Rick Bayless, Chicago chefs help feed laid-off restaurant workers

By Daniel Patton, April 1, 2020


Rick Bayless is converting an anonymous $250,000 donation into relief for restaurant workers enduring the hardships of the COVID-19 crisis. He announced the effort in a Facebook video posted yesterday.

“Weeks ago, when all the restaurants were shuttered, suddenly tens of thousands of restaurant workers were literally just put out,” he said. “They were all laid off.”

Bayless is the award-winning, Chicago-based chef, author and media personality who owns and operates some of the city’s most popular eateries, including Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Red O. After explaining how the people who make Chicago’s “favorite food” are among “the most vulnerable,” he described a unique initiative to support them during the stay-at-home order.



Twice a week the group builds 400 “beautiful boxes to distribute,” he said. “Very beautiful food: fresh vegetables, meat, bread, eggs. All the stuff that could make a really good meal, which is great because most restaurant workers know how to cook.”

After loading the containers with donations from the US Food service, Bayless and a consortium of Chicago chefs distribute them to the Windy City’s laid off restaurant workers.

The title of the post referenced an anonymous $250,000 donation that, so far, has remained anonymous. Text accompanying the video listed items that the monetary gift will be used for. Among them:

  • Buying US Foods by the truckload.
  • Hiring 15 aid-off restaurant workers to sort grocery boxes.
  • Distributing groceries to employees at Frontera Grill restaurants.
  • Partnering with chefs throughout Chicago to pick up grocery boxes for their staff.


Image: pngtree.com.

New Eastside resident makes offer to help

By Daniel Patton


New Eastside resident Karin Long has added a unique voice to the ongoing dialogue about the current national health crisis: she’s offering to help. Whether it is fetching groceries, waiting in line at the pharmacy, or completing some other small task, the Loyola law student recently posted her commitment to “getting those essentials for people who can’t get them” on the neighborhood app NextDoor.

Karin Long

After reading her offer, people responded with “a massive outpouring of shock and gratitude for what seems to me to be a very normal response to the crisis.”

“I got like a hundred replies,” she exclaims. “But only one person took me up on my offer.”

So she picked up some groceries for a fellow resident.

The gesture helped solve a problem very similar to the one that inspired her to get involved in the first place. “My grandmother, who lives in Indiana, needed someone to go to like four different stores to find toilet paper,” she says.

It also reinforces her desire to change the conversation.   

“I saw a lot of people shouting online about being scared and telling others what to do,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘what kind of action could I take to help take care of our little corner of the earth and help out your neighbors?’”

Now Long is willing and ready to help with additional requests, and she’s got suggestions for those who are unsure about what to ask.

“I would love it if moms would say, ‘I’m homeschooling my kids could you just get us groceries,’” she says. “Because if you’re working from home and you have kids, you have to practically homeschool them now.”

Besides helping on an individual level, she hopes the effort will affect some change on a larger scale.

“You hear all these stories from World War II of people pulling together to get through the tragedy,” she explains. “I hope my generation can do something similar.”

But first and foremost, it’s all about the little things. For our readers who could use a hand, Karin can be reached via Nextdoor.com.

Residents, visitors deal with coronavirus one day at a time

Hours before President Trump declared a national health emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, March 13, Chicago appeared to be about half full.

Although the streets and the sidewalks did not carry their normal load of rush-hour cars and pedestrians, there was still plenty of traffic.

New Eastside News hit the pavement to see how commuters, residents, and tourists are handling the situation.

Pedro Vila and Haydee Vila, retired CPA and retired schoolteacher, New Eastside

Pedro Vila and Haydee Vila

Besides cancelling an April cruise to the southern Caribbean, the former CPA and the former schoolteacher have not changed much about their daily routines because of the Coronavirus threat.

“Everybody is concerned,” says Haydee, “but there is no worry.”

The couple took a cruise through the Gulf “about a month ago,” according to Pedro, but decided to forego their next trip because, “we thought it would be too risky going to the airport.” He says that everything else is pretty much business as usual. Then, after a pause, he adds, “well, my investment account is a little smaller now.”

Alicia O’Daniel, Social Work Coordinator, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Rogers Park

Alicia O’Daniel

O’Daniel sees more people taking sanitary precautions like “washing our hands” and “covering our mouths,” but she’s not plan to change much about her daily routine beyond “taking a little extra care.”

“Because of working in a health care institution, although I’m a little worried, I’m not terrified of Coronavirus,” she says. “I understand that this is like a lot of other diseases that have come our way, and that we have to fight off. So I’m confident that we’ll find a solution to at least curb the spread or at least to treat the symptoms so that more people can go home after being quarantined.”

Joshua Jose, software engineer, Houston; and Ashley Joseph, resident doctor, Tampa

Joshua Jose and Ashley Joseph

Ashley and Joshua made their plans to visit Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day a couple of months ago, before Coronavirus became an issue, so the situation has already impacted their lives. Since then, the changes have continued to affect their daily routines at home and at work.

Joshua has been witnessing the stock market “literally crashing” since President Trump enacted the 30-day European Travel Ban on Thursday. But that still has not stopped him from investing.

“I think it can get much worse, but then it’ll climb back up,” he says. He’s also altered his daily bus commute to the office. “They’re saying that it might not be safe to take the bus, so we’re all driving,” he adds.

If conditions worsen, he says that his employer is preparing to help people work from home.  

Ashley is employed by a community hospital that has been a bit “overwhelmed” by the coronavirus situation.

“A lot of people come into the ER because they start having cold symptoms — fever, chills, cough — and so the hospitals are at capacity,” she explains. The hospital generally runs a “respiratory virus panel” to test patients with these symptoms, but supplies are currently running low. “In the meantime,” she continues, “you have patients taking up rooms that they don’t need.”

For the most part, she considers it all to be part of the job. “As doctors, we’re surrounded by (germs) all the time.”

Mark Jarvis and Victoria Knapp, developers / content creators, University of Missouri, Columbia Missouri

Mark Jarvis and Victoria Knapp

Co-workers Victoria and Mark decided to “tack on an extra day to explore the city” after completing a work-related technical forum on Wednesday and Thursday last week. Mark says that their work lives have not changed much, with one notable exception: “as of Tuesday (March 10), the university has suspended all in-person classes … the students have left campus.”

Regarding the exodus of 36,000 scholars, Victoria explains that, “it wasn’t too bad before we left on Wednesday morning, but it was the night before they told the students to go home.”

Although they’re still expected to come to work every day, Mark and Victoria have plans in place to do their jobs from home “if necessary.”

Joann La and Emilie Bartels, students at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Joann La and Emilie Bartels

Joann and Emilie expect a big change when they return from Chicago, where they chose to spend spring break visiting friends and attending the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“We’re currently doing online classes starting March 18 through April 1 and we’re currently on spring break right now so it hasn’t really affected us,” says Joanne. “But when we come back from Chicago, we’re going to have to do online classes, and I’m not sure how that’s going to work.”

“My roommates are all from the Chicago area,” says Emilie. “They’re all going home through April 1 for the online classes, so I’m going to be in my apartment all alone.” She expects the change to make a notable impact on her studies. “It’s going to be different doing classes from my computer, not being in a public classroom or a study space with my roommates like I always am,” she says. Also, as a season-ticket holding hockey fan, she’s disappointed with the NCAA’s cancellation of the 2020 tournament. But, she adds, not as badly as a friend who plays for the team.

Gwendolyn Sylvain, Chicago

Gwendolyn Sylvain

Current dog-walker and former programmer with the AT&T Law Department

Gwendolyn, who has held many careers in addition to the ones listed above, is experiencing a few changes to her work routine of walking up to ten dogs per day. But as far as her personal life is concerned, not so much.

“I’ve actually had a few people who have needed to cancel or cancel voluntarily because the companies they work for have asked them to work from home,” she says. “I think it was a matter of, they closed their offices so they could clean their offices thoroughly.”

Although she reads that many people are altering their personal lives to reduce the risks of contracting coronavirus, Gwendolyn says she’s “not really” doing anything different herself besides being “watchful.”

“It’s a personal choice, and we go through our lives every day making personal choices based on risk assessments that we work through our heads,” she says. “You could get hit on the head by a wrench from a building just by walking down the sidewalk, and that doesn’t mean that you have to stop walking down sidewalks.”

Daniel Patton | March16, 2020

A novel approach: Local writer Richard Rose works in new genre

by Doug Rapp

Local writer Richard Rose thought his screenplay, “Comic Crusaders,” would never get off the ground. It had been optioned twice by movie producers but never made.

Then Savant Books reached out, looking for works to publish as screenplay novels, which Rose describes as a bridge between novel and screenplay. He offered up “Comic Crusaders” which was released last November.

Rose described the plot in two sentences, likening his summary to the logline for a movie in TV Guide: “A teenage cartoonist uses a magic pen to bring a superhero to life to help him find his father who has mysteriously disappeared. In so doing, he unwittingly unleashes a grotesque supervillain and his dark legions challenging him to find a way to save his father while preventing the dark legions from taking over the world.”

To read a screenplay novel, “the reader has to use his or her imagination,” the semi-retired financial advisor said. “The action and the dialogue move the story forward at a much faster pace.” 

Whereas a novel or story might describe a scene in several paragraphs, Rose said he opens a scene in “Comic Crusaders” in an adolescent’s bedroom with a simple, “A teenage junkyard.”

The longtime Streeterville resident had been thinking of ways to reach today’s readers after observing people in bookstores.

“Kids don’t read like we did,” Rose said. “They’re very impatient. They’re looking at video games and movies.”

Rose, who has also published several novels and short stories, thinks screenplay novels like “Comic Crusaders” are one way to reach them. 

Richard Rose

“It’s a revolutionary way to beget a new genre and attract a much younger audience,” he said. 

The roots of “Comic Crusaders” go back to Rose’s childhood in Kokomo, Ind. He and his brother Charlie would create comic strips with superheroes and villains parodying well-known citizens of his north-central Indiana hometown. Over time, Rose said, it morphed into the story it is today.

“It’s lighthearted and a fun read,” he said, contrasting it with contemporary superhero stories that he characterized as violent and lacking humor.

Rose said he is working on “Redemption,” a sequel to his novel “The Lazarus Conspiracies,” about a maverick Chicago cop who uncovers a deadly conspiracy.

“Comic Crusaders” is available at Amazon.com

Romance for the ages: From couples who made it

by Mat Cohen

No one knows love more than the people who have been pierced by Cupid’s
arrow and withstood the test of time.

Two couples in the Streeterville neighborhood offered their stories and advice for others.

Bill and D Clancy, married 60 years, went on the most epic first date you can imagine, and Roger and Jeannette Becker are high school sweethearts who have been married for 56 years.

Both know a thing or two about the ways of love.

D, who goes by the first initial of her maiden name, met Bill when she was 10. She was seven years younger than her future husband and friends with his niece.

Bill’s and D’s families are from Chicago and knew each other.

“The reality is we both really knew each other’s families for a long time,” D said. “I think sometimes newlyweds have problems with families and we never had that, but we both already knew each other’s families really well.”

And everyone thought they’d be together, especially after their first date years later.

“Our first date was more than 24 hours,” D said.

They went to a lecture, to dinner and then out dancing, which is enough to last three dates, but there’s more.

Bill crashed on D’s couch for a few hours of sleep, then they attended 6 a.m. mass the next morning, drove north to visit his brother, and finally back home.

They’ve always had fun together, which continued when they had kids in the 1960s.

“Bill and I had so much fun with our kids,” she said. “And that’s not true for everyone.”

They took a month-long road trip along the California coast and camped in a van along with four kids and a dog.

“I don’t think too many people do that,” D said. “I’m not sure if we were wise or not, but it was great. Now that we’re older we still have a lot of fun as a family. We’re not smothering, but we still have a good time together.

“The ability to laugh at things helps your relationship, sometimes people take things too seriously.”

High school sweethearts Roger and Jeannette Becker started dating their junior year after Roger asked Jeannette to the prom, partly because of her shiny hair.

“There was kind of a click,” Roger said. “A fit that developed more over time. I went away to college, but we saw each other close to every weekend. And we got married right when I got out of college.”

Jeannette agreed, “It was really meant to be.”

When Roger joined the army, travel and distance were introduced to the relationship.

“It takes work to have a good marriage, and by that I don’t mean it’s a struggle,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to pay attention. It’s a miracle that people can change in compatible ways. Both of us are different people than we were back in high school, but we’ve been lucky the changes have been compatible. We’re still best friends and plan to stay that way.”

The Beckers grew up close to St. Louis and moved to Chicago in 1996. The move filled them with newfound energy. Roger teaches a current events class and joined a gentlemen’s club, and Jeannette stays active at church and various seniors groups.

“(Chicago) has so much energy, it revitalized us,” Roger said. “We take advantage of what Chicago has to offer. We like to go out to eat and do many other things together.”

For the Clancy’s, Chicago is not their permanent home. Having Florida to escape to during winter helped the marriage blossom from the start.

“Another thing that was wise of us,” D said. “Bill hates the cold weather, so after we got married we moved to Florida over the winter and into May. I think starting out life with each other there, we got a chance to know each other better. We got off to a really great start.”

Through thick and thin, the couples have grown together, mourned losses together, and loved deeply together.

But of course, there is always some luck involved.

“We’ve been lucky,” Jeanette said. “I got a really great guy.”

Chicagoan ready for round two of roaring 20s

by Mat Cohen

The 1920s was a decade unfamiliar to most. But Wanda Bridgeforth remembers it well.

Bridgeforth saw the Great Depression, World War II and lived in Chicago when the tallest building was eight stories high.

As the year 2020 begins, she’s ready to welcome the changes that a second shot at the ‘20s will bring. 

Bridgeforth, 98, takes a writing class at the Chicago Cultural Center but has more stories to tell that aren’t on paper. 

“My life has been different than average,” she said. “But I’m still a kid at heart.” 

Bridgeforth grew up in Bronzeville and has lived in Princeton Park, the Loop and now Hyde Park for the past 16 years. 

As a kid in the 1920s, Wanda’s family visited downtown Chicago once a year to see the Christmas decorations.

“We got dressed up to come downtown with gloves and hats,” she said. “Once a year we came down to Marshall Field’s to see the tree. Then we went up to the eighth floor to look down on it.”  She said although the Christmas setup is still the same, most things have changed drastically.

“Downtown is so different than what it was,” she said. “ The department stores, the theaters, all the high-rises. Sometimes I just have to suck in my breath and go with the flow. Everything is moving so fast these days with all of this technology. It’s just amazing to me.” 

As a kid, she saw neighbors stick together through thick and thin.

“The Depression came when I was about six or seven,” she said. “That’s when everybody’s life turned upside down. We had a closeness and a strong community spirit that we don’t have now.”

This tightness helped during World War II when her husband was stationed overseas.

“When he went overseas it was 56 days from Chicago to India,” she said. “I didn’t know he was in India, I just knew he was away from home.”

Beth Finke, who leads the writing class, has grown close to Bridgeforth.

“(Wanda) is profoundly deaf and I am totally blind,” she said. “Maybe we connect because both of us acknowledge  our disabilities without letting it de ne us. We both are resourceful and have to figure out ways to do certain things  that others do with their ears and eyes.”

Bridgeforth said there was another reason she was drawn to Finke.

“We clicked immediately,” she said. “Primarily through (Finke’s guide) dog because I love animals.”  

Singers in Chicago Children’s Choir ‘have to be excellent’

by Jacqueline Covey

The best young voices in Chicago perform with the Chicago Children’s Choir in storied locations like the grand glass-roofed third floor of the Chicago Cultural Center.

Members of the Voice of Chicago choir, the Chicago Children’s Choir’s premier mixed-voice ensemble, have performed overseas and in front of international leaders, such as former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The mantra for this elite group, instilled by Judy Hanson, senior associate artistic director with the Chicago Children’s Choir, is “the more excellent, the more magic.”

“They have to be excellent,” Hanson said.

At a recent holiday-themed performance of “We Are One” at the Chicago Cultural Center,  students in leadership roles addressed the audience at an open rehearsal.

“We connect to people through music,” said Isaiah Calaranan, a member of the choir. “We’re breaking down barriers and outside social constructs.”

During performances, the reaction of the crowd gives immediate feedback to the performers. “I love seeing their faces light up,” Calaranan said.

During the civil rights movement, the choir was  founded in Hyde Park to bring children of diverse backgrounds together.

Hailing from Rodgers Park, Calaranan followed his brother’s footsteps throughout each level of the organization, starting when he was nine.

“We have to be role models,” Calaranan said. “We are what (other groups) want to be. We are the end goal, but we keep inspiring and changing lives even after high school.”  

Chicago experiencing a Magic Renaissance

By Elisa Shoenberger

Chicago has been known as a cow town, a town of bootlegging gangsters, and even a town with long-winded politicians but few people know that Chicago was also a place for all things magic. 

At the turn of the 20th century, famous magicians, such as Harry Houdini and Howard Thurston, performed in theaters throughout the city. Chicagoans were hungry for magic and other live entertainment.  Another famous magician of the era, Harry Blackstone Sr. was from Chicago and took his name from the Blackstone Hotel, noted David Witter, author of “Chicago Magic: A History of Stagecraft & Spectacle.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, Chicago was known for its magic bars, where magicians delighted patrons with tricks right at their tables.

“From the ’20s to the ’90s there were at least 16 different magic bars operating around the city,” writer Raf Miastkowski said.

Starting in the 1970s, Marshall Brodien, who played Wizzo the Wizard on TV’s “The Bozo Show,” brought magic into homes as spokesperson for TV Magic Cards, Watkins said.

But by the end of the 20th century, the age of magic in Chicago becan to dry up, and magic bars and shows began disappearing.

Now Chicago’s rich magic history is re-emerging throughout the city as well as the US.

Chicago Magic Lounge, 5050 N Clark St., opened a permanent location in 2018. Dennis Watkins,  a magician, mentalist and entertainer, does five weekly shows of The Magic Parlour at the Palmer House hotel since 2011. He’a also performed in Chicago plays that have incorporated magic into their shows.

Shows like “Penn and Teller: Fool Us” are getting people interested in magic again, Watkins said. 

“Magic isn’t just for kids,” he said. “People are looking for childlike wonder, a virtuosic performance, a puzzle and mystery.”

Close-up magic was Chicago’s speciality in comparison with big-production value disappearing acts. “Chicago magic history has been rooted in close-up and parlor style for a long time,” said Watkins. 

He said his intimate show for 44 guests takes place in the famed Empire Room, where magic legends have performed since the turn of the century. Audience members “get to experience something magical, not in front of you, but with you,” he said.

Ultimately, Watkins said that he and most magicians hope that their audience members will experience the “childlike wonder” of the show. After all, that’s what magic strives to do.

Picture perfect: New Eastsider Randy Martens documents the neighborhood

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

New Eastsider Randy Martens wasn’t always interested in street photography.

Growing up in the country, down in Mendota, Illinois, Martens said he got his start taking sports photographs for the local paper and then photos of barns and cows for fun. He’d taken a correspondence photography course, and over time he fell in love with the art.

“I feel in love with photography when I started working in an office in Mendota,” Martens said.

Martens worked as a billing supervisor and his career was moving along, but it didn’t move him.

“The day they offered me a promotion, they were going to make me assistant to the treasurer, I told them I wanted to quit because I wanted to be a photographer.”

He moved to Chicago in 1982 to pursue his passion. Looking through a viewfinder, it changed him

“It was freedom,” Martens said. “Just to do what you want. Not to have clocks and desks and things like that. Just to go around and see what you see. I was always a storyteller. I wrote poetry and things, but that was sort of labor intensive compared to just taking a picture.”

Martens first trained his camera on skyscrapers and the manmade world, though soon, wandering through the loop, he took a look at the river of humanity passing him by and when he wasn’t working his office job, he was out on the street, taking photographs.

In 1983, Martens met his future-wife and in 1986, they got married.

“I was working in an office in downtown Chicago, and after we got married she and could see I wasn’t very happy working in an office, she basically said to me, ‘I’ll make you a deal,’” Martens said. “She had a job in human resources in a law firm. … She said, ‘I tell you what. If you learn how to cook and keep the house clean, you can be a photographer and I’ll earn the money.’”

It sounded like a good deal to Martens, so he got busy in the kitchen.

“I learned to cook,” he said.

He also fell deep into photography. Today, thousands of photographs into his work, Martens has photographed all types of people in all sorts of places. For the most part, Martens said, people in the Loop have been receptive when he asks to take their picture.  

“I don’t know if I have a different aura or what, but I get a lot of yesses,” he said.

But not always. As Martens spends most of his time on the street, his photos include a lot of the street people he sees, but one man has remained elusive.

“There’s one guy I haven’t seen in three months, a black guy with rasta hair,” Martens said. “He used to walk around for 15 years and I hope he’s not gone. He has the darkest skin. I’ve walked up to him and I asked him if I could take his picture and he says ‘no I don’t do pictures,’ and I said, ‘I’ll give you $5 bucks and he says, ‘no.’ I’ll see him a year later and I offered him $10, and he turned it down. I once offered him $50 and he turned me down. Some people just don’t like the idea.”

Martens has self-published one book, though it’s not for sale anywhere. He said he is planning a show in the near future, and in the meantime people can check out his website, randymartensphotography.com.

Get to know the only biplane pilot in the Air and Water Show

(Published July 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The Chicago Air and Water show may be famous for its display of high powered state-of-the art aircraft, but one airplane featured this year is not like the others. 

Chicago-based pilot Susan Dacy’s biplane is a throwback to pre-war piloting, to a time before jet engines, but her performance is no less technical and it is no less thrilling. 

Dacy, one of the pilots featured at the Chicago Air and Water Show Aug. 17-19, is one of the few female pilots in the U.S. performing in a bi-plane. But this isn’t her first Air and Water show. Dacy is a commercial pilot and, when she’s not doing tricks during her day job, she tours the country performing rolls, spins and other acrobatic tricks. She said she started in the 1990s and her decades of acrobatic performances is the realization of a goal she’s had since she was a kid and went to her first airshow.

“Of all the performances what impacted me was the biplane that flew,” she said. “It had the smoke trail and it was loud and it really excited me. I always remembered that.”

The early inspiration is reflected in Dacy’s plane, a bright red, 450 horsepower Super Stearman named Big Red. Although biplanes are among the earliest planes, the Super Stearman is a WWII-era plane, developed as a reliable craft for young pilots to learn to fly. Because of their reliability and their ubiquity, Dacy said quite a few planes were retired after the war and they flooded the civilian market.

“This type of plane trained bunches and bunches of cadets,” she said. “They made Army and Navy versions so they had gobs and gobs of these airplanes after the war. A lot of bombers and things like that were crushed up melted down and repurposed but a lot of the Stearmans luckily survived because it was determined they were good for crop dusters.”

It’s a Stearman crop duster that chases Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.”

Dacy’s plane was used in air shows before she bought it. Aside from a new engine, a new “skin” and some aileron flaps, it’s the same plane as the cadets would have piloted in training.

“It’s been a plane that’s pretty much worked its whole life,” she said. “It’s never been in a shed collecting dust.”

Later this month it will be at it again. Although the pilot schedule isn’t set until the day of the show—weather affects what planes can perform—Dacy offered a behind-the-scenes sense of what audiences can expect. Like all the other pilots, Dacy will take off from Indiana but Big Red is the only bi-plane scheduled for the day.

Dacy said audiences can expect “barnstormer-type moves,” including some twists and circles, shooting her craft high into the sky, trailing environmentally-friendly smoke before tumbling back down to earth and ending in a barrel roll.

While her performance may shock, surprise or even make audiences anxious, the one person who won’t be wowed is Dacy.

“Of course, we know what to expect, so it’s almost everything seems routine,” she said. Dacy said she’s got an exit plan in case of the worst, but said she doesn’t worry about it.

“You’re always thinking that stuff and it’s not being fatalistic but it’s just common sense,” she said. “But my airplane is so reliable, and of course I make sure maintenance is performed regularly”

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