Live From Ronny's Steak Palace, It's...Monday Night?/Good News and Bad News at Chicago Opera Theater/Matador Fights Critics in London/New Movie Munchies/Restaurant Clowns Around | Culture Club | Chicago Reader

Live From Ronny's Steak Palace, It's...Monday Night?/Good News and Bad News at Chicago Opera Theater/Matador Fights Critics in London/New Movie Munchies/Restaurant Clowns Around 

There it was, hidden away in the exotic Loop: a restaurant "as tacky as humanly possible"--perfect for Michael Blatter's new Monday-night club.

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Live From Ronny's Steak Palace, It's...Monday Night?

If Michael Blatter has his way, Monday night will soon lose its reputation as the deadest night in the nightclub business. Next week Blatter, director of the still-going-strong Shelter and a colorful figure on the club scene, will unveil Nasty Mike's Steak Palace at 16 W. Randolph. Using the existing, atmosphere-laden Ronny's Steak Palace, Blatter is attempting to create a Monday-night happening and turn clubgoers on to the heart of the Loop as an exotic new destination.

Monday-night clubs are already a fixture on the east and west coasts, and Blatter says he got tired of waiting for other local club operators to take the initiative in opening the same kind of spot in Chicago. "For two years I had been driving around with nothing to do on Monday night and no place to go," notes an antsy Blatter, whose fast-paced speech pegs him as a (happily) transplanted New Yorker. So he took matters into his own hands and began the search for a suitable locale. He looked at sites in Chinatown, the south and west Loop, and the near north side before discovering his dream spot. "I suddenly realized that the most exciting area in town is the center of the Loop--clubgoers just didn't have an excuse to go down there."

Blatter particularly liked Ronny's Steak Palace, he says, because it was "as tacky as humanly possible." But the restaurant, which has baked potatoes and steaks piled high at the entrance, is not without a certain bizarre charm. The main dining area just beyond the open kitchen is flanked by huge murals of famous people eating meat. The paintings were added by set designers working on the new John Hughes film Curly Sue, which used Ronny's as a location. Among the scenes depicted in the murals are Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan consuming steak tartare and a group of Pilgrims devouring a standing rib roast.

After Ronny's closes on Monday nights, Blatter will remove most of the chairs and tables from the main dining room and transform it into Nasty Mike's main dance floor, with a DJ serving up progressive dance music. Up a staircase and through a doorway is a smaller, darker lounge that will become a second dance area, where a DJ will spin a mix of 60s and 70s dance classics ("Dance to the Music," old Jackson Five favorites, etc). Blatter will use a balcony space overlooking the main dance floor as a VIP lounge. He also promises one transvestite and two female go-go dancers to spice up the ambience.

Even with all this seedy allure, Blatter faces a considerable challenge luring the demimonde out on a sleepy Monday night. Other clubs, Shelter included, have struggled without much success to find a hook that will pull in large crowds midweek. Can Blatter, with his New York cunning, make it happen in the heart of the Loop on Monday night? We'll see.

Good News and Bad News at Chicago Opera Theater

As of late last week, Chicago Opera Theater had raised $466,500 of the $600,000 needed to help cover the company's liabilities. But even though contributions are trickling in at a slower-than-hoped-for pace, a COT spokeswoman said the company decided to go ahead with the third and last scheduled opera of the season, Postcard From Morocco, staged by well-known director Frank Galati and scheduled to run May 8-25. The staff and board of directors apparently felt the organization would increase funder and subscriber confidence by going forward with the production. COT's second production of the season, Madame Butterfly, set a single-ticket sales record of $59,000. Meanwhile, in yet another bit of bad luck for COT, general manager Mark Tiarks was hospitalized recently. "I've been working 70-to 80-hour weeks, and I was exhausted," he says.

Matador Fights Critics in London

Matador, the musical based on the life of Spanish bullfighter El Cordobes, which received its world premiere in the summer of 1989 at Marriott's Lincolnshire Theatre, opened last week in a lavish new production on London's West End and was promptly gored by most of that city's newspaper theater critics. Marriott's Lincolnshire producer Kary Walker and his associates Dyanne Earley and Peter Grigsby attended the London opening, but they kept their own feelings of disappointment about the new production to themselves in a subsequent lunch with Matador producer Laurence Myers. The clunky Matador book, completely rewritten by Englishman Peter Jukes, proved one of the weakest aspects of the London production, which stars young American actor John Barrowman (whose father formerly headed Caterpillar Inc.) as the titular matador and film and television star Stefanie Powers as his somewhat older love interest.

New Movie Munchies

Loews Chicago Cinemas will be giving local moviegoers a taste of the unusual at the concession stand of the chain's newest addition, Piper's Alley Theatre, a four-screen, 1,294-seat complex hidden in the bowels of Piper's Plaza at North and Wells. The theater is now set to open May 24 after more than a year of construction delays. Loews is stocking the refreshment stand with, among other things, yogurt, cookies, and Mr. Jubbly, a sweet popcorn imported from Europe that is lower in calories than traditional buttered popcorn. Loews has tested the popcorn in some of its New York City theaters and the yogurt and cookies in two Chicago locations, apparently with success. The stand will also stock the same Australian bottled waters that Loews offers at a few of its other theaters, in exotic flavors such as kiwi and orange-mango. "This is going to be a very upscale theater," said a Loews executive. Even so, Loews plans to hold its top ticket price at $7. For now, anyway.

Restaurant Clowns Around

Fine dining a la commedia? That's what managing partner Thom Goodman says he has introduced at the two-year-old Bellagio restaurant at 400 N. Clark. Goodman, who formerly operated the north-side entertainment complex CrossCurrents and who came to Bellagio in January, hired a clown trainer named Robin Eurich to work with the wait staff at the 80-seat Italian restaurant on bits of Peter Sellers-esque comedic business intended to entertain people while they eat dinner. Explains Goodman: "The waiters could wind up doing anything from subtle physical takes to juggling, according to the whims and interests of the customers." In about two months, Goodman also plans to open a cabaret theater above the restaurant.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steven D. Arazmus.

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