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The Night Life is the Good Life -
by: Gerry Clark
"The night life ain't no good life, but it's my life,"
B.B. King sings in the Willie Nelson-penned "Night
Life." Obviously the legendary bluesman wasn't thinking
Especially after a day-long, on-the-dogs experience at
Worldwide Food Expo, night time is indeed the right time
for some well-deserved R&R...just don't make it too
late (unless you literally want to hit the show floor
the next morning).
The city offers action extending from theaters to music
clubs to taverns and beyond, opening the door to all kinds
of evening-time excitement.
In particular, Chicago boasts an explosive music scene,
punctuated by a roster of authentic blues clubs (and no,
House of Blues isn't one of them) that showcase some of
the biggest names and premium talent to hit a stage anyplace.
Perhaps the best known of these blues clubs is Kingston
Mines, 2548 N. Halsted St. (phone: 773/477-4647), which
celebrates its 31st anniversary this year and features
newly expanded surroundings. This nightspot lives up to
its slogan "Ain't Nothing But the Blues!" with
a twin-stage scenario oozing energy and authenticity.
This is the real thing, with top-caliber musicians exploiting
a tension-and-release explosiveness that'll knock your
socks off. And dig this: Kingston Mines is open seven
days a week with doors opening at 8 p.m. and the musicians
ripping up the joint beginning at 9:30 p.m. and jamming
into the wee hours of 4 a.m. daily and 5 a.m. on Saturdays.
The club also encompasses Doc's Rib Joint, which dishes
up barbeque ribs, wings, catfish and other items for late-night
Staying in the blues vein, there's Buddy Guy's Legends,
754W. Wabash Ave. (312/427-0333), which faces an uncertain
future due to a change in ownership of the property on
which the club stands. (So enjoy it while you still can.)
This is guitar great Buddy Guy's club and the sign on
this corner-block club bears his image in an intense instance
of six-string fury--a harbinger of the doings on the inside.
Legends has proven a favorite impromptu jam spot of big-name
musicians visiting the Windy City, including members of
the Rolling Stones and Guns 'n' Roses, who've jumped on
the club's stage absent any prior publicity. So, you never
know just who might be in the room when visiting this
club. Add billiards tables within earshot of the stage,
and you've got a winner.
New York City might boast a more prominent jazz scene
than the Second City, but Chicago is no slouch when it
comes to presenting what's been called America's classical
music. Certainly in the top-notch category--and possibly
the best of the city's jazz spots--stands the Jazz Showcase,
59 W. Grand Ave. (312/670-2478).
Once an integral part of the Blackstone Hotel, this hot
spot has changed locations several times in its multidecade
existence, but the prime purpose remains: present the
nation's top jazz talent in intimate and thoroughly comfortable
surroundings. Club owner Joe Segal secures absolutely
grade-A names to fill his entertainment rosters. Drummer
Elvin Jones, the late trumpet master Dizzy Gillespie,
saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, guitarist Kenny Burrell and
organist Jimmy Smith are just a few of the legendary jazz
musicians who've offered audiences improvisatory explorations
from this club's stages.
Straddling the line between straight-ahead jazz and a
more avant-garde atmosphere stands the Green Mill Cocktail
Lounge, 4802 N. Broadway (773/878-5552). In my book, any
club containing Stan Getz's samba hit "Desafinado"
on the juke box is a winner. Sunday nights traditionally
have featured the Poetry Slam, in which word-slingers
can hop on stage to recite their verse... or doggerel
as the case may be. Some of these spoken-word episodes
have included jazz group backing or electronic music experimentation.
Expect the unexpected.
Besides drinking and bars
Prepared to have the bejeezus scared out of you? Look
no further than Richard T. Crowe's Supernatural Tours.
If you think that ghosts and spooks confine their hauntings
to old Scottish castles or Salem, Mass., think again.
Crowe, who claims to be Chicagoland's "original and
only full-time" ghost hunter, reveals the region's
cold spots on a nighttime bus tour that has participants
visiting the haunted St. Valentine's Day Massacre site,
viewing a totem pole that "came to life," and
pursuing legendary ghost Resurrection Mary among other
As a participant of one of these tours several years ago,
I can tell you that a surprising number of the city's
watering holes seem to feature spirits (both kinds), so
you might face a difficult time separating reality from
exaggeration after a few visits to the tap. The deep-voiced
Crowe is perfect at weaving a tale and sparking the imagination.
And Worldwide Food Expo attendees are in for a special
treat since the show falls smack dab in the middle of
the Halloween season.
Crowe is offering a limited edition Halloween tour at
$40 per person. The tours kick off from Goose Island Brewery,
1800 Clybourn, (see what I mean about this gin mill stuff?)
with the journey starting at 7p.m. and ending at midnight.
Also included is a champagne toast (enough already!).
A supernatural cruise on Lake Michigan also is available
exploring ghost ships, a lake monster and more. For further
info or to register for a tour via credit card, call 708/499-0300.
If your idea of a relaxing post-expo evening is taking
in a movie, why not make it just a little bit different?
While no longer sporting a genuine silver screen (a fairly
recent casualty), the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport
Ave. (773/871-6604), recalls the American theater's halcyon
Built in 1929, the twin-screen facility's main theater
offers a trip back in time with ornate furnishings as
well as a ceiling featuring constantly moving images of
clouds and dots of light resembling stars. Self-consciously
artsy in its flick selection (nope--no George Clooney
or Sandra Bullock movies here), the Music Box's ambience
adds to any movie-going experience.
For Halloween weekend, the theater is presenting the 1922
German silent horror classic Nosferatu with live theater
organ accompaniment. How's that for dawn-of-cinema authenticity?
Also coinciding with the expo are midnight showings through
Oct.30 of George Romero's 1968 original Night of the Living
Whether it's a blues club's sweat-inducing excitement,
the more-refined pleasures of an intimate jazz club, a
hair-raising horror experience or expanding your tastes
with an out-of-the-ordinary movie, the Windy City offers
the ticket to make the night life the good life. And perhaps
your most fun Worldwide Food Expo experience.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Cahners Publishing Company
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group