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January 2010 Archives

Pump Room Diaries

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Arturo Petterino, always a helping hand. (Sun-Times photo by Jon Sall)

LOTS of Pump Room memories and we haven't even gotten to everyone's Pump Room padre, Arturo Petterino. I spent a stylish New Year's Eve with the legendary matrie d' at the tiny Mondelli's Lounge on Rush Street. I'll excerpt some 1996 oral histories with Arturo in a minute, but here's a great story shared by reader Jim Mueller:

The Pump Room. My 1970s friend Jerry Phillips, an aging rake at 55, picked up the damndest girls back in the day. He'd drink too much, then go home with the cute gal who'd hidden her left hand all night in a jacket pocket. They'd be jumping at it hammer and tong. She'd hoist herself up in the saddle. He'd invariably look over to hand! There were others with glass eyes and wooden legs--and each time Jim wouldn't notice until waaaaay too late in the negotiation.

Decades before the current Cougar Phenomenon, Jerry would occasionally troll for lonely older ladies. One of his favorite fishing holes was the bar at the Pump Room....

Pump Room Swan Song?

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7-22 Stewart Pump Room 1.jpg
Stairway to Heaven (Sun-Times photo by Scott Stewart)

THE PUMP ROOM is on the downbeat.
After cabaret singer Nan Mason's final song on Jan. 30, the restaurant will no longer have live music. There will be no extravagant dinners except for special occasions. The Pump Room is the cultural jewel of the Ambassador East hotel, which is in the process of being sold to Ian Schrager Co. in New York. Schrager is eyeing a hipster renovation. He was co-founder of the Studio 54 dance club.
"Holy Cow!," as former Ambassador East resident Harry Caray said.
The Pump Room opened on Oct. 1, 1938. It thrived on a celebrity culture that no longer exists.
Original owner Ernie Byfield recruited stars to sparkle in the dimly lit elegance of the Pump Room. He saw the room as a spinoff the 18th century spa of the same name in Bath, England. That pump room was spot where London aristocrats mingled with local showfolk, absorbing the cure of the waters by day and the roguish social scene at night.
It was "Swimming with the Stars."
The Pump Room was a hit from the jump. Celebrities stayed over in Chicago for a day or two instead of rushing to a private jet........

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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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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