We’re kicking off Giving Tuesday early this year! Your donation today will be matched up to $10K, doubling your impact! If you donate $50 today, the Reader will receive $100.

The Reader is now a community-funded nonprofit newsroom. Can we count on your support to help keep us publishing?

Life in the Laney Lane

A dethroned television news celebrity, Mary Laney may have hoped to be hailed as Chicago’s queen of tourism when she became director of the city’s new office of tourism on April 1, 1990. But a little more than a year into the job, Laney appears to be rankling several movers and shakers in the local tourism business, including her boss Kathy Osterman, director of the mayor’s office of special events.

At the beginning of 1990, after leaving the pampered world of television journalism, Laney took a position as vice president of tourism at the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, a private not-for-profit organization of businesses that benefit from tourism and convention travel. Laney was at the bureau only about three months, but that was plenty of time for her to clash with Jerry Roper, its president and CEO. Don Petkus, who was chairman of the bureau’s board until just last month, said that an analysis of Laney’s brief tenure with the organization revealed she did not recognize authority and had difficulty adhering to the bureau’s financial controls.

But Laney wasn’t finished with tourism. With what appeared to be Mayor Richard Daley’s blessing, she moved her operation, staff included, to the city’s newly formed office of tourism, where she was to report to Osterman in the special events department. This arrangement made sense, said an administration source, because city officials believed it would help eliminate considerable duplication of effort in regard to tourism and special events.

The new tourism director quickly set about developing a slogan around which to create a Chicago tourism campaign. She wound up introducing “Chicago’s Got It!” as the city’s new motto. Just how Laney came up with the slogan remains a point of contention between her and other tourism executives. Late last week, Laney maintained the slogan was created after she came to work for the city, in brainstorming sessions involving herself and public relations advisers from the Burson-Marsteller agency. But in fact Burson-Marsteller first submitted the slogan to Laney’s previous employer, the Convention and Tourism Bureau, in a document dated February 15, 1990, a month and a half before Laney moved. According to Petkus, bureau executives weren’t thrilled with “Chicago’s Got It!” and decided against using it at the time.

But after Laney later announced the city would use the slogan in a logo devised by Bagby Design, a local firm, Petkus and his colleagues at the Convention and Tourism Bureau thought it would make sense to incorporate the logo in some of their promotional materials, so as to create some semblance of a coordinated tourism pitch. When Laney was advised of that idea, Petkus says, she informed the bureau that the logo was a protected trademark and would be available to the bureau only if it signed a licensing document and paid a licensing fee. An angry Petkus fired back a letter threatening legal action if Laney persisted in such demands, given his bureau’s involvement in developing “Chicago’s Got It!” Laney says she never demanded money, only a letter of agreement.

Meanwhile, Laney was running afoul of city government officials over outside expenditures she made for (among other things) the design of the new logo and two promotional calendars. These might have been handled more cheaply by the city’s in-house graphics department, but Laney says she did not know such a department existed during her first months on the job. Now, she says, she uses city designers.

On October 10, 1990, the city budget office cracked down on Laney’s department with an order that all future contracts and letters of agreement issued by the office be signed by Osterman. Evidently this order was not followed, for on November 28 the budget office issued another memo that in essence stripped Laney of any authority over expenditures, asking that all financial functions be absorbed into Osterman’s own office.

All was relatively quiet until earlier this month, when Laney sent a memo to the special events office informing Osterman and her staff that she had cut licensing deals with Montgomery Ward, as well as shops in hotels and North Pier, to sell a variety of products emblazoned with the “Chicago’s Got It!” logo. These deals, which had financial implications, apparently were news to Osterman and her staff. “Osterman was aware that Laney was looking into this,” says Terry Levin, a spokesman for Osterman, “but we had no knowledge she already qpparently had made these licensing agreements.” Laney insists Osterman knew about her licensing plans.

Late last week Laney said her rapport with Osterman was fine. Spokesman Levin said the city’s special events director would have no comment on the status of her relations with Laney.

Ardis Loves Luci

Could there be a new attitude toward Luciano Pavarotti at Lyric Opera of Chicago? Lyric general director Ardis Krainik wasn’t saying so for sure, but clearly she was in a mood to say something with flowers, specifically a blooming coral azalea sent to Pavarotti, who sang last week in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s concert performances of the opera Otello, one of which Krainik attended. Attached to Pavarotti’s plant was a good-luck note from Krainik with the inscription “in bocca al lupo,” an Italian idiom (“in the mouth of the wolf”) that serves as the opera world’s rough equivalent of “break a leg.” In a well-publicized move, Krainik banned the famed tenor from the Lyric stage after he failed to report for duty to open the 1989 Lyric season. “That was a business decision,” said a Lyric spokeswoman. “That doesn’t mean the two aren’t still friends.”

Cleveland’s Play to Land at Northlight; Local Boy Makes Goodman

Though playwright Rick Cleveland has left Chicago for the time being, his latest play, The Rhino’s Policeman, looks as if it will wind up at Northlight Theatre late in the 1991-’92 schedule or early the following season. The play, about a Rolling Stone reporter who travels to Africa to write a story about antipoaching research, had been in development at the Goodman Theatre for almost two years; shortly before leaving town Cleveland learned from Goodman artistic director Robert Falls that the Goodman would not be giving the play a fully staged production next season. But Northlight artistic director Russell Vandenbroucke says he is a big fan of the play and is trying to work out scheduling and funding details to mount the work as soon as possible. Meanwhile the Goodman next season will mount the world premiere of John Logan’s Riverview: A Melodrama With Music, the first work by a local playwright to be mounted on the Goodman main stage since David Mamet’s Lakeboat in 1982.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photoChrales Eshelman.