Arts & Culture » Culture Club

Hotel Industry Is Hooked on Suites/Nancy Drew's Adventure in Retailing/Who's Running the Show at Body Politic?/Wanted: Very Rich Arts Patron in Poor Health/Up From the Snuggery

Artist and cartoonist Nancy Drew has painted every surface she could find in Niles, Michigan. Now she's come to Clybourn Avenue.



Hotel Industry Is Hooked on Suites

In case you haven't noticed, the North Michigan Avenue area is being overrun with all-suite hotels. It's an industry-wide trend, and insiders predict it will continue. Last spring the Hyatt Regency. Suites Hotel became the first specifically all-suite property to open on Michigan Avenue. In late July, Guest Quarters Suite Hotels, the nation's second-largest all-suite chain with 30 properties across the country, opened its first Chicago-area hotel just off North Michigan, at 198 E. Delaware. Embassy Suites, the largest of the new breed of hotel chains, is building its first downtown property at the corner of Ontario and State. All-suite hotels have been a fixture in the suburbs for a while, according to Guest Quarters general manager Stuart Newmark. With the suburbs close to the saturation point, however, the suite chains have begun moving downtown, where building and operating costs are higher.

For the traveling businessperson (and the vacationing family as well), the suite hotel is an inviting option, offering a living room/bedroom combination at a price competitive with standard rates at most first-class hotels, according to Newmark. At Guest Quarters, a standard suite is $180 per night, and that includes a mini-bar, refrigerator, two telephones, a speaker phone, and two remote-control televisions. The hotel also offers a health club and two restaurants. So how do all-suite properties make it with fewer rooms, a wide range of services, and competitive pricing? "All-suite hotels traditionally have a higher occupancy," explains Newmark. Most hotels in the Chicago area break even at average occupancy levels of around 65 percent. All-suite properties shoot for average occupancies 5 to 10 percent higher.

Nancy Drew's Adventure in Retailing

Is Chicago ready for the mixed-media abnormality of Nancy Drew? No, we're not referring to the character in the mystery novels beloved of so many children. We're talking about a happily married housewife and artist from Niles, Michigan, who has brought her art and artistic sensibility to bear on a new retail venture: the Real Nancy Drew shop, which officially opened August 18 in the mall at 1800 N. Clybourn. Drew (yes, it's her real married name) was back in town last week to continue "painting" the store and arranging her eclectic mix of paintings, furniture, and wearable art. Drew's passion is for painting over surfaces--any surface, from tables to sweatshirts to bedboards to floors. "I'm always looking for another surface to cover," she admits. At the entrance to her shop Drew has painted a warning on the floor: "This is not a normal store."

Drew, who displays an intense but immensely likable personality, is also the creator of "A Fine Line," a cartoon that appears in the TempoWoman section of the Sunday Tribune. She began designing and manufacturing wearable art in Niles two years ago, much of it covered with patches on which are painted characters and sayings that express her attitude about the world and her art. One of her characters is Gertrude, who was "born to stir the pot, rock the boat and punish the world for not paying attention." Drew's graphics have a childlike simplicity about them, and a childlike use of bold colors. But her work is priced for adults: a painted table-and-chair set goes for $1,800, and vests with all manner of adornment average $95. Drew concedes she isn't sure what the market for her kind of art is like here in Chicago, but she believes this is a good place to test the retail waters. Better, anyway, than Niles, Michigan. "Polyester is still hot there," she says.

Who's Running the Show at Body Politic?

The Body Politic Theatre is gearing up for the start of its 1990-'91 season, the first with newly installed artistic director Albert Pertalion, a former guest director and teacher at Purdue University. But it doesn't appear that Pertalion is calling all the artistic shots at the theater. A source says that Body Politic producing director Nan Charbonneau has managed to inject herself and those close to her into the artistic action for the upcoming season. Charbonneau's husband, Dick Kordos, will direct The Lion in Winter, the second play in Body Politic's season, and Charbonneau herself is "under consideration," according to Pertalion, to direct the third, The Belle of Amherst. "She's concerned about the best choice of director for the piece," adds Pertalion. Will the new artistic director do any more this season than acquiesce to insiders who itch to direct? Stay tuned.

Wanted: Very Rich Arts Patron in Poor Health

The blue-chip committee of 40 businessmen investigating the feasibility of building a $500 million performing arts center in Chicago hopes to have a report on funding the project by year's end; the news thus far is not especially encouraging. The committee has hired well-connnected fund-raising consultant Charles Feldstein to conduct a funding survey, and "he's been telling the committee they may have to wait for someone very rich to die to get the kind of money they want," says one source. (Feldstein did not return our phone call to his office.) Meanwhile, business exec Ron Gidwitz is heading a subcommittee investigating possible demand for a third auditorium in the complex to house small-scale theater and dance performances.

Up From the Snuggery

Snuggery honcho Fred Hoffmann is planning to turn his former Division Street saloon into a restaurant/grill, as early as October. "He wants to steer clear of the Snuggery theme," says a spokeswoman, "and come up with a restaurant that will attract Near North residents." The move is another reflection of the changing mood along Division Street, once a major nighttime hangout. The dance floor in the former Snuggery will be removed, and the new restaurant atmosphere will be casual and comfortable. Elsewhere, Hoffmann still is debating what to do with the restaurant space in his Excalibur nightclub; he is said to be considering using it for private parties.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lloyd DeGrane.

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