Ben Hollis looks back on his pre-Wild Chicago days in Sex, Booze and Candy Bars | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Ben Hollis looks back on his pre-Wild Chicago days in Sex, Booze and Candy Bars

Although the songs are out of tune, his absurdist, irreverent humor is still intact.


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I was a little too young to catch Ben Hollis's local travelogue Wild Chicago during its original run on WTTW (1989 to 2003). But based on archived footage on YouTube, there was a lot about it to love.

Like a predecessor to Dave Attell's Insomniac, Hollis's news magazine roamed the city's neighborhoods to discover and showcase viewer-mail-suggested, not-for-tourist attractions, like indie wrestling matches and irreverent novelties in locally owned shops. In the process, he created a time capsule of Chicago memories not otherwise documented.

Now 64 years old, Hollis takes an admittedly self-indulgent look at his life leading up to his most notable professional accomplishment. Inspired to look inward after surviving brain surgery to address an arteriovenous malformation, Hollis chronologically sets major turning points—first loves, college, marriage, divorce—in his life to music, both covers and originals, performed by his friend, the guitarist John Siegle.

It's . . . weird. No less than four times does Hollis reference his mother's breasts as a "bed of bosoms," which makes sense in the context of a man walking audiences through his sexual development, but in practice, that translates to a lot of time listening to a senior reflect on his childhood "oozy-oozy feelings."

And yet, even though the songs are warbled and out of tune, I felt a bit inspired listening to his story knowing the absurdist, irreverent streak that defined Hollis's youth is with him today. In a spot with as much young blood as Annoyance, that's something.   v

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