On this date, Dec. 16, Noel Pierce Coward was born in London in 1899. You may ask, what does the sophisticated English master-of-all-theatrical-trades have to do with Chicago? The answer is: plenty. Chicago was a regular personal stop for Coward for 40 years for several reasons.
First, the great acting couple Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne lived on a marvelous rustic estate in the rolling kettle moraine countryside southwest of Milwaukee (Lunt was born and raised in the area). Coward would visit his lifelong friends, The Lunts, every few years, arriving in Chicago by train or (later) plane on his way to Wisconsin, and often stopping for a few days.
By the mid-1950s, Coward had a second reason to visit Chicago: his personal physician was here. In 1955, Coward flew into Chicago on a return Eastbound trip from Los Angeles. Feeling acutely unwell, he checked himself into Passevant Hospital (now Northwestern Memorial Medical Center) where he came under the care of Dr. Ed Bigg, a prominent physician and socialite who often treated visiting celebs. Bigg’s tests confirmed a kidney stone and Coward promptly underwent successful surgery.