altho he needs saving so much more. He's come to her favorite bar to haul her out, and if necessary take her away from bad biker bitches and bad biker boys to sober her up. Doesn't know if she's trickin' or just cruising to score dope, but would prefer she not also be drinking!!! (He himself does not drink and never frequents bars or clubs, except small, quiet neighborhood corner taverns where lonely/horny older women go.]

The club he is in is loud, smoky, and built as a series of convoluted, connecting rooms. The joint is so crowded he can hardly move. How is he going to find the slip of a girl he seeks in this mass of roiling humanity? Well Big John is tall enough to see all before him, and keeps cruising from room to room. He's really worried about her.

Suddenly, as he turns a corner, he is confronted with the biggest, meanest-looking character he has ever seen, dead ahead, snarling right into his eyes. This fierce creature is at least six foot four, an enormous bearlike hulk, with wild and thick curly red hair and beard. His face is bright rage red, and there is fire in his eyes. Big John is a big guy, but this is too much even for him, and his heart lurches in his chest. He prepares to back up, fast, never to return, when....

He sees that he is facing a mirrored wall. Looking at himself, looking at what the world sees when they see him. "No wonder people say I scare them!" he said when he told me this story, laughing hysterically on the 12th or 13th telling. "I always thought I was a pretty gentle guy!" And mostly I guess he was, although often he would snarl and be quite unapproachable.

BTW, not long after this experience John beat a full size horse (big enough to be Big John's horse) to within an inch of its life, with his bare hands, when he was angry one day, and tossed it to the ground in a heap. It needed back surgery and was never ridden again.

I guess you can see why I had the child but skipped the wedding, and my taste has improved considerably since then!

28 Feb 00 - 02:17 AM (#186044)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: GUEST,Seamus Kennedy

In the early 70's, I used to perform in the Emerald Isle Irish Club (which used to Al Capone's "Club Alabam') on Rush St.with my partner at the time. After the gig, we went to an all-night diner called the "Oak Tree", I believe, where we met many other performers, musicians, actors and strippers from the clubs and theaters around. One of the performers we became friends with was a beautiful young ecdysiast (look it up) called Princess Machina who performed with a boa constrictor. We caught her act a few times, and she returned the favor by coming to see us do our thing in the Emerald Isle, which was nowhere near as captivating as her performance. She brought with her a large carpet-bag which she set on the floor beneath the table. She appeared to be enjoying our show until screaming and yelling started at another table neearby. We thought it was a brawl, but apparently the folks at the next table were just registering their displeasure with a boa constrictor that was slithering round their feet.

28 Feb 00 - 02:22 AM (#186046)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Sorcha

Well, not mine, but my Dad's, and he's gone now. Mid 60's and he is a real C and W guy from Kansas, USA. He went to the original Whiskey A Go Go, and came home with "You would not believe,,,,,,," Big Chi was also the first place any of us ever heard of ?Fruit Pizza. We didn't believe this. Pizza means mozzarella and pepperoni!

28 Feb 00 - 08:23 AM (#186097)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)

Forgot to mention, one of my favourite places was The Billy Goat Tavern near the Chicago Tribune Offices..It was the real world version of the one depicted in the TV series Lou Grant..Yours,Aye. Dave

28 Feb 00 - 11:38 AM (#186189)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Art Thieme


The BILLY GOAT is still there. The owner was the original for John Belushi's line about, "No fries, cheeps--cheeps--no fries." Mike Royko was a habitue there. Made it famous in his columns. Nelson Algren was there a bunch too. Studs and many others... The goat head on the wall, somehow, is responsible for the curse on the Chicago Cubs and why they never have won a World Series since, as Steve Goodman used to say in his song The Dying Cub Fan's Last Request, "...the year we dropped the bomb on Japan."

Anybody know that whole goat-Cubs story???

By the way, an old friend got some of Steve's ashes and mixed 'em with th soil at the base of the ivy in left-center field at Wrigley Field.


28 Feb 00 - 12:06 PM (#186213)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Clifton53

My favorite instance is the time when Ernie Banks said, oh, never mind.


28 Feb 00 - 12:14 PM (#186221)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Amos

The one Chicago act I profoundly regret missing was the original Lord Buckley monologues. Not in this time frame, but I'm a thread creep from way back.

28 Feb 00 - 08:03 PM (#186480)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)

One evening in Calumet harbour we were doing some target shooting off the ships stern, with one of the port police officers .38 SW. The duty engineer came out on deck shouting Hey who keeps slamming doors here.. I turned round and told him "hey mate if you dont know the difference between a .38 and a door slamming dont go ashore around here"...He didnt think it was funny but the cop cracked up laughing...

29 Feb 00 - 01:03 AM (#186607)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Robo

I was quite surprised to read in a book on final resting places that Steve Goodman's ashes are actually buried beneath home plate at Wrigley. I queried the author, who says it wasn't a public event but swears it's true. I don't think there could ever be a Cubs tale better than that!

29 Feb 00 - 01:13 AM (#186610)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Art Thieme

Late one Sunday night we were closing up the show room at a club called the Montmartre(?). Fred Holstein had run the hoot that night--as he did every sunday. A VERY famous country singer staggered into the club and stood at the top of the stairs that led down to the show room. He pulled a small Hohner harmonica out of his pocket and started to play a great version of "Orange Blossom Special" that I instantly recognized from an LP by the man. He came downstairs and Fred and I and the guy talked a bit. Seems he'd just done a big concert at McCormack Place---a huge theater in Chicago's lakefront convention center---the one that burnt down and had to be rebuilt. The guy, pretty well known for wearing black, was really flying on whatever it was he'd been ingesting. I was sure he was gonna keel over. Fred and I looked at each other and couldn't believe who we were hanging out with. Since the club had to close at 2:00 A.M. (and it was 1:55) we aked the great man if he'd like to go to a 4:00 o'clock bar and swap some songs with friends of ours. About fifteen minutes later we were walking into Poor Richard's on Sedgwick Street---Richard Harding's pub. After singing for about an hour we realized we just had to get him over to Earl Pionke's great club--The Earl Of Old Town. It was only 3:00 A.M. so the last show was just starting. I don't recall who was playing but we just disappeared into the back room and smoked something. Later, when the place closed, we just hung around swapping songs and tales until G....e R.....y popped an amyl nitrate and our famous friend took a whiff and just freaked out. He thought someone was trying to kill him and made Fred drive him to his hotel. By then it was 5:00 A.M. and I was fading fast. I headed home and Fred took the fellow to his hotel---I thought. Actually the the fellow couldn't remember where he was staying. They drove around, as I was told later, until the sun was all the way up and our friend finally thought he recalled where he wanted to go.

I was pretty worried about the great man. He always was a fine singer, but he was obviously headed down a dark path. It was a huge relief when I heard that he had taken up with the daughter of a famous member of a singing family group---a gal who's mom was famous for playing an instrument loved by Harpgirl. This gal turned our friend's life around--or so I've been told. He's doing pretty great now. They're still married. Still sings wonderfully. I have heard that he has been ill lately and my best wishes do go out to him.

One of many great nights in Chicago...

Art Thieme

29 Feb 00 - 01:44 PM (#186853)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)

Art, Chicago was one of my favourite ports of call..Many great nights ashore, and always good music in the clubs. Pretty dangerous though, many nights I was so broke I had to walk back to the ship. Sometimes the muggers were sorry for me; other times, well lets just say I'm still here...Yours,Aye.Dave

29 Feb 00 - 04:44 PM (#186995)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Art Thieme

Not home plate I'm pretty sure. Left-center field was what we heard in town. I do know the guy who did it.

CLAY EALS is doing a biography on Steve as we speak. The story will be in there. It looks to be a fine volume by the time it's available. (not soon at all). Clay is doing a bangup job of interviewing everybody from that era.

As I've been told, it was just a small amount of Steve's ashes.

Art Thieme

01 Mar 00 - 01:47 PM (#187597)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: MAG (inactive)

Art, thanks for finally spilling that story.

Then there was that night when y'all did a storytelling concert out at the nuke place auditorium. I was hanging out by virtue of being a friend of Elizabeth E. We were all crowded into somebody's motel room, and we got on the subject of Bob R. -- and it turned out every SINGLE storyteller in the room, from all across the country, had a story to tell.

None of which I am about to repeat; suffice to say that every crowd has one who is such a pushy mooch they force people into being rude, and word gets around.

Doesn't quite match up to the Gordy story, tho' --


01 Mar 00 - 05:52 PM (#187739)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Art Thieme

I've got some Bob R. tales too. 'nuff said. And I do remember that storytelling concert at Fermilab. Me and Glenn Ohrlin and Dan Keding and Jim May and the Twelve Moon Storytellers (Gail Ross and Eliz. Ellis). Was a fun night.

I remember they were selling a snack called "Nuclear Fission (Fish An') Chips during the intermission. The concession was run by a local monastary. Two guys were behind the counter. One was the fish friar. The other was the chip monk.


02 Mar 00 - 06:53 AM (#188031)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: GUEST,Dan Keding

Reading this thread brought back a lot of great memories from the old days. Thanks, Art. I remember one night at the old No Exit. I was really sick with the flu and decided to sit that night while I sang. I was pretty low energy and was singing a slow, sad, song when suddenly I realized I'd been asleep - just put my head down on the guitar and fell out. I woke with a sickening feeling and slowly raised my head. The audience was patiently waiting for me to wake up and finish the song. Love those Chicago audiences. Dan

12 Sep 03 - 09:07 PM (#1017927)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Art Thieme

My post about two-thirds of the way into THIS thread is about a Sunday night in Chicago when Fred Holstein and I ran into JOHNNY CASH at the folk club called THE MOMARTRE (spelling?) !!

Since Johnny passed away this morning----September 12th, 2003--------I thought it a good time to refresh this thread.

Art Thieme

13 Sep 03 - 12:22 PM (#1018163)
Subject: RE: Favorite Chicago Club tales...
From: Joe Offer

I saw the thread, and though it would be a good idea to link it to other threads we have on the Chicago Cubs. You know, like Dying Cub Fan's Last request.
...but then I see it's clubs you're talking about.
But any discussion of Chicago will turn into a discussion of the Cubs, sooner or later - and if you look above, you'll see that this thread is no exceptions. Maybe the Cubbies will have a better year next year, hey?
-Joe Offer-