Wednesday, July 24, 2013

And it's still here...



     Whenever I drive by the stretch of North Sheridan Road where the Granada Theatre used to be, I flash back on its Venetian splendor and, if the traffic is moving slowly, take a moment to note the echo of the round window —tribute? mockery? — cut into the charmless strip mall that replaced it.
     You can't shake your fist too much at the philistines who demolished it, not remembering the struggle to figure out what to do with the Granada. A building needs a use, or most buildings do. There are only so many empty shells we can keep in tribute to years gone by.  It's always a judgment call. Some people think Prentice hospital should have been kept forever—to me it was an eyesore, and thus expendable. As was the Granada, ultimately, a ruin torn down in 1990.
    Sometimes a building can survive and find a use. In the early 1980s, the Chicago Theatre was seen as a similar white elephant to the Granada or Prentice. Pretty, yes, but what to do with the thing? After a long battle, it was saved in 1985, to civic rejoicing, and soon was hosting concerts from Frank Sinatra to Tom Waits. If you haven't been there, you're really missing something. It's worth the price of admission just to walk through the lobby; the fact that somebody also puts on a show is an added bonus.
     To me, the marque of the Chicago Theatre, like the Bean, like the Picasso, is one of the images that define life in the city. Catching sight of it is like glimpsing the face of an old friend, made all the more precious by the knowledge of how close we came to losing it forever. Almost a miracle.


Plus!

A rare midweek column, thumbing my nose at the IOC.

6 comments:

  1. The reason the Granada was demolished was that the previous president of Loyola U., wanted nothing to do with the rest of the Rogers Park neighborhood.
    Loyola could have used the Granada for many events, even rented it out for concerts, but foolishly let it go.
    Now they own the bland & boring building that replaced it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree that the Chicago Theatre is a beautiful symbol of Chicago. Another gem that has thus far survived is the Auditorium Theatre. What a delight to check out the decor while waiting for the ballet to begin!

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a river boat tour guide, no question: Marina City.

    ReplyDelete
  4. One generation cites "The Hunter" (1980), with Steve McQueen, the newer one cites Wilco, cover of, uh...(damn)..."Yankee Hotel Foxtrot(?!)" This kind of thing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @J.J. -- Oddly, I was both in the crowd when they set up that scene for "The Hunter," and watched Wilco cut a song when "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" came out -- mere coincidence? Or proof ancient astronauts once walked the earth, thousands of years ago...?

    ReplyDelete
  6. AWESOME! Zelig Mojo, right man, right place, right gig.

    ReplyDelete