Slick Home Chicago
America is about to get a taste of Chicago-style culture. The Illinois Office of Tourism under the leadership of Lynda Simon is preparing the nationwide launch of a striking new print and broadcast tourism campaign for Chicago with the focus squarely on culture and the aesthetics of life in our city. Arts organizations have long criticized both state and city tourism offices (which have been legion in the case of the city) for not doing more to promote the city's burgeoning cultural attractions; this campaign should help quell the griping. Prepared by McConnaughy Barocci Brown, a boutique agency headquartered in North Pier, the campaign is more visual than verbal. The centerpiece is a 60-second TV spot called "Utopia" that effectively plays up the drama inherent in much of the city's modern architecture. Most of the commercial consists of quick cuts from building to building with the camera poised at the base of each, looking straight up a glistening facade into dramatically shifting cloud formations. There also are shots of a sunlit room in a Frank Lloyd Wright house and the long, futuristic, neon-lit tunnel connecting Helmut Jahn's two United Airlines concourses at O'Hare. The spot ends with an unexpected twist--a jump to Wrigley Field, where we see Harry Caray leading the masses in a chorus of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." The last line of the voice-over notes: "What's remarkable about this city of tomorrow is that you can have a blast there today." According to Tom McConnaughy, president of the ad agency, the ballpark segment provides a softer, warmer contrast to the hard-edged architectural segments in the spot. Interestingly the commercial never succumbs to the temptation to provide even one sweeping aerial shot of the lakefront or Loop. The obvious stuff is all left up to the viewer's imagination.
Another ad, a two-page print spread schedluled to debut next month, plays off the headline "Live From Chicago, It's Saturday Night." Two-thirds of the spread is devoted to eight color photographs of the Civic Opera House, Andy's jazz club, the Steppenwolf Theatre, the Kingston Mines, the Cotton Club, Second City, Buddy Guy's Legends, and the Chicago Theatre marquee. The copy begins, "If you've never experienced Chicago's live music, live theater or live comedy, you haven't lived. In which case it wouldn't kill you to browse through this ad."
Chicago was late getting into the self-promotion game. But while most other city and state tourism offices still are using corny tag lines and your basic pretty photography, these Illinois ads project a more sophisticated, "less is more" approach to marketing the city. They certainly cast Chicago in a worldly and entertainment-oriented light. The further we get from the gangsters and violin cases the better.
Restaurant Retrenchment: Is the North Side Overstuffed?
The rush to open trendy new restaurants on the city's north side has died down considerably in the past several months, say insiders in the food biz. According to restaurateur Joe Carlucci, "The cost of getting into the business has increased tremendously." Which means so has the risk of going under if the concept doesn't click. Carlucci believes the north side has reached the point of restaurant saturation. Many of the city's established operators, such as Carlucci, Nick Nicholas, and Jimmy Rittenberg, are turning their attentions to the suburbs, where real estate developers are offering attractive deals to open upscale eateries in the rapidly proliferating office complexes.
Of course the city always has room for the right restaurant. The Elbo Room and its live-music basement opened last November with a carefully chosen menu featuring rotisseried entrees. The word went out about the food, and the wait for one of a handful of tables now approaches two hours on weekends. But chef and co-owner David Friedman says he is in no rush to duplicate his success elsewhere.
While restaurants are on hold, look for nightclub activity to pick up on Lincoln Avenue between Fullerton and Belmont. Sources say several club operators are eyeing sites in the neighborhood.
An American-Made Musical!
In about a month, local record stores will unpack an RCA Victor concept album for Jekyll & Hyde, a new musical based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel that is set to have its world premiere at Houston's Alley Theatre in May. It's been a long, long time since a musical spawned in America has gotten this kind of royal treatment from a record company. RCA plans to tout the release with in-store promotional materials and various media advertising. The company also is hoping to get airplay for some of the album's singles, including "Love Has Come of Age" and "Someone Like You." The album features Cohn Wilkinson of Les Miserables fame and newcomer Linda Eder, who is being compared to Barbra Streisand. The music, most of it in the lush-and-romantic vein, was written by Frank Wildhorn, who composed the Whitney Houston hit "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?"; lyrics are by old-timer Leslie Bricusse.
Two's a Series
Shakespeare Repertory wants to become an established theater company. That means a subscription season, and that means that after four years of producing only one Shakespearean work a year, artistic director Barbara Gaines is doubling the annual production schedule. In January 1991 the company opens King John, and that will be followed in February with Much Ado About Nothing; Gaines plans to run the two works in repertory at the Ruth Page Auditorium. Doing so will enable her to offer a subscription series, something she considers essential to her company's long-term viability. But it also will mean a doubling of the budget to approximately $630,000. "I'm not going to cut costs just to get more shows produced," says Gaines. She is working now to secure the funding.
Now It Can Be Yours
The former Playboy Mansion at 1340 N. State Parkway is going on the block. The price tag is being set at $6 million, according to Tom Koenig, president of Koenig & Strey Inc., which is handling the sale. Several years ago Playboy honcho Hugh Hefner donated the mansion to the School of the Art Institute, which has been using the building for dormitory space, among other purposes. But apparently the cost of maintaining the property was too high to justify the school's holding on to it. Whoever buys the place will have to spend some bucks remodeling it. "The bloom is off the rose," says Koenig.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Loren Santow.