Poll! Daley, Oprah, ___: Who is the next Chicago icon to fade away?

May 18, 2011

The big Oprah United Center farewell came and went without a hitch (except for the couple that got engaged on stage). The morning reports had Oprah brunching with family and friends, almost like the morning after a big wedding. The shows are being edited now. The dates have been finalized. In one week's time, Oprah Winfrey will end her run as the reigning queen of talk. And more importantly, she may end her run as a Chicago celebrity.

Now Oprah will still be around and will produce content for the national audience. But she will instantly belong to the country (or cable television) and not Chicago. It's very much like Mayor Richard M. Daley. He's no longer ours, instead he's owned by history. A new generation of Chicago celebrities are lining up replace them. Out goes Daley, in comes Rahm Emanuel. Out goes Oprah, in comes Billy Dec (or several Billy Decs).

It seems that not only are we in a changing city, but we are also moving on to a new generation of Chicago celebrities. Out is Jordan, in is Rose. Out is Corgan, in is Wentz. Even our local commercials have new faces. Out is Empire Carpet, in is Walter E. Smithe.

But as we know, everything happens in threes. It's mostly with deaths, but in this case we just lost (to retirement) Mayor Daley and Oprah Winfrey. So barring death (Empire carpet guy does not count), who is next to go? Who will be the next Chicago celebrity to leave their post and make way for a new generation?

My guess: Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie Guillen is the only coach in modern Chicago history to win a world championship. He crosses over because he is old school as a player and new school as a manager. But if you really think about it, Ozzie is getting long in the tooth. He began his managerial career in 2004. He is now enjoying his seventh season with the Chicago White Sox. Ozzie has brought great joy to the South Side with his flamboyant media appeal and his tenacity in the clubhouse. He is truly one of the greatest characters in Major League Baseball. But the White Sox have a huge payroll and are currently 10 games out of first place. So far, the season has been a bust. Add that up to the last few seasons of failures (and a first round playoff exit) and Guillen is looking pretty pedestrian. After all, it has been six seasons since we won a championship. It was Ditka's seventh season after the 85 Super Bowl that he was let go. And he perenially took the team to the playoffs. But who replaces him?

Two words: Coach Thibs.

My second guess: Charlie Trotter. Trotter has been the king of all things food in Chicago for decades. He brought the culinary industry to town and introduced the world to Chicago. But that was then and this is now. Trotter is famous. And he is using that fame to cash in, with food on airlines and in grocery stores. As he goes global, young turks like Achatz (Alinea, Aviary, Next), Kahn (Publican, Big Star, Blackbird, Avec) and Stephanie Izard (The Girl & The Goat) are staking their claim to the Chicago celebrity chef throne. Could this be the end for Charlie Trotter in Chicago?

So in true blog fashion, let's try to predict who will be the next Chicago celebrity/icon to move on: