Fighting Over Cairo; Goodman's Gospel: An Act of Faith; And That's the Way It Was; First Sniff; Pegasus Players About to Make a Move?; 100,000 Square Feet of Fun | Culture Club | Chicago Reader

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Fighting Over Cairo; Goodman's Gospel: An Act of Faith; And That's the Way It Was; First Sniff; Pegasus Players About to Make a Move?; 100,000 Square Feet of Fun

Steve Edelson, who already owns two of the city's trendiest clubs, thought he had a deal to buy the formerly trendy Cairo. What happened?



Fighting Over Cairo

Cairo, the hot-then-not nightclub in trendy River North, has new owners and a potential lawsuit on its hands. The new owners are John Abell, a real estate developer, and Dan Pedemonte, proprietor of a Wells Street bar called Burton Place. They've apparently won out over nightclub honcho Steve Edelson, who managed Cairo for about a month and tried to buy it before Abell and Pedemonte took control. Edelson operates two other popular clubs, Union and the Bridge.

Edelson says he had what he thought was a valid contract to buy Cairo, signed by four members of an investor consortium that owned the club. He was prepared, he says, to pay $400,000 for the lease. He claims he never knew that the ownership consortium comprised at least 17 investors, many of whom evidently decided that a deal with Abell and 'Pedemonte was more to their liking. "Edelson did not have the correct signatures," claims Abell, who isn't talking purchase price. Edelson says his attorney is preparing a breach of contract suit. "I did a lot of work for the previous owners," he adds.

Now Abell and Pedemonte--the newest nightclub experts on the block--will try to make Cairo go. "I always liked the space," says Abell, "but it had not been utilized properly." The downstairs nightclub is getting different lighting, video screens, and a new music mix. The upstairs restaurant presents more of a challenge. Abell is thinking about offering lighter fare and some entertainment at night, while providing a full-service menu for lunch customers.

Abell and Pedemonte plan to show off their handiwork on October 18, during Cairo's reintroduction-to-Chicago party. As for Edelson, whether or not his lawsuit happens, he's going on to other things. He's already talking about taking over the Thunderbird Bar & Grill on Clybourn.

Goodman's Gospel: An Act of Faith

The Goodman Theatre got tired of waiting for a sponsor with big bucks, so the board of directors decided officially to announce that the theater's final production of the year will be The Gospel at Colonus, playing June 8 through July 14.

But the Goodman still needs about $200,000 in underwriting to produce the show. Based on Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, the musical calls for a cast of 65, including several gospel choirs. Sponsors may be skittish because Gospel is not nearly as well-known as previous Goodman musical productions, and its track record in other cities has been decidedly mixed.

Still, nothing stands in the way of art at the Goodman. "We'll get the money," says a confident spokeswoman. We'll see.

And That's the Way It Was

There's a reason why television newscasts are what they are. And the reason is historical. While researching material for his special Farewell to the Mart (airing October 21 on Channel Five), WMAQ TV reporter Rich Samuels came across local programming schedules from the early 1950s. In those early years of television, viewers would start the 10 PM hour with ten minutes of weather. Dorsey Connors came next with five minutes of helpful home hints, followed by 15 minutes of news. A full 15 minutes of sports filled the air at 10:30. And to round out the hour on a tuneful note, 15 minutes of old and new musical melodies with Herbie Mintz.

First Sniff

Location, location, location is of the essence not only in real estate--it also helps if you're to be among the first in Chicago to sample the 1989 Beaujolais nouveau when it is officially uncorked just after midnight on November 16. The Portico Restaurant at the Ramada Hotel O'Hare, for example, is situated close by a wine-company distribution center where the first Beaujolais will arrive. So the restaurant has arranged a little extravaganza to mark the occasion. It begins late in the evening of November 15, with a showing of the film Babette's Feast, followed by a quick trip at midnight to the distribution center to watch the popping of the first cork. Then guests will head back to the Portico for a three-course meal using the young Beaujolais.

Pegasus Players About to Make a Move?

Pegasus Players could be a lot more visible soon. The 11-year-old theater company has one of the first hits of the new season in its Kiss of the Spider Woman, the stage adaptation of the Manuel Puig novel, directed by rising young star Eric Simonson.

As always, though, Pegasus must confront the challenge of luring audiences to the O'Rourke Center for Performing Arts, hidden away on the campus of Truman College in Uptown. But sources on the theater company's board say plans are in the works to ensure Pegasus's work gets broader exposure in future. Stay tuned.

100,000 Square Feet of Fun

William Spatz is trying to mix Mediterranean food with bumper boats. Electric go-carts with Cajun food. Bowling alleys with banquet halls. To find out if it all will mesh, you'll have to visit Billy Lee's, a 100,000-square-foot indoor mega-amusement complex. The first phase of Billy Lee's, covering 65,000 square feet, is set to open around November 8 in the west Loop at 1622 W. Fulton.

Spatz, the man who almost brought the wonderful world of Disney to Chicago, decided to do his own version of a Disney entertainment park instead. "Disney wanted to do a megamall entertainment center," explains Spatz. "Helping them out, I got educated in the entertainment business."

That education led to Billy Lee's. Though his success is by no means assured, Spatz points to similar entertainment centers that have opened strong in Baltimore, Salt Lake City, and Houston, among other places.

Spatz plans to offer something for everyone. Three restaurants will run the gamut from the fast-food B-Quik to the fancier Boardwalk with Mediterranean fare and a fresh seafood bar. Games will include go-carts, billiards, computerized golf, and a multitude of video diversions. At night Spatz promises live entertainment.

When not acting as an entertainment impresario, Spatz is CEO of locally based Spatz & Co., a national shopping-center management firm. His brother Larry also is in the entertainment business; he owns and operates the Baja Beach Club and the Tijuana Yacht Club.

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

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