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June 15, 2012


Hyatt Lobby

NeoCon was sparsely attended and the programs were dullsville. When sales people are talking to other sales people and not customers you know that NeoCon has lost the audience it once enjoyed. Apparently the Mart has increased the costs for exhibitors hence the empty spaces.

Printer’s Row Book Fair saw noticeably higher prices this year. Two years ago bought first edition of Out of Africa for a few dollars and now the same book is $100. We made a fortuitous stop by the Gerald Rilling bookstall, replete with Africana and Brian Garfield’s book about yet another fraudulent author this one Colonel Meinertzhagen who fabricated journals and diaries (in 1906) from East Africa.

Gerald RIlling and his new book

Oprah is promoting a new book Wild by one Cheryl Strayed that upon reading seems curious and curiouser. It tells the tale of the author’s eleven-hundred-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—ALONE. She was “reeling from catastrophe” (who isn’t?), and was healed by the odyssey.  Genre Inspiratiana!

Lurie Children's Hospital

We went over early last Saturday to see the move into the Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital. Did anyone read any national press coverage about this important event? We didn’t. National press concentrates on all the violence and murders here and reinforces the stereotype of a dangerous city. Which in fact it appears to be these days.

Crain’s reports that health care costs in the Chicago area are higher than most of the nation’s. With more leverage against health insurance companies, big hospitals can demand higher reimbursement rates from insurers, which in turn help drive up premiums. “It is a big threat,” says Robert Town, professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania. “As hospital markets become more consolidated, hospitals gain bargaining power . . . and prices tend to go up.” Oh dear!

Old Town Art Fair

An international architecture firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca was employed for the Lurie project which always leads one to ask why? We have some of the best architects in the world right here who understand the local environment. Not a big fan of the massive angular building which looks like a corporate headquarters.  Much prefer Perkins and Will’s suave, graceful Rush Hospital though they are being sued for unnecessary cost overruns to the tune of eight million.

Lydia at the Shanghai

Cannot look at Legrange’s Elysian (AKA Waldorf) silhouette without seeing the Mansard Roof as Shriner’s Fez, thanks to Blair Kamin’s wit. Tried to like it but the scale is utterly wrong. Always did feel it rather odd that the grand bourgeois style of dix-neufieme FRANCE popped up all over Chicago in the past ten years.

Everyone is a Francophile of the Heart here though no one seems to know the language or the back roads of Languedoc or the Massif Central.

A bluebird told us the Richter in the Hyatt cost a cool $5.5 million dollars. No wonder he’s mass producing them these days.

Saturday Celebration at Aqua

Good Grief—we see the new Reader is using the inexpressibly vulgar expression “Kicking ass since 1971” right under the logo. Mike Miner doing the PC thing by attacking the Tribune.

New book Barack Obama by David Maraniss tells of his calculated decision to be half white in a black world instead of half black in a white world. Better social advantage to forge an identity from that vantage point. This cautious calculating controlled nature has been a hallmark of the administration.

Fighting Breast Cancer

Is it just us or do others also feel that actors and actresses and the entertainment complex have too much power in politics. Recall Barbra Streisand and her “special relationship” with Virginia Clinton? So comically Brooklyn.  What gives hoofers the right to wield such authority? Do they think they’ll get an even bigger piece of the pie or is their hubris so strong that they just want power?  George Clooney swanning around like a senator is cringe-worthy. The Revenge of Democracy.

What does he know about hardship? Why listen to him any more than to the mega rich bundlers and their “social consciences? Listen rather to the brilliant economists like Professor Robert Barro from Harvard and the Hoover Institute at Stanford who know that the current administration’s short term safety net programs like food stamps and “green energy “ have been ineffective for the past three years. The real need if for long term reforms to the tax structure and policies focusing on individual incentives to work, produce and invest.

NOMI roof

The Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula is the ne plus ultra of an outdoor eaterie.  Décor very 30s Hollywood Shanghai red and black laquerie, with.lunch offerings modest in price. Very sparsely populated (unlike Nomi rooftop) with  tall, elegant Chinese waiters padding around; thoroughly clean of the tables of boisterous women having lunch in overcrowded hot rooms like RL’s which is so headache-making.

Outdoors at the Lux and Tavern always a parade of the usual gals with those F-Me Heels strolling back and forth, before the table-packs of beefy males

Alderman Joe Moore briefly succeeded in getting foie gras banned in Chicago which decision was then was overturned by the City Council whose members are hardly the foie gras and caviar type so we can only assume they caved in to pressure from restaurant associations and Fancy Schmancy Chefs. Now California soon to remove this disgusting comestible from plates – you know it’s extreme animal torture. We note that Cyrano’s on Wells has a full menu of numerous goose liver items.

Calder Cleaning

Alexandra Stanley covering the Diamond Jubilee for the New York Times correctly noted that American TeeVee reporters were like giddy teenager girls on a sugar high at the mall. Sure the Royals relieved they don’t have to be “accessible” for the colonials and the working class for awhile – did you notice a few shots of Kate looking irritated, a nice break from that perpetual grin that Queen Mary would have loathed and that Anne eschews.

Rev. John P. Smyth who made Maryville Academy what it once was, a place that turned no child away (now a pale shadow of its former self—such a shame)  is one of the truly remarkable men you’ll ever meet. On June 9th 500 friends congregated at Gibson’s in Rosemont to celebrate his Golden Jubilee. Tom Dart, Cook County Sheriff had inspiring opening remarks as did the Bear’s Pat McCaskey.

Didya luv the revelation (or maybe not such a revelation) that that dictator Assad from Syria paid the American PR firm Brown Lloyd Whatever five thousand a month to get his wife into Vogue. You know journalists and publishers and promotional types really need to do some due diligence before they bow before the buck. Ya listening Anna? We always knew you could buy your way into society (whatever shreds remain) via print.

If the press not a watch dog who is? Wake up.

Shanghai Terrace

Spent another Julius Meinl breakfast idly counting the ad pages in the Big Two glossy social magazines, both of which have over 75 full pages, another 20 or so of half or quarter and well within the profit ad/copy ration range of profitability. We always used the 2/3rds ads, 1/3 copy rule when we edited newspapers. Glad they’re making it in this economy though please no more Celebrities in Our Town!. Emily Blunt looked lobotomized in that photo shoot and that other one Britanny or Bettany…….oh never mind!

Divine Alexander Payne is being celebrated at the Gene Siskel for his brilliant films with their insights into social class nuances in About Schmidt and Descendants alluring, two of our favorite films in recent years. You can keep Wes Anderson.

Dump Your Ivory. Last July in Philadelphia, US Fish and Wildlife officers made their biggest ivory seizure ever of approximately 1 ton of ivory; in August, a China-bound shipment from Tanzania was seized in Malaysia with 664 elephant tusks; China is one of the largest consumers of wildlife products.  In Chinese, “ivory” literally means “elephant tooth.” A recent study found that 70% of Chinese consumers did not know that elephants were killed for ivory and some thought elephants lose tusks like people lose teeth.



June 1


June 1, 2012

Julius Meinl's on Montrose

Have you registered with yet? It’s free and you can get nonprofit IRS 990 returns as a matter of public record. Great rainy afternoon activity to check out the bottom line of grantors and grantees – revenue received, expended, admin costs, benefit costs and where your ticket price goes.

U.S. senators are investigating charges that the Disabled Veterans National Foundation has spent little of the tens of millions of dollars it has raised on programs to help veterans,  and paid $60-million to a direct-marketing firm for candy, hand-sanitizers.

Hey if you have to hire a “consulting” firm to write your mission statement or figure out where to spend the money you should close your doors. We worked for a local charity that hired mega bucks consultants to create meaningless proposals.

Trio's Joan Cusack, Jill Cahr, Sue Naiden

The Trio Animal Foundation event at Double Doors was a great success. Stalwarts include Joan Cusack who is often in her shop Judy Maxwell at 1151 N. State. It is really a changing diorama of objects around a theme, with the objects for sale. Charming.

Do yourself a spiritual favor and log on to to learn about the efforts to preserve large mammals, black rhino and elephants in this magical district of Kenya.  Laikipia has no government designated protected areas and there is no plan to ensure this extraordinary wildlife asset can be maintained in the face of human population growth. Filmmaker Elizabeth Lagercrantz sent us a copy of her film about the Laikipia Wildlife Forum show at Cannes.

Mental illness is as biological as cancer or heart disease and there is no excuse for abandoning a spouse and bolting off with a starlet. Robert Kennedy Junior blamed the booze for his late wife’s problems but he helped create the behavior. Come on. We know that!  Kennedy Men the worst! Remember when Teddy left Joan in the parking lot at the Palmer House when he was campaigning here for President?

 Spare Time

 We were so looking forward to the film Gerhard Richter Painting at the Gene Siskel movie theater showing him in the act of creation, squeegee-ing paint onto giant canvas but alas it was sold out before opening so we amused our disappointed selves by reviewing all the usual donor names on the wall. So many intimations of immortality.

Despite The Siskel and its neighbor The Goodman, the Loop is still a desert at night except for the after work drinks crowd at Petterino’s where we spotted Robert Falls going in to dinner and viewed a thousand handsome 30- something young men at the ultimate bar.


For the smart crowd of writers and reporters from the Big Two it used to be Riccardo’s after work; all became ex-pats when it closed, victims of diaspora like the regulars at Elaine’s.

Rarely go the Hollywood movies but a cold day drove us to the Century to see the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with its cascade of unbelievable story lines and the lamentable  depiction of seniors as washed up about- to- croak sad sacks. Enjoyed it anyway and Judy Dench and Maggie Smith reminded us to get a facelift; the English don’t fret about teeth and wrinkles the way Americans do.

Linc Thelen’s exhibition of paintings on Fulton runs through June 18th and is a must see. He reinterprets Delacroix with same scale, distills the images into circular whirling forms that capture the tumult of the French Revolution or the shipwreck of the Medusa.

While you’re on Fulton stop in at Christopher Fredericks’  Organic Looms.  Rugs from Tibet and Nepal.

Giacomo Ferrucci and Christopher Frederick at Linc's Exhibition

On a recent trip to New York Jonathon Wells saw the Cindy Sherman show at MoMA and shared a look at the catalogue of the retro – the secret of her Untitled photographs is mystery, sinister,  unspoken truth behind the facades of clowns or society women.

Choses Litteraire

Sun Times editor Jim Kirk – what was he thinking with that awful Daily Splash so old hat, about 10 years too late. We’re already drowning in celebrity chitchat and besides we have so very few in Chicago to go around.  The “Big Name” columnists earn $1,000 bucks for about 300 words and include very over-exposed Giuliana Rancic, Jenny McCarthy, an underwear model, the mayor, assorted ball players,  Denise Richards.  Some have made two lists in a month!!!! In the TCW Top 70 Brand list are Rocky Wirtz, Bill Kurtis, the Ricketts, a Pritzker.

As you already know Wrapparound LLC the parent company of the Sun Times has bought the Reader who’s alternative attitude has been waning anyway. Au revoir.

Madeleine and Doc SIlva at the Barry's

Kurtis and Jacobson resemble Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Bill leading the way and Walter following when the prompter gets fuzzy.

 Jeffrey Gettleman from Chicago received a well-deserved Pulitzer this year for his incomparable reporting from Africa in the NYTimes. We never miss reading his columns, not should you if you want first-hand account of what is happening on that continent. This is the kind of reporting Chicago papers should be publishing.

ChiMag is however getting a little edgy again as in olden days, with the catty piece about Oprah (Vanity Fair also has one–God leave her alone) and an equally snarky article about the City Club’s Jay Doherty and the suit brought by PR person Kathy Posner. You wonder what is really underneath all this rancor and anger. What’s the real story here ?

Do you love it when the claws of Ann Gerber pop out occasionally (and not nearly often enough) in Skyline? She wrote that Beyonce Knowles “looked like a big tuna caught in a crazed fisherman’s net.”

Hidden Cars during NATO

Reminds us of Cindy Adams always so much spicier than Liz Smith who has used the Old Texas twang to best effect all these many years in the Big Apple.

Paul Fussell died last week. We knew him well at Rutgers and yes, he was as caustic as they come, but he broke the shackles of Academia with brilliant entertaining books such as British Literary Traveling Between the Wars  or BAD: The Dumbing of America in which he lamented we are living at a time “teeming with raucously overvalued emptiness and trash.”

And that was 1991 before the ultimate trash TV like the most recent offering Mrs. Eastwood. Gruesome and embarrassing. Feel so sorry for Clint whom we’d always hoped had found a classy wife not a loud mouthed char.


Vet's Memorial HIghland Park

Apizza and Ashopping

Bella Luna on Dearborn is a very neighborhood old fashioned pizza place, but if you’re going to sit outside go to Orso’s on Wells. We enjoyed the pepperoni and sausage with Joe Streeto on a gorgeous afternoon under the viney bowers out in the back yard.

The new Malnati’s on State …well the deep dish was undercooked and soggy. As you know the best pizza in the city is Pizano’s (gotta be the ovens) though we love the first pizza place in America– Lombardo’s in the Village. And Sally’s in New Haven!!!!

The Randolph Street Market should either stop advertising or close down altogether. Like misleading people luring them to kill half a day for nothing. You couldn’t make us buy a thing so tatty are the offerings.

View from Canal

Hotel occupancy rates in New York are 90 % and in Chicago under 80% according to Denihan Hospitality Group. Hey that’s better than South Beach which is in the 70s. We would travel far more as would most normal people if hotel rates weren’t so absurdly high. Tourism would soar here with a new approach to lodging.

We popped into Hermes for a few of those pocket squares and felt under surveillance in the cool empty store so we decided to buy them elsewhere.

And So Forth

 Nutty actress Charlize Theron cheering at ringside at the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Vegas where martial arts fighter Junior Dos Santos beat up Frank Mir in a bloody battle. These events like all boxing should be banned. No rich man ever entered the ring!

Bitchiest man of all time had to be Cecil Beaton. On Wallis: “Her back was coarse and her arms were heavy….she was rowdy and raucous.” Or calling Kate Hepburn a piece of decaying matter.

NATO  –  you’d have thought Chicago was preparing for World War II. During the first day we went to the Harold Washington Library and were very amused to see all the street people sitting at computers. Reminded one of Edinburgh during the Festival when they ship the homeless by bus to northern Scotland.

Too bad pedestrians!

The Memorial Day get together at Steve and Ellen Barry’s revealed the best balcony views in the city.  And in downtown Highland Park we spotted the Veterans Memorial, one of the few new monuments since doughboys and Union soldiers on pedestals.

From the Daily Telegraph obit of David Patrick Metcalfe the godson of the Duke of Windsor (who left him a pair of cufflinks in his will):

“One evening in 1982 Metcalfe brought together the blue-blooded directors of Sotheby Parke Bernet — including the Earl of Westmoreland and Angus Ogilvy, husband of Princess Alexandra — with a selection of Michigan high-rollers willing and able to rescue the teetering auction house from falling into the clutches of an aggressive and unwanted takeover. That night three billionaires — Alfred Taubman, Henry Ford II and Max Fisher — agreed to buy Sotheby’s, with Metcalfe proving himself the perfect society-business matchmaker.”

Happy Birthday, Donny!



May 15th


May 15, 2012

On the eve of NATO summit grist for the protestor mill.

Astor and Banks

Here we are looking down on Jamie Dimon’s previous home on Astor and Banks. He always threw a huge Halloween Party and festooned the windows with so many lights for assorted holidays that neighbors had to complain. Anyway now we have to listen to the pros and cons of the regulation debate ad nauseam because of that 2 billion cash loss blunder. The good news is that it only affects Morgan Stanley stockholders who OK’d the CEO’s 23 MILLION a year paycheck. Something obscene about this.

Regulation pros say that institutions playing a key role in the financial system have absolutely no business investing in hedges and derivatives when backed by taxpayer guarantee. On the Meet the Press Dimon stated the other point of view:  “Hey, everybody makes mistakes — sure, we lost $2 billion, but we’ve still got billions more, and we’ll figure out this one ourselves without the need for any further regulations, thank you.”  The pending Volcker Rule, a federal proposal under review which makes it illegal for banks to take positions in securities for their own gain will get tougher.

Speaking of regulation frenzy many are relieved Sarkozy out and hope Merkel will be next; their punishing austerity measures were gigantic flops.

Passing through the lugubrious subterranean Illinois Center en route to the dentist  stopped at the Hyatt and happened upon a brochure from recent SEC Reporting Specialist Workshop held there. Don’t fall afoul of those who study Advanced Reporting such as Form 10-K in Depth, Sox 404-the ICFR evaluation process, Accounting for Derivatives and Hedging Activities. They mean business.


Bernard Berenson believed that the main criterion for judging a work of is that it must be life-enhancing. Do you really find Roy Lichtenstein’s huge pixilated cartoons of comic books life – enhancing? Ahem. In any event they are large and cover the walls in familiar images in bright 1-2-3 primary colors we love so much in a post-literate society. Prepare yourself for local ooohing, aaaaaahing and pontificating about Pop Art which was originally a Warholian joke.

We hear the Prada/Schiaparelli Impossible Conversation exhibit at the Met is a real stunner. Both designers were as much merchandisers and marketers as clothing designers and both had the right connections from day one and knew how to exploit them. Love Schiap’s sleek elegant dresses from another era but you can keep the nerdy convent girl Prada outfits. They look so Milanese.

Beyonce Knowles, “the most beautiful woman in the world” (who’s world is that?) a stoned rapper Rihanna and crazzzeeee Cameron Diaz got to wear “formals” at the Met’s Costume Institute Gala which used to be a tad swank in the Barbarians at the Gate/Henry and Josee Kravis era. Amazed Anna Wintour didn’t beg off with 1918 influenza that night. Worse than the louche crew at the White House Correspondents dinner.

Now at the Newberry

No it ain’t flashy but you simply must toddle over to the Newberry to see The American West, an exhibit of books, maps, artifacts of U.S.IANA that are breath of fresh air from the time when America was new. The collector Everett Graff and Wright Howes, the antiquarian book dealer from Chicago, were great friends and collaborators; this collection includes gems like Prince Maximilian of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America 1843-44 or Meriwether’s 1814 history or maps and …well just go see it in the Dunlap Library on the ground floor. And no charge.

Alex Shoumatoff – not only is he an animal conservationist reporting on the Agony and Ivory of elephant slaughter in Africa (poaching must carry a HUGE price, a huge fine and mandatory jail sentences) but he is also a rank sentimentalist about the end of civilization. In Positively 44th Street in Vanity Fair he laments the dumbing down of popular taste, television’s displacement of reading, the vanishing of the blue blood haunts on the street of the Algonquin and the Harvard Club

Bad Form!!!!

Maybe WASP civility and erudition was always a myth but it was a charming myth based on clubby Porcellian and Bones insider mind set. Did you notice some people never get over going to Harvard or Yale? (far less so in genteel Princeton).



Peregrine Cavendish the 12th Duke of Devonshire has a new BBC series on his Derbyshire domicile Chatsworth; estate taxes nearly destroyed it decades ago so they had to resort of commercial ventures, not quite Disney but distasteful to many. Still all in all better than losing these great homes.

The Duke proclaims the aristocracy is dead and would be pleased to renounce the silly title when and if they eliminate lifetime peerages. They unelected remnants of aristocratic life have zero power in Parliament but they are distracting all with all their arrogant slouching.

The flic Iron Lady chose to concentrate on Dame Margaret Thatcher’s dementia not her formidable accomplishments. How morbid. We love sickness today because the fear factor always sells. Used to be sex. Now it’s disease. Shame on the Weinsteins. Besides the lady is still alive. Streep was luminous and convincing as always but she could not rescue the abysmal script.


On the subject of flics, Dangerous Method not a totally bad effort to illuminate the relationship between Freud and Jung though Kiera Knightly’s spastic movements got in the way of believability.

Freud is a hot ticket today when no one is really reading him anymore. And Jung’s Shadow World is so irrelevant when everyone trying to get a job and survive. Freud must be seen in context of the 19th century bourgeois physical and emotional abuse of children in the effort to make them conform to middle class norms. There were many casualties along the way and Freud tried to help the victims.

As we are sure you agree striking a child is not only pusillanimous but an offense unthinkable in primitive societies. Sweden as usual leads the way. You go to the slammer if you hit a child. Period.

Freud's Last Session

Sigmund Freud is in London  having just escaped Vienna; he is dying of cancer after a lifetime of thousands of cigars, and he starts to think about God. It’s Freud’s Last Session at the Mercury and the thoroughly wonderful actor Mike Nussbaum is the atheist doctor who hates music and loves ancient artifacts.

Nice conceit –the imaginary meeting with the young C.S.Lewis (grandfather of Daniel Day and author of Chronicles of Narnia and  assorted Christiana) and the talk for an hour and a half about the divine. Congrats to Mercury for an elegant restrained production but, well, the play itself was too much for our powers of concentration. We zoned out after 20 minutes of the lectures and felt like a college kid trying to sneak out of class. Haha. Recalled the phrase of critic Christopher Isherwood on Frank Galati’s The March at Steppenwolf : “a hazy scrim of words.”


Well at least Freud and Jung were doctors and real pros. See that news reader Great van Susteren is a scientologist as are the other entertainers Travolta and Cruise and heaven knows how many more “celebs”. Recognized as a religion only in the USA it has its roots in lovely downtown Camden, New Jersey, believes in reincarnation, not just from a previous life on earth but from other PLANETS, and espouses trauma therapy (relive your past an clear up all the neuroses–Good Luck).

Remember Cruise attacking Brooke Shields and her attempt to deal with post partum depression?


Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and her decorator and “evening friend” Bryan Huffman have emerged into the unwanted spotlight thanks to dopey fool John Edwards. According to Frank Langella’s autobio Dropped Names (and the vampire actor should know) she had an aversion to exposure and a “brand of modesty only great wealth can engender.” Speak about swooooooony love da rich writing. Hey Frankie get real pal. Beware Social Climbers….they are dangerous

Ms. Mellon gave Johnny Boy 7 million since 2004 while Mistress Rielle Hunter was dating novelist about town (it just takes ONE book –ask Erica Jong!) Jay McInerney and appearing in a couple of D movies always with an eye on the main chance. Perhaps she’s not as stupid a she looks


Love Hillary’s Who Cares or So What attitude about hair, hats and heels. Do you think Maureen Dowd would wear a “fascinator?” Kate Middleton’s gotta get off the fashion wagon or she will become as ridiculous as Diana.

Jack and Soozie Welch tell us women who are “in the economy” have to over deliver and amp up their performance. How sexist. We were never fooled – now men want us to do all the laborious tedious work like being bankers, lawyers or doctors.

Teen in the 50s

This is what a 15 year old looked like in the 50s. No Miley Cyrus look here.


 Stud’s 100th birthday , may he rest in pace. We were lunch buddies at the old Arts Club on Ontario and martini mates at the House of Hunan. He was a thoroughly good fellow with a sincere love of mankind, circa 1942, and it was always his  show for a willing and loving audience.

Old News but interesting. One reads that David Axelrod got a great deal on his a Michigan Avenue condo for 1.7 million and in the same building Maria Pappas some same unit for 2.8 to go into a trust.

Upper Crust

Upper Crust on Grand a new shop with floury friends galore.

Try the meatloaf before the theatre at Cullen’s on Southport. Frank McCourt was there years ago when Angela’s Ashes was just published and Estelle Shanley threw a book party. When we reminded him in New York he had become such a huge literary draw that it was impossible to approach him.


Verizon charges you for text messages they send you.

Nice travel articles in CS magazine by one Heidi Mitchell about her 12 day tip trips to Burma, China and other far afield places. Must have cost a pretty penny and hard to imagine came out of pocket so to speak. We recently made a survey of travel magazines and 50% permit press comps and the other half do not.


The Mexican chain from Dallas, Laredo on State has the standard fare in a large cold loftish space that is so popular these days. Only Rick Bayless can elevate this beans and guac cuisine into something special however.









Lucia’s Symposium 5


May 1, 2012

In 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner declared that the American frontier was closed forever; well, today the whole bloody globe seems closed. Over 550 souls have scaled Everest and now there are high altitude choppers to help as they blog their way to the top – oh Hilary and Tenzing where art thou?

Ad Age reports that Penn State has retained Edelman PR for one year at a monthly fee of $208.000 — that’s the right numbers of zeroes. The University of Illinois has paid Jascula Terman $40,000 to provide guidance to the now fired president on what to say to the media during a weeklong consultation. Are they crazy?

Now that Roosevelt University has constructed a $123,000,000 building on Wabash, where is it going to find students with fee increases pending? College tuition has gotten out of hand in our democracy.

Pat Boone

Speaking of higher education we attended the graduation ceremony of the 2012 class of Adrian College. in southwestern Michigan. The town of Adrian, 21,000 population, was founded in 1826 by one Addison Comstock whose wife named it after Hadrian her favorite Roman emperor.

Around 300 graduates received degrees each to deafening roars, hoo hahs, hooting, shrieks, horns, whistles and every conceivable amount of noise makers by friends and family. Ahem. Alors. Mon Dieu!

The Beautiful Botanic

The girl grads, or many of them, donned red, pink, gold or jet black stilettos, made ever more perilously high by added platforms. (We wore penny loafers under our black gown). Very Venetian Renaissance puttanesca. Attracting a male still seen as the ticket to success since spikes suggest vulnerability and symbolic submission.

Deemed an honorary doctor of humane letters by the college the commencement speaker was none other than old white bucks himself ancient crooner, face-lifted Tea Partier Pat Boone. After a very few words of encouragement for the grads of this 150 year old school (which he said was in Indiana) he quickly reverted to a resume of his illustrious career and his special relationship with God.

We learned he was as popular as Elvis; could have made a movie with Marilyn Monroe but refused because it was about an illicit affair; owned the Oakland Oaks (who dey?); had the FIRST network television series; is a faithful husband of 58 years, with four daughters and thousands of grandchildren.

Funny but we recall a couple of books about his physical abuse of his daughters well into their late teenage years. En tout cas, the Obedience Freak gave a longggggggggggggg Holy Roller gospel speech about his love of Jesus. Rather an insult to anyone not a fundamentalist Christian, Church of Christ member or alum of Pepperdine, that weird college in Malibu.

Downtown Nappanee

Best thing about living in the Midwest: the drive back along Route 12 , the old Chicago Road from Detroit to Chicago, 40 miles to Quincy, all huge granaries dotting the flat horizon, a reminder of America’s rural roots. Granaries, Guns and God. Lenawee County has 1,600 farms more than any other county in Michigan and the largest acreage and yield in the state of wheat, corn, soybeans. We saw plenty of well tended livestock and sheep galore on the flat green landscape. Farmers are concerned with the upcoming Farm Bill.

The towns, from main streets to frame houses, were sadly derelict with boarded up storefronts, antique shop after antique shop with rusted farm equipment on the lawn. But a definite must visit charm if you want to see America of a hundred years ago.

Driving back through Indiana we stopped by Nappanee which was pretty devoid of Amish (saw just one horse and buggy there) but had plenty of relics of the Age of Optimism, the early 20th century when the stone banks were erected. Tomb like eerie silence and empty spotless streets on a Monday morning.

Amish kids playing ball

Since it was 40 miles to Shipshewana where we should have gone in the first place we settled for the Amish community of Renstown a couple of miles away. Women mowing lawns with those old manual monsters, men riding bikes in the rain with black stocking caps, bicycles and more bicycles, another lone horse and buggy.

The one local eaterie The Snack Den had a few seats in the back of a store with sweet cherry pie and very odd chili served by an unsmiling (no smiles around here) chunky lass in a prayer cap and long dress and no nonsense wait- your- turn ways. Worth a trip to stock up on preserves, pickles, breads and local cheese for a fraction of the cost as our farmer’s markets.

Amish Acres a historic landmarked farm complex was closed and we felt for a brief moment like the Griswolds at Wally World. Then got one better sight: Amish children playing softball outside of a one room schoolhouse. The girls in colorful ankle length skirts, trying to scoot around in them under the stern gaze of an elder.


The Amish taboos are: divorce, intermarriage, gays (called homosexuals). It is patriarchal,(yoicks!) manual -labor loving, obsessed with obedience like our “doctor of humane letters” and practice wholesale shunning if you do the Wrong Thing …. a dire reminder of how harsh life was in White God Fearing Man’s America. No wonder no one smiles. Today there are 150,000 Amish mainly in Pennsylvania and Indiana.

Having that rubbernecking lunch or dinner at now Oprah-less RL may have cost you more than you realize. The Illinois Attorney General’s office announced that customers at RL may have had their credit, debit or ATM information stolen. “There were a group of rogue employees who conspired to steal consumers’ bank and credit card information,” said the Attorney General’s office.

Now that Facebook has taken over Instagram brace yourself for a plethora of clichéd vintage look photographs. Hey we thought there was an anti-trust law in this country.

The Snack Den

On Jim Kinney’s Facebook page we note that he celebrated with “His Royal Highness The Prince Edward” (right here in the Windy City), Her Majesty’s 86th birthday. Edward was unaccompanied by his wife Sophie who attends parties in New York and Palm Beach with him. Remember: when she was taped offering royal beezneees to a fake Sheik and she was more than candid about the “old dear”, the Queen and others in the Firm. The Mail cried out: “Her indiscretion will provide ammunition for those who support the eradication of the ‘fringe’ Royals.”

Apparently not so after the success of middle class Kate, afeared of making a single false step. She is just insecure enough to be good at her job but looks alarmingly anorexic topped off with that massive head of hair. She’ll never be a roaring mouse like her late wild mother-in-law.

Saw the absurd film based on Neil Botham’s book on Diana’s death….never to be solved any more than the JFK assassination. Her story is most interesting as the psychology of a frustrated narcissist who pursued revenge, the pathology of which belongs in clinical psych books.

Local columnists here remind us time and time again of the single Chicago Royal Moment when in the 1970s Princess Margaret Rose commented that the “Irish are Pigs”. The English Speaking Union apparently chose to ignore her tart comment though most probably have more Irish than English blood in their veins.

Our family escaped the persecution of William of Orange in 1694 and fled to America so it strikes us as risible that others still tug a forelock and swoon with excitement when an HRH around. Perhaps it is because as Virginia Woolf noted that “their lives are writ inordinately large”….even today when they are just tourist attracting puppets.

April in Paris!

Nothing is more beautiful than the Chicago Botanic Gardens in early spring. We were lucky to have had a fresh, cool, sunnyish day to revisit the English and Japanese gardens, to see all the continuing renovations on the land, and the annual Antiques & Garden Fair. Best sight: the Anne Loucks Gallery, well worth a trip to Glencoe.

April in Paris. Here’s a jolly photo of banker extraordinaire Gail Freeman, now living in New York, and travel mate Jonathon Wells at the Ritz in Paris on Easter Sunday. They popped over the Channel from London for a few days.

Greening on Astor

We hear that the construction related defects that plague Elm Tower 1155 N.Dearborn have resulted in litigation between JDL Development and the Condo Board. Which is why we have happily rented forever and intend to do so until the last rent check of life.

King Juan Carlos of Spain recently apologized for killing an elephant on yet another innane “safari “—this one in Botswana. African leaders must put a stop to this slaughter now. Set the king back 58 thou for one ele, may he rest in peace.

A propos of this sad subject, have you read Hemingway’s Boat about the erstwhile safari buff’s macho madness as in shooting sharks with Tommy (machine) guns in Bimini? Well today you couldn’t do that since 90% of the masters of the deep are gone forever old Sport.

Gina at Bakersfield Opening

There’s a vast new restaurant Bakersfield in Westmont, named for yes, that California town. Contemporary fresh fare that needs a bit more attention since the Oak Brook crowd demanding sophisticates. Zocalo in River North — the usual Mexican food but the mole bland, the service slow, the place deafeningly loud and the margaritas good though believe there was table not kosher salt on the rim.

Trees as tax credits : Astor Street from Banks to Goethe was shut down for a couple of days with towering cranes and scores of trucks and gardeners from the Lake Bluff company that brought lorry loads of large trees to the tippy top of 1301 Astor one of the residences of the Neil Bluhm’s.

Receive constant reports of Mayor Rahm sightings in the men’s locker room at the East Bank Club. He is a focused, unsmiling and diligent worker outer who avoids eye contact with other perspirers.

From the Land of Tiny Pleasures. Water Tower – preteen girls in packs, junky shops catering to them, pretzel stores and………where will it all end? The best thing is the Mezzanine and the redone food court – salad bar buffet extensive and alluring though of course we never relish partaking. Shudder.


Rich Cohen on Kick Ass Ditka’s Runaway Beach Club “resort” in Orlando side splittingly funny review in The Atlantic – no beach, no club, no restaurant, set in a strip mall, with cleaning ladies and desk staff wearing #89 jerseys, and no sign of Da Coach.

Poster on Astor and Banks

Academics Enthralled by Occupy Wall Street notes the NYTimes apparently a growth industry for university types who love to talk about what others are actually DOING, while making cushy careers out of dissent in the Groves of Academe, an insular and remote reservation with little interaction outside the green walled gates.



April 15, 2012

Someone please tell Trump Pere that it’s not 1930 and his son should not be shooting large prehistoric animals “on safari” in Africa. Only Troglodytes do it, like Go Daddy’s Bob Parsons whose blog could be the worst on the web.

The measure of a civilization is how it treats children, the needy, and animals. The best of the best is the Trio Animal Foundation that pays medical expenses of stray and homeless dogs and cats; check for details of the May 19th fundraiser Rockin to the Rescue hosted by Alpana Singh; Joan Cusack is on the host committee.

On Michigan Avenue

Read Peter Nolan’s new book Campaign!, the story of the 1983 mayoral election, as in Harold Washington versus Bernie Epton. Peter was a news anchor at the time so we get his first hand portraits of the major dramatis personae in this sad chapter in the history of racism in Chicago politics from Jane Byrne to Richie Daley, the two Fast Eddies in the Council Wars (how soon we forget!), Bilandic – remember when local yokels made such a fuss about his wife Heather serving canard a l’orange to the Carters? Or Byrne’s calculated “move” to the Cabrini Green projects?

County Board Chairman George W. Dunne was always pro- Washington and was as fine a politician as we ever encountered; now that’s a biography that should be written.

Finally watched Mad Men with all its anachronisms: never heard the word “bitchin” in the 60s when we worked in advertising at Van Nostrand, but every day, or almost every day, we went to lunch at 1 0’clock at the Princeton Inn for martinis and mushrooms on toast and returned to the office around 3 or 4 to turn off the lights at the desk. All that stopped when a colleague fell down the stairs and broke a leg. Yes everyone smoked Winstons and got woozy and flirted with the waiters but it was fun and perhaps should revisit the custom in the Joyless Pol Cor World of 2012 of yoga and diuretics.

Silence - No Problem

What the hell happened to the Cultural Center AKA Preston Bradley Hall? Always a refuge from the elements with a nod to literacy, (if a bit unkempt,) it is now Alphaville, devoid of life and vitality, sterilized by the administration.

Went on annual visit to the Art Institute, ($18 entrance fee) such dix neufieme optimism, grand scale, such a pursuit of beauty, whatever that meant. Another world in a time capsule, though all the bored school children scooting around and kissing teenagers never fail to distract. God — give them a special day of the month to themselves.

What would the AIC have been today without the late James Wood’s steady guidance and cautious administration not to mention his graciousness to the press (we loved him) those years after the Shestack Fiasco and sword crossing with Leigh Block. Cuno didn’t stay very long and bolted to the Getty in California last year.

Oh Dear!

The old Post-Impressionist favorites still glow but the Modern Wing needs to be reconsidered, as in this “offering” by Mike Kelley. Who approved this? They have a lot to answer for, though the Brancusi or two suave and inoffensive and the Richters great. The museum shop needs a facelift.

Journalistic Ethics Time: we inquire periodically about travel writing for magazines and newspapers. There is a grey ambiguous area that is centered around the old conundrum Objectivity and Conflict of Interest. New York Times Travel section, Travel & Leisure and all Conde Nast publications unequivocally state that they do not accept press trips, and have a “no freebie” policy –i.e. nothing gratis from food to drinks to air tickets to hotel rooms for writers both staff and free lancers.

The acceptance of gratuities is seen to bias the reporting. This would apply to restaurant reviewing too on a different scale, but there you are. Maybe the time has come to stop the cant and just say magazines are about advertising pure and simple and content just an added feature, a sideline so to speak. Do Chicago glossies have this no-freebie policy? Just asking!

What do you think of the Kingdom of the Rich Fantasy wherein poor writers (as we have usually been) who live modestly imagine they are in the Room at the Top because they write about those who are? Is it because as Taki said the secret is out and it is more fun to be rich than poor, so we pretend? Well, there is no more genuinely exclusive group or class as there was in the pre war years. The 1980s finally killed them off and made money the sole defining principle of “class” with all those no-culture hedge fund crooks, ball players and entertainers.

Cindy Sherman

Here’s the look of the self-styled society lady from the brilliant Cindy Sherman exhibition at MoMA. More 1990s than the hot mamma look of today.

Salman Rushdie is becoming the Richard Meier of the lit world, ubiquitous lover of living the social life and getting press. Like Hemingway.

Colin Clark, who’s diaries about his liaison with Marilyn Monroe were the basis for the absurd movie, was the son of Kenneth Clark, Lord Clark of Saltwood (or Civilization) whom he approached to allow the crazed actress (who probably thought Raphael or Leonardo were old boyfriends) to view the Royal Collection. You must read Another Part of the Wood, a captivating memoir of K’s early life in Scotland and beyond.

Che Guevara’s last name was Lynch and his father was from Eire; he said his son had the blood of Irish rebels in his veins. Motorcycle Diaries a dreary biopic of the revolutionary’s early days though Oliver Stone’s JFK a far more important film than acknowledged at the time. Speaking of conspiracy, Jonathon Wells informs us from London that there is a movie about Diana’s death funded by the dogged Fayeds.

Another World

D’ya luv actors who get paid too much to pretend they’re someone else then do a Jane Fonda and have major statements about politics, world affairs, everything, as in De Niro’s offensive remarks about (Caucasian) first ladies or Ben Affleck’s new found passion for The Congo? Very Comical.

We would review more theatre which we love except that even the cheapest matinee ticket is $45. The much lauded “dinner theatre” Lookingglass production of Cascabel, an old idea, was too costly had we even wanted to witness the grab bag, hedge your bets entertainment extravaganza. We look forward to the very smart Freud’s Last Session at the very smart Mercury.

Angels in America is at the Court. We are invited to see it in Kathmandu where it is being produced and directed by One World Theater’s Deborah Merola, our college roommate in Madison.

At the Graham

With Chris Newman, former editor of Chicago Magazine and the person responsible for many a literary career before the mag succumbed to Second City provincial boosterism (local media and that irritating Our Town’s So and So and Our Town’s blab bla, –tres Omaha!) went to the Stanley Tigerman exhibition at the Graham Foundation’s austere Madelener House. Every floor festooned with drawings of his architecture and crafts and though he is a fine architect, as in the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, we could do without the imaginative flights into literature, crafts, design, and so on.

Now that Paige Rense, who had her favorites, is gone from AD will Margaret Russell give more space to Chicago architects and designers?

Bravo to Robert Feder who had the chutzpah to mock the perpetually genial, perpetually smiling (said he wanted to shake Allison Rosati) Channel 5 news team for schmoozing with Blago during The Long Goodbye. And to The Reader for its fearless reporting issues others don’t touch like the article about Columbia College and Prez Warwick Carter’s distinctly bad form performance in telling a student to Shut Up in a meeting.

JDM and New Harmony

Are you involved with the Save Prentice preservation debate? Should Bertrand Goldberg’s New Brutalist concrete structure be razed? We tend to agree with the Prince of Wales that more often than not the products of that concrete-heavy style of architecture are like “monstrous carbuncles on the face of an old and beloved friend.”

Well what about Ann Romney’s hanging around the house and choosing not to be shackled to a desk all day staring at a blue screen while pursuing a CAREER, always a massive headache? It pays to remember Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, from 1970, arguing that women do not realize how much men hate them; we rarely have a chance in business unless a father or husband shepherd the way. Men Who Hate Women is the original, Swedish title of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

A visit to John David Mooney’s environmental sculpture studio on Kinzie is always stimulating. He showed us his plans to take the utopian town of New Harmony, Indiana off the grid and harvest energy from the sun. We need more visionaries like John who is a player on the international art scene.


Maria Lampros and Olga Geocaris are chairing the April 29th fundraiser to benefit the Friends of University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) Pediatrics with author Sherrill Bodine. The cocktail reception is being hosted by Gabrielle Herberstein at152 W. Huron St. Chicago. RSVP to Friends was founded just three years ago to support of Children’s Hospital at UIC. Helen Applegate is chair of the 46 member council. For information: 947-615-7107

Vittle Notes: Sabatino’s on Irving Park Rd. a red sauce restaurant from mid 20th century, loved the ambiance, large glasses of rosso and everything parm; Delightful Pastries on North Wells, a Polish bakery, so precious, so good; Publican’s sandwicherie heavy on the bread but best soup in the city; Third Coast on Dearborn always good fare—they are also in Flagstaff now; Airport Captive Audience – you can’t bring decent sized bottle of water through security so they hit you up $5 later, then provide no WiFi; Good Eats’ host Ted Brunson should forego the bad taste double entendre.




Issue #2



The Chicago Auto Show in the stunning West Building of McCormick Place had the usual acres of new cars (they all look alike) polished by an army of car dusters and festooned with ectomorphic models. A few electric cars, however homely, caught our eye as we looked back wistfully to Bucky Fuller’s 1933 Dymaxion electric car. We all know we have had the technology for 80 years but then again we’ve also had the oil behemoths.

Electric battery charging

The car dealers decided the dress code had to be tuxedos and fancy dresses at First Look for Charity so we forewent the plaisir. FYI – Most black ties in 2012 permit dark suits and ties or black turtle necks and blue blazers. Even at the press luncheon there was a dress code; we were among a group of journalists unceremoniously turned away by a zoot – suited Economics Club ticket collector who apparently didn’t like Hermes scarves or Faconnable sweaters. Donna Falcone has replaced Grace Barry as the new president of the club.

Jacqueline Novogratz, who was on the cover on December’s Forbes. received the annual Humanitarian Award from Women of Concern at a luncheon at the Fairmont to benefit their worldwide education programs. She is the financial wizard and founder of the Acumen Fund that invests in East Africa and South Asia; her book Blue Sweater is an inspiring memoir that will brighten your March day. Over 600 supporters of Concern Chicago bid on schools, teachers, uniforms and pencils in a live auction by Christie’s exec the entertaining Steve Zick. Energetic TV newsreader Kathy Brock was the MC.

Joe, Yon, Jonathon, Kristine at CONCERN

The Museum of Contemporary Art is a bargain considering the cost of admission to the other Big 5 or is it Big 6 museums–($10 entry and $7 for seniors and Free Tuesdays). We admire the proportions and Bauhausian style of the Koolhaas structure but the cladding is too dark and somber, very Weimar, for a cavernous urban setting. A soupcon of color would have been nice.

The current exhibition at the museum and This Will Have Been, Art, Love Politics etcetera in the 80s, should have added in New York since, with a European exception or two, that’s where all art apparently took place. The most moving artobjects comment on the AIDS crisis.


Chicago art at the time was very vibrant especially in sculpture but you wouldn’t know it from Boston curator Ms.Molesworth. Paschke beat the poseur Schnabel hands down but we didn’t have circus masters Mary Booth and Leo Castelli to promote local art! Hoim Steinbach’s 1986 Untitled from the permanent collection of the MCA is in the exhibition which was an unfortunate choice it is so Old Town Art Fair.

An art critic in the New York Times opined that 85% of art is bad art. Today Art is Anything Goes; there are no standards because no credible critics, no Goncourt’s. Damien Hirst who glued diamonds on a skull thinks that “anything done super well is art.Dumb as he is,

Steinbach, Untitled 1986

Christo will have to wait until 2015 to put up schmatte on the Arkansas River. The orange banners in Central Park brought tourist dollars to the city but came and went. Poof! Ephemera has no place after the seismic, tectonic, paradigm and every other kind of shift in life after 2008. Ars longa vita brevis not here.

Pablo Eisenberg in The Nation takes issue with the globally minded Gates and the Walton foundations, mega funds ruled by individual families that are not publicly accountable as if they are forces outside of government. Well guys we may have licked malaria in these 50 States but we still have the Arapaho and the Shoshone, 14,000 strong, on Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming who need our help and not just the casino panacea. It’s a less exciting trip to the western US than Africa or Asia but the need as great right here. Period.

Chillllllllling quote from Charles Grant the Director of the Center for European Reform, “Germany is the unquestioned leader of Europe.” France is subordinate; England has “no influence at all”. Oh well, dear old Prince Charles helped save a Scottish manse Dumfries Castle in Ayrshire which is featured on the cover of AD. If you wonder who has the means to buy these properties think invisible inherited wealth, those grandees who think that “publicity is invariably demeaning and worthless” because “they don’t see the need to stand out in a crowd.” (Baron Kitchener-Fellowes)

Is it just us or is it a tad dispiriting to read about a conference called Women of the World; like Women in Molecular Biology, Women in Business, Women in Anything Else it sounds like Dogs of the Yukon or NatGeo’s Animal of the Year, reminding us we’re still in the “them” category. Why not a Men of the World Conference! Or the 50 Most Influential MEN in the World?

Did you know there is a gal right here in Inverness, Illinois, Suzanne Nance, who has conquered the Seven Summits of the world? And she did so quietly without all the espresso machines and Out of Thin Air tragedy of Sandy Pitt on the mountain that refused to become fashionable.

Fashion tapping encore into the imaginary country house P.G. Wodehouse look. (The 1066 blokes call it the Instant Horsewomen Syndrome– as in when the greengrocer’s daughter (0r Carolyn Roehm) mounts a steed and proclaims herself an equestrian.) For those of us who have actually stayed at these houses we know there is cold water, rusty bathtubs, stodgy food and pervasive Duke for a Day attitude.

Finished with what Simon Schama calls the “cultural necrophilia” of Downton Abbey now that that ghastly Shirley MacLaine will be in the cast.

A new offering from the publishing world is  That Woman rehash of known facts about the Baltimore boarding house owner’s daughter and her “Oriental” sex secrets and Super Bowl Satanist Madonna drops yet another movie bomb about Wallis in WE. Eh bien at least gossip never dies! A recent offering in the genre is Mimi “The Mouth” Alford’s extremely distasteful book about her escapades a half century ago with our 35th.president.

As an antidote we tuned in to Caroline’s autumn lecture at the JFK Presidential Library announcing the release of the 1964 tapes of the conversation between Arthur Schlesinger and her mother. Jackie was a regular gal with strong opinions (she absolutely hated Wisconsin!!!!) but she also possessed an implacable moral sense of what was right and what was wrong. We shared her love of the memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon.

Sally Bedell Smith signing books at the WAC

Sally Bedell Smith the social historian was in town. We loved her catty book about man eater Pamela Harriman and her audacious one about Princess Diana, one source for our play Savage Power. Smith has now tackled the Queen (yawn) for the Diamond Jubilee and lectured after dinner at the WAC, retelling numerous anecdotes about how Elizabeth Regina is a regular Joe (how could she possibly be!!) and how her husband calls her cabbage. Nothing new the movie didn’t tell us. She gamely undertook book signing but coolly kept Chicago women at bay.

Jim O’Connor of O’Connor Communications keeps on reinventing himself, a true literary entrepreneur. His latest foray is as a mystery/romance writer in Another Man’s Treasure about a professional home organizer who discovers family secrets in a treasure trunk. Highly recommended.

Carolyn Armenta Davis and friends

Our friend Carolyn Armenta Davis entertained the audience at the Alliance Francaise with a lecture Creativity Released: Designs from Black Architects in Paris, Dakar, and Beyond, about five ateliers lead by Françoise N’Thépé from Paris, Pierre Goudiaby and AndréeDiop Depret from Dakar, Guillaume Koffi & IssaDiabeté and Francis Sossah from CôteD’Ivoire. Carolyn has traveled on seven continents with this mission to bring their achievements to light.

Chicago Mag anoints the 100 most clouty locals, few surprises but 20% are women; we calculated that half of those got where they were because of powerful families, husband, fathers. Cheers to those who made it on their own steam. By the by, we note that women who don’t work used to be called housewives; now they’re called philanthropists.

The top three Democratic campaign “bundlers” in Illinois are Fred Eychaner, Attorney Lee Miller and Bruce Heyman of Goldman Sachs who purportedly has three energy projects approved by the administration. Eychaner is the media mogul, the chairman of Newsweb Corporation and the fifth largest lifetime national donor to the DNC. In January he hosted the $38,500 per couple dinner for Obama who appointed him and Penny Pritzker trustees of the JFK Center for Performing Arts. He is also President of the Alphawood Foundation. Next-tier bundlers (such a clumsy word, sounds like bunglers) include Neil Bluhm, Mellody Hobson, John Rogers Jr., James Crown and so forth. We should probably ban all campaign contributions over a thousand dollars and give everyone a chance to run.

Heather Johnston and Kristina Schneider at Lawry's

Did you know the average nonprofit gala generates a decibel count of 90, with 65 being normal. In any event the Pump Room’s count must be way up there; it is louder than LuxBar and almost impossible to have an intelligent conversation in. We still miss the white banquettes and golden light. Old Byfield’s with the fireplace and gorgeous drapes is very inviting but is mobbed after 5 o’clock.

Why all the renovations in recent years? The lobby of the Fairmont has devolved from cheery bright pink marble to brown gloom without enough light to read a newspaper. But old Lawry’s still has the 1960s country club décor and the food to match – spinach a la bacon fat, heavily blanketed dressed Caesar, slabs of meat, waitresses in French maid costumes.

Bobby Hull sightings recall a tipsy evening spent with the soccer star and George Plimpton at a live radio show with the great Milt Rosenberg. Futilely trying to find an open kitchen after ten, Carson’s on Wells finally obliged. George was often in Chicago to visit family, to attend polo at Oak Brook or speak at Friends of Conservation events. We miss him as all the clever world does.

David Goodman turned the big 7-Oh and his wife Shari threw a surprise birthday party for him. He’s a stalwart at the East Bank Club and workout buddies bought him a Green Bay Packers jersey.

A bientot!

Surprise!!!! John, Jackand Zoe

Surprise, David!


Vol. 1 No. 1

Welcome to the latest incarnation of The Symposium as we approach our 25th year in print, on and off line. The smokestack above is from our luggage ticket on Cunard’s Mauritania, from Naples to New York, in the summer of 1963. We always try to look fore and aft at the same time.

On a freezing winter morning we walked to 61 W. Superior to the Poetry Foundation’s new home, a suave glass box paying homage to MoMA. We inquired if the 35,000 volume library contained any books of our friend the late G.E. Murray but alas were turned away for it was “poem time” for two infants in carriages and one toddler who, given her tender years, probably cared not for Pablo Neruda or W.B. Yeats. In New York we observed that the Whitney and other cultural destinations had become a place for young mothers to bring their strollers.

Poetry Foundation-interior

Inside the library

When a charitable event has “raised $50,000 dollars” for a cause does it mean gross or net? The Martha Stewart event at the Orrington in Evanston for the American Cancer Society was said to have grossed 60K and netted 18K. The amount of money the charities actually receive varies from 5% to 50%. Always keep your eye on the bottom line. Susan G. Komen charity in 2011 spent 15% for research to find a cure for breast cancer, 43% for education, 18% on admin and fundraising. Some question the small % for research. Reuters reporters Sharon Begley and Janet Roberts are on the case.

Madame Stewart did not indulge in any book signing. She is probably amortizing the rate of return on her original signatures for future collectors.


E.M. Forster autographs

By the way we have original hand written notes and signatures from E.M. Forster, John Updike, Bloomsburyiana, if anyone interested please contact us at the email below.

We always go to Charity Navigator,, Guide Star, Charity Watch to view what groups merit our support. Nicholas Kristoff, none other than, has written a Giving Guide noting that the Feed the Children foundation spent $65 for administrative costs for every $100 raised. Another poverty czardom. In other words less than a fourth goes to the children.

One should shoot for the record of ConcernWorldwide with 95% given directly to the causes it supports. This is a dandy group of committed women. There is a luncheon on the 24th of this month at the Fairmont honoring Jacqueline Novogratz founder of the Acumen Fund, and Loyola’s Diane Geraghty. Call 312-431-8400.

Take the rubberband off the wad!!!! In the United States foundations hold investment assets of $600 billion but donate less than $50 billion each year. Harvard Business Review suggests unlocking those assets.


Tom Parish - Finestre

One would think Chelsea Clinton, given her advantages and connections, could think of something more significant to do than being a talking head, reading news someone else writes – Chris Cuomo, Ron Reagan (remember that strange bird?). We call them anchors or reporters; in the UK they are the more accurate “news readers.”

Top Shop and that other place with all the sewing machines in the windows on MichAve – the wily Brits trying to put something over on us again. Impossible to spend a nanosecond in the stores the “musical offerings” are so loud and grating (hey check acceptable OSHA guidelines for decibel counts!!!) so cannot report on the shmatte. It is not necessary to be assaulted during shopping: Always a soothing and intelligent experience in Crate & Barrel for a shopper. Why doesn’t the rag trade realize this?

Controversial CEO of Arcadia Group which owns Top Shop Philip Green appeared, to much bowing and scraping, in Chicago for the opening. (One remembers when David Radler and Conrad Black were treated like princes of the realm here). He lives in Monaco and has been accused of corporate tax avoidance and using child labor; in December there was a sit-in at Green’s flagship Top Shop in London and in Brighton where protestors actually glued themselves to the windows. Remember when Conrad Black and David Ratner were treated like visiting dignitaries here in the Windy city?

After many a summer we had occasion to pop in to RL next to the flagship store, a wee claustrophobic but with excellent lighting and we still smile at the faux Ivy League heritage décor of shoppe and eatery. Ralph must have had some serious culture envy comme un enfant.

Mother Lucy always reminded us: “Darling in New York we LOVE art.” Well we do too. Way back last Spring Tom Parish held a most gorgeous show of Venetian paintings at Gruen Gallery, consisting of street scenes of his spiritual home where he lives half the year. He grew up here and was professor of Painting at Wayne State University in Detroit for 35 years.

Tom O'Gorman and Adams Umbach

Tom O'Gorman and Adam Umbach

Two art exhibitions at Kiki’s on Franklin were orchestrated by Tom O’Gorman, one of this own colorful impasto paintings of illuminati and scenes d’Irlandaise, sponsored by the Irish Fellowship Society of Chicago, and the other of young artist Adam Umbach. His works are decorative, elegant and unpretentious. Tom’s reputation as a Cholly Knickerbocker tastemaker attracted large crowds including Cynthia Olson, Jonathon Wells, Rosie O’Neill, Steve Zick, and the man with the wonderful moniker Ed Schimmelpfennig amongst many others.

A l’autre cote those of Francine Turk in her show BADASS — bourgeois chic, very large impressions of previous bad boys like Jimi Hendrix, positively Tintorettoesque compared with the embroidered pillowcases at MoniqueMeloche that sell for thousands and thousands. We were informed they were conceptual pieces that had to be sold only in pairs. For gullible collectors of art fair fare.

Too bad we can’t see the Tate’s Gerhard Richter retro to remind us what great art is capable of.  Or the Kiefer retro also in London at White Cube. Prescient Lew Manilow was one of the first to collect his works; this fellow has a great eye.

Leonardo’s “Virgin and Child With Saint Anne” at the Louvre has been controversially cleaned of the patina of the ages and brightened to enhance primary colors for parochial 21st century tastes. We never have liked the un-shellacking of the Sistine Chapel.

Say No to Ivory

Say No to Ivory

Decades ago we threw into an incinerator at 130 Rue de Rennes, our ivory beads and earrings – and we suggest you do the same now. Hide the netsuke too. Elephants such as remain on the stressed planet do not deserve to die for jewelry or billiard balls. By the by, we met with a development staffer of IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and offered to help raise funds but seems you can’t event VOLUNTEER these days without connections.

An Honorable Englishman is about the life and times of the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, providing an insight into the tiny claustrophobic world of academic infighting. Hitler forgeries aside you have to love a man who writes, “Hunting is the pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable.” That game preserve in Texas featured on 60 Minutes where you can slaughter endangered species should be shut down immediately.  Save us from the Lone Star state.

Rob Brickner,Kay Whitfield,Sarah Beardsley,and Ted Tetzlaff

Rob Brickner,Kay Whitfield,Sarah Beardsley,and Ted Tetzlaff

Megan McKinney worked for years on the Magnificent Medills which was praised on the front page of the New York Times Book Review by Joseph Epstein. You don’t get any bigger than that –anywhere.If you haven’t bought this history of early Chicago  journalism -do! Megan held a soiree at the Casino to introduce the book on November 11th.  Here is a photo by Bob Carl.

Movies are characteristically deeply stupid but we did find an exception with George Clooney’s campy performance in the revenge film Descendants much the best of the recent lot.  The J. Edgar biopic suffered from bad makeup and bad casting (DiCaprio is never believable) and The Help was, well, we’ve seen it all before though Viola Davis superb.

John “UnRoyko” Kass already sees another mayoral Daley on the horizon – viz. Nora D. Conroy.  Mon Dieu!

Do you adore Julian Fellowe’s snobby soap opera Downton Abbey which like Upstairs Downstairs is a drame bourgeois  revealing we cannot get enough of perceived privileged life –in our pared down pizza waitress and plumber world today. Do pick up David Cannadine’s Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy.

Wish I could report that I saw RED at the Goodman, but couldn’t afford it so bought John Logan’s script instead and amazed at the artistic license about Mark Rothko’s life. But the playwright did capture the essence of his obsession and at least it ain’t yet another “kitchen sink” drama, you know those dreary brown sets with everyone screaming about hurt feelings. (Jane Fonda showed up on irritating Piers Morgan’s program –Larrrrrrrry come baaaaaaaaaack– as usual talking about Henry and her filial pain. Get a new script!!!)

We do indeed miss the Fitzpatrick Hotel where the Affinia on Superior now sparely stands? Philanthropic bachelor John Fitzpatrick, the CEO of the Fitzpatrick Hotel Group of North America recently went on the Irish program Secret Millionaire and went undercover to discover what charities are the most worthy. Good show, John.

Town & Country has turned the corner with some less P.C. offerings such as Nina Griscom’s defense of smoking, a sly rebuke at efforts at Orwellian or Huxleyan social control. In case you haven’t noticed these guys had it right in the 1930s. We see that Ms. Griscom spent the hols on Tom (Refco) Dittmer’s Rancho LaZaca in Santa Ynez.

Au revoir to Charlie Trotter. Grace a Sheila King some years ago we got to see the master at work in his kitchen with Alain Ducasse (and his tall, blond girlfriend lurking behind every pot) . We will never forget the two men hunched like WW II generals over a red wine sauce in this kitchen of military precision, cleanliness and the grape seed oil. Trotter never overdid the media blitzkrieging that affects chefs today. Gourmetmania sooooo passé today anyway; a tomato is a tomato is a tomato.

Sherrill Bodine at the Palm Court

Sherrill Bodine at the Palm Court

The Palm Court at the Drake, old Chicago, now just a memory despite all the crustless sandwiches and lukewarm tea. En route we always pass through the Coq D’Or and each time the numbers at the bar drinking those executive martinis fewer and fewer. On this particular evening Sherrill Bodine was signing her latest book which attracted romance novelist readers young and old. We always enjoy seeing Warren and Hazel Barr and John and Myra Reilly from the enduring charitable set. We also had the pleasure of meeting Ellen Wesley and Lisa Adelstein.

See the Shedd has added another free day; one of these issues we’ll talk about the cost of entry into the Big Five, which prevents us from popping in and can only imagine how prohibitive it is to families and those who could benefit the most. In recent decades this city turned into an elitist enclave and lost much of its character and humanity. Don’t confuse elitism with snobbism, which is a synonym for standards.

2011 Chicago Ski and Snowboard Ball

2011 Chicago Ski and Snowboard Ball

Here are some photos from the 2011 Chicago Ski and Snowboard Ball which was a blast. Our Olympic team receives zero dollars from the government for their courageous efforts and are 100% supported by the efforts of the USSA and private sector funding. Co-chairs of the successful gala with the most gorgeous floral arrangements were John and Jacqui Bucksbaum and Brian and Julie Simmons.

Vanity Fair proclaims from on high the 50, or is it 100?, New Establishment 2011 “Powers That Be” and two locals are on the list, Hall of Famer Oprah of course and Andrew Mason. Does anyone think Groupon $$$$ effective? Do you love the Yelp/sommelier brouhaha apparently based on overbooking by the discount ticket group?

We don’t want to make this column too eschatological but must note the passing of Marshall Rosenthal (who wrote the television news for those readers) and a stalwart at Old Riccardo’s,   Jay Miller of the ACLU and Christopher Hitchens whom a friend from Oxford emails “You Yanks are much impressed by posh boys from the UK who drink and talk a lot”. Peut-etre Robert!

Guess the Address

Guess the Address

Guess the Address: first one to guess correctly can promote the charity of their choice including logo on this humble site.

A bientot