Year in Review 

In keeping with the spirit of this special issue, here are highlights of 11 stories that didn't make it into Our Town in 1991:

1. Free Financial Seminar for Women

A trust officer, an accountant, and a lawyer talked to 100 women about wills, trusts, savings plans, estate planning, and charitable giving-- over juice, coffee, and bran muffins in the Art Institute Trading Room. What kept coming up was that after you die, you can make unlimited charitable donations to museums without paying any estate taxes. "The money won't come out of the pockets of your kids," the audience was told. The director of planned giving at the Art Institute thanked everyone for coming.

2. Breaking the Law Without Knowing It

Young urban single professionals gathered at Spertus College to meet one another and hear a lecture on ways they could unwittingly be breaking the law. Prominent criminal-defense attorney Harvey Silets told them, among other things, not to use their answering machines to record conversations, not to threaten anyone over international telephone lines, not to be too savvy at sales because they might be sued for misrepresentation, not to mail letters in furtherance of kooky business schemes because they could be committing mail fraud. And, if they were employed by a bank, never to bounce a check because it could be considered a loan to a corporate insider.

3. 400 Wines in 48 Hours at the Cultural Center

French chef Julia Child presided over Wine Expo, which consisted of hundreds of people from all over the world drinking wine at the Cultural Center for two days straight--beginning at 9 AM each day. "Wine is part of the food chain," shouted Julia Child in her distinctive Julia Child voice. "It should be under the auspices of the Agriculture committee, not under Tobacco, Firearms, and Alcohol. It should be on every middle-class dinner table. There are 400 wines to taste in the next two days, and I intend to taste them all."

4. Chicago Jews From Russia Tell Their Life Stories for Posterity

Soviet Jews now settled in Chicago toured the Spertus Museum with a Russian-speaking tour guide. They passed a glass case filled with Jewish antiquities they'd never seen before--including a circumcision set made up of little silver bowls, a paring knife with a steel blade, little silver scissors, and a leg tie. Then they went upstairs to formally donate oral histories of their lives in Russia to the museum. The contributors included an 83-year-old woman whose father went to jail in the Soviet Union for performing clandestine circumcisions and an engineer who said she found it impossible to be Jewish in Russia "because you will be guilty of everything bad." When asked why they were contributing their stories, several participants said, "Why not? I was asked to."

5. Life at Heartland Spa in Gilman, Illinois, With Then Executive Director Susan Witz

Witz, a former yoga studio proprietor, former organic restaurant owner, and present Indian guru follower, told the spa guests one morning over breakfast that she had a five-pound glob of fat and a five-pound mass of muscle for them to look at and compare. The fat looked like a big, oily, greasy yellow glob of wax about as big as a family-size loaf of bread. The muscle looked like a delicious hunk of raw prime rib.

6. Summer EPA Project in the Loop

More than 250 high school students worked all summer for $4.25 an hour on Block 37--the vacant lot bounded by Randolph, Washington, State, and Dearborn, which was renamed Gallery 37. They created art in every medium under big white tents and sold it to Loop workers and State Street shoppers. One day, four students sketching the buildings around Ronny's Steak House were asked what they would be doing if not for Gallery 37. The responses: working at McDonald's or Wendy's on the west side; working at "some restaurant"; playing basketball outside; nothing.

7. Glass Gallery

Bonita Marx, owner of the only Chicago art gallery devoted to the contemporary studio-glass movement, said during an interview, "There's a tremendous amount of loss in the creation of this work. It's an unforgiving medium. It breaks."

8. Opening of Ka-Boom!

Everyone was there. "Ga-a-a-a-d, this is like waiting for the Jungle Cruise or Space Mountain at Disney World," said someone waiting outside. Everyone looked really weird. One corporate-looking guy said to his corporate companion, "Do you think I look too conservative?" She said, "No." One bartender had on a studded leather dog collar, straps, and bikini briefs. "He's a stud-monster," said one of the PR women who gave me a tour. When someone passed by me covered in pipe cleaners, I was afraid I'd get my eye poked out.

9. Dancing Under the Dome

Every Monday in April, the Cultural Center held a dance under the Tiffany Dome with a different theme. On Swing Night, classy couples sashayed around the dance floor, and the imagination turned work clothes into luxurious chiffon and expensive dinner jackets. On Samba Night, people wore sunglasses, bright island-type shirts, and loud print dresses. On Polka Night, there were polo shirts next to ruffled tuxedo shirts. And on Square Dance Night, everyone looked like the cast from Oklahoma! except the caller. He looked like the instrument salesman from The Music Man.

10. Fred Roti's First Day of the Rest of His Life

As new First Ward alderman Ted Mazola was being inaugurated, his indicted predecessor watched the proceedings on TV in the First Ward Regular Democratic headquarters, across the street from his City Hall office--which, at the same time, was being emptied out by some secretaries. Sitting with pals/coworkers Danny and Tommy, he said, "I started out with Richard J. and ended up with Richard M....I guess it's fitting and proper it happened that way. People can't say I wasn't accessible."

11. A Visit With Elliot Richardson

While he was in Chicago, the former defense secretary and attorney general under Richard Nixon said that being head of the U.S. Delegation for the Law of the Sea was the toughest job he ever had. "I didn't know what regulation was until I got in with that milieu," he said. Coming next for him was attending a worldwide conference on the environment. He also planned to do some thinking about the concept "New World Order" and the idea of coining political slogans in general. "It's a game anyone can play," he said.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Marc PoKempner, Richard Younker.

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Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera Northwestern University Block Museum of Art
September 17
Galleries & Museums
Works by Ed Paschke, 1969-2004 Ed Paschke Art Center
July 03

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