Archive for October, 2007

The Local Tourist, NBC5 Street Team

“Chicago is an October sort of city even in spring.” Nelson Algren, Newsweek, August 13, 1984

If next spring is like this October was, Nelson’s insult turns into a compliment. Yes, I said was, since it’s now pretty much over.

If you didn’t get enough “boo”ze at Halloween parties, there are plenty of wine tastings coming up, including a dinner hosted by Lorraine Bracco featuring her wines. The Lincoln Park Young Professionals are having their inaugural “All New Chicago Wine Party“. Held at Lux Bar, there will be all-you-can-drink wines & martinis, and mini-burgers galore for only $30. Binny’s, the popular purveyor of all things alcoholic, is breaking out the “Best of the Best,” a sampling of over 30 new releases paired with items from their gourmet grocery. Foodlife, the fancy-schmancy don’t-call-it-a-food-court food court in Water Tower Place has its monthly $10 tasting.

When somebody asks “what’s cookin'”, you can tell them you are. Learn to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner from an expert at Marche on Saturday, and on Sunday cook up some Mediterranean delights at Macy’s Culinary Studio. The studio will also teach you to make martinis and light appetizers so you and your date can get an early start on Friday.

Also on Friday, the Auditorium Theatre will be lit by chandeliers as it’s transformed into a ballroom Friday evening and the City Lights orchestra will be performing at “An Intimate Evening with Christine Ebersole.” Another gala event that evening is at Spiaggia, reputed to be the best Italian restaurant in the city, to benefit One Acre Fund.

Feel like shopping? Get off the couch and head to SOFA at Navy Pier. The annual art fair offers sculptural objects and functional art. For something a little more affordable, head to the Merchandise Mart for their Luxury Sample Sale. Items that are normally only available to designers are on sale to the general public.

Have a great weekend!


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LeeAnn Trotter, NBC5 Street Team (Video)

When was the last time you went to the Museum of Contemporary Art? If it’s been awhile, I highly encourage you to GO CHECK IT OUT! I was there Saturday….and had such a great time. Plus–you can do so for FREE! The museum is celebrating its’ 40th anniversary, so they’re offering FREE admission through November 14th. Not only can you see some cool exhibitions like Sympathy for the Devil, but they also have lots of performances and interesting programs. Here are my top picks for the week.

5. Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll since 1967
You might be surprised at all the connections between art and music. Plus…musicians can go and record a song in a mini recording studio, and there’s a room with wall-to-wall records (I kept thinking I was going to break one)

4. Workshop: Screens, Doug and Rock and Roll
In conjunction with Sympathy for the Devil, every Wednesday from 6p – 9p, you can screen print your favorite band on either a t-shirt or poster.

3. Tuesday Evenings in the CaféThis is an offshoot from the ever- popular Tuesdays on the Terrace, which runs through September. Each week, there is a different theme: Magical Music Showcase, Bingo/Tango, Literary Gangs of Chicago, Stitch ‘N’ Bitch. Hilarious!!

2. First Fridays
On the first Friday of every month….the MCA essentially holds a theme party! You can enjoy a cocktail while checking out art. It’s a great way to hang out with friends without having to go to a bar.

1. Complaints Choir of Chicago
OK… doesn’t this sound wild! People send in complaints and a choir creates the complaints into lyrics. The Complaints Choir will perform on Saturday November 3rd at 1pm and 3pm.

Audio: Listen To Interview With Angelique Power

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The Local Tourist, NBC5 Street Team

MindsightYep, that’s me with this week’s featured band! Mindsight joined Michael Teach and me at the studios of Chicago Acoustic Underground to chat with us and play a few songs. It was my first effort at cohosting a podcast with Michael. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous, but they were a lot of fun and I quickly forgot that I was also being recorded. They’re one of my favorite bands, locally and nationally, and they’re playing an acoustic set at The Abbey (3420 W Grace) this Friday. You can bet I’ll be there!

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MaureenVana, NBC5 Street Team

The Weakerthans have returned to the road supporting their first studio album since 2003, “Reunion Tour” (Epitaph Records). Fans packed the Metro to a bursting point to see the return of their long awaited Canadian heroes take the stage. Jim Bryson and The Last Town Chorus joined The Weakerthans for an evening of punk/folk rock to tell your friends about.

Jim Bryson opened up with a quirky presence, genuine smile, and a good sense of humor that won over the Chicago audience. His voice carried through the Metro filling it with warmth and captivating the crowd into silence. Between songs the silence broke into wild applause showing approval for Jim’s musical styling and on stage persona. A backwards harmonica, a crashed computer, and a little case of nervousness might normally cause disaster in a set, but Bryson turned the hiccups into hilarity. When his computer failed Bryson called upon the crowd to take its place and assist him in a “70’s vinyl style fade out” that was executed perfectly by the Metro group. Bryson ended the night with some audience participation from 3 members of the crowd. He brought them on stage to shake mini maracas made from plastic Easter eggs in rhythm to his final tune. Jim thanked Chicago for their overwhelming welcome and would return later in the night to play along with The Weakerthans.

See Pictures From Concert

The Last Town Chorus, composed of Megan Hickey and a variety of back up artists, followed up next. Problems continued with with a broken acoustic and Megan’s guitar overpowering the vocals at times. Like Jim, The Last Town Chorus turned lemons into lemonade and pumped out an exhilarating set. Megan invited the crowd back for some non alcoholic beer after the show and asked for some suggestions on what to name her new aqua colored guitar. The group played their David Bowie cover of “Modern Love”, which has been featured on Grey’s Anatomy, and later had the guys from The Weakerthans come out and join them for their closing number.

The club had filled up and fans were cheering for The Weakerthans to take the stage. John K. Samson didn’t bother much with small talk allowing the group to fit in as many tunes as possible in their allotted time. The group was all smiles as they played tracks “Sun in an Empty Room”, “Aside”, and “Relative Surplus Value”. The warm and inviting atmosphere continued with a decor of yellow lights shining through drum heads that lined the back of the stage. The crowd sang along to every tune as if they were pouring their hearts on the floor, but in that good cathartic kind of way. “The Reasons”, “Times Arrows”, “History to the Defeated”, and a room shaking version of “Left and Leaving” were also among the list of songs played. The Weakerthans left Chicago fans revived and ready for the next reunion tour.

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Laura Lodewyck, NBC5 Street Team

I’m Laura in the NUDE HIPPO Newsroom with these top stories! The first depressing weekend of cold is upon us. Luckily, there’s still Halloween and various pumpkin-y fall festivities to distract you from impending winter.

Desperately vying for your attention are things such as the 13th Annual Gourdzilla Celebration at Foodlife (featuring the carving of an 1,000 pound pumpkin!), the tasty pumpkin specials at the Four Seasons Hotel (Moroccan pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie martinis!), and the Halloween Art Exhibit at the Mars Gallery (psychic and necromancer Neil Tobin for one night only!). There’s even random, made-up stuff like National Chocolate Day Celebration, which just means that you get a free chocolate-covered strawberry after your meal at several Morton’s Steakhouse locations.

The point is: everyone’s trying very hard to get you out of your house before winter descends, on a weekend with weather you won’t truly appreciate until you look back on it fondly (come February.) And Halloween hasn’t even happened yet!

There’s still time for Adobo Grill’s Dia de Los Muertes event, where artist Miguel Angel Quintana will demonstrate how to make sugar skulls as you kick back the margaritas… Be sure to check out Amy Zanglin’s happy hour tips to prepare for all the drinking you plan to do.

Fresh off your tequila buzz, take in all the gore, fright, and weirdness you can,
because come Christmas it’ll be all reindeer and elves and “It’s a Wonderful
Life.” And won’t you be sad that you missed Splatter Theatre, a production that opens on a white stage that “doesn’t
stay white for long”? I’m also intrigued by Oracle Production’s Disturbed II, which claims to illustrate definitively for its audience the “difference between startle and SCARE.” And the Rocky Horror Show at the Mercury Theatre is well-worth the trip—an amazing musical even aside from the fact that it’s just always fun to watch a bare-cheeked man in fishnets dance.

E-mail me at NudeHippo@nbc5.com and let me know about any upcoming events and be sure to watch some of the fun locations and events that NUDE HIPPO has covered at NBC5.com/nudehippo

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Trotter’s Top 5

LeeAnn Trotter, NBC5 Street Team (Video)

There are always so many great things going on around town. In fact, if you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to pick and choose where to go. So…each week, I’ll tell you about some really cool events that either I’ve personally seen, or ones that people are raving about. So here goes:

5.Chicago Humanities Festival: At first glance, this may look like a bunch of intellectual babble and talking heads. But…take a moment and really look at the schedule. You will find tons of exhibits, film screenings, concerts, and dance performances…and yes, if you’re in the mood for brain food, there are plenty of events to satisfy that hunger. By the way…this year the festival has a “going green” theme: The Climate of Concern. **There is also a Children’s Festival**

4.Niki in the Garden: OK…this is your last chance to see those colorful, larger than life statues amid the greenery at Garfield Park Conservatory. It closes on October 31st.

3. Six Corners Monster Movie Festival: This is one of my favorite ways to celebrate Halloween. And the Portage Theatre is a must see in and of itself. It’s a perfect backdrop for ghouls and goblins kick back and catch a flick or two.

2.Pacifica Quartet: If you love classical music (which I do) you will love the young and vibrant Pacifica Quartet. The are in the middle of a Beethoven Festival.

1.Jersey Boys: My number 1 pick this week is Jersey Boys. What an incredible show!!! Even if you don’t like musicals, chances are you will enjoy it. It’s the first time the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has ever been told. Call now and get tickets. It’s completely worth the money! Trust me!

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The Local Tourist, NBC5 Street Team

“But when I go to Chicago, I know I’m home.” Hank Sauer

Mr. Sauer, I couldn’t agree more. Last Saturday was my 6th anniversary in Chicago, and it’s felt like home since day one. Chicago and I go together like wine and art. That’s a timely analogy, since this weekend there’s a wine tasting at Big City Swing accompanied by the art of Erik Sosa. Wine and Catholicism also go together – ever been to a Catholic wedding? Since the Old St. Pat’s Block Party is known for bringing together future mates, an Italian wine tasting hosted by Old St. Pat’s Connections is just a logical event.

Stars In My Crown“, a film that tells a tale reminiscent of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and called “one of the most neglected films in the history of cinema” by Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, is showing at the Gene Siskel Film Center Friday evening. Also that evening, friend to the stars Billy Dec has his “Body Parts” on display at the Victor Skrebneski photography reception at Carrie Secrist Gallery. You’ll be seeing stars after a visit to La Pomme Rouge’s Dusk ‘Til Dawn. They’re serving cocktails from Rubi Rey Rum, which is encased in a red bottle (get it?).

It’s the final sign that fall is here and summer’s over. The Farmers Markets are done. This is the last week to head outside and choose local produce from the people who produce it. It’s also the last weekend for the Chicago Antique Market. That doesn’t mean we’re all supposed to head indoors for the next six months, though. There are still events in Daley Plaza, including Chicagoween, and Millennium Park is hosting scary storytellers and next month opens the ice skating rink.

Now get out there and have a great weekend!


p.s. This week’s featured band is competing in a Battle of the Bands tonight at Elbo Room. I’ll be there to cheer them on. Come join me!

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Marcus Riley, NBC5 Street Team (video)

A few weekends ago I found myself living in the Bizarro World. I realized that I had spent a Saturday akin to what a woman might have done — I went shopping and got my hair AND my nails did. And then while driving home, I started crying for no particular reason. Actually, that last part never happened, but it could have.

Thankfully, we live in a society where it’s OK for a man to be securely heterosexual, but yet enjoy a day at the outlet mall instead of camped out on the couch watching football. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but 30 percent off at the Off 5th Saks Avenue Outlet? C’mon!

I love a bargain, and have been known to eyeball an item for months before actually purchasing it. Another advantage to being a guy shopper? Our stuff can sit around forever without any turnover, whereas women have to decide whether to buy it now or risk it not being there next time around.

The problem with living in the city and being a bargain shopper and somewhat of a clotheshorse, is that you often have to make a trek out to the suburbs to find what you’re looking for. The aforementioned Off Saks is a good example.

But another destination for high-quality fashion at bargain prices has come closer to home for us city dwellers. Loehmann’s has just set up shop at 151 N. State St. If you’ve never been to Loehmann’s before, they carry brands such as Kenneth Cole, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan, just to name a few. We’re not talking about bargain basement Value City-type prices, but the brands and the quality of the merchandise is top-notch. Think of an upscale version of TJ Maxx or Marshall’s.

Check it out when you get a chance. Just leave all the 42L blazers and 34-32 slacks alone. It’s such an enjoyable experience it may just help stave off that good cry for another day or so.

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Tom Kolovos, NBC5 Street Team (Video)

SO…ever have one of those periods in your life that you feel so overwhelmed and overworked that it’s hard to see the blessings?

In the past few weeks I’ve been clocking some back to back 12 hour days in addition to working at least one day of the weekend. Ah, the life of a fashion stylist!
This weekend was the first one in quite some time that I didn’t have to work. I really love what I do, but all work and no play makes Tom a grumpy boy.

It took this weekend of rest for me to realize that this has been quite an amazing month in my life. In October, I made my national “debut”, if you will,
in InStyle magazine’s “Fashion 101” section, page 276
to be exact.

Then on the 16th, a double whammy. I made my national television debut on “In the Loop with iVillage” and by the time I got home from the show , it turns out I had
also made my national newpaper debut in USA TODAY which quoted me (first) in it’s article “Style becomes a real issue in ’08 presidential race.”

On the 17th, Stockholm Objects, a wonderful boutique in Hinsdale, hosted my very first in-store appearance. I spent the day meeting with some of their best
clients and helped them select some great pieces which found a good home in their very own closets. Oh, look here’s a picture of me at the event!

If your’re not familiar with SO, as it’s also known in shorthand, it’s well worth the trip for for it’s eclectic designer pieces from Scandanavia, especially
the knits from Anna Holtblat. In addition to clothing, the store carries home acessories.

Stockholm Objects is located at 26 W. Chicago Avenue in Hinsdale but will be moving to a nearby new and bigger location sometime after the new year. Check out
their website or call 1 630 655 0966.

And to top it all off dear friends, as I was about to
post this entry this morning, I was watching “Oprah” who was
doing a show on the importance of dressing appropriately for
advancing your career, only to hear Adam Glassman, the creative
director of O magazine, tell the friend who I had styled
from head to toe for the segment that she was a perfect fashion “10.”

I almost collapsed on the floor like Marie Osmond.

So, now I wonder what November will bring, besides a great Thanksgiving.

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Marcus Riley, NBC5 Street Team (video)

Over the past year or so, the folks at Facebook.com have made a couple of moves that have caused the social networking site to explode in popularity and threaten Myspace’s dominance, if not in numbers, then certainly in the all-important coolness factor.

Last year the site opened its doors to non-college students, which caused its subscriber base to swell, but another move has also created increased interest in Facebook. The site now allows outside developers to create applications to use on the site to interact with your friends. The applications range from music players to Celebrity Likeness to adding the ability to virtually kick or headbut someone, or to send them a drink.

One of the most popular applications is Naughty Gifts. The developers claim that about 5 million people have added this application which allows you to send virtual risque gifts like blow-up dolls or a pair of FMBs (boots). The naughtier the gifts you send, the higher you rise in the ranks of naughtiness — from a prude to a wannabe, swinger, hustler and finally, a legend.

If you’re not on Facebook, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering what all the fuss is about. And I’m not nuts about the whole application craze either. But here’s where it gets kind of cool.

Going.com is taking this particular Facebook application offline and throwing a Naughty Gifts party at Reserve Nightclub on Friday. Makes sense that it’s held in conjunction with Halloween. Last year comedian Bill Maher famously said that “women must admit that Halloween is just an excuse to dress like whores,” so as you can imagine, things will be getting a little naughty. Log on to Going.com for more details on the party, click here to view some pretty naughty Halloween pics from Level Nightclub last year, and check out my podcast interview with Going.com’s CEO below. And for God’s sakes ladies put some clothes on! Or not.

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The Local Tourist, NBC5 Street Team

Each week I feature a band on The Local Tourist. I have three simple rules. The band must be from Chicago and must have an upcoming Chicago show. And of course, I also have to like their music.

Fortunately, Chicago has more great bands than the Cubs have excuses for bad seasons.

I’ve had the opportunity to see this week’s band, Lucid Ground, twice: once at Double Door in all their rock star glory, and once at McGinny’s (313 W North Ave) where they played a fantastic acoustic set.

Don’t just take my word for it. Have a listen, and then go see them at Elbo Room this Wednesday, or at Double Door on November 3.

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Chicago Changed My Life

The Local Tourist, NBC5 Street Team

Six years ago, Oct 20, I moved to Chicago. This single event changed my life more than any other (except for the birth of my son, of course).

I had been wanting to move here for awhile. My son lives with his dad et al in the far west suburbs and I’d been commuting from Indianapolis to see him. That is not a short commute, and I-65 has to be the most boring stretch of highway this side of Kansas. I knew the mile marker number for every rest area, gas station, town, and point of interest. Yet, I kept delaying the move. I didn’t know a soul up here, except for my parents, and they lived in another suburb. Besides that, I’m as stubborn as a redheaded Irish Taurus can be and I wasn’t about to follow my ex up here, uh uh no way.

Then came September 11, 2001. On September 15 I drove up to Chicago, found a place with a view of the Sears Tower, and signed the lease with a move-in date of October 20. My parents didn’t even know I had been looking until I was already on my way back to Indy. I had to move to Chicago, and move here now. I was missing out on too much in my son’s life, and I was missing out on too much of my own.

Looking back I know I had been in a holding pattern. I’d finally graduated from college, but instead of pursuing a career with my Journalism degree I remained an office manager and toyed with the idea of freelancing. I dabbled a little in web design, creating a site for my mom with links to sites focused on her interests, and playing around with the idea of a health-focused website. Moving to Chicago kicked my bloomin’ you-know-what into gear.

Ten of us caravaned up I-65, and my parents met us at my new apartment in the sky. Most of my friends who’d helped spent the night, and we went out to celebrate my move. I was afraid that when they left the next day I would be terribly lonely.

Sunday evening, after they’d all left, I poured a glass of wine and looked out my window across the Merchandise Mart to the soaring Sears Tower and thought “I’m home”. It was as simple as that.

The next day I went for an interview at Kinzie Chophouse and breathed a sigh of relief when I was hired (yes, I moved here without a job, to my father’s chagrin). I had decided I was going to wait tables because I wanted the flexibility a restaurant job would offer me, and the pay was better than being an office manager or a neophyte journalist. I knew I wanted to work for myself, but I had no idea doing what, beyond knowing I needed to write.

I spent the next few months getting to know my new home. I reveled in being 3 hours closer to my son and getting to explore the city with him. I met a wonderful friend who became my Chicago Sherpa and showed me his favorite local haunts. I loved inline skating to the lakefront and walking to Michigan Avenue and hearing the rumble of the Brown Line as it passed 18 stories below. But, I was frustrated with trying to find grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. etc. etc. that were close to my home. I was new here and the city-wide sites were more confusing than helpful. Finally, I had one of those Aha! moments. I can’t tell you the date or where I was or what I was doing. All I can tell you is that I wanted to create a neighborhood based guide to Chicago, and I would start with my neighborhood, River North.

My first effort was amateurish at best. Fortunately, I’ve learned a bit over the years! Now it’s hard for even me to believe how much TLT’s changed. I saw Susan Frasca this week, the owner of Kinzie Chophouse and Mambo Grill, and we reminisced to that fragile beginning. She was there for me when I started The Local Tourist, and supported this crazy dream I had of creating a one-stop spot for both locals and tourists. She remembers how excited I was when I got my first four subscribers – and they weren’t family or friends. Now I’m in a position to give back by helping to promote her efforts. That is a wonderful feeling.

Another wonderful feeling is watching my parents go from “when are you going to get a real job” to “when are you going to expand to other cities so we can check them out.” You can imagine their feelings. Their 31-year-old daughter moves to Chicago with a college degree and chooses to be a waitress, then decides to create a website, of all things, when she has no technical background and barely knows her subject matter! To their immense credit, they kept their concerns to a minimum and simply supported me. I have the best parents in the world, and I’m glad that I can finally start giving back to them.

“Wonderful feelings” are where I suppose I’m going with all of this. I feel so incredibly blessed that I’ve had the opportunity to not only create a life that I love, but also that my job is to help people enjoy their own lives more. I get to help you choose where to go and what to do so that you can grab the most out of every day. By featuring local bands I get to help the incredible talent we have in this city. By asking those silly trivia questions each week I get to entertain by trotting out Chicago’s volumes of quirkiness as well as promote local businesses with their prize offerings. With my new partnership with local search engine Fave all Chicagoland businesses have an equal chance of exposure and everybody can find what they’re looking for close to where they are.

The best part? When my teenage son gets old enough he wants to work for me.

If someone would have told me six years ago that this would be my life, I’m not sure it would have surprised me. Chicago has a way of making dreams seem within reach, even if you’re not sure what they are yet. I’ll quote Irv Krupcinet: “There is none other quite like my city of big shoulders.”

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Dave Leonard, NBC5 Street Team (Video)

This past Sunday night, the red carpet was rolled out for local filmmakers Kenny Young, Carl Seaton and Producer Phil James for their latest movie “Redrum” (Which in case you didn’t know, spells “Murder” backward — very clever!).

A large gathering of Chicago socialites and a few Hollywood celebrities descended upon the DuSable Museum for the Chicago premiere screening of “Redrum” which stars the aforementioned Young (who also directed the film), Jill Marie Jones (former lead actress in the hit sitcom “Girlfriends”), Terri J. Vaughn (“The Steve Harvey Show”), Jenifer Lewis (“What’s Love Got To Do With It”), and Chris Spencer (“The Jamie Foxx Show”). The screening was preceded by an intimate VIP reception where complimentary cocktails and hor d’ourves served while the DJ played jazz-inspired house tunes. Comedians Joe Torry (“Poetic Justice”) and Rodney Perry (“Johnson Family Vacation”) who also star in the movie were in the house shaking hands and taking pictures.

At 9 p.m., patrons made their way into the museum’s theater to check out the film. Kenny Young and producer Phil James took the stage to thank their investors and introduce “Redrum”, which is a hilarious dark comedy about a conservative, suburban, married couple, Bryan and Tanya Diggs (played by Young and Jones), who have lost that spark in their marriage and decide they want to spice things up.

In “Redrum”, when a minor fender bender causes Bryan to accidentally commit murder, the couple discovers that inflicting death on people that “deserve it” gives them the thrill they have been yearning for. Brian later comes to the realization that what him and his wife are doing is wrong and tries to persuade her to stop murdering too. Their love for one another is finally put to the ultimate test when their worlds collide in an unforgettable showdown.

Unlike their award-winning film debut, “One Week”, which dealt with the serious topic of infidelity and the risk of HIV infection, “Redrum” is a witty horror movie, which is heavy on the laughs and very low on the blood and guts. Young and Jones share a great chemistry on-screen and keep the audience laughing with their deadpan humor and expressions. To best sum it up, “Redrum” was like a cross between “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”. This is a good alternative Halloween movie that you should check out when it hits theaters and/or your local Blockbuster soon. Support your local filmmakers!

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Ben Soldinger, NBC5 Street Team (video)

For those of you who have read some of my prior blogs, you would know that I intend to raise the awareness of the art form known as The Blues, which Chicago used to be the capital of. Here is a can’t miss night of entertainment that happens every Monday night from 9:00 until 1:00am at Ruby Nightclub (Ohio and LaSalle – great location) produced by my brother, Shane Soldinger. This night has recruited none other than Vance ‘Guitar’ Kelly and his Backstreet Blues Band to be the house band performing for most of the evening. After just a couple of months since Ruby’s Blues Night inception, this event has become known within the professional musician circles and has become a haven for these sorts of artists to hang out. A musical merry go round of some of Chicago’s finest musicians jumping up on stage for a song or two has become the norm. Sound like fun? To add an extra nice touch, there is a free hot BBQ buffet to soak up all the libations you’ll be consuming. Oh yeah, there is no cover.

This Monday in particular will be fun because my brother’s band, The Highway Robbers, have flown in from California for a CD release party. Their sound is early Rolling Stonesish with Bob Dylan-like lyrics promoting peace, freedom and rock n roll. Grass roots rock and roll – another crucial genre that is getting lost out there. Bring your clients, bring your friends, bring your family. Support the good guys and have yourself a great evening!

Ben’s Blog Archives:

Tavern On Rush

Chicago – ‘Home of the Blues?’

PARLOR Restaurant

Wednesday Nights at Sushi Samba

Quiet Comfort Lounges

Guns N Roses

The Perfect Casual Italian Restaurant

Into The Wild


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Dawn Washington

After spending the first booming week at the Chicago International Film Fest, I decided to trade in the first-rate drama for some first-rate comedy. So I checked out Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? on its opening night. Little did I know that I was in for some more drama…melodrama.

How could I forget the classic staples of the Tyler Perry movie: funny dialogue but predictable plots, cartoonish good and bad guys, and so much sappy melodrama, it would have Madea herself rolling her eyes. Critics will certainly leave theaters asking, “Why did I see this movie?” rather than ruminating over the movie’s interrogative title. The many comedic highlights weren’t the only humorous parts of Perry’s latest about the secrets revealed as four married couples vacation together at a Colorado lodge.

While the comedic dialogue was stellar, the movie’s acting and plot were disappointingly mediocre. Perry was wise enough to provide consistency and cast the dramedy with all B talent, himself included, but most of the main characters simply could not carry the film’s serious and ill-placed dramatic moments. Case in point: Janet Jackson’s character, Patricia, was written to be three dimensional but her actual performance fell flat with a climatic dramatic scene that was close to laughable. Jill Scott was promising although it was evident this was her first feature role. Also problematic was how Perry tested his characters with extenuating circumstances while requiring them to have the overwhelming patience, grace, and strength to overcome, heal, and forgive magically within movie minutes. Perry always crosses the line when it comes to suspension of disbelief and never really reconciles his character’s lives with reality.

But bad points and all, ask me if I enjoyed this movie and I’d offer an enthusiastic yes!

There were a couple of hundred reasons to enjoy Mr. Perry’s latest box office hit and they were all sitting around me in the theater that Friday night: The Black Community. If there’s one thing Tyler Perry has gotten right (and the media mogul has plenty) it is the race film. On opening night, the Illinois St. AMC 21 was sold out to Tyler Perry fans and those anticipating his new flick. What Eddie Murphy did for films like Coming to America, Harlem Nights, and Boomerang in the 80’s and 90’s, Perry has nailed; ushering the genre into the new millennium. Since its inception in the 1920’s, race films bring together the Black community to see and celebrate their favorite African American stars on the big screen, provide a forum for Black issues, establish Black American identity, and they build community by making audiences laugh, cry, and yell at the screen together (all pleasantries I took part in Friday night).

This is why a not so good movie when shared in the company of friends can lend to a good time. With Perry, going to the movies is fun again. What Perry lacks in filmmaking experience, he makes up for in providing exceptional movie-going experiences. So despite the question raised by the title itself, when asked whether or not race films like Why Did I Get Marrried? are still necessary today, I say judging from Friday’s crowd, “I do!”

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Tom Kolovos, NBC5 Street Team (Video)

My national television debut. What more can i say?

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Halloween Report: 10/18/07

Laura Lodewyck, NBC5 Street Team

I’m Laura in the NUDE HIPPO Newsroom with these top stories!

Until now, I never fully appreciated the sheer volume of Halloween-oriented activities in Chicago, not to mention the insane range of options available. How do you decide how to celebrate? I guess it depends on your definition of Halloween fun.

First, there’s the inevitable contradiction of Halloween for children. Halloween is arguably a holiday for the kiddies — but only the dressing up and eating candy part, not the walking undead, blood-splattered, chainsaw-massacre, evil-clown part. So the compromise is events like the “scare free” Ghostly Gardens at Navy Fear, or bat origami at Creatures of the Night at Garfield Conservatory. And there’s always Chicagoween.

Then, you’ve got the Halloween-is-an-excuse-to-do-that-strange-thing-you’ve-always-wanted-to-do crowd. If you’re one of them, I suggest the Thrill the World – Chicago event, which is being held with the intent of breaking the world record of people dancing the Thriller dance simultaneously. Or, you can live your dream of finally owning a giant mammoth costume, which will be available this Saturday at Goodman Theatre’s costume shop sale. There’s also good old-fashioned vandalism, which I of course don’t condone; but you have to admit that things like gnome-theft always seem to happen around this time of year.

Of course, classic Halloween means terrifying yourself so completely that you have to sleep with a nightlight until Christmas. A lot of the huge haunted houses are a bit outside of the city itself, but in Chicago there’s the Haunted Sanitarium by the lake (which used to be a real sanitarium, by the way) and St. Pascal’s Haunted House (which cautions, “NO CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 7!”, so you know it’s um…scary). If you do want to drive a bit to get your scare on, I suggest the Haunted Raven’s Grin Inn in Mount Carrol — partially because this Halloween they are holding a real “Ghost Seekers Night” for serious ghost hunters, but mostly because their web site features a giant cat peering over the roof of the house for no apparent reason.

And I have to mention the tours, because the city of Chicago itself is reportedly incredibly haunted. There’s the Chicago Hauntings Tours, which takes you to the highlights of “one of the most haunted cities in the world”; Weird Chicago Tours, featuring the most unusual haunted places; and Haunted Chicagoland Tours, bringing you the “most haunted locations from the comfort and safety of a luxury motor coach!”. Even the lake can be haunted, according to Seadog Cruises and Chicago Kayak Tours, which both offer haunted events in honor of Halloween.

I know I’ve missed even more Halloween events, so e-mail me at NudeHippo@nbc5.com and let me know what you suggest. And don’t forget to watch some of the fun locations and events that NUDE HIPPO has covered at NBC5.com/nudehippo

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All Hail Van Halen

MaureenVana, NBC5 Street Team

Christmas came early this year for Van Halen fans craving a gift they have been waiting 23 years for. An almost complete reunion of the band is in town for two shows that have sold out both the Allstate Arena (last night) and the United Center (Thursday). David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, and Wolfgang Van Halen answered to the call of 16,000 screaming fans last night who came from near and far to have their wish granted.

The group played for almost 2 hours concentrating on material created with David Lee Roth as vocalist. Eddie Van Halen and Roth seemed to truly be enjoying themselves and created a positive atmosphere with smiles and a few pats on the back. It seemed that differences were set on the back burner for the night and playing some good tunes for some great fans was given the spotlight.

See Photos From Van Halen at the Allstate Arena

It may not have been a perfect performance when considering every detail, but what mattered made it great. Eddie did what he did best and ripped out killer solos that left every guitarist and guitar hero wannabe in awe. David sang out “Runnin’ With the Devil” and all the songs that fans waited in the line of cars backed up to I90 for. Alex blasted out beats and Wolfgang held his own on bass while also adding some backing vocals.

The performance gave the fans what they asked for and the fans answered with a thunderous applause of thanks. Whether it was for nostalgia, or love, or both 16,000 fans looked beyond the past, beyond any minor flaws, and just had a good rock and roll time. If the momentum carries over from last night then, Van Halen fans are in for a treat at the United Center for an even bigger and better bash.

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Blagica Stefanovski, NBC5 Street Team (Video)

Leave it to me to throw in some political commentary, but I can’t help myself. Tune in to next week’s blog entry when I break down the ins and outs of my upcoming Chicago Bachelorette Bash this weekend…if you see a team of gals dressed in black, with someone in white, that’ll be me. No tiaras or sashes, please. Not my style. 🙂

Lions and tigers and rookie Aldermen, OH MY! We all know I look up to Mayor Daley. I have a picture of him on my cork board next to a picture of my dream car – a Mini Cooper. I’ll probably have the dream of a Mini Cooper before having the dream of a reasonable single family home or three flat in the city limits, given the Mayor’s request for higher taxes. Will Chicagoans be subject to condo living for the rest of our inner city limit lives? There’s nothing wrong with condo living of course. If I didn’t love my condo and the life of a condo owner, I wouldn’t have started CondoPerks.com.

My question is, why can’t I own a home in the near south side or north side and not go for broke in the process? I know, I know, real estate prices go up, Sure, I get that. Mr. Mayor, if you increase those taxes, it’ll be make it harder for us to graduate from a condo to a possible single family home and raise our kiddies. My husband-to-be grew up near your family home in beloved Bridgeport and enjoyed a middle class upbringing in an actual house. Sure, those were the 70s, but it makes no sense. Do you really want to push us out to the suburbs? There’s nothing wrong with the ‘burbs of course, but I love it here and wouldn’t mind sticking around for a while…without being ‘house poor’ or worrying about what less-than-safe neighborhood I should move into and afford an actual house. Heck, I know they exist – the city is full of those gems. It’d be nice to make it a tad easier for me to look, though.

Oh, and it’d be nice if perhaps the $3 million in TIF monies were used for something else, hmm? Do developers have that much say in use of city funds?

To all you rookie and long-term Aldermen, do the job you were put in place to do and speak up for us. You know, the ‘lil guy that doesn’t ‘have people’.

And to our beloved Chicagoan, Barack Obama, you broke my achy breaky heart by your recent support of Resolution 300, which is co supported by your colleagues Olympia Snowe and Robert Menendez.

Things haven’t been going smoothly between Greece and Macedonia lately and i rarely write about this sort of thing, but I’m a bit surprised by this recent activity.

For all you folks that wonder what the heck I’m talking about, the resolution is stating that Macedonia, my parents’ homeland, is teaching inaccuracies about history to students in Macedonia. If Obama and his buddies did more research, they’d find that these accusations are off base, but then again…I know how powerful lobbyists can be. Then again, the state of Illinois did pass a resolution that stated all Macedonians are of Hellenic background. I’m not kidding. Our House of Reps actually passed this. Why in the world does Illinois care?

Can’t I just be who I am without having to live in a state that says something else? I get enough grief when I go to Greektown, order food and get asked by the waiters, “Where are you from?”. “From the Country of Blagica” is my new answer.

Mr. Obama, I know you’re on the Foreign Relations committee and I also know that our state Treasurer is Greek, we have a Greektown, many Greek campaign contributors but come on, can you do a bit more digging into the topic? I’d be more than happy to blog about it. Better yet, how about you meet me at Cafe Society in the Prairie District for brunch this weekend and we can chat about it? I’ll invite Mayor Daley, too – he lives down the street.

It’s on me!

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JenJen Boyles, NBC5 Street Team

Renowned style collective Gen Art last week kicked off Chicago’s 2nd Annual Fashion Week with one of the best fashion shows (in style, execution, organization) the city has seen in a long while.

NBC 5 was there and got some great shots of upcoming trends — which include whimsical, boyish ensembles; crisp cottons; deconstructed dresses; straight, clean lines; and patent leather heels.

There was even one menswear designer showcased: Wrath Arcan3 was one of the highlights of the show and clearly a duo with a point of view.

Check out what the models were workin’:

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Izzy, NBC5 Street Team (Images)

Sorry I’ve been out of the loop for awhile. Don’t let anybody tell you there’s a stigma involved with rehab. No, I didn’t quite finish my stint, but I met a lot of cool people there who liked to party. Apparently, that’s something that’s frowned upon.

Nonetheless, I’ve been back in the Chicago area for a few weeks now, and have been getting back into the scene. There’s so many new spots to check out, like Climax Lounge, NV Penthouse Lounge and Bon V, just to name a few.

But with football season in full swing, I’ve also learned something else. Wherever the Chicago Bears hang, the ladies follow. I first discovered this at Jerry Azumah’s party a few weeks ago at Vain nightclub. He may be a former Bear, but judging by the crowd he attracted, you’d have thought he was up for MVP. (See Party Pictures)

But that event paled in comparison to Lance Briggs’ shindig a couple of weeks ago at Enclave Nightclub. Briggs hosted a fashion show with several of his pro sports buddies. The proceeds went to Briggs 4 Kids, his charity for disadvantaged children, but if there were any kids in the house their parents would have been covering their eyes. It was a wild night. I tagged along with Marcus who got the video and photo evidence, so check it out for yourself, and if you see me around town, holla!

Slideshow: Briggs 4 Kids Fashion Show

More Izzy:

Derby Infield: Not For The Timid

The Next Best Thing On Oscars Night

It’s Goin’ Down At The Underground

The Social Network

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Dawn Washington, NBC5 Street Team, Video

First of all, let me say that drug movies freak me out. It’s a personal thing; nothing really against the writers or filmmakers. But last night’s Chicago premier of Things We Lost in the Fire at the Chicago International Film Festival was not a drug movie.

One of the characters in the film, Jerry (Benicio Del Torro),struggles with addiction, but this movie certainly doesn’t stay there and build its home like many glorified drug movies. Things… is slightly reminicent of 21 Grams which, ironically, also features Del Torro.

The film is mainly about living through all forms of tragedy and lost, which is surprisingly not as depressing as it sounds (the film isn’t a total downer — it also offers comic relief and beautiful redemptive moments). Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) plays a wife and mother who is forced to cope with a loss.

The best way to describe this film is, touching. The writer of the film, Allan Loeb, who attended the screening along with the film’s director, Susanne Beir, wrote some of the most genuine, authentic, and profound movie lines I’ve heard in a while. Both Beir and Loeb understand that sometimes the most powerful things are said during your darkest moments, particularly through the mouths of children. I loved how the filmmakers used the purity and virtuous honesty of children to communicate the story rather than simply leaving the seemingly “adult themes” to the adults. Often filmmakers act as though children have nothing to say about life and death, when in actuality they can serve as the guide and the mouthpiece for those profound moments. This movie understands that, but it also understands that what we say and do during our tragic moments not only reveal who we are, but get to the true essence of living.

Things We Lost in the Fire was Beir’s first English-speaking film. She’s a highly respected and popular director in her native Denmark. Her extreme closeups of facial features and her soft and subtle eye are like a breath of fresh air. One of the notable things she said last night during the Q&A is that race (the film centers around a bi-racial family) had nothing to do with the film, nor should it.

Beir’s perspective and technique are beautifully refreshing; certainly unconventional compared to American filmmaking. I’m not sure if that was related to her being a female auteur, Danish, or both, but whatever the case, we need to see more of it.

You have until October 17th to visit The Chicago International Film Festival.

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Dawn Washington, NBC5 Street Team, Video

A year ago, when I quit the job I hated to pursue something I love, I had a hard conversation with myself. Yes, when I kissed goodbye my salary with full benefits for a part-time job that paid close to minimum wage, I asked myself, “Did I do the right thing?”

Last night’s Chicago premier of Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone heavily dealt with this question we all ask ourselves at one point or another. The premier was one of the Gala Presentations of the Chicago International Film Festival which will be ongoing until next week.

Ben Affleck showed up to the premier along with his handsomely younger brother, Casey, who stars in this intense mystery turned crime drama.

The movie was gritty, yes; raw, yes; Bostonian, yes (there were times the Boston accent/dialect was so thick, I needed English subtitles) and there’s Casey Affleck…oh yes. Ladies, in case you’re wondering, he’s got “it” and just as sure as the words on this screen, this movie will target him as the next Hollywood heartthrob. His performance in the film was solid, contemplative, and “exquisite” (as Ben spoke to his brother’s acting ability during a Q & A).

In Gone…, he plays a rookie private detective who is hired along with his partner/girlfriend to find a missing little girl. What I love about breakthrough performances, which this is for Casey, (see his first breakthrough in The Assassination of Jesse James) is that you can always detect a bit of humility and purity in the performance. Casey was able to deliver that when the character he played was quite the opposite: a young and cocky tough guy; brimming over with testosterone.

Casey Affleck was charming in person; a little like his character, Patrick, in the film- dark, thoughtful, and mysterious. He didn’t say much on stage last night but what he did say made you want to hear more.

As for Big Brother Ben, he said many things… like he found this particular book by Mystic River writer, Dennis Lehane, to be his favorite which is why he chose to write the screenplay along with co-writer Aaron Stockard. He also said that his friend, Matt Damon, was “too old” to play the lead and that his brother, Casey was perfectly casted.

As for the movie…much like my decision to quit my job to pursue a dream haunts me daily, Patrick, in Gone Baby Gone, eventually finds that he must meet the same haunting fate. The movie makes you think about how for some, the concept of what is “right” and “wrong” is all relative; how when everyone acts according to their own sense of “right”, the lines eventually get muddy, and there’s sometimes a resulting mess.

I suspect for many reasons, outside its cast of veterans like Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman, this movie will be a hit so, get your tickets before they are gone baby, gone.

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