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Light My Firey Piano Bar

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3:10 p.m. Jan. 8, 2008
With apologies to the late--and underrated Dan Fogelberg---it isn't the "Same Old Lang Syne" at Sabatino's restaurant on the northwest side of Chicago.
The Northern Italian restaurant and piano bar was hit by a Jan. 3 fire.
The blaze was contained to the food prep area in the back of the restaurant and damaged the roof of the mid-1980s eatery. Last week I drove by Sabatino's and it looks in good enough shape for a comeback. Sabatino's wasn't my favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago (think LaScarola), but it was my favorite piano bar.
The regulars nestled around the seven seats at the piano seemed to be from Portage Park or Brooklyn, N.Y. The muscular aura worked especially well in the dimly lit mystery of Sabatino's. The piano bar backdrop featured stained glass windows replete with pierced hearts.
I hope Sabatino's don't go changing.
This weekend I'm heading to Minneapolis to hang around Nye's Polanise, another legendary piano bar. What happened to the rest of America's piano bars? Any suggestions? Any "Feelings?"
I once tried to pay a compliment to Vic Damone suggesting he was one of America's last great saloon/piano bar singers.........

.
......My premise was that saloon singers are different that lounge singers. Lounge singers are more contemporary. Saloon singers love the classics. "I don't think of myself as a saloon singer," Damone bristled. "If I did, I'd be a drunk. I'd say, 'Let me go drink, I don't give a damm about my health, I don't give a damn about my audience. I'll just go out and sing the blues. I take better care of myself than that."
Lounge singers and piano men have great names.
Some of my favorites that have passed through Chicago include Buddy Charles, Ginger Tam, Dino Marino, Peter Saxe (who plays piano of course) and Hots Michaels from the Chicago Chop House.
Hots was featured in Studs Terkel's "Working." Hots raised championship hogs in the backyard of his Southwest side home, invented a dry milk bubble bath and once made burial vaults for a living. Hots had claimed to have played the first piano bar in the world, when the College Inn Lounge opened in 1952 at the old Sherman House in the Loop. "I wasn't born there, but I died there," Hots told me in 1992.
Hots passed away on Nov, 4, 2006. A touch of piano bar class went with him. Here's hoping Sabatino's can restore some of that.

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2 Comments

Dave,

Next time your in Peoria stop by Jims steakhouse.

The great Jimmy Binkley still resides there.He played

with Jimmy Lunceford and Tommy Dorsey.

Cheers,

Bradshaw

Thank you sir!
Gotta find that Peoria tiki bar as well,
Dave

I'm performing at 3160 N. Clark this Thursday at the newest Cabaret Room. 9:30pm. Another great name?? Alma Mendoza!

What kind of music???

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on January 8, 2008 3:11 PM.

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