Some time after I left the WHISKEY, I went to work at THE WINE AND ROSES in Schiller Park … my friend, Lois, from the Whiskey was working there as head waitress, so it was a no brainer. It was a terrific club … huge with two giant rooms and a bandstand in the center of them … great bands, always crowded and we made good money. It was owned by the Dettlo brothers, George and Ronnie … handsome, nice, womanizers. Lois used to put ‘Reserved’ signs on all of her tables in the front section by the bandstand, naturally, she would only let her friends and big tippers sit there … none of the waitresses cared, she was the best and we all loved her! One Saturday night 4 people came in and wanted to sit in her station, she said no, they complained to the manager and he told her to let them sit there, so she did, begrudgingly. But, Lois was a professional and funny as hell, so she gave them great service and they had a good time. Oy … when they got up to leave, they left her a tiny tip … she ran after them and caught one guy by the back of his jacket collar at the front door … “See, you asshole, that’s why I didn’t want you to sit in my station” … he replied “I hope your eyelashes fall off” (we all wore a couple of pairs of lashes) … she shot back … “I hope your dick falls off” … and that’s my good friend Lois … even now still throwing zingers and making everyone laugh … and taking no prisoners.
(here’s Lois with Bree and me 1986)
One night early, a couple of goons came in and we could hear them yelling at Ronnie by the front door, he was smallish but fearless and screamed right back, they beat the crap out of him and at one point the bartender jumped over the bar to help, and he got it pretty good too. George got into the argument, but was never touched. There was a 3rd man in an overcoat just standing there watching and muttering. I remember management telling the band to keep playing … and louder … while all this was happening. I’m not sure of the time frame … but some time afterwards Ronnie and George both left Chicago … I don’t know if they sold the place. Lois and I eventually quit. The rumor was “the mob” wanted the parking lot concession and the brothers wouldn’t give it to them. I think the place remained open, but not sure for how long or who owned it.
Just thought about this …. when I was still married to Omar, we had a mens hair salon on the ground floor of SHEARS & CHEERS on Rush St., it was the hottest salon in the city. I sat next to Barbra Streisand under the dryer … Fred Glaser was the owner and created many of her iconic hairdos … he actually has credit on her early albums and films. It was the beginning of mens hairstyling and Omar was the best.
(Here I am, sitting in Omar’s, waiting for him to finish so we could go home)
He had a diverse clientele and quite a few of them were female impersonators. Eventually we became good friends with a few of them … they all worked at THE NIGHT LIFE on State Street, the best drag show in Chicago with the most gorgeous ‘queens’ ever. We took my parents there one weekend, they had a fantastic time …. it was a very big deal for my mom, she was pretty conservative, my dad was always up for anything. Richard Saunders was the bartender, one of the funniest men I’ve ever known … and a very good friend for a long time, he actually visited me in LA many years later when I was married to Michael. Here’s a few photos I love … the gang from Shears & Cheers at the 1962 xmas party, Fred is in the stripe shirt with glasses, my hair guy was Sam, the handsome one on the right with light sweater, leaning on the table … I’m the one with the huge hair in the center of the xmas tree, next to Omar…
Also, my friend Richard Saunders …
and a few of the ‘girls’ … Gayle Sherman became very famous, she’s the one with the dramatic pose at left … Cari Saunders is the blonde closeup, and I just can’t remember the name of the beautiful blonde with the trophy. They were all supremely talented and fun … great memories.
Some time after The Whiskey, I worked for a short time at THE TRIP, a very cool club that Lenny Feldman (from The Whiskey) opened, it had a travel theme and I wore a stewardess outfit. Mickey Montana was the singer there (his dad Tony was the bartender at The Whiskey) he was very handsome and had a gorgeous voice ala Johnny Mathis … BUT, he only knew the lyrics to maybe 10 songs!
Women were crazy about him … we were together at that time … and I remember ‘accidentally’ spilling an entire tray of French 75’s on a girls lap … her dress was crepe and it shrunk. Lenny wasn’t happy about that … but he had a smile on his face when he discussed it with me. Mickey never had money in his pocket, and didn’t have his own place so when an older woman offered to take care of him completely if he moved in with her … the wind from his departure almost knocked me over. I was so angry I told him I was going to put his photo on the wall in my dressing room along with the rest of my ex boyfriends … he came pounding on my door and yelling in the hallway … I loved that. At that time I was living with a roommate at 3318 Lake Shore Drive in a gorgeous old apartment that faced the lake .. Lois lived next door and another friend, Donna, lived down the hall … it was great fun.
Another great memory of my time on Rush Street. I left Paul B, kind of crazy when I think about it, because I loved that job. One of my customers was leaving her position and asked if I would be interested … it was too good to pass up. So I went to work at THE KINETIC PLAYGROUND on Clark and Lawrence, owned by Aaron Russo (eventually Bette Midler’s manager and producer of her Oscar nominated film, THE ROSE). He was a kind of mysterious guy with long hair and beard, but easy to work for and I don’t remember him being there often. It was an amazing job and the pay was good … I worked 12-5 during the week and on Friday and Saturday I worked 3-8 to make sure the musicians had everything they needed (you know, no green M&M’s, etc.) … I would receive a list of what they wanted and set up the tables with food, etc. .. like the back stage scenes in ALMOST FAMOUS. The sound system and electronics were amazing … the system was in the middle of the ceiling and looked like a round, glass space ship and there were lots of young long-haired kids who kept it running. I worked for DICK RUDOLPH (below with me) smart, handsome, lovely guy (later married to Minnie Ripperton and Maya Rudolph’s father) … we had a lot of fun, it never felt like work.
When I became engaged all the employees pitched in and had the costume creators of HAIR (Billy Bob and Mona Young) design and make my wedding dress … they measured me, never asked for my input, and delivered that beautiful, purple suede long vest with white/yellow beads you see in my wedding photo above, it was completely hand made and I still have it, it’s on a form in my office, one of my most treasured possessions. Not long into my job, November 1969, I went to work one day and there were tons of fire trucks in front of the building … somehow the place caught fire and caused major damage to the interior … I was heart broken. There were plenty of rumors about who ‘set’ the fire, but nothing was proven and the place was closed and never reopened … the building was torn down in 2003 and a friend just told me that the KINETIC CONDOS are standing in it’s place! I read there is another theater with the same name today, but it has nothing to do with the original. Here’s just a few of the artists that played there … The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Iron Butterfly, Fleetwood Mac, The Rotary Connection, Muddy Waters and Jefferson Airplane!!! A couple of months later, we moved to LA and many years after that, my daughter Bree met Dick Rudolph on a music project she was involved with … small world for sure!
So … when I got divorced in 1966, I quit my job and went on the road with THE SWINGIN’ LADS …
a Las Vegas group that played Chicago, Omar cut their hair, and we became good friends. Don Kelley was the leader of the group and his wife, Penny, asked me to take the drive with her to Reno, then to Las Vegas, their home town. The guys drove in a separate vehicle, we drove a station wagon with the equipment, we had a ball. I can’t remember where they performed in Reno, but Louis Prima and Sam Butera and the Witnesses were on the same bill … FANTASTIC! Everyone stayed in the same hotel and Louis was on the same floor as us … on Friday, he made a huge pot of pasta fazool and left his door open … everyone went down for a taste, it was delicious. We chatted, and when he found out I was a secretary in Chicago, he asked if I would type a few letters for him … of course I did, still have some of the stationery with his image on it. The letters were to lawyers about his impending divorce from Keely Smith. He was quite ‘frisky’ for an old guy! Also in Reno … I saw Liza Minelli in one of her first performances, she was very young … she had 2 side men, one tall and thin, the other short and chubby … they all danced and sang, she was adorable and it was obvious she had inherited her mom’s amazing voice. Can’t remember much about the Las Vegas stay, but I did meet Mort Sahl, hilarious man.
I just remembered a funny Paul B story …. one of my regular men customers asked me if I would like to go to Palm Springs with him for the Professional Athletes Golf Assn. event, well that sounded pretty interesting. …athletes and Palm Springs! Before I knew it, we were flying first class and having a great time, until I realized half way there (duh) he probably expected me to share a room with him! Yikes, how was I gonna get out of that, totally not attracted to him? We checked into the Canyon Country Club, gorgeous, the room was great and mercifully, it had two double beds … we had a fantastic dinner with very interesting people and he drank a lot and fell asleep …. whew, day one … safe! The next day we had breakfast and laid out at the pool … everyone had buckets of water with tea bags soaking, that we used for tanning … the hotel sent notices to everyone that day to stop with the tea bags, they couldn’t get the stains out of the towels. Tons of giant football players were drinking and jumping into the pool, and even tossed the matre’d in at one point … I specifically remember Deacon Jones, hilarious and Roman Gabriel, hubba hubba. That nite we went to an amazing dinner, cooked in a beautiful Mexican woman’s home in the middle of the desert … one of the men at the table said he was driving to LA the next morning for a day … I told him my favorite aunt lived in Orange County and he offered to drop me off there, I accepted. Day two, safe …. again he drank too much and fell asleep! The third day my new friend, Bob, picked me up in his Jaguar convertible, we stopped for a beautiful lunch and he dropped me off at my aunt’s and promised to pick me up the next morning … I was a goner, he was fantastic. So … he picked me up the next morning, another beautiful drive with the top down … BUT, before we got back to the Canyon Country Club, we stopped at his gorgeous desert house for a while …. oh yeah! When we finally got back to the Canyon, I found my luggage at the front desk, thankfully I had my return ticket in my purse. Oh boy, how was I gonna face the guy, we were bound to run into each other. Bob got me a room … and we had dinner later, lovely! AND … when I did run into my friend that night, he told me his girlfriend (a stewardess) surprised him, and he apologized for putting my things at the front desk! HALLELUAH!!! Bob got married a few months later … and a few years later when I moved to LA after marrying Michael, he got me my first job at the Century Plaza Hotel where he had an exclusive mens store. The job was in a women’s store in the hotel … with lingerie and fur coats .. sooo not for me. After a couple of months there, Bob’s wife got me a job at Judy’s in Century City … a very popular store, and I managed the “Gear for Guys” department. I have a few really interesting stories about working there … they’ll be in the LA DAYS section soon.
But before I move on to LA … a few more ‘sweet’ memories from the Rush Street Days …
There were some really fun bars on Rush Street in the 60’s, besides the few I mentioned above … Rush Up (where Michael proposed to me, romantic ha?)…
...Rush Over, Beavers ...
…and who could forget Your Mothers Beaver?? And a lovely small piano bar, The Back Room (still there) … where I served Rocky Marciano a glass of Chianti, thrilling … and was introduced, and went out with a Smothers Brother one night. So many great Chicago bands … The Exceptions, The Rovin’ Kind, Baby Huey and the Babysitters …
and a pair of antique salt/pepper shakers he brought back from the road, he also gave me a book of poetry. In fact, when I married and moved to LA, he lived right down the hill from us in Hollywood and I introduced him to my best friend, Sydney, they dated for a while, but it didn’t take.
I had a good friend, also a Judy, who was tall, striking and the original hippy … she was the first girl on “the street” to wear a suede fringe jacket, no makeup, long straight hair, etc. … she was a knockout, men were always drawn to her. One of my favorite stories that she told me … before I knew her, an extremely handsome man (he looked familiar) tried to pick her up while she was crossing Rush Street, he pulled over in his car and sweet talked her into going out with him that night … gentleman that he was, when he found out she was under age …he decided not to have sex with her, but he did let her ………………….. I just can’t think of a nice way to say it! I like Warren Beatty anyway! She hung out with Hefner for a while too. And then there was Bill Cosby … they ‘saw’ each other when he visited Chicago … he was supposed to take her to Mr. Kelly’s one night … and asked her to have her hair done ‘up’ and gave her $$$ to do it … she looked gorgeous, but she wasn’t comfortable with it. A couple of hours before the date, he cancelled and she asked me to go with her … so we dressed up, dropped by THE PLAYBOY MANSION to pick up $$$ for our date …
and Cosby came to the door in a towel and a cigar … he was kind of charming. We saw Richard Pryor that night at Mr. Kelly’s … HE was amazing.
There’s more …………
*****Not ready to tell this story yet,…
YOWZA …. I had some great jobs on Rush Street, after my divorce. Probably my favorite was the WHISKEY A GO GO …my first cocktail waitress job … it was like going to a party every night.
Sometimes we would work 10 straight days, no one wanted a day off, we were afraid we would miss something. Once a customer was rude to me, I gave my friend Lois a few dollars, she bought a green creme de menthe and ‘accidentally’ spilled it on him … he got the message. Another night, one of Lois’s customers walked out on his check … and you just didn’t do that to Lois … she threw on her coat and chased him down the street right into the Scotch Mist … she got the money! One particular night Lois had a few too many cocktails … she woke up the next morning in her murphy bed, in the wall! Of course, we are still friends … and she’s still hilariously funny.
We got paid $2 per night, and 10 cents for every drink we sold, and we made pretty good money …it was packed every night. On Fridays before work, Obe (The Manager) would have meetings and hand out our checks and then pass around the photo of the band coming in the next week … he would instruct us to choose which guy we were interested in so there wouldn’t be any arguments by mid-week, when we got to know the guys and change our minds, or they changed theirs. Usually, the first week some of us would ‘connect’ with one of the guys, but the next week he might be interested in someone else, or we would … but it never got mean or bitter … we mostly laughed about it. After the meeting, a few of us girls would go for Chinese food on State St., and discuss those photos, our lives, loves and families. I made some great ‘connections’ … and would love to know where they are today. Almost all the bands were from the east coast (mostly Wildwood, NJ), not Rush St. … that made it more interesting.
After the club closed (4am during the week, 5am on Saturday) we would ALL go to breakfast at Mammy’s Pancake House...
next door, or Carton’s across the street. I remember having breakfast in Carton’s one morning and one of the guys at the table couldn’t figure out how to get his fork into his eggs … I was clueless that he was on acid, creeped me out. In the summer, we would have breakfast, then go home and change into bathing suits, and meet at Oak Street Beach and nap and hang out there all day …
go home for a short nap, then start all over again. On Saturdays the Whiskey would close at 5am and we would sometimes go to Milano’s on Division, they served drinks in coffee cups after hours, lots of fun there. *****There was a hair salon, RAUN’S HAIR-EM a few doors down from The Whiskey .. it was open 24 hours a day, so if a waitress had a good nite, she could get her hair done at 4am! Michael Meadows did my hair, that’s his platinum do on me, on my home page, he was fantastic .. . (and soooo handsome
I heard he’s now an artist in Sedona, AZ. The gold coast was amazing back then … and especially Rush St. … too bad it’s so gentrified now.
I lived in a tiny studio apartment on Delaware St. with my friend Frankie Jones, she was a gorgeous Playboy Bunny…
So … Ms. Toni told me I was too old (24) but looked young … she didn’t like my hair or makeup, but that could be changed …. my nose was the problem, so she gave me the card of a plastic surgeon and told me to return if/when I had my nose fixed. Feeling not so pretty, on my way out I spotted a tiny Asian woman shoving 2 giant kotex under each of her miniscule breasts, unbelievable … I was pretty damn curvy then … so it was ok for her to be flat chested … but my nose wasn’t acceptable. SIDE NOTE: I did change my nose years later when I was 32 … best thing I ever did for myself.
After the Whiskey, I worked at the PUSSYCAT LOUNGE, a couple of doors down …very sexy costume with long furry tail, so sorry I don’t have a photo in it. Small, intimate lounge with great bands (The Exceptions, The Rovin’ Kind) and pretty dancers, completely different than the Whiskey. Here’s the Exceptions … Pete Cetera in the center and the divine Jimmy Vincent on guitar!
There was a terrific bar boy, gay and funny as hell … who always had a pipe in the back with pineapple rum and ‘grass’ that the girls would hit once in a while. Upstairs was an intimate theater that featured plays and big bands, i.e. The Mob, fantastic group that everyone loved, great musicians and a talented song writer but … ouch, a bad relationship with one of them taught me a great lesson. Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders were the absolute best band, unbelievable musicians, 2 drummers, lots of horns and huge following, they performed mostly James Brown, Otis Redding, etc. he was known as the white soul brother. It was always packed when they appeared … one night someone I was waiting on bought a bottle of champagne for the band, and I had to serve it on stage, nerve wracking … then another customer wanted to one up him …. so a better bottle of champagne served on stage … it went on and on, good $$ that night. And, the last time they played there we were warned that he would tear up the place … instead Wayne and the entire band walked off the stage, out the door and right down Rush Street for a few blocks … with the entire audience following them … thankfully everyone returned or us girls might have had to pay the bar bills, a very memorable night. Oh, Wayne had a pretty blonde wife … and a pretty blonde girlfriend … they sometimes dressed alike and sometimes both traveled with him … together! I saw Wayne many years later when I moved back to Chicago in l980 for a year … he was playing a bar in a suburban hotel without the CC Riders, not the fiery entertainer I remembered … we talked for a while … he had ‘gotten’ religion and was a minister.
I worked at MR. KELLY’S for a short while as a hostess … great entertainment, not nice people to work for.
Oh yes, then there was THE COUSINS CLUB, very popular, upscale bar off Michigan Avenue … where I wore a fantastic short, white/gold Grecian one-shoulder costume that I loved. We didn’t get paid, they thought we should be grateful to work there … no kidding. The managers would go to the service bar and pad the checks constantly … I remember giving a man who had 1 martini, a check for 3 … he paid without question, and that’s the way they did it there. In spite of that, we made great tips. Well, on New Years Eve (a cocktail waitress nightmare, only amateurs go out on that holiday) the manager seated a nice party of 8 at my table … they left me a huge tip, and the manager pocketed most of it, when I called him on it, he told me if he hadn’t seated them at my table, I wouldn’t have gotten the tip! Soooooo … I collected the last 3 checks and put them plus the cash into my costume and and walked out … I never heard from them.
was the best and most popular boutique on Rush Street … everyone shopped there. It was a terrific, fun job … Paul was a dream to work for, the clothes were fantastic, and the girls were nice … Preston was the manager, a fun, black man with absolutely no rhythm, we teased him about that constantly. The store was open til midnight on Fridays with a bar serving champagne in the back by the dressing rooms, so dates wouldn’t get bored while women tried on clothes … it was like a party. I loved dressing the windows, especially because the clothes were always ahead of the curve. I had some very interesting customers there … The Staples Singers, Minnie Ripperton, and Andre, a pimp who shopped for his 3 ‘girls’, they each had a white Cadillac convertible. At that time I was dating a wealthy advertising man, Henry … he was fun, generous and tired … he would take me for amazing dinners at the best restaurants and usually fall asleep before the meal arrived … I ate those dinners with a lot of head waiters and someliers while Henry slept on the table … I was never offended, he was lots of fun and everyone loved him … and he was a big tipper. One day he came into Paul B with a friend … he introduced us and we were married 3 months later!
To be continued ………..