Track of Least Resistance

To the winner go the spoils, to the loser the analysis. Kevin Boyer, just back from the Johannesburg competition for the 2006 Gay Games last week, was ticking off the reasons Montreal copped the gold on the first ballot. Vote totals won’t be released till 2003, Boyer says, “But we were told they had a majority by only two and the balance of the votes were skewed heavily toward Chicago. They won legitimately, but we believe we had a better bid and we know we did better in the actual presentation.”

So what happened? “We had some obstacles to overcome,” Boyer ventures. Seniority, for example: this was Chicago’s first time at the plate; Montreal had stepped up twice before. Also, money. The Canadian government offered $2.7 million and sent a video of Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien promising they won’t renege. Chicago had pledges of a little over a million, mostly private-sector, in-kind support. The muscle-bound dollar, now about 1 to 1.6 Canadian, was another factor. “As we understand it, the Canadians and Europeans voted for Montreal as a bloc,” Boyer says. “Some of that has to do with a little bit of underlying anti-Americanism, but I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that it’s so much cheaper to go to Canada.” Then there was the little problem with U.S. immigration, which won’t allow anyone HIV-positive to enter the country, not even on a tourist visa. “You can get around that with a designated event status,” Boyer says. “There wasn’t really any question that we would be able to get it, but it’s a psychological barrier.”

But the biggest problem might have been that there were only four cities on the ballot, three of them American. With European and Canadian delegates making up their minds in advance, Boyer says, Chicago would have had to pull 95 percent of the American vote to win a majority–which was impossible with LA and Atlanta as competitors.

Not everyone was crushed. Previous games have lost money; naysayers warned this one might too. That’s the reason the Chicago team spent a lot of time on financials, says Boyer. “The games in Amsterdam in 1998 ended up requiring a city bailout of about a million and a half dollars. But they had two key flaws in their operation: they came to the corporate sponsorship table late, and they let nonofficial events siphon off attendance at official parties meant to cover operating and marketing costs.” To guard against that, he says, Chicago had an “energetic” corporate sponsorship plan and a licensing program that was projected to collect $1.1 million from outside events. The 1994 New York games, planned to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, also lost money. “They thought it would create a synergy,” Boyer says. Instead they wound up splitting sponsorship dollars. It took the New York Gay Games committee years to pay off its debts. To avoid that pitfall, Boyer says, Chicago would have held its event during a lull between Taste of Chicago and Market Days.

The Chicago plan also had the largest 2006 games budget: projected expenditures of $32.7 million; projected revenue of $35 million. (Montreal’s projected expenditures were $17 million.) It cost nearly $300,000 and three years’ work just to make the bid, though Boyer says about 60 percent of that was in-kind contributions. “We’ll have a little surplus cash at the end of this–about $20,000. We might use it to provide some subsidies to athletes from Chicago going to [the 2002 games in] Sydney, support a future bid, or seed some sports organizations here.” There’s a move to get Chicago representation on the Federation of Gay Games board and talk about a bid for 2010. “We’re not sure the federation will come back to North America [that year],” Boyer says. “There may be a strong sentiment to go to another continent because they’re trying to be global. We know Paris and Berlin are both interested in bidding.” They’d need to start work on a 2010 bid next year; Boyer’s wondering if anyone in Chicago will still be up for it. The delegation will present a full postgame rundown at a public forum being planned for December 6 somewhere in Lakeview.

ATC’s Graceful Recovery

In the two weeks after artistic director Brian Russell sent 2,500 people a philosophical SOS about the financial straits of the American Theater Company, $35,000 in individual contributions came in and the theater’s board raised another $10,000. Russell’s letter of October 16 told how snowstorms, the economy, and 9/11 had put a damper on both donations and ticket sales, with audiences down by 65 percent from last fall. “We know that the cycle of life includes death, and if the worst should occur, and it is time for this theater to go away, then we will celebrate the successes of 15 years, grieve its passing, and move on,” he wrote. That won’t be necessary now: “The response has been amazing,” he says. “We’ve had more than 200 individual contributions–everything from $1 to $5,000.” Nevertheless the company closed its production of A Lie of the Mind last weekend, a week early. Its next production is scheduled for February.

Pints of Pinter

When Remy Bumppo theater company opened Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land a month ago, producing director Stephanie McCanles knew that two other companies had Pinter plays scheduled for the fall. Some might have seen it as enough Pinter to choke on, but McCanles glimpsed an accidental festival. Now Remy Bumppo, Wing & Groove, and Apple Tree are offering patrons who want to see two or three Pinter plays a price break. A ticket stub or receipt from any one is good for two-for-one tickets at the other two, Saturdays excepted. No Man’s Land is in its last weekend at Victory Gardens; Wing & Groove’s The Collection (playing on a double bill with another one-act) runs through next weekend; Apple Tree’s The Birthday Party starts previews December 5. In spite of the bargain offer, Remy Bumppo artistic director James Bohnen says the theater has been a real no-man’s-land: attendance is off about 60 percent from last spring.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.