Today In Culture, July 31, 2023: Lit & Luz at Ten | Jahn’s Final Tower Tops Out

Stage with man on dais holding up book with raised arm in front of a projection of his face obscured by his hands.

“The Who’s Tommy”/Photo: Liz Lauren

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Helmut Jahn’s Final Tower Tops Out

“The final floor of 1000M has been poured at 788 feet above Michigan Avenue,” McHugh Construction alerts on Instagram. What’s left for the Helmut Jahn-designed seventy-three-story luxury apartment tower is “managing the remaining glass façade installation and interior buildouts, including the property showroom, which will open this fall.” Prospective residents can apply for the pre-leasing priority list here. Jahn’s final design—the Pritzker Military Archive in Kenosha—is scheduled to open soon.

Chicago’s Chinatown Thriving Where Others Are Not

“Some Chinatown neighborhoods in the country are facing threats from urban development,” reports the Sun-Times. “The National Trust for Historic Preservation listed two Chinatowns—in Seattle and Philadelphia—as among the eleven most endangered historic places… But Chicago’s Chinatown is a traditional Chinese American community that’s growing, expanding into nearby neighborhoods as businesses rebound from the pandemic… The population of Armour Square—the community area that includes Chinatown—grew from 13,443 to 13,890” from 2010-2020. “And the Asian American population increased in neighboring community areas including Bridgeport, McKinley Park, Douglas and the Lower West Side.”

NASCAR Roadwork Cost Chicago Millions

“Chicago Department Of Transportation CDOT work and police overtime for the street race add up to more than $3 million,” reports South Side Weekly, examining documents from an FOIA request. “That figure includes more than $2.1 million spent on repairs to the streets that made up the racecourse and an estimated $1.1 million in police overtime… More than a thousand Chicago cops earned overtime duty.” The final tally “will likely be even higher.” Former mayor Lightfoot “landed the deal with NASCAR in 2022 but did not seek City Council approval… The expenditures were all for work in preparation for the event… The total budget allocated to CDOT’s Engineering division for 2023 is $7.87 million; the NASCAR-related work ate up about twenty-three percent of that division’s annual budget…NASCAR isn’t on the hook for any of that.”

Committee On Design Reviews “The Free To BE Village”

The Committee on Design has reviewed plans for “The Free To BE Village,” the mixed-use expansion of the Black Ensemble Theater at 4427 North Clark in Uptown, reports Chicago YIMBY. “The new development will replace a one-story commercial building and surface parking lot. Developed by the theater itself, they have contracted a design group made up of Nia Architects, Gensler, and Site Design Group for the work.”

Investigation Of Québec Short-Term Rentals Continues

Questions are raised in Canada about short-term rentals, which could be asked worldwide, including Chicago. Reports Ricochet: “As part of our ongoing national investigation into platforms like Airbnb and their role in the housing crisis, we’ve been tracking and identifying the largest players in some of Canada’s hottest rental markets. These property owners and entrepreneurs operate vast networks of unlicensed, and often illegal, ghost hotels… In one particularly common scam, a property owner will sign over the leases in their building to the operator of an illegal Airbnb network, often after evicting long-term tenants. The new ‘tenants’ consent to astronomical rent increases, exploiting a loophole in rent control laws, and the property value rises with the rents… The owner of the ghost hotel that burned down in Old Montreal this spring used a similar business model.”


Tapster Taps Out In Wicker Park

“Wicker Park is not as safe or as much of a destination as it was in 2017 when we opened,” Tapster co-founder Roman Maliszewski tells Eater Chicago. Tapster, a pour-your-own-beer bar, was one of the first in the city to substitute card-operated dispensers for bartenders.”The traffic in Wicker Park just hasn’t been what it used to be before the pandemic.” The Lincoln Park location, which opened in 2018, remains open.

Godfather Of Milwaukee Craft Beer Mike Romans Was Sixty-Nine

Mike Romans “was the owner-operator of Romans’ Pub on South Kinnickinnic Ave. for over forty years. He was one of the original craft beer bars in Milwaukee. His appreciation and knowledge of craft beer earned him the nickname by many of ‘Godfather’ by industry experts and friends,” reports the Journal Sentinel. “Mike was his own person, the type of character that doesn’t come around often. He was known for his sense of humor, the nicknames he gave to those he cared about and his ‘Mikeisms’ (Such as Open, not Welcome).”

Conglomerates Hiking Food Profits Affects Inflation

“Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Unilever have each reported raising prices significantly in the second quarter, complicating the Federal Reserve’s efforts to tame inflation,” reports the New York Times. “Coca-Cola profit last quarter rose thirty-three percent from a year earlier, to $2.5 billion. ‘In a world with a wide spectrum of market dynamics from inflation to currency devaluation to shifting consumer needs, our business is proving to be very resilient,’ James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s chief executive, told analysts… Unilever, which makes products like Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise, reported twenty-percent growth in profit, to $5 billion.”

Nation’s First Persian Tasting Menu In Albany Park

The Albany Park neighborhood, one of the city’s most diverse dining areas, has developed a Persian corridor near Kedzie and Lawrence, reports Eater Chicago, with casual staples like Noon O Kebab, Kabobi, and Persian Grill. “That stretch gained a prominent [entrant] with the opening of Maman Zari, a seasonal fine-dining restaurant featuring the city’s—and, it seems, the country’s—first Persian tasting menu. The debut project from an Iranian American flight attendant-turned-restaurateur Mariam Shahsavarani, Maman Zari [is] a tribute to Shahsavarani’s late grandmother Zahra, [hoping] to expand upon the groundwork laid by pre-existing Persian restaurants without detracting from their business.”


Doc Films Still Faces Budgetary Woes

“Last winter, we reached out to [patrons] about raising $60,000 to make some crucial improvements to the Max Palevsky theater,” Doc Films at University of Chicago, the oldest college film society in the U. S., relays. “Since then, you have stunned us with your support—we have raised over $24,000 from your donations alone. Thank you for your generosity. We have been awarded a $45,000 grant from the UChicago Women’s Board for our theater upgrade proposal ‘Projecting Past and Present: Support the Future of Doc Films.’ We are extremely grateful to the UChicago Women’s Board, whose grant will allow us to move forward with our upgrades. The huge amount of support from patrons, alumni, faculty, and friends has especially bolstered us amidst our struggle to regain a full, pre-pandemic budget. Our appeal for a fully restored 2023-24 budget was once again rejected, with the suggestion that we heavily decrease operations. Of course, this is something we are simply not willing to do. We will continue to fight for a fully operating Doc Films and find a way forward without compromising what makes Doc, Doc. It is your support and participation that keeps Doc alive and special. We hope to welcome you to a newly improved Max Palevsky Cinema with a full calendar of screenings in the fall.”

Have Corporate Bosses Running The Movies Forgotten The Communal Art?

The immense opening days of “Barbie”—over $600 million worldwide—and “Oppenheimer”—already over a quarter-billion dollars worldwide—”contrasts with everything the studios have been doing for the last couple of decades,” writes David Dayen at the American Prospect. “‘Barbenheimer’ weekend [disrupted] the entire project that the studio heads have been building toward, the fusing of Hollywood with Silicon Valley and Wall Street… This is coming out of an entertainment industry that has spent the last decade trying to individualize the experience of watching films, which has since its inception been a communal event.”

“Audiences last week said resoundingly that they didn’t want that. They wanted to experience a common story; they wanted to watch and react and laugh and cry and even argue together. They wanted this even more after years of self-imposed isolation. And they didn’t want the algo telling them what fit their tastes, what they ‘should’ watch. They even took in other films at higher levels over the weekend, suggesting that not just two original openings drove them to the multiplexes, but the experience of moviegoing itself.”


Ten Years Of Lit & Luz Celebrated With Exhibition And Return To MCA

MAKE Literary Productions’ Lit & Luz Festival of Language, Literature, and Art “celebrates ten years of making space for dialogues between residents of Mexico and the United States through curated artist collaborations and a weeklong series of free programming in Spanish and English from October 13-21. This edition of the festival is themed “TEN”—”a celebration of the festival’s tenth anniversary and all things commemorative. The theme also alludes to the Spanish meaning of the ‘ten,’ and considers what it is to have—and have not.” Over a dozen bilingual events take place throughout Chicago, as well as online. In partnership with Chicago Art Department, the festival kicks off October 13 with an exhibition featuring new work from past and present collaborators, curated by Esteban King (Mexico City) and Nicky Ni (Chicago). Ana Castillo delivers the keynote address in partnership with UIC’s Center for Latinx Literature of the Americas on October 14. The festival’s signature event, The Live Magazine Show, returns to the Museum of Contemporary Art theater on Saturday, October 21. More here.


Lois Baum, Host And Producer For Studs Terkel, Lyric Opera At WFMT, Was Eighty-Seven

“Lois Baum was associate program director for thirty-six years at WFMT-FM, where her roles included co-hosting and co-producing the station’s annual Lyric Opera of Chicago broadcasts and collaborating with author and oral historian Studs Terkel on his daily program,” reports the Tribune. “‘She had a lovely voice and a beautiful, quiet personality, and her complementary personality to [co-host and program director] Norm Pellegrini’s on the Lyric Opera broadcasts was perfect,’ said retired WFMT announcer Marty Robinson.”


Lolla Street Closures Begin

Lollapalooza 2023 street closures around Grant Park have begun, reports CBS 2. Balbo and Jackson between Columbus and DuSable Lake Shore Drive are closed, and more closures around Columbus and Roosevelt start today. Lolla runs Thursday, August 3-Sunday, August 6, and streets are closed through Monday for cleaning.

“Beatle Bob,” St. Louis’ Dancing Weirdo

A St. Louis music scene icon has succumbed to ALS, reports Riverfront Times. “Known for his black mop top, polyester suits and aggressive dancing, Robert ‘Beatle Bob’ Matonis could be seen dancing in the front row of concerts all over St. Louis (and beyond).” Matonis wrote on Instagram in January, “After 9,439 days in a row of attending a concert tomorrow, January 23, I won’t be attending a live show. My streak started on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 1996 my streak will end tomorrow. And by the way, if you counted the days between the day I started my streak until today and noticed its 85 days short; that’s because a St. Louis ordinance shut down clubs and other businesses during that Covid crisis for 85 days.”


Tommy Goes Clean

The Goodman production of “The Who’s Tommy” has sold out. Closing on August 6, the production has been extended twice. The theater alerts there are stand-by tickets, although a stand-by ticket does not guarantee seating. These tickets can be purchased for any remaining performance as tickets become available; call 312.443.3800 (noon-5pm) or visit the box office (170 North Dearborn) or arrive thirty minutes before the show to secure tickets, if any. Check the Goodman website here, as turned-back tickets will be up for sale, if there are any.

Midnight Circus Can’t Produce Full Season

Midnight Circus, a Chicago company of nearly twenty years “that promotes a unique combination of theater and circus arts, announced it would not be able to produce a full-scale, citywide tour for the 2023 season,” reports the Tribune. “In a statement posted to its website, the nonprofit arts organization said it was halting operations due to a ‘post-pandemic shift in how Midnight Circus is supported, funded and allowed to operate in Chicago… Our ability to defy gravity while battling bureaucracy has proved to be our toughest challenge yet.’”

Times Reporter On Survey Of Seventy-Two Nonprofit Regional Theaters

“The pandemic was an accelerant. But the issues at the heart of this crisis—the aging of the audience, the growing role of streaming media in people’s entertainment diets, the decline in subscriptions as the way consumers plan their theatergoing—were underway before it,” says critic Michael Paulson at the New York Times of his survey last week of seventy-two theaters and their leaders. “The economic situation combined with this inflationary moment proved unsurvivable for a number of theaters and damaging for many more… Theater has some particular vulnerabilities: it’s a niche art form, and a lot of nonprofits pride themselves on developing new work, which means a show sometimes has a title or is by an artist that audiences don’t yet know. A bunch of people told me audiences want to be sure they’re going to have a good time before they set aside the time and the money, and that often means going to something that’s already established, versus something that is just being introduced to the world.”


Identifying “#MeToo” Moment In Northwestern Athletics

“Former athletes accuse the [Northwestern] sports program of having a pervasive culture of hazing and sexual abuse, and two coaches have been fired. Lawyers say more athletes may come forward,” writes the New York Times. “This was supposed to have been a banner year for the Big Ten school on the shore of Lake Michigan, with the inauguration of a new president, known as a defender of free speech, and plans to start an $800 million renovation of its football stadium… Instead, Northwestern has spiraled into an ever-deepening crisis, brought on by the hazing allegations but quickly expanding to touch challenges facing many other elite colleges: how to handle claims of sexual assault; the isolation of Black and Hispanic students within largely white institutions; and the divide between sports culture and a campus’ academic and extracurricular life.”

Mastercard Refuses Debit Cards For Cannabis Sales

“Mastercard instructed U.S. financial institutions to stop allowing purchases of cannabis on its debit cards, stripping customers of a convenient way to purchase marijuana without cash. Cannabis businesses say the decision will increase the risk of robbery and violent crime,” reports the New York Times. “Medical marijuana is legal in thirty-eight states, three territories and the District of Columbia. Recreational use of the drug is legal in twenty-three states, two territories and the District of Columbia.” But “because federal law prohibits the sale, possession and use of marijuana in all its forms, Mastercard said that purchases were not allowed on its systems, even when customers use bank cards and PINs to access their own cash to buy cannabis in states where the drug is legal for recreational or medical reasons.”

Cicero Diner Could Be Stripped Of Gambling Machines

“Illinois Gaming Board officials say they were unaware of key information when the agency approved a state license in 2019 for Jeffrey Bertucci’s Steak ‘N Egger diner in Cicero to offer video gaming and that they now plan to move to revoke the license,” reports the Sun-Times. “Officials with the state agency say they hadn’t realized when they approved the gaming license that Bertucci had testified in 2010 in a mob gambling case that he’d paid winnings from illegal video gaming machines installed in his diner—and split his take with the Chicago Outfit’s so-called video poker king, Casey Szaflarski.”

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