Posts Tagged 'Entertainment'

Big Wheel (6-21-1893)

The directors of the Columbian Exposition wanted to outdo the 1889 Paris World’s Fair.  The big hit of that fair had been Gustave Eiffel’s soaring iron tower.

On this date, the world saw Chicago’s answer to the challenge—George Washington Ferris’s giant wheel.

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Ferris was a young Pittsburgh engineer.  He’d gotten his idea from that new fad, the bicycle.  With boyish enthusiasm, he convinced investors to spend $400,000 so he could build a 300-foot-high, spinning bicycle wheel.

So now, a month into the Exposition, it was ready.  At 4 in the afternoon, a crowd of 2,000 people gathered at the base of the wheel.  Overhead, in one of the 36 cars–which were more like sheds, and could each hold 60 passengers–a brass band pumped out patriotic tunes.  Red, white, and blue bunting were everywhere.

George Washington Ferris

The speeches began.  They followed the theme that American ingenuity had once again triumphed.  One of the speakers, General Nelson Miles, said that Mr. Ferris’s wheel had surpassed the Seven Wonders of the World.

Finally, the man of the hour spoke.  He thanked all those who’d been involved in the project.  He especially thanked his wife Margaret for her unwavering support.

Then Mrs. Ferris stepped forward and handed her husband a golden whistle.  He blew it once.  On that signal, the giant wheel began to slowly turn.

The crowd applauded.  Then, in good order, they lined up for a ride.

A trip on the 1893 wheel consisted of two revolutions.  The first time around, six stops were made to load the cars.  After that, the riders got a second, non-stop spin.  The whole ride lasted about twenty minutes.  The cost was fifty cents.

The public loved the big wheel.  On a clear day, you could see Wisconsin, or all the way across the lake to the Michigan shore.  By the time the Exposition closed in October, neary 1.5 paid admissions had been rung up.  There was not a single accident or injury.

George Washington Ferris was hailed as a modern Da Vinci, but he did not enjoy his fame for long.  He died of typhoid in 1896, only 37 years old.

The original Ferris Wheel played a number of engagements in later years.  The novelty gradually wore off, and it was blown up in St. Louis in 1906.

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Patio Theater Opens (1-29-1927)

When I was growing up every Chicago neighborhood had its own local movie house.  Ours was the Patio Theater, at 6008 West Irving Park Road.

The Patio opened on January 29, 1927—92 years ago today.  My parents had grown up in the same Portage Park neighborhood where they raised me, so it had been their local movie house, too.  For some reason, they always called it the “PAY-shee-oh.”

The Patio was not a giant movie palace.  It had about 1500 seats and no second-floor balcony.  During the 1950s it was a third-run house.  Films first opened at one of the downtown theaters.  After that they moved out into the second-run houses—in our neck of the woods, either the Portage or the Gateway.  Eventually, many months after its Loop opening, the movie finally appeared at the Patio, usually part of a double bill.

My buddies and I went to the Patio nearly every week during the late 1950s and into the 1960s.  Until we discovered that girls had their charms, we took in mostly adventure films.  The earliest movie that I remember having seen at the Patio was Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, from 1957 when I was nine years old.

The photo above  is from 1975 (note the “Old Chicago Beer” sign on the Foremost Liquors Store).  Movie theaters were closing down all over by then, and rumor was that the Patio would soon be gone.  Happily, that’s not the case.  The Patio has still managed to hang on, with live entertainment instead of movies.  Here’s hoping it lasts another 92 years.

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Chicago Trivia Quiz #9—Answers

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1. The last Republican Mayor of Chicago was __________.

(D) William Hale Thompson

2. Who was the last local winner of the NCAA men’s basketball championship?

(B) Loyola University

3. The last Chicago streetcar ran on what line?

(D) Wentworth Avenue

4. The last movie John Dillinger saw was __________.

(B) Manhattan Melodrama

5. The last year Riverview operated was __________.

(C) 1967

Chicago Trivia Quiz #9

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For the last days of the year, a quiz on Chicago “lasts”—

1. The last Republican Mayor of Chicago was __________.

(A) Benjamin Adamowski

(B) Carter Harrison Jr.

(C) Martin Kennelly

(D) William Hale Thompson

2. Who was the last local winner of the NCAA men’s basketball championship?

(A) De Paul University

(B) Loyola University

(C) Northwestern University

(D) University of Chicago

3. The last Chicago streetcar ran on what line?

(A) Western Avenue

(B) State Street

(C) Clark Street

(D) Wentworth Avenue

4. The last movie John Dillinger saw was __________.

(A) The Public Enemy

(B) Manhattan Melodrama

(C) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

(D) G-Men

5. The last year Riverview operated was __________.

(A) 1963

(B) 1965

(C) 1967

(D) 1969

ANSWERS POSTED AT 5 PM

 

Chicago Trivia Quiz #8—Answers

1. Skip’s Drive-In (aka Fiesta) was located near __________.

(C) North and First

2. The manager of the 1969 Cubs was __________.

(D) Leo Durocher

3. Garfield Goose thought he was __________.

(A) King of the United States

4. It’s Here was a __________.

(D) coffee house

5. Who was nicknamed “The Cool Gent?”

(C) Herb Kent

Chicago Trivia Quiz #8

A quiz for Chicago Baby-Boomers—

1. Skip’s Drive-In (aka Fiesta) was located near __________.

(A) Grand and Harlem

(B) Roosevelt and First

(C) North and First

(D) Lake and Mannheim

2. The manager of the 1969 Cubs was __________.

(A) Chuck Tanner

(B) Al Lopez

(C) Eddie Stanky

(D) Leo Durocher

3. Garfield Goose thought he was __________.

(A) King of the United States

(B) Mayor of Chicago

(C) Emperor of the North Pole

(D) Donald Duck’s brother

4. It’s Here was a __________.

(A) clothing store

(B) dance hall

(C) theme park

(D) coffee house

5. Who was nicknamed “The Cool Gent?”

(A) Dick Biondi

(B) Dick Gregory

(C) Herb Kent

(D) Hugh Hefner

ANSWERS POSTED AT 5 P.M.

 

 

 

 

 

Fanny Dumps Her Man (9-13-1927)

It was over.  Fanny Brice was in Chicago, and she was divorcing Nicky Arnstein.

Brice was the beloved musical comedy star of Broadway’s Ziegfeld Follies.  Arnstein was a charming, 6’6″ gambler and con man.  The unlikely couple had married in 1918.9-13--my%20man

Then Nicky had gone to prison for a stock swindle.  During the years her husband was a guest of the government, Fanny closed her shows singing a ballad about a woman who knows she loves a louse, but still won’t get rid of him.  The song was titled “My Man.”

Things had gone bad after Nicky was released.  Fanny became suspicious, and had him followed when he made a trip to Chicago.  The detective confirmed it–Nicky was having an affair.

So now Fanny was in the courtroom of Judge Otto Kerner Sr.  She said her marriage had started to fall apart when she got plastic surgery to straighten her nose.  Nicky didn’t like the change.

Freudian pop-psychology was being used to explain everything in 1927.  Fanny’s lawyer told the judge that Nicky had first become attracted to Fanny because she resembled his mother.  After Fanny had her nose job, Nicky’s lost interest in her.  Nicky had something called an Oedipus Complex.9-13--nicky

Fanny was asked why she wanted a divorce now, after she had stood by her man all the years he was in prison.  “I don’t like to talk about it much,” she said.  “But I’m doing this for both of us.  I’m really giving him a chance to come back.”

As for alimony, Fanny said she was earning enough money to support their two small children.  The judge asked if she might have trouble getting future work.  “Who can tell?” she laughed.  “The fickle public!”

Nicky did not appear in court.  After being served papers in a North Side restaurant, he issued a statement saying he would not contest the divorce.  He still loved Fanny, and would not stand in her way.  Nicky then left town, for parts unknown.

Judge Kerner granted the divorce, and the marriage was officially over.

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Fanny Brice resumed her Broadway career, and later became a successful radio comedienne.  She died in 1951.  Nicky Arnstein outlived her by 14 years, and managed to stay out of further trouble.

Funny Girl, a 1964 musical based on the story of Fanny and Nicky, made 21-year-old Barbra Streisand an overnight star.  It was later made into a movie.

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