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December 2010 Archives

The Comprehensive Guide to Making Money on New Year's Eve

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New Years Eve, like all grown-up holidays, gets more disappointing each year. For kids, there’s the excitement of staying up late and convincing yourself you’re drunk on sparkling apple cider. But adults must wrestle a surplus of writhing anxiety, much like that snake pit in Indiana Jones.

What will I wear? Where will I go? Will I be stranded without a cab? Will that creepy guy wearing those shoes with a slot for each toe who keeps trying to argue with me about whether The Beatles are really a rock band try to kiss me at midnight? If he doesn’t and no one else does either am I doomed to spend the rest of my life alone? What if I get alcohol poisoning? What if I’m trying to write a check in line at the grocery store tomorrow (because I’m eighty-two years old all of a sudden) and instead of writing 2011, I write 2010 and then I have to start over but I make the same mistake again, and the line is growing and the people behind me are getting angry and finally one of them loses it and tries to asphyxiate me with that bag of Doritos he’s buying to go with his Monster drink?

These are a mere sample of the fretful issues that flood the adult mind, whereas kids are mainly concerned about the Times Square ball coming loose and flying through the TV set to crush them, at least I was. But even if you’ve achieved some Zen-like stage of enlightenment and when your ipod loses battery power in the middle of a run or everything you pick up gives you a paper cut, even the cat, you just smile and sip some green tea, New Year’s Eve remains ridiculously expensive. So ha, you still need me, because that’s where this blog post comes in.

Below, please find a proven list of New Year’s Eve activates that will cost you nothing. Better, each item may even earn you a buck or $2500. Or maybe that’s just the sparkling cider talking.

1. Stuff your pockets with burritos, Plan B and those thin elastic headbands and stand on the corner of Clark and Addison. Come three a.m. sell your merchandise for $50 a pop. Men and enterprising lesbians: this may also be a way to land an out of your league sleepover buddy!

2. You know that older fellow who lurks in Edgewater doorways barking? At first I deemed his disorder involuntary, like Tourette Syndrome or an affinity for the Rachel Ray Show. However lately, I’ve been locking eyes with him instead of acting oblivious as well as observing his behavior from afar. My conclusion? He targets heedless women. So this New Year, why not dress up like Animal Care and Control and come after him with a net? Then charge him $5 for release back into the wild.

3. With tickets ranging from $145 to $2500 for a VIP table, Chicago Scene New Year’s Gala at The Drake Hotel is a perfect place to line your pockets. Just stand out front and pretend to be the doorman. Note: wear running shoes.

4. Slap a lit-up triangle on top of your car and pick up drunken revelers. Bonus: Tell them you’re the Cash Cab, then ask a series of increasingly difficult trivia questions. Every time they get an answer wrong, fine them $20.

5. Watch the New Year’s Eve scene in "When Harry Met Sally" on repeat at top volume. At intervals, wail, “Why doesn’t anything romantic ever happen to me?” and “I want an off-the-shoulder party dress!” When your husband/girlfriend/downstairs neighbor/dog begs you to stop say you will. For a price….

Photo by Patty Michels

A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

Chicago? I’d Hit That (That’s What She Said)

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What happens when you combine one talented comedian and singer and one rocking pianist and improviser? You get LA-based lesbian cabaret duo, That’s What She Said. Comprised of pianist Kathryn Lounsbery and singer Amy Turner, the two have been wowing LA audiences since 2007. Now it’s Chicago’s chance. Thank goodness they brought their rainbow jackets!

Our Town What brought you together?
Kathryn Lounsbery I was looking to do something different [when] I saw Amy perform [at Second City], improvising amazing and funny songs. I knew I had to work with her.
Amy Turner After the show, Kathryn gave me her card, and we started working on songs that were already written. Then we started writing our own.
KL And they happened to be about lesbians.
OT You two are a couple. Any challenges?
KL Of course!
AT You answered really fast.
KL See what I mean? Can you imagine living AND working with this attitude?

One Hundred Fifty Degree Oatmeal and Other 2010 Milestones

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It’s been a memorable year. I for one, misplaced a pair of black Converse and made a tolerable mustard/soy sauce marinade. I know many other Chicagoans had similarly staggering peaks and heartrending valleys. That’s why today’s blog is devoted to celebrating the common man. The New York Times may have award-winning photographers and poignant headlines, but I have my parents standing inches from me having an irate discussion about the temperature of my father’s oatmeal. That friends, is what it’s really about.

Reading Material for the Darkest Day of the Year

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You’re here for a date night suggestion, right? Maybe a scintillating interview with a Chicago luminary? Perhaps a zippy rundown of weekly area events. Pish posh. You can find such fluff on the website of any newspaper, major or minor, scrambling to remain relevant in this dark digital age. You want false cheer and bogus butterflies? Tough luck, buddy. It’s December. They’re dead. Or maybe just in the tropics with all your rich friends. What I offer is genuine and far more valuable: a compilation of things to avoid, because forced optimism is so last year.

What Not to Do in Chicago This Month:

1. Watch the eclipse. You thought, hey, finally a profound experience for which I don’t have to scrounge bus money, pull on long underwear or even sponge that splotch of tomato sauce off my cheek. But even though you stayed up till three a.m. drinking whiskey sours just like when you were five years old and waiting for Santa, all you saw were clouds. Here, watch a slide-show of the images your friends in the tropics probably saw. You know you prefer your life experiences filtered through the Internet anyway.

2. Get married. You’ve probably heard about the bride suing her former fiancé for more than $95,000. Apparently dude went around telling friends the wedding was off but never mentioned the change of heart to his bride. It’s episodes like this that make you glad you married your dog. In Australia. Wait, that wasn’t you. Damn all this vicarious Internet living.

3. Drink the water. Last week, scientists announced “alarming” amounts of a cancer-causing metal has been found in Chicago area drinking water. Nobody is pleased, but your mother feels validated.

4. Make friends with an Asian carp. You hate all your old friends for taking off for the tropics without telling you about that smear on your face, and you can’t help but admire those spunky fish. What you may not know: your new fish friends are plotting to take over Lake Michigan. They may be flipping their tails all carefree-like, but for the first time in history, US citizens have been instructed to eat an adversary. And people say Obama fears controversy.

5. Leave. At least via airplane. According to a scientific study performed by scanning your Facebook friends feed, two out of four hundred and fifty people could not leave the city this morning. Since only two out of that four hundred and fifty were trying, technically one hundred percent of those attempting to fly out of Chicago could not. Take that, rich friends.

The Devil Went Down to The Observatory

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I’ve been to three baseball games in my life, none by choice. Is baseball the one with halftime? Maybe it’s football. Either way, I call it intermission, betraying a background in theater.

The blog post doesn’t concern baseball, nor “Damn Yankees,” a play about baseball, a convergence that always puzzled me. What baseball fan wants to see a play? What musical theater fan cares about baseball? But throw in the devil and you’ve got something universally appealing. Still not this blog’s focus, but getting closer. I saw “Damn Yankees” as a kid and fell instantly in love with the devil, a dashing deliciously wicked villain who made evil exciting.

Vincent Truman’s new play “The Observatory,” the story of an everyday Joe temped by government money to spy on an alleged terrorist, broadcast via hologram into his attic, is about as far from “Damn Yankees” as you can get. However, watching Truman breeze his way through the small but key role of amoral government contact, Victor, I was reminded just how much fun malevolence can be.

Our Town What inspired “The Observatory?”
Vincent Truman According to my diary, it was a “neat idea” I came up with [while] attending Columbia College in 1987. At the time, I was studying film, and thought the concept of someone watching a hologram would be challenging to shoot, as it turns out, a bit too challenging! There are multiple mature themes: dissolution of a marriage, a shifting of protagonist/antagonist statuses, bad decisions for good reasons, none of which a young film student knew anything about. The idea lay buried for twenty-two years. I discovered the notes during a move, and thought, maybe I’m old enough to write this now.

OT What’s your writing process like?
VT Terribly rudimentary. [My] sketch comedy pieces and plays are all rooted in things I find disturbing and/or irritating. In the case of “The Observatory,” it was [peoples’] creeping lack of privacy and rights and the false sense of security that results. At the draft stage, I host a workshop, for which I invite fellow writers, actors, directors and producers to critique and challenge the script’s arguments. From that, I either kill the project or shape the final. My ratio is three killed for every one finalized.

OT You act and write, which is a better fit?
VT Acting came first. However, I soon discovered I had, to lift a line from Dennis Miller’s assessment of Sylvester Stallone, “the range of a Daisy Air Rifle.” I retreated from the stage and focused on lighting and sound design. [Now], having produced or directed for so long, I see roles in my own shows to be less about acting and more about supporting proper actors.

Chicago is for Actors

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Actors have it rough. Often dependent on others for creative expression and denied any sort of blueprint for success, many feel isolated and adrift.

Not Grace McPhillips, well, not anymore. McPhillips founded The Chicago Acting in Film Meetup Group in 2007. Feeling “stymied as an actress,” McPhillips decided it was time Chicago actors had access to a support system, “fellow working actors [with whom] to share concerns and successes.”

Three years later, her group has grown to almost two hundred members, each “go-getters who take charge of their own careers.” No accident; McPhillips is selective, asking that those interested apply for membership. “Protecting our group's professionalism,” she says, “is key to our success.”

Though actors are often perceived as competitive, McPhillips doesn’t worry about sharing her secrets. Says McPhillips, “one of our goals is to help each other be smarter Chicago actors. When we share what we know, we learn and we grow, and everyone benefits.” Another goal? To keep film production local. “For every dollar spent on a production in Illinois, something like three dollars is made for the state and local economies,” says McPhillips. “We want opportunities here so we don't lose people, and money. It’s important for actors in Chicago to be able to make a good living and provide for their families. Film and voice over production feeds actors here much more than theater. And who doesn't love watching our beautiful city in films and commercials?”

To assist in these goals and others, The Chicago Acting in Film Meetup Group will host its “Annual Networking Night and Holiday Fundraiser” on Monday, December 13 from 7 p.m. to Midnight. Held at Chief O’Neill’s Restaurant and Pub, the event includes entertainment, a raffle and more. McPhillips says she’s looking forward to the event, specifically the chance to “celebrate the year, and plan projects for the New Year.”

With prizes including a Bulls ticket package, a private vocal lesson with Mark Burnell and a headshot session with Teresa Cesario, the raffle offers something for everyone, whether an actor or not.

According to McPhillips, "what happens in the Meetup stays in the Meetup,” but what happens at the fundraiser is anyone’s guess.

Those Who Can't Do, Watch

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They call tap the most accessible dance form, both to learn and watch. Optimistic, I’ve attempted tap lessons not once but twice.

The first time my teacher assumed a background in Irish dance. When I told him my only relationship to Irish dance consisted of making fun of then-infamous Michael Flately, he looked puzzled. “Then why are you jigging?”

The second time, I was sixteen and learning to drive. I discovered that both tap and driving seemed easier if indirectly approached. Like breathing, each became laborious when over-thought, but if I focused my attention elsewhere, the shuffle ball and lane changes were flawless. Sadly this technique only worked sometimes. Other times, it caused me to crash into classmates and brick walls. So now, by court order, I content myself with watching, and in this city, Chicago Tap Theater is one to watch.

Days before their “Tidings of Tap,” their annual holiday extravaganza opens, choreographer Mark Yonally spoke with me about the show.

Our Town Having little dance background, I’m always curious how one constructs a number.
Mark Yonally It either begins with an amazing piece of music or a concept I want to explore. I immerse myself as deeply as I can in the music, listening to it obsessively. Then I write notes for myself [and] begin working with the dancers. Generally I'll make up a few steps and as I watch the dancers begin to inhabit the dance I draw further inspiration and ideas from them.

OT Where do you find inspiration?
MY A great piece of music [is] the first and best inspiration. The dancers are another never-ending source: their creativity, their talent and their ideas. Finally, contemporary culture is something I try to stay engaged in. I think you can talk to people (or, in our case, dance for them) in a more relevant way if you are an active part of the same culture.

Not Your Mama's Holiday Show (Unless She's Bette Midler)

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With the burlesque trend sweeping the country and Christina Aguilera strutting into a theater near you, seems like every Chicago woman is taking off her clothes in the name of nostalgia. Not these Broadz. Though billed as a burlesque sketch comedy troupe, the women of Off Off Broadzway do more satire than stripping, but their comedy leaves nothing to the imagination.

Our Town How’d you Broadz get together?
Off Off Broadzway Most of us were involved with sketch comedy groups [and] crossed paths. We got talking…and drinking…and decided we needed to get a bunch of us ladies together and show that women can be funny and hey, kinda sexy too. Our first show was in June of 2008 at The Spot. Since then we've been whoring ourselves out to anyone that will have us!

OT Your humor pushes boundaries. Ever worry about offending your audience?
OOB We hear time and again that we get away with comedy murder because 1) we’re all female and 2) we’re in our panties. We do try to see what we can get away with. If you are going to a show called “Let it Ho” you can’t expect Shakespeare. We’re gonna poke fun at you, around you and on you. Sit back and enjoy the f**king ride….wait…can we say f**king?

OT Where do you fit in the Chicago burlesque scene?
OOB [Initially] we all got together to watch videos of old timey burlesque shows [which] really just confused us. The women were only there to take out their boobs and the men did the joke telling. We were like, "Are people gonna expect to see our boobs? ARE WE GONNA TAKE OUT OUR BOOBS????" Then we reminded ourselves we were a sketch comedy group parodying burlesque.

OT Is your no nudity stance a feminist thing?
OOB [Our characters] want your money but are too fat to take their clothes off. We don't care who takes off their clothes as long as it's not us.

OT Speaking of feminism, what inspired that puppet song? By the way, what’s it actually called?
OOB The name is Puppet Song…you’re good. Jill Valentine (Dolly Natrix) wrote [it] to poke fun at women’s stereotypes. She wanted something funny but that also made a point. Like putting a pill in a piece of cheese, we make a point and hide it in a dirty, glittery, foul-mouthed package so you can stomach it.

OT You each convey a distinct persona--
OOB Each girl’s character is a facet of their personality totally enhanced and amplified.

OT So, what’s up with Ricki Dickyouless’s ham fetish?
OOB Mandy Whitenack, who "plays" the "character" has a bit of an obsession with meats. We were once at a fundraiser and when Mandy found out they were throwing away a half-eaten ham, she asked if she could take it home. And she a trash bag. She also can only give directions in relation to the closest Long John Silvers.

OT What can audiences expect from the holiday show?
OOB Tops of boobs, original music, hot-ish ladies, XXX funny, and free boners.

“Let it Ho!” runs Thursdays at 8 p.m., December 2-23 at The Spot. To learn more about The Broadz visit

A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually.

Chicago Crush of the Month: Gary Zimmer

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I remember like it was yesterday: five years old and raised on a steady stream of musical comedies, I walked the periphery of the Plymouth Church Gymnasium, eyes on Reed. I don’t remember ever speaking to Reed, a gorgeous biracial boy who sported cardinal red sneakers he refused to remove for nap-time.

A rebel, I thought, swaying my hips like Marilyn Monroe in “Some Like it Hot” and blinking my eyes rapidly in an effort to bat them. Between all the swaying and blinking, I lost track of Reed’s location and careened through a kickball game, smashing directly into Miss Jackie’s leg. That was okay too. I loved Miss Jackie and I was pretty sure she loved me back. Looking up I smiled coquettishly, and shook my hair like Ann Margaret in “Bye Bye Birdie.” Then I invited Miss Jackie to come home with me after preschool, but strangely she declined.

Even as a youth, the getting crushes home part eluded me. Seems so much more can be accomplished if a crush sees me in my natural environment, perhaps sleeping angelically or hacking phlegm into my hand when I can’t find the Kleenex. But aside from abduction, which my parole officer advises against, options are limited. Which is why December’s Crush may just represent the zenith of crushes; he makes house calls.

Meet Gary Zimmer, upbeat, enterprising, quirky, and Chicago’s December Crush.

Hometown: Morton Grove, IL.
Profession: Handy Man
Hobbies: If it's nerdy, it's my hobby.

Our Town Always been handy?
Gary Zimmer I've always repaired or fixed things, but I haven't always been good at it. Most of my childhood consisted of breaking and rebuilding stuff around the house and in adulthood, friends and family constantly called me to come over and install a toilet or build a shed. [After] seven years working for a small construction company, doing everything from purchasing to estimating to sales to marketing, I decided to quit my day job and start the handyman business.

OT What separates you from other services?
GZ One of my goals is to have fun. I enjoy building and fixing things, which is a good start, but I also want the people that hire me to have fun, or at the least have a positive experience. No one likes a stranger in their house who, upon leaving, [presents] them with a bill. But, maybe it's not so bad if that stranger shows up on time and seems happy. So far this appears to be working, convenient, since I'm terrible at faking it.

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About this Archive

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

November 2010 is the previous archive.

January 2011 is the next archive.

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