Washington Square Park
It is Karmic Ground Zero for classic Chicago literature. Read Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago Poems,” Ben Hecht’s “1001 Afternoons in Chicago” and “The Front Page,” Nelson Algren’s “Chicago: City on the Make,” or Studs Terkel’s “Division Street: America” while sitting on a bench there across the street from both the Newberry Library and the site of the late lamented Dil Pickle Club. Today, you’ll see the same dynamic these writers explored between the hustlers and the squares, between the homeless camping out and the privileged walking their lapdogs, and between the clueless and the in-the-know. The spirits of Harriet Monroe’s Poetry and Margaret Anderson’s Little Review haunt this space as well, and keep your eye peeled for Sherwood Anderson.
901 N. Clark
Best of Chicago 2015
This week is the 60th anniversary of what many consider not only the most unique radio station in Chicago, but in the country, if not the world. When Bernard and Rita Jacobs went on the air at 3pm on December 13, 1951 for an eight-hour shift of classical music and fine arts programming until 11pm with Bernard as the engineer and Rita as the announcer, few could have predicted what a force this then-small station would become. Two years later, the programming had expanded to eighteen hours a day—24/7 by 1968—and in 1954, the station considerably broadened its broadcast range by moving down the dial from its original 105.9 to its current 98.7 FM setting. Generating its own unique programming was a signature element of WFMT from early on: early live programs included concerts by Pete Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy and a conversation between Carl Sandburg and Frank Lloyd Wright. WFMT was also an early innovator in broadcasting live concert and opera performances, including regular series broadcasts from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera that are still running. Other legendary WFMT programs include then University of Chicago student Mike Nichols creating the Saturday night folk music program “Midnight Special” in 1953, which is still on the air, before going on to his career as legendary stage and film director. Writer Studs Terkel began his WFMT show in 1953, which became a stalwart of the station until Terkel’s retirement over half a century later. WFMT has always made the highest possible audio broadcast standards a top priority, including some of the earliest stereo signal broadcasts and, in the early 1960s, the first regular broadcast series of stereo concerts by the Fine Arts Quartet. Voted in 1964 by Hi-Fi/Stereo Review readers as the highest-fidelity station in the nation, other innovations included broadcasting with Dolby Noise Reduction as early as 1969 and in quadraphonic sound in 1972. By 1979, WFMT became the first international “superstation,” not only broadcasting by satellite and across cable systems across the country but also becoming the first American station to become part of the European Broadcast Union as well as to have its prerecorded programs broadcast behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union and China. In 1981, WFMT was chosen to be the first radio station in the world to broadcast music from a Compact Disc and the first programming of DAT (Digital Audio Tape) in the mid-1980s. For all of its cutting-edge technology and industry broadcast standards established by WFMT over the years, it remains in many ways the same “ma and pa” station that it was some sixty years ago in that then, as now, no prerecorded commercials are broadcast on the station. Instead, program and broadcast hosts continue to read advertiser copy with the same precise enunciation and alliteration that they give to carefully articulated foreign phrases and composer opus titles, which is just the way its devoted listeners want it.
Best of Chicago 2011
Twitter is not the most corrupt social network. It’s the most theatrically corrupt.
Best audience choices:
“How do you change the ribbon on this thing?”; “Ran into Algren on Division, grabbed a whiskey and some tapas”; “And then when the former Mayor Daley, he was a corker wasn’t he?, was in office the folks there on the west side voted for him because he co (What? You thought he’d get it done in 140?)”; “Milk steak, and jelly beans.”
Best of Chicago 2009
Studs Terkel was the last of a generation of Chicagoans who came of age in the fifties and sixties, and through a combination of talent, output and staying power became fixtures in our cultural consciousness. Oprah, MJ and Barack may have all come to fame in Chicago, but they’ve become global personalities now, transcending geography. Tony Fitzpatrick, one of our town’s most successful visual artists, epitomizes the city in his work and his personality. Beyond image-making, he’s an actor on stage and screen, a published poet and an occasional raconteur on the radio. But beyond all that, he’s a friendly, down-to-earth guy you might just run into and have a nice chat with at a literary event or a White Sox game.
Best of Chicago 2009
Studs Terkel, Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow—Chicago is a city of undeniable writing talent and 826CHI is on a mission to find the next great crop. Started by author Dave Eggers, 826CHI “is dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.” Volunteers are always needed to help run the after-school programs and assist in administrative tasks. And with such entertaining fundraisers as the moustache-a-thon, you know this volunteer opportunity would never be boring.
1331 N. Milwaukee
Best of Chicago 2008
Don’s Dog House
When you think of fast-food joints today, you think of shiny glass and brick on the outside, with Formica tables and stainless-steel counters on the inside, all advertised by a giant, lexon-plastic sign. But what about the days of the corner hotdog stand or the hotdog shack on the beach? Cobbled together out of plywood, tin or whatever materials were available, these were the places that populated Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” and Algren’s “Neon Wilderness.” Don’s Dog House is one of a vanishing breed of urban hotdog shacks, and its story would make the late Studs Terkel proud. “The place started in the 1960s,” Nathan Hoffman, the weekend shift-worker at Don’s says as he peers through a small, wooden window to take an order. “It was run by Greeks, and I guess they had problems with fires. It kept burning down and they kept repairing it with whatever they had around. Finally, they took an old school bus, cut it in half, and made it into a hotdog stand. So far it has been holding up pretty well.”
5359 W. Addison
Best of Chicago 2008