RUFFALO CHARMS AT GENE SISKEL FILM CENTER GALA; CHEVALIER KUTZA; ELITE CHICAGO; ART OF THE BUNNY; ARTS ALLIANCE ILLINOIS BENEFIT; DANCE FOR LIFE; FINNIGAN IS FINI (HERE ANYWAY); CHEF ART-HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE!; CINEMATREK'S GEOFF BURTON'S BURGERS; WOOF, WOOF FOR WOOFSTOCK; CHEFS & THE CITY; CORINNE HAS GONE COUNTRY; CHICAGO JAZZ PHILHARMONIC GALA; SHINE & DINE; GRASS IS GREENER FOR CELEBRITY CRUISES; CUTE VIDEOS AND SO MUCH MORE!
I couldn't wait to attend and cover the "Above the Rails" gala hosted by The Trust for Public Land to celebrate the opening of The 606! If you hadn't read and been excited by all the press surrounding this grand opening, then you were living in a cave! The kick-off event, the gala on June 5, was held at the Western Trail Head
located at 1821 N. Ridgeway Avenue, which required Mapquest for us to find, making the evening even more exciting! Venturing into the unknown is one of my favorite pastimes and seeing things I've
never seen before is a daily quest for me, so I couldn't wait to see what the organizers had in store for this inaugural event. Before the party began, Mayor Emanuel remarked of The 606, "It's not even open yet and it's already a landmark for
Chicago." The gala brought together more than 950 guests for a sneak peek of the elevated Bloomingdale Trail, the nearly 3-mile long centerpiece of The 606. After parking the car with expert, friendly valets, we were directed to the Step-and-Repeat where
a delightful backdrop of greenery inspired by plantings found along The 606 provided lasting photo memories for guests. Ahead, I saw a large spiraling mound of earth (the Exelon or Ridgeway Observatory) where the horn-driven Lowdown Brass Band was exuberantly performing on top. As we
wound around the path towards the VIP party, we encountered delicious tasting stations, the first being The Bristol's renowned and beloved Executive Chef Sean
Pharr, who was serving up delicious cucumber gazpacho with Indian spices and pickled strawberries with his usual big smile. We walked along the path admiring the views and foliage and I realized what a great gift
to Chicago this was. Even though I'm not a biker (or a runner), I was already planning a return in my mind to this rails-to-trails project. I loved seeing the views down
Monticello Avenue, where each house looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. I also loved the grittier views of factories, smokestacks and poorly maintained backyards. It was all quite
surreal, like a ride along the monorail at Disneyworld. The landscaping, by Christy Webber, is and of itself a reason to visit, with paperbark maples, pines and acers (a type of maple). I was told by horticulturist Eric Thomas that there was even a forest of 700 poplar trees! Further
along the Trail, two culinary dynamos were busily serving up their delicious treats for the crowd. Chef Rick Bayless couldn't even take time for a photo he was so busy dishing out "coctel verde de camaron" (poached Mexican blue shrimp, jicama, and cucumber
in a tangy green cocktail sauce with avocado, cilantro and tortilla sand. (Melt in your mouth!) Chef Bill Kim served blackened cauliflower with wheat berries, avocado and yogurt with plantain chips. (Yummy!) Some of the guests had even dressed in attire inspired by The 606. Whitley Bouma Herbert, Susu Block, Karen Krehbiel and Avery Keller all wore champagne colored outfits topped with a piece of prairie grass in
their hair! Inside the 20,000 square-foot tent situated on the grounds of the McCormick Tribune YMCA, the Revel Group, had created magical decor inspired by the Trail. Both large and small metal "bridges" connected tables in the tent and reflected the goal of the project, to connect neighborhoods. Chef Molly Brewe of Limelight created a menu that featured
family style dishes locally sourced. Providers included Nichols Farm, Slagel Family Farm, Seedling Market and Eli's Cheesecake. DJ Greg Corner, accompanied by violinist Julia Schifrin, cellist Tahirah Whittington, trumpeter Corey Wilkes and urban dance group, FootworKINGz. A resident along the trail, food critic and culinary reporter Steve
Dolinsky emceed the night's program. Dennis Muilenburg, vice chairman/president /COO of The Boeing Company, the title sponsor for the event, shared insights on the importance of his company's support of The 606. President Will Rogers and Chicago region director Beth White of the Trust for Public Land offered gratitude for the communities, companies, committees and the departments of the City of Chicago and the
Chicago Park District for the "passion and partnership in elevating Chicago." The official steward of The 606 and president of the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, Ben Helphand, received a standing ovation. "To all those neighbors who explored the trail, played beneath the viaducts and painted its walls, you helped transform this place with your dreams and your footsteps. Thank you!" he said. It was truly a night of celebration for this outstanding contribution to the city that will connect neighborhoods and people while making memories and building dreams. An after-party featured visual artists Shala and BboyB, who
composed original artwork that was signed by attendees. (It sold for $8,000 in the earlier live auction). The event raised nearly $1 million to be directed to The Trust for Public Land's continued support of The 606. For more info, click here. (Photos by Barb Levant, James Atkins and Erika Dufour).
cinematic artistry when it honored two-time Academy Award nominee and all-around cutie Mark Ruffalo with the Renaissance Award at The Ritz-Carlton on June 6. More than 350 guests attended the festive evening that was a celebration of Ruffalo’s many accomplishments as an actor, director and
producer. (I love him as the Incredible Hulk!) Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips conducted a Q & A with the actor who reminisced about
his film roles, provided insights into his creative process and influences and discussed upcoming projects. A retrospective of film clips from his most memorable performances accompanied the
conversation. A surprise presentation by Dr. Richard Sandor made Ruffalo gasp. The Mayor proclaimed June 6 Mark Ruffalo Day in Chicago.....awwwwwww! (To view Ruffalo's acceptance speech, click here!) The benefit was co-chaired by longstanding GSFC supporters/Advisory Board members Marlene
Iglitzen and Ellen Kollar with support from GSFC Advisory Board Chair Ellen Sandor. More than $400,000 was raised to support the Gene Siskel Film Center’s film programming as well as lecture series and discussions with visiting scholars and filmmakers. Past Renaissance Award honorees have included some of the
most respected actors and directors working in the film industry including Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese
Witherspoon, Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr. (my FAV!), George Lucas, Nicole Kidman, Bob Balaban, John Woo, Michael Mann and William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman. (Photos by Mila Samokhina and Bob Carl)
The President of the French Republic has named Chicago's own, Michael Kutza, a Knight (Chevalier) of the Legion d'Honneur! This distinction acknowledges his outstanding professional achievements, "as an internationally recognized graphic designer, filmmaker and the Founder of the Chicago
International Film Festival," said Vincent Floreani, Consul General of France in Chicago. Michael is the recipient of many international awards, including in 1984 the Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from French
Minister of Culture Jack Lang. The Legion d'Honneur is the highest decoration given by the French government and was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802! It has only been awarded to three other people in film: Angelina Jolie, Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg. The award recognizes Michael's role in the promotion of French cinema and their creators
under his presidency of the Chicago International Film Festival for the last 50 years."I am honored to be recognized for doing something that seemed so natural for me to do: Bring the best in French films and talent to my city!" Kutza said. Over the years, the
Chicago International Film Festival has hosted such French film luminaries as Jacques Demy, Claude LeLouch, Isabelle Huppert, François Truffaut, Leslie Caron, Louis Malle, Bertrand Tavernier, François Ozon, Agnes Varda, Patrice Chéreau, Anouk Aimée and Jeanne Moreau."As François Truffaut said at our Festival back in 1981, 'VIVE LE CINÉMA!'"
added Kutza. AND, VIVE KUTZA! So happy for our native son! You make Chicago proud Michael! A private award ceremony took place at Public on June 16.
Chicago Elite, the city’s newest private charter yacht, celebrated the launch of its
$1 million renovation with a ceremonial christening at Navy Pier on May 26. Providing Chicago with the most innovative and accommodating private
charter yacht, Chicago Elite features sensational views, a contemporary setting, customizable options, and an exclusive dining and entertainment experience. Since the 1800’s, a boat has been christened by breaking a sacrificial bottle of champagne over the bow as the ship is named aloud and launched. Chicago Elite was christened by President & CEO of Navy Pier Marilynn Gardner with a
bottle of Moët & Chandon. The ceremony featured NBC's Alicia Roman as emcee, a performance by the Budlong Elementary School Choir and St. Ida’s Children’s Choir, remarks by Vice President and General Manager of Entertainment Cruises Chicago Dan Russell, and a display by the Chicago Fire Department’s fire boat.
Following the ceremony, Chicago Elite hosted a private cocktail reception and inaugural cruise on Lake Michigan. Welcome to Chicago Elite! (For more info, click here!)
Don't miss Art Paul's exhibit Hard Heads, Sweet Knees, Forked Tongues at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago (2320 W. Chicago) from now through July 26. As a graphic designer, Art has had an adventurous career
as founding art director of Playboy magazine, designing its signature rabbit-head logo, mentoring artists and illustrators (especially from Chicago), leading a revolution in illustration toward more experimental and personal work, and eventually organizing exhibitions for the magazine. Art was
born in Chicago, trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Institute of Design—the “Chicago Bauhaus.” He started his career as a freelance designer and illustrator. In 1953, he designed the first
issue of Playboy, and during the following three decades, took an adventurous, award-winning approach to editorial design and illustration. He retired from the magazine in 1982, and has focused entirely on drawing and painting
for the past thirty-three years. His exhibition documents Art's career as an artist after he retired from Playboy. The exhibit will chiefly feature a collection of works from the “Head” series—inner portraits of anonymous faces that Art created over the course of several decades. There are also line drawings, cursive word drawings and several
paintings on display. As a whole, the artwork refers to his personal values, satirical observation, and social commentary that is at times serious but streaked with humor. The works were created using a variety of
techniques and materials, including colored pencils, graphite, china markers, colored inks, and acrylic paint on paper. Hef and Art were longtime collaborators and partners in crime at Playboy. There would be no Playboy, at least the way we've come to know it, without Art. His works are also
for sale, so grab a piece of history while you can. There is also a documentary planned about his life. See the teaser here (courtesy of MorqQuest Productions) for The Man Behind the Bunny: Art of Playboy, a feature-length
documentary film about the life, work, and impact of Art Paul, the creator of the iconic bunny logo and founding art director of Playboy. Also, in case you didn't know, on every single Playboy cover, there's a hidden image of the Playboy bunny logo. In my "Eyes" cover (shown here), it's found in my
The 3rd annual Voices of a Creative State benefit luncheon was a great success, bringing together 450 arts leaders and advocates from across the state to support the work of Arts Alliance Illinois, the state’s leading arts advocacy organization, at the Swissotel Chicago. The event featured a keynote address by University of Chicago President Robert J.
Zimmer who discussed the vital, transformational role the arts play in education and civic engagement. The event also honored two individuals who have made profound and lasting contributions to
Chicago’s theater scene: Steppenwolf Theatre Artistic Director Martha Lavey and former Steppenwolf Executive Director David Hawkanson. Representing Ms. Lavey (while she recuperates from a stroke) was Barbara Gaines, artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. More than
$270,000 was raised to support initiatives that foster and grow support for arts organizations throughout the state through arts-friendly policy change, studies demonstrating the economic impact of the
state’s arts and culture industry, and the development and implementation of policy improvements to advance arts education access, equity and quality in Illinois. "We are tremendously
grateful to the many individuals and organizations that came together to celebrate the essential role of culture and the arts in Illinois," said Ra Joy, Executive Director of Arts Alliance Illinois. “This event is so much more than a fundraising initiative; it’s about elevating the many
ways that culture and the arts help to build and strengthen our communities and our democracy. We are proud and thankful for the all of the artists, arts administrators, and advocates from
across the state who share our deep commitment to a thriving arts and cultural sector." The Honorary Chair for the event was Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The Benefit Co-Chairs were
Greg Cameron (Joffrey Ballet), Greg Thompson (United Healthcare), Cheryl Cooke (Allstate), Nora Daley (Board Chair, Steppenwolf Theatre Company) and Sean Conroy (Grosvenor Capital Management). The Event Planning
Committee Co-Chairs were Brooke Flanagan (Chicago Shakespeare Theater) and Julie Schmidt (Board Member, Arts Alliance Illinois). The highlight of the program was Zimmer’s address, which touched upon the "power of culture and the arts to open minds, foster collaborations, and create more vibrant communities."
Under Zimmer’s leadership, the University of Chicago has forged connections with the local South Side and Chicago-area cultural organizations and education programs. UChicago Arts—the University’s collection of professional and presenting organizations,
academic art departments and programs, and arts and culture initiatives—is becoming a national model for how an urban research university fosters an integrative approach to the arts. Ben Cameron of New York’s Doris Duke
Charitable Foundation (and formerly of the Theatre Communications Group) came to Chicago to celebrate Martha Lavey, who since 1991 has served as artistic director of Chicago’s internationally recognized Steppenwolf Theatre, and David Hawkanson, who served as the company’s executive director for
11 years. The two, who were instrumental in nurturing the continued artistic evolution of the Theater’s internationally acclaimed ensemble and, through the Public Square initiative, revolutionized how an artistic institution interfaces with and engages its audiences and the broader community, were presented the Citizen Advocate Award for their local and national contributions. Congrats to both! As a side note, David was a neighbor of ours and lives in the cutest house on the planet in Old Town. See pics here of this charming 780' foot home!
Seven of Chicago’s top dance companies will come together for one evening at Dance for Life, an annual event to support organizations and dance community professionals dealing with critical health issues, including, but not limited to HIV/AIDS. The performance will take place on August 15 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University followed by a
gala reception at the Hilton Chicago. Dancers from Joffrey Ballet, Giordano Dance Chicago and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, among others, will participate in the performance. Funds raised will benefit the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and The Dancers’ Fund. For tickets and more info, click here!
The Grass is always Greener for Celebrity Cruises! It pulled off a cross country luxury event in three cities
last week for its latest attention-grabbing campaign! Picture this (at the Lit Fest)...suddenly, you see 100 butlers all dressed in formal attire walking in a straight line with picnic baskets! They stop in formation to let the
crowd catch its breath, and then, simultaneously, march up to surprised attendees delivering goody-laden picnic baskets! One lucky couple found a certificate for a 5 night cruise in theirs! The campaign highlighted the Lawn Clubs
aboard the Celebrity Cruise ships, where guests can enjoy croquet, bocce ball or golf-putting in half-acre lawns of real grass!! Check out all the other wonderful things this luxury line has to offer here!
Andrew Hart, the charming evening host
known as “Finnigan” on Hubbard Radio's hot adult-contemporary WTMX FM 101.9, is headed for San Francisco. Andrew announced his resignation last week after three years at The Mix. He will be leaving at the end of this week to host
mornings at KOIT, an Entercom Communications adult contemporary station in San Francisco. I adore Andrew, like all of his other fans, and will miss his presence in Chicago. According to this Robert Feder column, Andrew was ranking #1 with women aged 25 -54 and among the top 4 with adults aged 25-54. San Fran is one lucky city! (Follow him on
I'm so proud and happy for our own Chef Art Smith! First he's presenting a TEDx talk and next he's cookin' up a storm in Vilnius, Lithuania! Love it! Here's his Facebook comment: "Gorgeous day and evening, taught a group of Chefs how to make shrimp and grits, our famous Table 52 Fried chicken,
Roasted Pork with Apple Slaw from Healthy Comfort and Chocolate Boudinos from Lyfe Kitchen. Chef Hector Guerrero had it going on! Did an LGBT event tonight with Internet Music Star Steve
Grand and the very fabulous Tomaš Leja." Just love Art and Jesus and am happy to see them fly spreading their joy and talent!
No city loves their pets more than the Windy City, so on Saturday, June 27, Animal Planet is hosting a free festival celebrating pet adoption with dozens of dogs, kittens and puppies available for adoption from PAWS Chicago. WOOFSTOCK: ROAD TO PUPPY BOWL is a free festival at Stadium Green at Soldier Field from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM and is open to the general public - and their dogs. The event is headlined by an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “largest gathering of
adopted pets,” at 2:30 PM. For specific rules and guidelines for the World Record attempt and to register for WOOFSTOCK, click here. Beyond the stage, WOOFSTOCK will feature an array of attractions, including “The Beer Sanctuary” presented by Lagunitas. A collection of Chicago’s finest food trucks also will be onsite to delight a diverse array of pallets and appetites. Four legged guests will have a ball with doggie obstacle courses, pet swag bags, and booths from PAWS Chicago, the ASPCA, and Dog Vacay. Your dog also will have the photo op of a lifetime at the replica PUPPY BOWL field.
Grab your favorite foodie friends for a real taste of Chicago! Heartland Health Outreach (HHO) will host its annual Chefs and the City tasting event at the fabulous Montgomery Club (500 W Superior) on Thursday, June 25 from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.More than 20 chefs from Chicago’s most sought-after restaurants will share the finest
cuisine at the event. Honorary Chairs Nina and Bob Mariano (Mariano’s) and Cat De Orio (WTTW Chicago’s “Check, Please!”) will host. Don’t miss your chance to win luxury prizes in the Grand Raffle that will include restaurant gift certificates, private dinner parties, cooking classes and a trip to New York. Proceeds from Chefs and the City will support Heartland Health Outreach’s
HIV/AIDS services, including the Vital Bridges Center on Chronic Care. For tickets, $250, and more info, click here.
Chicago Jazz Philharmonic celebrated its tenth anniversary season with a Gala at the Arts Club recently. Nearly 200 guests turned out for this event which also honored
Lauren Deutsch, Executive Director of the Jazz Institute of Chicago. The event raised over $115,000 to support Chicago Jazz Philharmonic performance and education programs. Co-chaired by Joel and Frances Zemans and Carol Saffold, the evening included a cocktail reception, a concert by the Chicago
Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble featuring guest artists Roderick Dixon and Ari Brown, a silent auction, and a seated dinner. ABC-7's Cheryl Burton served as emcee and regaled the guests with anecdotes about her personal involvement with music education and performance as a child. In a jazzy “spoken word” performance complete with
finger snaps, trumpet riffs, and a steady bass line, Orbert Davis and Mark Ingram, co-founders of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, presented Lauren Deutsch with the inaugural Founders’ Think Big
award which recognizes an individual who represents the visionary, “can-do” spirit that led to the orchestra’s birth. In accepting the award, Ms. Deutsch said, “I think the most important thing I’ve learned from this music, and my place in it, is that we each have a gift to offer to the world; and how much farther we can go when we realize our collective strengths are more powerful than our perceived differences.”
On Thursday, August 13, Step Up Women's Network will host a chic evening of networking, philanthropy and local fare at the 5th annual Shine & Dine to be held at Bridgeport Art Center. All proceeds will be directed toward Step Up's charitable programs, empowering teen
girls in Chicago's under-resourced communities to become confident, college-bound and career-focused. You can view a video about our programs here and for more info, click here.
Special thanks to my friend, journalist Geoff Burton (CinemaTrek), who helped me gain 5 extra pounds. Geoff reviews films, critiques
restaurants and writes about just about anything you would be interested in. He also has an annual "Best Burger" list. So, recently, he took me to Shake Shack for the first time. (I know I'm the last one to visit, so shoot me.) Shake Shack serves everything from 100% all-natural Angus beef
burgers to flat-top dogs made with Chicago’s own Vienna Beef, plus fresh-made frozen custard and craft beer and wine. We had the burgers (although Geoff also had a hotdog appetizer!?!) and I will tell you, it was SIN-SATIONAL! No thanks..errr, I mean thanks so much Geoff! (Two locations, 66 E. Ohio and in the Chicago Athletic Assn. Hotel on S. Michigan Ave.)
A very special shout-out to Xander Lawlor! He will be competing in the USA Taekwondo National Championships on July 8th in Austin, Texas. Chuck and I are so happy to be co-sponsors for this great kid who's already a winner in our books!
Congrats to Corinne Melchior, who had a great segment on WCIU's "You & Me This Morning recently to promote her upcoming fundraiser, "Gone Country", a benefit hosted by the Young Friends of the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation. The event takes place on Thursday, June 25, at the Ivy Room (Tree Studios at 12 E. Ohio). For tickets and more info, click here and to see her cute video segment, click here!
MAX'S STORY, my heartwarming documentary about a much loved Ronald McDonald House Ambassador family (the Herricks and their awesome son Max) will be airing throughout June on CAN-TV, channel 21. Catch it on Thursday, June 18 at 8 pm and June 24 at 10:30 pm. Thanks to all who participated in this award-winning video (Kes Akalaonu, Bill Natale, Illinois Centers for Broadcasting, Bob Mills, Alonzo Stallings, Dave Lawlor, Matt Natale, Brian Kaempen and Josh Orr).
Hot time, summer in the city and I hope you're enjoying every, single minute of it! And remember, if you would like to subscribe to my blog, please click here! (My list is completely spam free and never sold.)
And lastly, congrats to our world class Chicago Blackhawks! We are officially changing our address to Hawky Town, USA!
Love, as always,
P.S. And, as usual, something to make you smile.....