The planning for this weekend started with a cool event where my friend Gail was headlining at an amateur jazz night at a local restaurant. It was a Saturday night a few weeks out and a number of my friends from the CD/trans community were going to support her.
Of course, the first step for such an outing is to find a place to get my Julie on. Hotels were looking expensive, cuz it’s summer in Chicago, so I started looking at AirBnBs. Found a place at a great price and just a block from Clark and Belmont. But, they required a two night stay. I’ve since learned that the City of Chicago has banned single night stays at AirBnBs – definitely not happy about that. In any case, I sent the owner a request with my usual explanation of me being a local and needing a place to transform into my alter ego Julie. After several message exchanges and talk about how it might not fit her work schedule, she denied my request.
Damn! I’ll need to start from square one. But, 30 seconds later she says, send the request again and she’ll approve it. Now, I’m a bit leery and send a few more messages trying to gauge if she’s trustworthy. I resubmit the request and a few minutes later we talk on the phone and both of us are a lot more confident about the reservation. I’ll talk a bit more about Janet, my host, a bit later.
So, I have a room for two nights (Friday and Saturday) and activities for only one (Saturday). No problem, I’ll just get in early on Saturday and do some shopping. Later that day, I notice that there’s a burlesque show at the Newport Theater on Friday night. I quickly message my burlesque friend, Jessica, to see if she wants join, and before I know it we both have tickets. The next day, my friend Kurt posts on Facebook about the Frida Kahlo art exhibit happening at the College of Dupage, and within days we both have tickets for Saturday afternoon. Wow! That was quick. Okay, my schedule is now completely full – maybe a little too full.
On the the Friday of that weekend, I had an online meeting all morning – that of course went long and I wasn’t able to get out of the office until 1:30. That gave me just enough time to get home, collect my son so the 2 of us could walk to my daughter’s school, get all 3 of us in an Uber to the Metra station and put the 2 of them on the 4:10 train to grandma’s house – no driving to the burbs this time. Got home about 4:20, spent a few minutes tidying up the kitchen (gotta make sure I don’t leave the wife with a mess), grabbed my suitcase and took the CTA up to my favorite nail salon for a 5:00 appointment.
Got to the salon a few minutes late, decided to go with white nails – cuz of the diversity of the planned outfits for the weekend – and made up a little time by skipping the hand massage. I had told Janet I would be arriving at 6pm. At 5:55, I’m under the fan, waiting for my nails to dry, and she texts me about how things are going. I say 6:15. A few more texts from her while in transit and I finally arrive at her place at 6:25. As you might be gathering, Janet is a bit eccentric. She meets me in the lobby of her building and first thing she does is give me a big hug. That’s cool, I’m not naturally a hugger, but I love people who are. Actually, Julie is much more into hugging than the other guy, and since it’s a Julie weekend it fits very well.
We talk about the key code to get in the building and head up to her apartment. It’s a fantastic space with all the amenities I could want and I immediately get to the business of getting my Julie on, cuz I gotta met Jessica at 8:30. I feel a little bad, because Janet wants to be a good host and make sure I have everything, and I’m like, l’m all good, I just need to get some makeup on my face. About a half hour later, Janet leaves for her dinner plans, which is a bit of a relief, but a little disappointing cuz she won’t see the final Julie. Of course, there was a mad dash at 8:15 with me being indecisive about the final details of my outfit, especially with regard to shoes, always the hardest decision.
Get out the door and the air has cooled off from the midday heat, but it’s definitely more humid than I had hoped. Was meeting Jessica at a bar about a block from the Newport Theater. The Newport is close to Boystown, but officially in Wrigleyville. There was a Cubs game that afternoon, so that bar was packed. I walk in and the music is really loud – not great for conversation. Just as I’m finding a seat, I look out the window and notice Jessica at an outside table waving her arms. Definitely a better place to talk, even though it is basically under the El tracks – gotta love the urban environment that is Chicago.
I first met Jessica at my first burlesque performance. It was an event called Shoot the Shit, which was also at the Newport. Basically, for $20 they would make a video of your act, so you could publicize yourself. I’m not at the level where I need publicity, but I figured it would be cool to get a video just to see what I looked like. In any case, Jessica was there that night for the same reason and when I was on stage, she was the loudest one in the audience – everyone there that night was the audience for everyone else’s video.
Somehow she found me on Facebook and a couple months later I happened in have a Julie night on a night she was performing. After her performance, she found me at the bar and said she was so happy to see my face in the audience. Then, she invited me to join her friends at a table near the stage. Although, we have chatted a bit on Facebook since then, this was the first time I had seen her in person in a over a year (there was that little pandemic in the interim). It was great to talk in person as we chatted about the burlesque community, my recent visit to the Unbridled show at Untitled and just life in general.
Here’s a little factoid that only Chicago people will appreciate. She works for a local TV station and actually knows Son of Svengoolie. At 9:30, we finish our drinks and walk over to the theater. As expected, the show was awesome – so much better than those online shows we had to resort to during the pandemic. The bartender is super friendly and I get a chance to talk a bit with Eva la Feva. She is also a performer, but more importantly, the theater manager at the Newport. During the pandemic, she put her heart and soul into keeping that place afloat and during the show I called out to the emcee for us to give an shoutout to Eva, which of course turned to a standing ovation.
As expected, she was a little embarrassed, but it was so well deserved. After the show, the audience was invited to stick around and mingle. So, I stood up, looked around and noticed a woman sitting by herself. I introduced myself and waved Jessica over to join the table with my new friend, Heather. We talked for a while and then the 3 of us migrated to the bar in the basement of the Newport theater building, where we talked for a couple more hours. Turns out, Heather is a burlesque veteran so there was lots of gossip about the community. Jessica is only about a year ahead of me in the community, so there was lots of advice to go around. The disheartening thing about meeting Heather is that she is about to move to another state – great contact, but not great timing. However, the most important aspect of the evening was that somehow someone suggested that a burlesque show should be put together with the theme of Schoolhouse Rock – just crazy enough for it to be brilliant. As we’re leaving the basement bar, I remembered that I had yet to get a pic of my outfit – ya know, if there’s no pic, it didn’t happen. Luckily, one of them obliged and got this great pic of me with the grittiness of Chicago at 1am.
Stay tuned for part 2, which should have more pictures.