The year Lake Shore East got “Transformed”
Recently while passing the Blue Cross Building on Randolph, I noticed the block was covered in artificial snow for a film shoot. Two thoughts crossed my mind. First, I found it humorous that a film being shot in Chicago in winter would need fake snow – that was likely an unexpected expense, compliments of Mother Nature. Second, I was reminded of the bizarre summer of 2011, when the Transformers movie franchise turned the neighborhood into a Hollywood backlot.
My first taste of that summer was the Michigan Ave. Bridge. I was walking to work along Wacker Dr. when I noticed that the bridge was partially raised. The front of a car dangled precariously from its edge. Past Michigan, Wacker had been turned into a warzone – upturned cars, rubble and charred debris. It brought a smile to my face, the thought that the city could warp itself around the world of make believe. For weeks, people like me walked through this alternate dimension enroute to more mundane pursuits.
One evening, on my way home, a giant fireball plumed up from the Hotel Monaco. On another day, a large crowd gathered to watch stuntmen BASE jump off the Trump building. And on one special morning, I watched men parachute into Lakeshore East Park, pack up, then do it again. I was standing on the pool deck of the Shoreham, and all around Lakeshore East, I could see people on their balconies, excitedly taking in the spectacle. It occurred to me that any camera angle featuring one of the buildings would be unusable due to the number of onlookers.
One night as I phoned my fiancée, who lived in South Carolina at the time, a helicopter flew low over the river and a series of massive explosions cascaded along the shoreline. I gasped. My fiancée asked what was wrong. After picking my jaw up from the floor, I said, “Either they’re filming a scene from Transformers III, or I should get to the basement via the stairs.”
I was too lazy to use the stairs. Lucky for me, Transformer Director Michael Bay was still in town.
— Matthew Reiss, Community Contributor