Activists Threaten AIDS Benefit

What was to have been a glitzy event to help raise $1 million for the fight against AIDS could turn into a nightmare for its organizers. The Chicago branch of ACT UP, the activist AIDS organization, appears intent on disrupting the bash, an April 18 cocktail party and dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel to kick off the Chicago component of the national “ART Against AIDS” fund-raising effort. Actress and AIDS fund-raising pro Elizabeth Taylor is to be the guest of honor at both the cocktail reception and the more exclusive and much pricier dinner immediately following. The evening, which will include the unveiling of Wayne Thiebaud’s poster for this year’s Art Expo, is part of a promise by Marshall Field’s honcho Philip Miller to raise $1 million locally for the AIDS cause. But ACT UP leaders are incensed by Miller’s decision to name Governor James R. Thompson honorary cochairman an of the April 18 event; they are worked up over many of the governor’s views on AIDS, particularly his stand in favor of mandatory AIDS testing and reporting. Now ACT UP’s leaders are talking trouble if the governor shows up at the event. As of early this week, “Art Against AIDS” was on Thompson’s schedule. “They’re scared shitless we will crash the event,” says ACT UP spokesman Daniel Sotomayor. “We’re certainly not going to make it easy for them.”

A determined-sounding Miller says he had no qualms about naming Thompson as the event’s honorary cochairman (along with Mayor Richard M. Daley), in addition to signing up Mrs. Thompson as chairman of the gala dinner committee. “I admire Thompson as a governor and a politician,” says Miller, who adds that Thompson’s name attached to the event is crucial to raising the thousands of corporate dollars needed to reach Miller’s $1 million goal. Behind the scenes, representatives from the New York-based American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (both of which will benefit from moneys raised on April 18) and ART Against AIDS have been meeting with local ACT UP members to try to avert disaster, but apparently have received no assurances from ACT UP. David Corkery, director of public affairs for AmFAR, which is coordinating the Art Against AIDS program nationally, says, “The long-standing approach of AmFAR is to try and bring together a broad cross section of viewpoints about AIDS.”

Immediate Death?

The end may be near for the struggling Immediate Theatre Company; sources say members met last weekend to discuss its fate. The company, founded in 1982 in Rogers Park, has been fighting to survive recent changes in management and artistic direction, as well as funding shortfalls and a change in location to the Theatre Building. Immediate’s ambitious production of Ragged Dick–the company’s only scheduled production of the season–closed early on April 1 at the Theatre Building after opening to mostly negative notices and poor attendance. Sources close to the situation say that if the company is to go on, it will need substantial new funding and corporate underwriting.

Bridge Over the River Quiet

The Bridge nightclub, last summer’s hot spot, could wind up one of the big losers when a new city ordinance banning late-night drinking on outdoor decks and patios goes into effect May 1. The ordinance, which prohibits outdoor drinking at commercial establishments after 11 PM Sunday through Friday and after midnight on Saturday, was intended to quell complaints about late-night noise.

The Bridge, located far from any heavily populated neighborhood, consists almost entirely of outside decks along a branch of the Chicago River. Needless to say, Bridge owner Steve Edelson isn’t happy about the impending ban. “It’s unfair,” says Edelson, “but we’re trying to do the right thing.” Edelson says he and his associates are studying ways to comply with the ordinance and still attract a crowd to the club, which was to have opened for the season April 21. The opening has been postponed, and last week Edelson had not set a new opening date.

More Shelter? More Women’s Room!

Meanwhile Shelter, the cavernous new nightclub west of the Loop, is already talking expansion. Manager Michael Blatter says the club is exploring the possibility of adding on 6,000 square feet of space in an adjacent warehouse. “It’s vacant and we’re examining it,” says Blatter, “but we haven’t signed a lease.” Blatter says there’s talk of making it an airy space with big doors, to circumvent the new ordinance banning drinking outside. Also, as predicted in this space, Shelter has discovered its women’s toilet facilities are inadequate; female club hoppers may be relieved to know that new stalls are being added.

Snuggery for Sale; Division Street Dying?

The Snuggery on Division Street is up for sale–a telling sign of the times along the Rush/Division nightclub corridor. One source says the suburban-based club chain is selling its lease for a paltry $100,000, though a Snuggery source wouldn’t confirm the asking price. “We’ve had several inquiries about the club, but no firm offers,” says the source. Club-scene insiders say a large chunk of the city’s nightclub clientele now favors a range of trendier River North night spots, such as Cairo and the Snuggery chain’s own Excalibur. What’s left on the Division/Rush corridor, say observers, is mostly tourist trade and a smattering of suburbanites.

Tharp Comes to Chi

Choreographer Twyla Tharp is embarking on a working relationship with the Hubbard Street Dance Company. Hubbard Street’s managing director, Gail Kalver, says the choreographer, who has relinquished her title at American Ballet Theatre (she was a co-artistic director under the now-departed Mikhail Baryshnikov), was looking for a small company to work with. “She felt it would make sense to work long-term with one group of dancers,” says Kalver. Tharp will start by adding three of her early works–Fugue, Sue’s Leg, and either Eight Jelly Rolls or Baker’s Dozen–to the Hubbard Street repertoire. They will be danced for the first time by Hubbard Street in Chicago in the spring of 1991 at the Civic Opera House.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Sundlof.