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Friday, January 11, 2019

Zanies executive director says he would book Louis C.K.

Posted By on 01.11.19 at 03:03 PM

Keep your hands where we can see them, Louis. - FLOWIZM
  • Flowizm
  • Keep your hands where we can see them, Louis.

The two-drink minimum is a standard at old-school comedy clubs, a subtle reminder that making money is priority number one. A glance at the menu at the Rosemont Zanies makes the already unpleasant proposition even worse: a drink called the "Louis C.K." is still prominently featured on a list of specialty cocktails. By the way, it's a combination of coconut vodka, creme de cacao, and hazelnut liqueur that would surely give me a hangover that rivals the queasy feeling I get whenever I think about C.K. these days.

Louis C.K.'s comeback tour that no one asked for has ignited a conversation in the comedy community about how clubs should handle performers accused of sexual misconduct, what redemption for those performers could look like, and whether art can be separated from the artist. On Tuesday, January 8, Vulture published "17 Comedy Bookers on Whether They'd Put Louis C.K. Onstage." Reporter Dan Reilly reached out to 70 club owners, managers, and talent bookers across the country; 40 never responded, 13 declined comment, and five said that, yes, they would book C.K. All of those last five were men, and all were enthusiastic in their responses. Among them was Zanies executive director Bert Haas.

"From a booker's point of view, I would say absolutely you should book him," Haas responded.

I would book him in a heartbeat for a couple of reasons. Number one, stand-ups are supposed to be controversial. They're the people that poke the buttons of people. Number two, he was never charged with a crime, so where do you draw the line? Would we not have booked Richard Pryor after his accident or when he talked about taking shots at his ex-wife?

I'm going to draw a line, because I don't want anyone to say, "Bert would book a rapist." Absolutely not. You don't invite a predator into your home. But as a business, absolutely I would book Louis C.K. He's a brilliant comedian. Any comedy-club booker that worries about a comedian hurting their business is in the wrong business. Louis hasn't been charged with any crime. I haven't heard of any formal complaints or criminal charges. I separate the art from the artist. As far as people protesting, they have every right to do that. Like every stand-up comedian says, "If you don't like my material and you're offended, leave."

I used to be a fan of C.K., so I understand how he got to be so popular in the first place. I even favorably reviewed his TV show, Louie, here at the Reader. (FX severed its relationship with C.K. in 2017 in the wake of the allegations.) But I don't see anything he's done as valuable enough to justify forgiving his behavior. I gave Zanies publicist Rick Geiser a call to see if Haas had anything else to say for himself, or if, after the article ran, he had reconsidered his comments (Haas himself is not granting interviews at this time). Geiser confirmed that Haas would indeed still book C.K. And before I even asked, Geiser volunteered that the club can neither confirm nor deny that C.K. is scheduled for a future show at one of the four Zanies venues, three of which are in the Chicago area. I had not considered that C.K. might be still be booked in Chicago or drop in at any moment here—as he did last August in New York, when he first returned to the scene at the Comedy Cellar. Maybe people have forgotten that two Chicago comics were among the women who told their C.K. stories in the New York Times report that brought him down.

Even if C.K. doesn't repeat his past behavior of forcing others to watch him masturbate without consent (something he has since admitted to), he will at the very least be given a platform to continue to mock Parkland shooting survivors and nonbinary people the way he did in a set last month at the comedy club Governor's on Long Island. Free speech is one thing: C.K. can say whatever he wants. And yes, his initial renown was due in part to his offensive behavior onstage. But when bookers use status as an excuse to give stage time to known predators whose punch lines come at the expense of traumatized and marginalized groups, it signifies to lesser-known comedians that such behavior is OK. That standard creates an unsafe and unwelcoming environment for women and queer people and other underrepresented voices in comedy—the people who should be given more opportunities to perform, not fewer. No one seems to think anything C.K. is doing right now is funny.

While there seems to be very little public pushback against Haas's comments so far, I have seen plenty of praise on Twitter for the response LA comedy producer Mike Mulloy gave in the same Vulture piece: "Louis C.K. can toss my salad and peel my potatoes. He's not sorry. He's sorry he got caught. He's sorry for himself. . . . He should have to sit out twice as long as the women whose careers he's directly impacted. Any comic who disagrees can kiss my ass."

It doesn't seem like a difficult or controversial stance for venue owners to take. Plenty of diverse voices with undeniable talent deserve stage time over people like C.K. And it can't be hard to find a better person to name a cocktail after.

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City Pop, the optimistic disco of 1980s Japan, finds a new young crowd in the West

Posted By on 01.11.19 at 01:09 PM

  • Image from Anri's Facebook page
  • City Pop star Anri

On Sunday, January 13, a 57-year-old Japanese singer named Anri will play a rare midwestern show for a sold-out crowd at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. In the mid-80s, while Japan was enjoying the final years of its long postwar boom, Anri became one of the crucial voices of "City Pop"—a fizzy, euphoric form of electronic disco, that was imbued with the optimistic spirit of a New Japan and also took cues from American superstars such as Michael Jackson and Donna Summer. It was the aspiration of a nation condensed into sound, and Anri had the perfect persona for it: she was gregarious, sexy, sophisticated, and alluring in her worldliness but always impeccably Japanese. She recorded dozens of hit songs throughout the decade, but in the 90s, as Japan's miraculous economic growth began to slow, so did City Pop. The genre dried up as fast as disco did in this country, and it probably never would've reached American ears if it weren't for Van Paugam, a Chicago-based DJ who's made it his life's work to resurrect City Pop for a new generation of Westerners.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Despite the alderman's opposition to an entertainment district, venues are still wary of Lincoln Yards

Posted By on 01.09.19 at 12:17 PM

CIVL cochair Robert Gomez speaks at the November public meeting where the league was announced. - KRIS LORI
  • Kris Lori
  • CIVL cochair Robert Gomez speaks at the November public meeting where the league was announced.

Professional soccer and stadium-size concerts are both unwelcome along the North Branch of the Chicago River—at least according to the alderman whose ward would contain the controversial $6 billion, 54-acre Lincoln Yards project proposed by Chicago developer Sterling Bay.

Alderman Brian Hopkins of the 2nd Ward said in an e-mail to constituents Tuesday that he rejects Sterling Bay's proposal to build a 20,000-seat soccer stadium and an entertainment district operated and controlled by multinational concert promoter Live Nation.

In May, Sterling Bay had announced that Lincoln Yards would become "the premier event and recreation district in Chicago," and that it would host a "curated year-round calendar of events." The development, to be built on the site of the former Finkl Steel plant bordered by Bucktown and Lincoln Park, would also include more than 12 million square feet of office, residential, hotel, and retail space. The Live Nation partnership, backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was roundly criticized by a group of Chicago club owners at a public meeting in late November—they complained that the deal would unfairly hand the company a monopoly over the city's thriving music economy.

Live Nation proposed between three and five music venues in its entertainment district, to be located south of Armitage Avenue. The venues would range from 800 to 20,000 seats, with some in the 3,000- to 6,000-seat range. In his e-mail, Hopkins said he no longer supports the district or Live Nation's involvement, but that leaves several unanswered questions: Given that he doesn't propose eliminating venues from the development completely, how many would there be? What capacity would they have, and who would control them?

"The Entertainment District will be eliminated from a revised plan and replaced by restaurants, theaters, and smaller venues that will be scattered throughout the site," Hopkins said in his e-mail. "Live Nation will have no ownership interest in any of these venues." He also wants the site of the soccer stadium repurposed "as open and recreational park space."

Neither Hopkins nor representatives from Live Nation Midwest responded to requests for comment for this story.

The Chicago club owners who opposed the Live Nation partnership in November, now acting collectively as the Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL), say they're not convinced that Live Nation won't somehow continue to play a role in Lincoln Yards. They charge that Sterling Bay hasn't been forthcoming regarding the number, size, or capacity of the proposed clubs, and suggest that Hopkins is being evasive regarding how Live Nation will be involved as the project moves forward.

"We are happy to see that the city and the developer seem to be responding to our concerns, but we see no change on the central issues we have raised," says CIVL cochair Robert Gomez, owner of Subterranean and the Beat Kitchen, in a statement.

"We oppose the creation of multiple music venues of undisclosed sizes in this so-called city within our city," Gomez adds. "We see no indication that Live Nation or some other corporate conglomerate won't be running music venues in Lincoln Yards, even though the alderman has said Live Nation won't own any of the venues." CIVL continues to protest the speed at which the project is moving-Emanuel has clearly made it a priority to push it as far along as possible before he leaves office in April.

Through spokesperson Sarah Hamilton, Sterling Bay says the message involving the soccer stadium has been heard "loud and clear."

"We have removed the stadium and broken up the entertainment district, allowing for assorted smaller venues throughout Lincoln Yards where all independent music operators will have the opportunity to participate," the company says, adding that it will work to update its plan to improve "transit and infrastructure in the area."

Hamilton emphasizes that the stadium was the main reason the plan had taken shape as it had. "Without a stadium, you don't need an entertainment district," she says, "so the venues will be scattered around the development."

"Any operator has the opportunity to participate. If they want to open a venue or run a club, they should contact Sterling Bay," she adds.

The stadium was a key component of Lincoln Yards. Last year Sterling Bay announced that the facility would host a new United Soccer League franchise co-owned by the developer and Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. Live Nation, which to date only controls the House of Blues and The Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island in the city, would be given exclusive rights to produce concerts outside the sporting events.

"It is a great stadium site. It has all the land you can need," Sterling Bay general counsel and principal Dean Marks told a local real estate podcast in June. "We can't be more excited to have [Ricketts] on board, because they actually know what they're doing." Marks said he looked forward to Ricketts turning the site into "this homegrown Wrigleyville of soccer."

The exclusive partnership with Live Nation set off alarm bells not just with venue operators but also in the larger music community. "The presence of a monolithic corporation given the keys to the kingdom of a very vibrant, very independent-minded community would have a very deleterious effect on the entire city," says Bloodshot Records cofounder Rob Miller.

Miller says he isn't fully satisfied that Live Nation won't control the venues in Lincoln Yards. "While today's announcement gives me some reason for cautious optimism, I've lived in this city entirely too long and seen entirely too much of this and other mayors to think that this issue is totally settled," he says. "There are entirely too many zeros after that dollar sign for this to go away."

Lincoln Yards could harm more than the music scene-Sterling Bay is also under scrutiny for the gridlock the development could cause, given that the arterial streets to its north and south are already heavily trafficked throughout the day. A neighborhood survey Hopkins released on his website shows an overwhelming concern for congestion mitigation. (More than half of residents are against the stadium.) In his e-mail Tuesday, Hopkins said Emanuel has directed the city's department of transportation and planning department to "expedite the reconfiguration" of the intersection of Armitage, Ashland, and Elston. A plan is due by the end of the second quarter of this year, and work will begin "as soon as possible."

"Upon completion, the resulting congestion relief is projected to mirror the remarkable success of the reconfiguration of an equally complex intersection at Damen/Elston/Fullerton," Hopkins wrote.

Through a spokesperson, Emanuel says he wants "a fair, balanced, equitable approach" to Lincoln Yards "that creates winners across the board, that allows development, economic growth, and job creation to happen . . . but in a way that also enhances the whole community."

However, the board members of CIVL—consisting of the owners of Metro, the Beat Kitchen, the Hideout, Martyrs', and other venues—say that because the project will require at least $800 million in tax increment financing (TIF) money, mostly for infrastructure improvements, it should be slowed down until after Emanuel leaves office. "This is not the time to fast-track massive projects that would include major subsidies for private corporations," says Gomez.

Right now the city's planning department wants to designate the Lincoln Yards site a TIF district so those infrastructure funds can be diverted to the project. If it succeeds, and if the city council approves the Sterling Bay proposal in the spring, the developer will be reimbursed with public money for building the new roads, bridges, and other components.

The next hearing of the city's Community Development Commission, which will hear the TIF package proposal, is Tuesday, February 19.  v

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Flowers for Uncle Bob on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 01.09.19 at 06:00 AM


ARTIST: Jay Ryan
SHOW: Guided by Voices at Bottom Lounge on Mon 12/31

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Let us now praise Elvis Presley and his movies

Posted By and on 01.08.19 at 06:00 AM


Welcome to Flopcorn, where
Reader writers and contributors pay tribute to our very favorite bad movies. In this installment, associate editor Jamie Ludwig and culture editor Aimee Levitt consider the filmography of Elvis Presley on what would have been his 83rd 84th birthday.

Jamie Ludwig: So while everyone else in America was watching Bird Box this week, you and I were were watching Elvis movies.

Aimee Levitt: But Bird Box is just for now. Elvis movies are forever. They take me back to high school when my mother would make me go through the TV Guide every week and circle them all. And then we would watch all the ones that were on at a reasonable time. Which weren't a lot.

JL: Sounds like a fun memory. When I told my mom we were doing this, she made a face and told me how much she hates Elvis.

AL: No! Sacrilege!

JL: I think she was too young for Elvis. It would have been like us being excited about the heartthrobs of a generation or two before us, rather than thinking they were lame.

AL: True. But I think the beauty of Elvis movies is that they are so cheesy! The idea of all these girls screaming and throwing themselves at him whenever he sang . . .

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Archive dive: How recycling got its start in Chicago

Posted By on 01.07.19 at 04:12 PM

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every week in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Thirty years ago a program developer for the Chicago nonprofit the Resource Center declared, "Recycling is the future." The Beverly neighborhood was the first to see blue recycling bins out on the curb in hopes of starting a movement to cut down on overflowing landfills. But not everyone in the city was on board.

In 1989 Ben Joravsky asked the question "Is Chicago ready for recycling?,"  diving into the political struggles to bring those now ubiquitous blue bins to the city. Alderman Ed Burke (yup, the one and only) was the chairman of the city council committee deciding on the issue at the time.

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Friday, January 4, 2019

The 18 most-read stories of 2018 by month

Posted By on 01.04.19 at 06:00 AM

A look at the Reader's top stories of 2018 as determined by number of pageviews in each month of the year—an admittedly dubious method that nonetheless does resurface some really great reads. In some months there were virtual ties, which conveniently let me pad this out to the 18 most-read stories.

click image Stuart V. Goldberg - KEVIN PENCZAK


“The trials of Stuart V. Goldberg, Chicago’s flashiest defense attorney”

Maya Dukmasova's profile of the most interesting lawyer in Chicago


“Chicagoans to Wisconsin: Thanks but no thanks—we’ll take the train”

John Greenfield gets CTA commuters' reactions to an ad campaign urging passengers to ditch the hassles of public transit and move to the Badger State.


“A Chicago cop’s daughter’s suicide sets family on mission”

Joe Ward on Carli Blanco, who shot herself to death at 14, highlighting the growing teen suicide risk


“There's something ugly about I Feel Pretty

Leah Pickett's review of the Amy Schumer comedy

Also big in April was the announcement of the Millennium Park Summer Music Series 2018 lineup.


“Is it legal for Jehovah’s Witnesses to proselytize inside CTA stations?”

John Greenfield's look at the Christian denomination's presence at transit stations


“Distinguished CPS principal resigns after threats, controversy over anti-police speaker”

Maya Dukmasova on Mary Beth Cunat's abrupt resignation from Wildwood Elementary School, not "just the story of what's gone on at the elite CPS elementary school over the last year, but a symptom of the culture war raging throughout the city and the country around racism and policing."

Also very popular in June was Ryan Smith's reporting about Stormy Daniels walking out of the first of several appearances at the Admiral Theatre early—with an update on the porn star and club setting aside their differences so the remaining shows could go ahead.


“Triplets ripped from family in a Nazi-like experiment, probed in Three Identical Strangers

Long-time Reader film editor J.R. Jones on Tim Wardle's documentary, which he writes "hits like a thunderbolt."

Also very well read in July was the announcement of the 2018 lineup for the Silver Room Block Party.


“CPS closed Stewart Elementary School in 2013. Now it’s a luxury apartment building.”

Then-Reader intern Matt Harvey on his first time back to his Uptown grade school alma mater since he graduated—for an open house for prospective tenants.

August also saw traffic really take off on a story we had published in June: “Meet Resurrection Mary, the ghost of Archer Avenue,” an excerpt from Edward McClelland's book Folktales and Legends of the Middle West (Belt Publishing, 2018). It continued to rack up the pageviews through Halloween.


“FOIA’d e-mails reveal an ongoing citywide epidemic of Divvy thefts”

John Greenfield on the impact of a "short-sighted decision to remove a critical piece of security hardware from Chicago’s docking stations."


“Warning, Democrats: a Rauner victory over Pritzker could turn Illinois into a red state”

Ben Joravsky on the necessity of choosing the lesser of two evils in the November gubernatorial election

“Fifty years ago, 35,000 Chicago students walked out of their classrooms in protest. They changed CPS forever.”

Tanner Howard on history and the present


“Chicago gets its first vinyl-pressing plant in decades”

Leor Galil took a look inside the new "Smashed Plastic, whose brand-new technology could bring relief to labels and artists stymied by long waits for records."


“Twenty new(ish) Chicago restaurants that prove the party ain’t over”

As Mike Sula looked at the list of his favorite new places to eat from 2018, he realized that almost everything on it could serve as an exception to another critic's recent takedown of the Chicago dining scene.

Also making a strong showing in December (but posted at the end of November) was Kevin Warwick's “How Logan Arcade got its Misfits-playing robot dogs,” a look at the Biscuits, "Logan Arcade's very own Misfits cover act, comprising four animatronic dogs named Glenn Dogzig, Jerry Bonely, Doyle Von Frankenbone, and . . . Robo."  v

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Making sense of Billy Jack, declared America's first action hero by at least one dad

Posted By on 01.03.19 at 06:00 AM

Billy Jack Goes to Washington
  • Billy Jack Goes to Washington
Welcome to Flopcorn, where Reader writers and contributors pay tribute to our very favorite bad movies. In this installment, social media editor Brianna Wellen tries to find the appeal in her father's favorite series.

Just before the holidays I woke up to see that my dad had left me a voicemail at six in the morning. It's the kind of thing that would make most people freak out and assume someone was dead, but I know my father well enough to know that this means he had to tell me about something he had seen on TV. This time around? All four Billy Jack movies played in a row on Turner Classic Movies, and now he finally had the whole collection on his DVR.

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