Sometimes you feel like you’re on a movie set in Chicago. Years ago I was walking down Rush Street and I saw a sailor, in his white sailor suit and cap and black cross tie, pop his head out of the top of a limousine and toss a flower to a pretty girl who was walking by, as if he were Gene Kelly in an MGM musical.
I kind of felt like that at the Chicago Reader’s party last night; the setting (an ex-factory loft space filled with oh-so-political art) and the crowd (hipster) was such a perfect picture of Friday night in the big city. I’m sure many of these kid-free people actually do something like this every Friday night, but it’s been long enough since I was one of them that it felt kind of hyperreal to me.
The party, which my associate Dr. Hammond said was much more elaborate than past Reader events, was to celebrate the Best of Chicago issue, and bring together Reader staffers, Reader contributors, and people honored in the Best of. But all I saw and met was people I already knew from the restaurant biz, like Barry Sorkin of Smoque or Nick Kokonas of Alinea; the only Reader person I met the whole night was Cliff Doerksen at the very end, literally on the way to the parking lot as I was leaving. (I congratulated him on his James Beard award, and told him how much I hated him.)
I heard that some Reader folks might have been boycotting it because of the firing of editor Alison True, or simply didn’t feel like going to a party right after that (which may be a distinction without a difference). I expect the management felt it was important to hold the party anyway, or maybe especially now, to help get past the bad feelings. Yet they weren’t really there either, in actuality or spirit. I think they should have taken the risk of the Reader’s notoriously rambunctious staff booing them or whatever, and taken a microphone at some point and made a real statement of… something or other. Brass balls and alligator-hide skin have never been bad things for a publisher to have, and tend to earn the respect of a rebellious staff. As it was, it kind of felt like the Reader threw a party but had somewhere else to be that night.
Thanks for the food and drink, though, guys. This was the best cocktail of the night, Adam Seger’s Hum botanical spirit mixed (by Seger himself) with I think lavender-jasmine tea or some such thing. Very floral, but Hum is great stuff. Also enjoyed Smoque brisket, Mundial Cocina Mestizo tamales, some tasty meatballs from Sable, cake balls from Bleeding Heart Bakery, and so on. (I also couldn’t help but think of the recent scandal over a blogger getting his wedding catered by restaurants he covered. Those naughty bloggers!)
The Hammonds demonstrate their bona fides as good citizens of the People’s Republic of Oak Park.
I salute this woman for seizing her Marilyn Monroe moment and not minding if a total stranger took pictures of it. Like I said, sometimes life is like the movies.