Ella | Feature | Chicago Reader


Ella worked at teh Belair for ten years, and on the third floor exclusively for the last five. The news of her sudden death--she was only in her 40s--sent show waves through the building....

Five years ago, Ella replaced Bea, the wild one. Beah had a little "bad" in her, and that's what we liked. She was an entertainer as much as a maid. She lived on the north side in an apartment over Unabridged Books. She partied and shopped in our Gay Town. She wore red curl wigs and looked like Tina Turner. When she came to clean your room, she came a-dancing.

Bea, the wild thing, was murdered in her apartment one hot Saturday night. Scandal. Trial. She went out with noise.

Ella came in quiet, and went out quiet. She did her work and kept most of her opinions to herself. Over the years seeing her every day, I became very attached to Ella.

Her happiest day was when she told me about her youngest son: "He's getting through" high school. She had kept him out of the gangs and on track to school so he would never have to clean for 50 cents a room. She was proud that all her children had made it through....Coming every day from 93rd and Peoria to clean gay men's rooms, Ella must have experienced some culture shock....

My friend Omega, when he was working at the Second Story Emporium all-male bookstore, brought me one of his favorite posters of Jeff Stryker in a leather jacket and Levi's opened at the crotch with his claim to fame totally exposed. Omega hung the poster on my bathroom door.

The next day, Ella saw the poster and Stryker in his erotic pose. "That's quite a picture you have on the door!"

"Oh, Ella, don't you just love his leather jacket."

She laughed.

She met that occasion, as all others, with total human acceptance....

Windy City Times (1990)

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