Like any city, Chicago likes to have visitors who come to town and spend money. But the Convention and Tourism Bureau was probably not happy about the story featured in the Tribune on September 12, 1967. A new scam was giving the city a bad name.
It worked like this. A businessman would check into a downtown hotel, then decide to see the sights they didn't have in Tulsa or Terre Haute--like one of those famous Chicago key clubs. In time-honored fashion, the visitor would call a cab and tell the driver to take him to "where the action is."
The driver would tell the man that the best place was Pierre's Key Club, at 4200 North Clybourn Avenue. So off they'd go.
Except there was no Pierre's Key Club. For that matter, Clybourn Avenue didn't go as far north as 4200. Instead, the visitor would be treated to an expensive ride to suburban Cicero. There he'd be deposited at the door of one of several mob joints.
The venue wouldn't have a name or address on the front. Once inside, the visitor was expected to fork over $10 for a key club membership. If the man made friends with one of the women working at the club, she might agree to join him back at his hotel. In that event, he'd have to pay $25--to cover her absence from the club, of course.
The whole operation came to light because a conventioneer filed a formal complaint with the Chicago police. He had paid his $25, and the woman from the club had never shown up at his hotel!
Investigators finally traced the conventioneer's tale to a tavern on Cermak Road in Cicero. That was outside the jurisdiction of Chicago police. But with all the publicity swirling around, the case could not be ignored.
Now the Illinois Liquor Commission took over. The owner of the Cicero tavern was called in. He said he was just as confused as the investigators. Pierre's Key Club? Never heard of it!
When all was over, a few Cicero bars were shut down, for awhile. And city cab drivers no longer touted the pleasures of Pierre's Key Club.