The final days of Gay Chicago | On Media | Chicago Reader

The final days of Gay Chicago 

The beloved bar rag and the end of its 35-year run

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With Gay Chicago sinking fast, Gernhardt turned to Garcia for help. Garcia told Gernhardt his 50-50 split with Tidwell was ridiculous because no difficult decisions could ever get made. Gernhardt said he knew (Tidwell had said the same thing), but there was a solution: he and Tidwell had agreed to turn all unresolvable arguments over to mediators.

To mediators! Garcia marveled. "I've put you down as my mediator," Gernhardt told Garcia.

Garcia recalls, "He said, 'You've known me hundreds of years. You'd fight for the paper and the community, and to keep my father's legacy alive.' And he's right. I was deeply honored. I teared up." But what Gernhardt was describing was an advocate, not a mediator.

Garcia nixed the mediator idea, and Gernhardt was ready with Plan B. "I shouldn't say this but I will," Garcia says. "He said, 'I'll give you my half because I want the paper to continue.' I said, 'Craig, that's really nice, but I don't know anything about running a paper.' And I thought, how desperate is this poor guy?"

Everything fell apart with lightning speed. In mid-September Gay Chicago announced it was shifting from weekly to biweekly publication. But before it could even take that step, on September 29 it announced it was shutting down. "Gay Chicago will continue, however, to produce an online news and entertainment [website]," said the announcement. "It's time to turn toward a new direction."

Kept up by Tidwell, the website survived a few weeks longer. Then it too disappeared.

Tidwell says he'd figured that if the court allowed him to pay off the Newsweb debt for under $1,500 a month, he could swing it. "But they took a really long time getting the paperwork together, and the day they finally sent the agreement over there was no Gay Chicago anymore. I was not about to assume a $100,000 debt for a company that doesn't exist. I was living off of savings. I was about to lose my house. When there was no more print I wanted to continue online, but seeing no revenue from it whatsoever, I gave up."

Did Gernhardt give up too? I asked.

"I really can't tell," says Tidwell, whose new idea is to launch Opus, a stylish news monthly along the lines of Monocle, with correspondents around the world. "At this point we couldn't be in the same room together."

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