WBEZ | Entertainment http://www.wbez.org/tags/entertainment Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The Next 'Law & Order?' 'Chicago' Series Take Over TV With New Franchise http://www.wbez.org/news/next-law-order-chicago-series-take-over-tv-new-franchise-113848 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/14914010415_f435470734_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>NBC&#39;s&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;franchise grew this week with the premiere of&nbsp;<em>Chicago Med</em>. NPR explores whether it can be the next&nbsp;<em>ER&nbsp;</em>and whether executive producer Dick Wolf, who built the&nbsp;<em>Law &amp; Order</em>&nbsp;empire, can do it again with the Chicago shows.</p></p> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 17:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/next-law-order-chicago-series-take-over-tv-new-franchise-113848 'Back To The Future Part 2': designing a future for 30 years ago http://www.wbez.org/news/back-future-part-2-designing-future-30-years-ago-113429 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/9544541664_b43ec6c183_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res450049599" previewtitle="In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) slips on his Nike sneakers and rides a Mattel hoverboard in front of a Texaco gas station."><p>Oct. 21, 2015, is when the first act of<a href="http://www.backtothefuture.com/" target="_blank">&nbsp;<em>Back to the Future Part II</em></a>&nbsp;is set. In the sequel, Marty McFly goes forth and back in time, and complications ensue. It&#39;s a 2015 that&#39;s different from the one we know now &mdash; but not that different.</p></div><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) slips on his Nike sneakers and rides a Mattel hoverboard in front of a Texaco gas station." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/19/back-to-the-future-2-27c06f9d271e02b5c17b2b544fa8675b5d626a0d-s700-c85.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 450px; width: 600px;" title="In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) slips on his Nike sneakers and rides a Mattel hoverboard in front of a Texaco gas station. (Courtesy of The Kobal Collection)" /></p><p><span style="text-align: center;">On one hand, in the movie, electric cars quietly hum around the streets. We&#39;ve got those.</span></p><p><span style="text-align: center;">A hologram for&nbsp;<em>Jaws 19</em>&nbsp;pops out of a theater marquee and freaks Marty out. You can find holograms like that on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.</span></p><p>When bad guy Griff gets arrested for wrecking the clock tower near the lake? A drone takes his picture for <em>USA Today</em>. And the Chicago Cubs, in the<em>&nbsp;Back to the Future</em>&nbsp;universe, win the World Series in 2015. As of right now, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-10-07/cubs-looking-launch-themselves-playoffs-113217" target="_blank">they can still make that happen</a>.</p><p>Of course, there&#39;s a lot of stuff that&nbsp;<em>Back to the Future Part II&nbsp;</em>doesn&#39;t get right. Our cars don&#39;t fly. Our shoes don&#39;t tie themselves. Our clothes don&#39;t blow dry themselves, either. And what we call &quot;hoverboards&quot; today don&#39;t really hover, if we&#39;re going to be honest.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VrVe7XoeiEk" width="540"></iframe></p><p>So what does a 1980s movie tell us about ourselves today in 2015? Does it say anything about how we got here?</p><p>Not really, according to Rick Carter. He was the production designer on the movie.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s an attempt to stimulate in the time it was made. It wasn&#39;t made for now.&quot;</p><p>Carter&#39;s got strong credits when it comes to time travel. He also worked on&nbsp;<em>A.I. Artificial Intelligence,&nbsp;</em><em>Avatar</em>&nbsp;and the new&nbsp;<em>Star Wars&nbsp;</em>movie.</p><p>Carter says time-travel stories are more about the time in which they were made. And what was big in the late &#39;80s when&nbsp;<em>Back to the Future Part II</em>&nbsp;was made? Buying stuff.</p><p>&quot;Not just product placement, but the branding of our culture,&quot; says Carter. &quot;This was no longer the hippie era where everything that was of corporations was being pushed to the side in terms of being hip or cool. It was a celebration of what the culture and the economy was creating.&quot;</p><p>Like a hologram Ronald Reagan selling fast food.</p><p>It was, at least, a somewhat optimistic view of the future. More optimistic than, say, <em>Blade Runner</em>.&nbsp;To Carter, creating the future wasn&#39;t about predicting. It was about making the present seem better.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s how we saw the holograms coming out of the movie theaters, or the litter bug that&#39;s running around that&#39;s positive, sweeping things up,&quot; says Carter. &quot;It was about projecting from a very exuberant sense we had at the time being young until now.&quot;</p><p>That exuberance was tempered a bit, though. With some pointed jokes knocking nostalgia, the movie knew that the future wouldn&#39;t be perfect. Or was it the past?</p><p>Whatever. Nothing&#39;s perfect.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/10/20/450009076/back-to-the-future-part-2-designing-a-future-for-30-years-ago?ft=nprml&amp;f=450009076" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 20 Oct 2015 13:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/back-future-part-2-designing-future-30-years-ago-113429 'Tomeka Reid Quartet' offers a tightly synchronized mix of cello and guitar http://www.wbez.org/fresh-air/2015-10-13/tomeka-reid-quartet-offers-tightly-synchronized-mix-cello-and-guitar-113326 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/6127321393_660a3a0730_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cellist Tomeka Reid was headed toward a career as a classical musician, but was drawn to jazz. Critic Kevin Whitehead says her band&#39;s new album,&nbsp;<em>The Tomeka Reid Quartet</em>,&nbsp;has good chemistry all around.</p><hr /><p><strong>TERRY GROSS, HOST</strong>:</p><p>This is FRESH AIR. Chicago cellist Tomeka Reid was headed toward a career as a classical musician when she got drawn into playing jazz and improvised music. But she still loves the intimacy of chamber ensembles. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Tomeka Reid&#39;s new Chicago-New York quartet is tightly synchronized.</p><p><strong>(SOUNDBITE OF ERIC DOLPHY SONG, &quot;17 WEST&quot; PERFORMED BY TOMEKA REID QUARTET)</strong></p><p><strong>KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE</strong>: Cellist Tomeka Reid on &quot;17 West&quot; by Eric Dolphy, which he recorded in 1960 with Ron Carter on cello. I have to laugh when some publicist, journalist or even cellist maintains playing jazz on cello as some bold new idea. There have been literally dozens of improvising cello players since the 1950s. Tomeka Reid embraces that tradition, the better to build on it. The lineup on her new album, &quot;Tomeka Reid Quartet,&quot; which mixes cello and guitar, draws a connection to Chico Hamilton&#39;s chamber jazz quintet from the &#39;50s. But Reid&#39;s foursome gets more low-down.</p><p><strong>(SOUNDBITE OF TOMEKA REID QUARTET SONG)</strong></p><p><strong>WHITEHEAD</strong>: Chicago&#39;s Tomeka Reid on cello with New York&#39;s Mary Halvorson on guitar. There have been string players in jazz from the beginning, with cello becoming almost common after the &#39;70s. And Tomeka Reid likes to honor her string heroes. &quot;Billy Bang&#39;s Bounce&quot; catches the flavor of that late violinist&#39;s sweetly woody sound. Bassist Jason Roebke gets them started with a chunky, early Sun Ra Chicago beat.</p><p><strong>(SOUNDBITE OF TOMEKA REID QUARTET SONG, &quot;BILL BANG&#39;S BOUNCE&quot;)</strong></p><p><strong>WHITEHEAD</strong>: Ace guitarist Mary Halvorson plays in a lot of bands, including some very good ones. But Tomeka Reid&#39;s quartet fits her especially well. Halvorson starts out with a spiky, old-fashioned jazz guitar tone, then cuts it with spider-walking lines and electronic squiggles. Here, she swings a little more overtly than elsewhere. But Halvorson&#39;s not one to play it safe. The drummer is a frequent collaborator from back east, Tomas Fujiwara.</p><p><strong>(SOUNDBITE OF TOMEKA REID QUARTET SONG)</strong></p><p><strong>WHITEHEAD</strong>: Mary Halvorson on guitar. Cellist Tomeka Reid writes atmospheric pieces too. But her heavy groove numbers really put the players in the mood to play. Reid gives them plenty of room, sometimes more than she gives herself. She&#39;s more exposed on her other new album, called &quot;Artifacts,&quot; for a co-op trio with flutist Nicole Mitchell and drummer Mike Reed playing music by fellow Chicagoans. But in Reid&#39;s own quartet, she&#39;s apt to bow or pluck cello within the ensemble, the better to blend with guitar and bass. The strings bind together nicely, and the drums give them a propulsive kick. There&#39;s good chemistry all around.</p><p><strong>(SOUNDBITE OF TOMEKA REID QUARTET SONG)</strong></p><p><strong>GROSS</strong>: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and is the author of &quot;Why Jazz?&quot; He reviewed the new recording by the Tomeka Reid Quartet on the Thirsty Ear label. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, I&#39;ll talk with Justin Theroux, who stars in the HBO series &quot;The Leftovers,&quot; about the people who remain on Earth after 2 percent of the world&#39;s population mysteriously vanishes in a split second. Is it the rapture, an act of God? Are the people on Earth spared or condemned? Season two is underway. Theroux co-wrote the comedy &quot;Tropic Thunder&quot; with Ben Stiller and wrote the screenplay for the forthcoming &quot;Zoolander&quot; sequel. I hope you&#39;ll join us.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/10/13/448297104/tomeka-reid-quartet-offers-a-tightly-synchronized-mix-of-cello-and-guitar" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 13 Oct 2015 16:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/fresh-air/2015-10-13/tomeka-reid-quartet-offers-tightly-synchronized-mix-cello-and-guitar-113326 No more nudity in Playboy http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-13/no-more-nudity-playboy-113322 <p><div style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The%20first%20issue%20of%20Playboy%20magazine%20featuring%20Marilyn%20Monroe%2C%20left%2C%20and%20a%20boxed%20DVD%20set%20of%20Playboy%20magazines%20from%20the%201950s%20are%20shown%20in%20New%20York%20on%20Monday%2C%20July%2016%2C%202007.%20%28.jpg" style="height: 399px; width: 620px;" title="The first issue of Playboy magazine featuring Marilyn Monroe, left, and a boxed DVD set of Playboy magazines from the 1950s are shown in New York on Monday, July 16, 2007. (Mark Lennihan/AP)" /></div><div>Playboy magazine will no longer publish images of nude women beginning this spring, though the magazine will still have photographs of women in suggestive poses, according to a statement from Playboy. It&rsquo;s part of a big redesign, and an effort to attract more readers.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The company&rsquo;s chief executive Scott Flanders&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/13/business/media/nudes-are-old-news-at-playboy.html" target="_blank">told The New York Times</a>&nbsp;that the Internet has changed things for his publication. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it&rsquo;s just passé at this juncture,&rdquo; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>RELATED STORY: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/world/2015-10-13/china-playboy-always-has-been-known-bath-products-113320" target="_blank">I</a><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/world/2015-10-13/china-playboy-always-has-been-known-bath-products-113320">n China, Playboy always has been known ... for bath products</a></strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong></strong><em>Here &amp; Now&#39;s</em> Jeremy Hobson takes a look at this business decision with&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/jasonbellini?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor" target="_blank">Jason Bellini</a>&nbsp;of The Wall Street Journal.</div><p>&mdash;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/10/13/no-more-nudity-in-playboy" target="_blank"><em> via Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></p> Tue, 13 Oct 2015 16:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-13/no-more-nudity-playboy-113322 Jackpot! Chicago's hold on pinball industry and artistry http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175 <p><p>Ever since Kevin Schramer started playing pinball in the 1970&#39;s, he noticed that many machines listed their manufacturing addresses in the Chicago region. The addresses have kept him wondering for decades, so when he learned about Curious City, he just had to ask:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why was the Chicago area home to all the major pinball manufacturers during the heyday of pinball?</em></p><p>After digging into relevant history books, interviewing industry experts, and emptying plenty of change into the area&rsquo;s <a href="#map">remaining pinball machines</a>, we can firmly say that Kevin&rsquo;s on to something: From the modern pinball industry&rsquo;s Depression-era beginnings, to its modest market presence today, Chicago has been pinball&rsquo;s center of gravity. (The <a href="http://www.ipdb.org/search.pl">Internet Pinball Database</a> lists 554 top-rated pinball machines and at least 98 percent of them were made in the region.) But the answer as to <em>why </em>involves an interplay of history, geography and art.</p><p><strong>Insert coin: Gottlieb and Williams</strong></p><p>To say Chicago was the hub of the pinball industry isn&rsquo;t to say that the game was invented in the Windy City. Historians trace early pinball machines to a centuries-old French billiard game called <em>bagatelle</em>, while the modern coin-operated pinball industry got its start in the early 1930s. During the Great Depression, many people were &ldquo;out of work, looking for inexpensive entertainment for a penny,&rdquo; explains pinball historian Roger Sharpe. Enterprising tinkerers and businessmen began to fill that need with simple countertop games.</p><p>In these early days, many of the industry&rsquo;s key players were travelling businessmen such as David Gottlieb, whose machine <em>Baffle Ball</em> was one of pinball&rsquo;s first big hits. <em>Baffle Ball</em> was a simple game. There were no flippers, lights, or bells; you just pulled the plunger back and hoped that the ball bounced into the right hole. Gottlieb moved throughout the Midwest to sell his machines, but his operation was based in Chicago.</p><p>Many of pinball&#39;s now-familiar qualities, such as replays and tilt mechanisms, were considered whiz-bang when they were first developed by engineer Harry Williams in the 1930&rsquo;s. Williams got his start in California, pranking his business partners by adding electricity to his machines and connecting the games to telephones; in some cases, the right shot would make the phone ring. Once the ringing machines proved to draw more money than their silent counterparts, machines with sound-making elements became the norm. While Williams tried working from California for a while, he eventually decided that he would need Chicago&#39;s competitive edge if he wanted to make a name for himself in the pinball industry.</p><p>&quot;It took too long for his games to get to the East Coast and by the time it got to the East Coast other people had already knocked it off,&quot; says Sharpe.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/baffle ball resized and tweaked.jpeg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Baffle Ball and Ballywho were two of pinball’s earliest successes. The machines were flipper-less, but brought in a stream of pennies anyway. (Flickr/Rob Dicaterino)" />Chicago had a lot to offer the budding industry. Raw materials were widely available, including lumber and wiring, as well as steel from nearby Gary, Ind. The city&#39;s large immigrant population became the basis of the factories&#39; work force. Once the machines were finished, the city&#39;s railroads made them easy to distribute across the country, and Lake Michigan&#39;s ports allowed the machines to be sent around the world as pinball found a market overseas. David Gottlieb and Harry Williams founded some of the industry&rsquo;s most successful companies in Chicago, and named the firms after themselves.</p><p><strong>Multiball! Artistry in the industry&rsquo;s heyday</strong></p><p>Through the decades, the pinball industry had its highs and lows. From the 1940s through most of the 1970s pinball was officially banned as illegal gambling in many of the nation&rsquo;s big cities, including New York City and Chicago. (Roger Sharpe, our historical guide, played <a href="http://gizmodo.com/how-one-perfect-shot-saved-pinball-from-being-illegal-1154267979">an instrumental role in overturning the bans</a> with a skill shot that became the stuff of pinball legend.) Although the bans were lightly enforced, they kept the industry from achieving its full potential. Then, in the mid-1970s, the bans were lifted, and The Who&rsquo;s pinball rock opera <em>Tommy </em>was made into a major motion picture. At this point, pinball found a place in the mainstream culture, and the industry entered into a full-blown heyday.</p><p>As the industry thrived, the graphic artists who designed the backglasses and the playfields developed a detail-rich pinball aesthetic. While Chicago has many important cultural contributions, it has a unique monopoly on pinball art. The art blended the bawdy imagery of <em>Playboy </em>magazine (based in Chicago at the time) with the garish colors of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/laugh-your-troubles-away-105619">Riverview amusement park</a>; before it was closed in 1967, Riverview had shared the same neighborhood as many pinball manufacturers.</p><p>Even Chicago&rsquo;s weather made it on to some machines. Greg Freres, celebrated pinball artist, worked on the <em>Harlem Globetrotters</em> machine during the notorious winter of 1979 &mdash; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637#misery">one of the city&rsquo;s worst</a>. Freres included a splotch of white paint next to Lake Michigan in honor of Chicago&rsquo;s snow on the Globetrotters&rsquo; globe.<a name="presentation"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="367" mozallowfullscreen="true" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/15JGIGwSQW2F_J4759VDr3g6QyXrNWBNbVrTyoW21rxI/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>While the industry lost some ground to video game machines through the 80s, it continued to be successful. The most popular pinball machine of all time, for example, was <em>The Addam&rsquo;s Family</em>; it wasn&rsquo;t released until 1992.</p><p>By the close of the decade, however, pinball was in a verifiable slump. WMS, the corporate successor to the company founded by desinger Harry Williams, lost $4 million on its pinball division in 1998 alone. The company gave its pinball team one last shot to reinvigorate pinball. The team developed <em>Pinball 2000</em>, a hybrid of video games and pinball featuring holographic aliens. Despite the machine&rsquo;s relative success and a promo video complete with kooky narration from Chicago radio legend Ken Nordine, the corporate bosses at WMS shut down their pinball division to focus on growing profits in the slot machine industry. By the dawn of the 21st century, only one manufacturer of pinball machines remained in Chicago, and the world.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/UUSzSHNEv2g?rel=0" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>Extra game? Pinball Perseveres</strong></p><p>But pinball didn&rsquo;t end there. That last company, Stern Pinball, continues to develop and manufacture pinball machines in west suburban Melrose Park. (A New Jersey-based company just released a <em>Wizard of Oz</em> pinball machine, but Stern is the only company that regularly releases new machines and distributes them widely.) Company CEO Gary Stern has been in the pinball industry since he was a small child accompanying his father, a business partner of Harry Williams, on factory visits. While the access to materials, labor, and distribution that made Chicago an ideal location for pinball&rsquo;s beginnings remain, Stern says another element is keeping the surviving industry here.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re here, because we&rsquo;re here,&rdquo; Stern puts it plainly. That is, a community of pinball designers, engineers, and specialists live in the Chicago area, and many of them remain dedicated to the pinball craft.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Gary Stern resized.jpeg" style="height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left;" title="Stern Pinball CEO Gary Stern poses with question-asker Kevin Schramer and some of his company’s machines. Stern has worked in the pinball industry for more than 50 years. (WBEZ/Mickey Capper)" />Jim Shird is one of those specialists working at Stern. He has designed the wiring in pinball machines since the 1990s and has been playing pinball since he was a kid, when he would win free pizzas every week from a local pizza place&rsquo;s pinball competition.</p><p>Pinball&rsquo;s popularity has diminished to the point where it&rsquo;s most visible in the shadowy corners of dive bars. But still, Shird remains optimistic. These days, when he finishes work at Stern, he heads straight to <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Logan+Hardware+Arcade+Bar/@41.92504,-87.688184,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x70e42de27f7ec47f">Logan Arcade</a>, one of Chicago&rsquo;s many new arcade bars, to maintain (and play) the bar&rsquo;s pinball collection.</p><p>He is, after all, a pinball person and he gets to spend his life with pinball machines.</p><p>&ldquo;Everyday is different, everyday is interesting, everyday is an adventure, and everyday is fun,&rdquo; Shird says with a smile. &ldquo;I get to play pinball everyday.&rdquo;<a name="map"></a></p><p><iframe height="480" src="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/1/embed?mid=zo79HXq-4bn0.kCzXX8JiSVjA" width="640"></iframe></p><p><em>(Want to play pinball? This map includes all Chicago area venues with 3 or more pinball machines. More information is available at <a href="http://pinballmap.com/chicago">PinballMap.com</a>.)</em></p><p><strong>Our question comes from: Kevin Schramer</strong><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Kevin resize.jpeg" style="width: 225px; height: 300px; float: right;" title="Kevin Schramer plays his pinball machines with his family. Kevin’s question began this investigation. (WBEZ/Mickey Capper)" /></p><p>This story about Chicago pinball begins with our &ldquo;Player 1,&rdquo; Kevin Schramer. Kevin says he&rsquo;s loved the colors and sounds of pinball since he was a kid in the 1970s. He first saw pinball at Funway, a family entertainment center &nbsp;in west suburban Batavia.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had a pocket full of quarters you were all set,&rdquo; Kevin remembers.</p><p>Today, Kevin no longer needs quarters; he has a row of four vintage pinball machines in the dining room of his home in Winfield, Ill. His family plays the machines too, and he is currently in the midst of an extended battle with his sons over his machines&#39; high scores.</p><p><em>Mickey Capper is a freelance audio producer. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/FMcapper">@FMcapper</a></em></p></p> Tue, 13 May 2014 16:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175 Orson Welles at Woodstock http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/orson-welles-woodstock-107601 <p><p>For 120 years, the Opera House in Woodstock has stood at the southern end of the town square. In 1934 entertainment history was made there. That&rsquo;s when a 19-year-old prodigy named Orson Welles scored his first triumph.</p><p>Welles started acting as a student at the nearby Todd School for Boys.&nbsp;After that he&nbsp;bounced around the theatrical world for a few years.&nbsp;Meanwhile, back at Todd, headmaster Roger Hill was making tentative plans for a summer drama course.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/06-11--Welles%20%28Van%20Vechten%20L%20of%20C%29.jpg" style="width: 270px; height: 346px; float: right;" title="Young Orson Welles (Van Vechten photo, Library of Congress)" /></div><p>Now Welles returned to Woodstock, took the idea, and proceeded to &ldquo;jazz it up.&rdquo;&nbsp;He proposed a full-scale summer drama festival at the Opera House.</p><p>Welles knew all about the old summer-stock barn shows.&nbsp;His vision was for something greater.&nbsp;Each year music lovers made pilgrimages to Bayreuth and Salzburg in Europe.&nbsp;He would create the same excitement here!&nbsp;Woodstock would become the summer capital of American theater!</p><p>Headmaster Hill signed on.&nbsp;Then Welles went to work.</p><p>He secured the &ldquo;delighted co-operation&rdquo; of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce.&nbsp;He imported two star actors he&rsquo;d met in Ireland.&nbsp;He&nbsp;recruited prominent Chicagoans for a Friends of the Festival&nbsp;Committee.&nbsp;He threw parties.&nbsp;He charmed reporters.&nbsp;He turned out mountains of breathless publicity.</p><p>The festival opened on July 12.&nbsp;Patrons motored in from all over the city and the North Shore, the press came on a chartered bus.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;It is a&nbsp;gala occasion, perhaps the most exciting the little town of Woodstock has ever had,&rdquo; the <em>Tribune</em> reported.&nbsp;&ldquo;The whole&nbsp;town was out to watch the guests assemble in front of the theatre.&rdquo;</p><p>The first play was <em>Trilby</em>, a once-popular relic of the 1890s. Welles directed, and also played the villain hypnotist, Svengali.&nbsp;The reviews were mainly positive.&nbsp;And everyone loved&nbsp;the venue.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/06-11--Woodstock%20Opera%20House.jpg" style="width: 270px; height: 345px; float: left;" title="Woodstock Opera House" /></div><p><em>Trilby</em> ran for two weeks.&nbsp;Next on the bill was <em>Hamlet</em>.&nbsp;Rather than play the title character, Welles cast himself as another villain, King Claudius.&nbsp;His performance was over the top&ndash;some critics&nbsp;liked it, others&nbsp;loathed it.&nbsp;But Chicago was talking about the magic going on up at Woodstock.</p><p>The&nbsp;season closed with&nbsp;<em>Tsar Paul</em>.&nbsp;This Russian tragedy had never been staged in America.&nbsp;Again Welles played a supporting role, a 60-year-old general.&nbsp;His performance was powerful yet restrained, making the audience forget he wasn&rsquo;t even old enough to vote.</p><p>The&nbsp;final curtain was lowered on&nbsp;August 19.&nbsp;The&nbsp;venture&nbsp;had been a grand success, though the financial results were mixed.&nbsp;Welles moved on with his career, and never staged a second festival in Woodstock.</p><p>Today the&nbsp;Opera House continues to provide a variety of live entertainment.&nbsp;The big summer event is the annual Mozart festival.&nbsp;The town was also the major location for Bill Murray&rsquo;s movie <em>Groundhog Day</em>.</p><p>Orson Welles has become a legend.&nbsp;And the legend&nbsp;was born&nbsp;at Woodstock in 1934.&nbsp;Drama critic Claudia Cassidy saw it coming, when she wrote: &ldquo;Perhaps the Festival&rsquo;s chief achievement will be to permit a lot of people to say of Orson Welles, &lsquo;I saw him when . . .&rsquo;&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 20 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/orson-welles-woodstock-107601 Tentative plans for the Zulkey inauguration http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-01/tentative-plans-zulkey-inauguration-105069 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3213236682_f307081baa.jpg" style="float: right; height: 333px; width: 250px;" title="Flickr/davitydave" />There will be constant Air Force jet flyovers with colored smoke, because those are awesome. Nobody will be able to hear anything but they will be too thrilled to care.</div><p>I will be preceded by marching band with a thousand male baton twirlers, because that would be interesting and unexpected.<br /><br />I will ride up in a magnificent carriage pulled by twelve gorgeous horses, because why don&rsquo;t we do things with horses anymore in America? Why do only British weddings get this?<br /><br />I will request that my friend <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdHojh9i6R4">Abraham Levitan</a> make up a humorous, inspiring song about me and my special day and that everyone in attendance memorize the lyrics and sing along.<br /><br />I will be wearing a gigantic hat as will everyone else in attendance since they will be mandatory. Hats will be provided if audience members don&rsquo;t bring their own.<br /><br />Hugh Jackman, Joel McHale and Conan O&rsquo;Brien will all simultaneously hold the Bible I swear in on. &nbsp;<br /><br />Paul McCartney will then sing &ldquo;Hey Jude&rdquo; but change the lyrics to &ldquo;Hey Claire.&rdquo;<br /><br />Solange Knowles will also perform just because Beyonce has had plenty of opportunities so far. Let the other one get a turn.<br /><br />My purse will be one of those small shopping bags women carry their lunches in because those are the best kind of bags.<br /><br />At the inaugural ball, mac and cheese, champagne and good chocolate chip cookies will all be served, alongside snack mix that does not contain either those little weird rice space-filling snackies nor sesame crackers because I hate those.</p></p> Tue, 22 Jan 2013 09:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-01/tentative-plans-zulkey-inauguration-105069 Fanny dumps her man http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/fanny-dumps-her-man-102260 <p><p>It was over. Fanny Brice was in Chicago, and she was divorcing Nicky Arnstein. The date was September 13, 1927 &mdash; 85 years ago today.</p><p>Brice was the beloved musical comedy star of Broadway&rsquo;s Ziegfeld Follies. Arnstein was a charming, 6&rsquo;6&Prime; gambler and con man. The unlikely couple had married in 1918.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-13--Fanny%20Brice.jpg" style="float: left; " title="Fanny Brice in Chicago, 1927 (Library of Congress/Chicago Daily News)" /></div><p>Then Nicky had gone to prison for a stock swindle. During the years her husband was a guest of the government, Fanny closed her shows singing a ballad about a woman who knows she loves a louse, but still won&rsquo;t get rid of him. The song was titled &ldquo;My Man.&rdquo;</p><p>Things had gone bad after Nicky was released. Fanny became suspicious and had him followed when he made a trip to Chicago. The detective confirmed it &mdash; Nicky was having an affair.</p><p>So now Fanny was in the courtroom of Judge Otto Kerner, Sr. She said her marriage had started to fall apart when she got plastic surgery to straighten her nose. Nicky didn&rsquo;t like the change.</p><p>Freudian pop-psychology was being used to explain everything in 1927. Fanny&rsquo;s lawyer told the judge that Nicky had first become attracted to Fanny because she resembled his mother. After Fanny had her nose job, Nicky&rsquo;s lost interest in her. Nicky had something called an Oedipus Complex.</p><p>Fanny was asked why she wanted a divorce now, after she had stood by her man all the years he was in prison. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t like to talk about it much,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But I&rsquo;m doing this for both of us. I&rsquo;m really giving him a chance to come back.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-13--nicky%20arnstein.jpg" style="float: right; " title="Nicky Arnstein (author's collection)" /></div><p>As for alimony, Fanny said she was earning enough money to support their two small children. The judge asked if she might have trouble getting future work. &ldquo;Who can tell?&rdquo; she laughed. &ldquo;The fickle public!&rdquo;</p><p>Nicky did not appear in court. After being served papers in a North Side restaurant, he issued a statement saying he would not contest the divorce. He still loved Fanny and would not stand in her way. Nicky then left town, for parts unknown.</p><p>Judge Kerner granted the divorce and the marriage was officially over.</p><p>Fanny Brice resumed her Broadway career and later became a successful radio comedian. She died in 1951. Nicky Arnstein outlived her by 14 years, and managed to stay out of further trouble.</p><p><em>Funny Girl</em>, a 1964 musical based on the story of Fanny and Nicky, made 21-year-old Barbra Streisand an overnight star. It was later made into a movie.</p></p> Thu, 13 Sep 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/fanny-dumps-her-man-102260 Marxism on the Grand Boulevard http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/marxism-grand-boulevard-100911 <p><p>Our subject today is the graystone three-flat at 4512 South King Drive.</p><p>The street where the three-flat stands&nbsp;used to be called&nbsp;South Park Way.&nbsp;Before that, in the early 20th Century, it was known as Grand Boulevard.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marx%20Brothers.jpg" style="float: left; " title="Chicago History Happened Here: 4512 S. King Dr." /></div><p>The neighborhood was German-Jewish then.&nbsp;From 1912 through 1920,&nbsp;the building was home to Sam and Minnie Marx and their sons Leonard, Adolph, Julius, Milton and Herbert.</p><p>The sons&nbsp;are better known by their stage names &ndash; Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo.</p><p>The Marxes were&nbsp;New Yorkers.&nbsp;Sam was an easy-going tailor.&nbsp;Minnie had the brains and brass of the family.&nbsp;A performer herself, she raised her sons for careers in show business.</p><p>During the&nbsp;first years of the new century, when the older boys were teens, they started singing in vaudeville.&nbsp;In 1910 Minnie decided that Chicago would be a more central location for travel on the circuit.&nbsp;So the family moved.</p><p>For&nbsp;two years they all lived in an apartment at 4649 South Calumet Avenue.&nbsp;Late in 1912 Minnie scraped together a $1,000 down-payment for the graystone on the boulevard.&nbsp;The purchase price was $20,000 &ndash; about $450,000 in today&rsquo;s money.</p><p>The mortgage was held by a man named Greenbaum.&nbsp;He became the family bogeyman. Whenever the brothers complained about their hectic life on the road, all Minnie would have to do is say the magic word &ldquo;Greenbaum.&rdquo;&nbsp;Then they&rsquo;d shut up and get back to business.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">By now the oldest brothers were young men.&nbsp;Their act gradually evolved into less singing and more comedy.&nbsp;During these years, when they collected their mail in Chicago, the Marx Brothers developed their familiar stage persona.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marx%20Brothers%2002_0.jpg" title="Chicago Marxism, 1915--Groucho, Gummo, Minnie, Zeppo, Sam, Chico, Harpo (Wikipedia Commons)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Just when the act was becoming successful, America entered World War One.&nbsp;The brothers weren&rsquo;t enthusiastic about getting drafted.&nbsp;But Minnie had read that farmers were exempt from military service.&nbsp;She bought a farm in La Grange, and for a while the very urban Marxes raised chickens, rabbits, and guinea pigs.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Gummo was drafted, anyway.&nbsp;He hadn&rsquo;t been much of a performer, and didn&rsquo;t like being on stage, so it was no great loss to the act.&nbsp;In later years he became an agent.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Minnie sold the Grand Boulevard home in 1920.&nbsp;The Four Marx Brothers wanted to develop their act for the Broadway stage, and a move back to New York was in order.&nbsp;When their Broadway shows were successful, movies followed.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">A few years ago the Goodman Theatre presented a revival of Marx Brothers&rsquo; 1928 stage hit, <em>Animal Crackers</em>. The family&rsquo;s onetime Chicago home, an official city landmark, is a private residence.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">It is not known whether the current owner is named Greenbaum.</div></p> Tue, 31 Jul 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/marxism-grand-boulevard-100911 Opera comes to Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/opera-comes-chicago-101189 <p><p>Chicago had 30,000 people in 1850. It was becoming a big city. Folks here were getting sophisticated. Women were even buying spittoons so their husbands didn&rsquo;t spit the tobacco juice on the floor any more.</p><p>And on July 29th, the world knew that Chicago wasn&rsquo;t just some backwater little village. An opera company had come to town!</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/07-30--1850s%2C%20Andreas.jpg" title="Chicago, circa 1850 (Andreas, 'History of Chicago')" /></div><p>Well, it wasn&rsquo;t exactly an opera company. It was actually four professional singers who&rsquo;d been performing in Milwaukee, a <em>real</em> backwater little village. Still, this was an actual opera. Opera was big news in 1850.</p><p>In New York, P.T. Barnum was paying Jenny Lind &ndash; &quot;The Swedish Nightingale&quot; &ndash; $1,000 a night to perform. Chicago&rsquo;s first opera didn&rsquo;t have Jenny Lind. But the local promoters were crafty enough to choose one of her biggest hits for their first show, at Rice&rsquo;s Theatre. The opera was Bellini&rsquo;s <em>La Sonnambula</em>.</p><p>Four singers are not enough for an opera. As a result, the Chicago cast was filled out with local amateurs. A few of them had good voices, most of them didn&rsquo;t. Rehearsals were &ndash; I think &ldquo;confused&rdquo; is a good word to describe them.</p><p>(<em>Does this sound like the plot of some bad old Hollywood movie yet?</em>)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/07-30--Jenny_Lind_in_La_Sonnambula.jpg" title="Jenny Lind in 'La Sonnambula'--she stayed in New York (Wikipedia)" /></div><p>In any event, the grand premiere went off on schedule. Rice&rsquo;s Theatre was jammed. And just like in 2012, the opening night crowd really dressed up. The men were wearing swallow-tail coats, the women had on long gowns and were carrying lorgnettes.</p><p>Just like in one of those bad old Hollywood movies, the show had problems. The audience kept applauding at the wrong time &ndash; whenever one of the hometown amateurs showed up on stage, friends in the audience would stand up and cheer. Meanwhile, one of the extras named James McVicker sang so loudly he drowned out the rest of the singers.</p><p>The cast slogged through to the finish. And everybody loved it! The whole town was talking about Chicago&rsquo;s first opera.</p><p>The next day&rsquo;s performance didn&rsquo;t fare as well. A fire in a livery stable across the alley halted the opera. &ldquo;Sit down!&rdquo; theater owner John Rice thundered at the nervous audience. &ldquo;Do you think I would permit a fire to occur in my theater?&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/07-30--John%20Rice.jpg" title="John Rice--some days nothing goes right (Wikipedia)" /></div><p>Then it became apparent that the blaze was spreading to the wooden theater. Despite some panic, everyone got out safely. Rice&rsquo;s Theatre burned to the ground.</p><p>So ended Chicago&rsquo;s first, abbreviated opera season. James McVicker, that booming-voice spear carrier, later built the city&rsquo;s finest theater. And though John Rice couldn&rsquo;t stop a fire, he found more success in politics. In 1865 he was elected Mayor of Chicago.</p></p> Mon, 30 Jul 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/opera-comes-chicago-101189