Street Smart Chicago

Pride 2008: Out Intersection, Filmmaker Ron Pajak shines a light on history

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By Elise Biggers
After accommodating more than 400,000 people last summer, some speculate this week’s Pride Parade may very well top the half-million milestone. Given Chicago’s turbulent LGBT history that had, within the last eighty years, witnessed the transformation of lightly attended, sidewalk-confined Pride demonstrations into a highly acclaimed yearly celebration, a rich oral tradition had been awaiting documentation up until its translation onto film in 2007. Since filmmaker and Columbia College instructor Ron Pajak’s screening of his documentary “Quearborn & Perversion” last November, Chicago’s LGBT community has connected to stories that have seldom been told by earlier generations—stories that reveal the little-known history of the Chicago’s LGBT cultural identity that began just north of the river not too long ago.
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Pride 2008: Book of Record, Tracy Baim and the new “Out and Proud in Chicago”

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By Jeremy Gordon

Chicago’s gay community stays pretty busy in the month of June, but Tracy Baim, a born-and-raised Chicagoan and executive editor of the Windy City Times and “Out and Proud in Chicago,” an upcoming book that delves into the history of Chicago’s gay community, isn’t just looking forward like everyone at the parade, but back through time.
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Pride 2008: School of Thought, Retired Northwestern prof David Hull reminisces about a life in the community

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By Andy Seifert

When retired Northwestern professor David Hull sat down to write his memoirs with the aid of forty scrapbooks to help remind him of his past, he couldn’t stop remembering things that had been lodged in the back of his mind and forgotten for years. “I didn’t think it’d come to four volumes,” he says, before revealing the title of the first installment. “‘Where Were the Child Molesters When I Needed Them?’ What I really mean was, where was one gay person who could take me aside and tell me what the dangers are and what you can get away with and what to do when you got busted.” He pauses, and then simply says, “Nobody.”

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Pride 2008: Out of the Closet and into the Museum, CHM shines a spotlight on Chicago’s gay history

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By Sam Feldman

In 1924, German immigrant Henry Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago. It was the first known gay-rights organization in America, and among the most short-lived. Seven months later, the police raided Gerber’s Old Town home without a warrant, putting an end to the organization and arresting its officers. “Strange Sex Cult Exposed,” blared the headline in the Herald-Examiner the next day.
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411 Seven Days in Chicago: Out-Speak

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Grab a cocktail, grub and a gay-and-lesbian history lecture at the Chicago History Museum’s “Out at CHM” lecture series kick-off event Thursday. The first lecture of the three-part series—titled “Sexual Politics: From the Lavender Scare to Larry Craig”—will be an examination of the history of how the sexuality of gay men has emerged as a hot-button topic in American politics. “We try to keep it so it’s the topic in mind, so it’s geared toward what people are talking about in their homes,” says Chicago Museum spokesperson Melissa Hayes. This lecture marks the fifth year for the “Out at CHM” series, a program brought to the public by The Center on Halsted and The Chicago History Museum as a continuing effort to bring LGBT history to Chicago’s public. “Gays and lesbians in Chicago is such a part of this city’s history,” Hayes says, “and try to tell that history from all different perspectives.”

411 Seven Days in Chicago: All Is Wells

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Vaguely remember the name Ida B. Wells from your history lecture? If Deloris MeBain has her way, you’ll see that name on street signs, statues and parks. MeBain, manager for V. Holmes Entertainment’s Motown show, has set aside fifteen minutes during their concert on November 17 at the Harold Washington Cultural Center to honor Chicago’s anti-lynching activist with an intermission devoted to educating the audience on Wells’ legacy and inviting her grandchildren to the stage. “All I have to do is look outside to see her name being torn down,” MeBain says, referring to the building being torn down across the street from where she works, one that’s a part of the Ida B. Wells Housing Project. “There’s nothing being done to keep the name alive.” MeBain cites Wells’ bravery as an activist against lynching as well as her work as a journalist as inspiration for her own career. “Just growing up, you know the history. Sometimes in these areas you don’t have a lot of role models.”

Requiem for a Dream: Marshall Field’s Last Christmas

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By Brian Hieggelke

“Marshall Field & Company, one of the world’s great department stores, is as legendary to Chicago and the good old middle west as Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. It’s as sturdy as the tracks on the Loop, as timeless as the Lake, and almost as vast as the westward prairie. It is said that Marshall Field’s is Chicago.”
—“Store” by Nan Tillson Birmingham, 1978

Marshall Field arrived in Chicago from New England and got a job in the retail business in 1856. 150 years later, in 2006, he’ll leave Chicago for good. In the interim, the store he created, Marshall Field’s, will have survived the Civil War, the Great Chicago Fire, the Great Depression, two World Wars, the advent of electric lighting, the automobile, the airplane, the television and the computer. But it will not survive the merger of two corporations from Midwest towns that once challenged Chicago for primacy in the Midwest and lost, Federated Department Stores of Cincinnati, Ohio, and May Department Stores of St. Louis, Missouri.
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Jury’s out: The wheels of justice grind to a halt in the wake of the terrorist attacks

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Monday, I was chosen for jury duty.

Tuesday, I woke up and took the bus downtown and went to the twenty-fourth-floor courtroom of the Daley Center. Security was tight and there was a big line, but I assumed it was the usual morning rush of court cases. I was the first juror present in the courtroom because I had written down the wrong time. Soon, a few others appeared.

A policewoman told me in hushed tones, “They bombed the World Trade Center.” I wondered who the “they” was, as I stood contemplating the way we tend to say “they” meaning a monolithic enemy, some generic presence from outside the comfortable “us.” Read the rest of this entry »

Real Time: Tragedy and beer in the confines of the Billy Goat

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September 11, 2001. Billy Goat Tavern, 12:35pm CDT. All eyes are on the TV, set behind the bar in the southeast corner. The sound is turned up, and the place is nearly silent. Very uncharacteristic. No “cheeseborger, cheeseborger,” of reality and lore. No “no fries, chips.” No ringing order bell. Just a few crinkling bags and Tom Brokaw commenting above the sizzle of the grill. I order an Old Style, and the man next to me does the same. He’s got an armful of empties and a rocks glass. “We’re at wartime, Jeff [bartender], we’ll bus our own table.” He takes his drink and returns to his table behind me. “Can we turn this up a little?”

A man in a yellow Polo shirt walks in, joins their table. He’s a local, and he’s greeted as such. “My daughter’s all right,” he says before acknowledging them back. “Oh, thank God,” the table assures him. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Seven Days in Chicago

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As of press time, there were numerous cancellations of local events following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. At this point, though Mayor Daley announced city offices, etc. would be open September 12, local arts and cultural events might not bounce back quite as quickly, so we’d urge you to call ahead, just to make sure. A few things to note: The Art Institute has postponed the September 12 press opening luncheon for the “Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South” exhibit. No word on whether the regular members’ opening, scheduled for September 14, will stand. The Chicago Center for the Performing Arts postponed the September 11 opening for the major show of its inaugural season, “Love Letters,” starring Charlton Heston, until September 14. The Chicago Cultural Center postponed its September 11 LunchBreak program and the first night of its new International Dinner and a Movie, but says both programs will occur on September 12. Heading into the weekend, the Eli’s Fifth Annual Cheesecake Festival, set for September 15-16 has been postponed until October 13-14. In addition, Clear Channel Entertainment has postponed the scheduled September 15 ticket sale for the October 15 U2 concert at the United Center. “The decision was made out of respect for victims of the nationwide tragedy taking place,” the company release said. A new sale date will be announced.

War? What War?
From the “Hey, don’t you know there’s a war on?” file, as thousands streamed out of the city and toward their homes late Tuesday morning, at least a few people seemed oblivious. At the intersection of Milwaukee/Halsted/Grand, a perky woman worked the cars, attempting to sell Peanut M & Ms, with shouts of “C’mon! They’re only a dollar. It’s a beautiful day and you can help out.” At least one driver isn’t having it. “Don’t you know what happened?” he yelled out the window. “God! I don’t have time to think about this now.”