Those were the best days of our lives.
Anniversaries often trigger nostalgia for a better time and place—better mostly because we were younger. For this reason, Newcity prefers to use such milestones to look toward the future, at what we hope is a better world for our older selves.
But 1993, the year we published the first Best of Chicago twenty-five years ago, was something special.
It was a special time in Chicago, especially in the alternative culture where Newcity had found itself. Chicago’s music scene exploded that year, supplanting Seattle as “the rock capital of America,” a moment that thrust Liz Phair, Urge Overkill, the Smashing Pumpkins and many others into the limelight (as chronicled in these pages last year by the Reader’s music critic at the time, Bill Wyman). The center of that music culture was the then-edgy bohemian neighborhood of Wicker Park, and our pages were full of stories and ads that chronicled this emerging space.
It was a special time for Newcity, too. We had one of our finest creative teams ever, and we were, after seven years of learning the publishing business the hard way, coming into our own. The creation of Best of Chicago, which was the first of its kind in our town, marked a turning point for us, both in our stature in the marketplace and in our bottom line, as we finally crossed the breakeven point.
So we decided this year to pause and reflect. We asked Jorge Colombo, who was our art director at that time and now mostly lives in New York where he often contributes covers to the New Yorker, to revisit Wabash Avenue, the subject of Chris Ware’s illustration for our first cover. Inspired by this, we decided to track down our original essayists of twenty-five years ago and ask them to do it again. Dale Eastman, then our senior editor, had left Newcity for the magazine world, ending up as the editor of San Francisco magazine, before she gave up journalism entirely and became an artist. Ray Pride would soon join Newcity as our film editor, a post for which he’ll soon celebrate twenty-five years. Ted C. Fishman, then a regular contributing writer, would climb the ranks of national magazine writing before switching primarily to books, like his bestseller, “China, Inc.” Ted stayed in Chicago and has continued to craft the occasional story for us over the years. Stephen Rodrick was already out the door for the New Republic at the time, after a staff gig at Newcity; the subsequent years have moved him around the country while he’s honed his craft, writing for New York magazine, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine and the New Yorker, among others.
In addition to all this throwback material we have, with our exemplary staff of today, crafted a couple hundred contemporary insights into the best of Chicago right now.
Newcity today is a much different entity than we were back then. But those early days were formative and the DNA of Newcity now is the same as it was back then. Best of Chicago 2017: a fusion of Newcity past and present.
Look for Newcity’s November Best of Chicago 2017 print edition at over 1000 Chicago-area locations this week.