[UPDATED] Despite a dispute over a contract that threatened to cancel this weekend’s shows, the Admiral Theater and Stormy Daniels rode the storm out and have agreed that the porn star’s run of shows in Chicago wouldn’t just be a one-night stand.
In a press release sent late Friday afternoon, Sam Cecola, the Admiral’s owner, said “both parties have decided to set aside any differences they have had to put the Chicago fans first.
“The Admiral Theatre sincerely regrets any comments that have been made, either publicly or privately, that have been disparaging of Miss Daniels and her team. The Admiral Theatre loves Stormy Daniels and her team and welcomes them as back to the club.”
Things got stormy very quickly for Stormy Daniels in Chicago.
The porn star walked out of her highly anticipated Thursday-night show at the Admiral Theatre early due to a contract dispute with the management of the northwest-side strip club. The rest of her weekend shows—most of which were reportedly sold-out—appeared headed toward cancellation. Sam Cecola—owner and founder of Admiral Theatre—had said he planned to sue Daniels.
The Albany Park theater was jam-packed for the first of five shows Thursday night. Tickets were $30 to $50 but selling for as much as $600 on Craigslist for the opportunity to see the porn star who allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump.
In January, a story in the Wall Street Journal first revealed that Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney paid Daniels $130,000 in hush money to stay quiet about a brief tryst in 2006. Daniels broke her silence about the alleged affair and what she claims were threats to keep her quiet in an interview with Anderson Cooper that aired on CBS’ 60 Minutes in March. Since then she’s become a national celebrity.
Many in her position might keep a low profile, but Daniels is leaning in. Or more accurately, cashing in. In a recent profile in Rolling Stone, she noted that she would be “a fucking idiot” to turn down more cash.
“We live in a capitalist society. I think if anyone, in any field, was approached and someone said, ‘Hi! You know that job you are already doing? Would you like to do it next week for quadruple your normal pay?’ Show me one person who would say no.”
More than 70 showgoers had paid $20 in advance to snap a photo with Daniels or get her autograph on the theater’s second floor immediately following her 15-minute strip show. But Daniels left the building before her meet-and greet-began. As she was being escorted out the door by two members of her security team, she turned to some of the fans who’d been waiting in line and said, “Sorry, I just got fired.”
Cecola tells a different story. He claims Daniels skipped rehearsal and showed up to the theater late because she was eating dinner at the Signature Room. “This . . . whatever you want to call her . . . comes into the place and makes everyone wait and didn’t rehearse. Last time she was here was eight years ago, we were a different theater then, we remodeled since then. She didn’t see the stage layout,” he said.
According to Cecola, she also tried to dictate what the Admiral’s dancers did beforehand “so she wasn’t upstaged” and finally walked out after unsuccessfully trying to renegotiate the contract with him and his son, Admiral general manager Nick Cecola. Specifically, Cecola says, she wanted a higher percentage of the revenue from the photos and autographs and made other demands that weren’t previously agreed on.
Daniels “walked out when I said ‘I’ll get a lawsuit so big, it will make Trump’s lawsuit look small,’ said Cecola. According to Cecola, it was a culmination of two weeks of problems and disputes with Team Stormy.
They’d asked Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to open her performance by lip-syncing along to a clip of the “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” song Marilyn Monroe sang to JFK to take advantage of the fact Thursday night’s show coincided with Donald Trump’s 72nd birthday. But she refused, saying she wanted to stick to her own .
Instead, management got one of its own dancers to play the Hollywood sex symbol and be the opening act for Daniels’s “Make America Horny Again” show.
As of early Friday morning, it appeared neither party was willing to work with each other for the rest of the weekend. Admiral staff was telling ticketholders the shows are canceled, according to the Tribune.
Daniels could not be reached for further comment. Nick read aloud a text message that Stormy allegedly sent him after walking out: “‘I agreed this is very disappointing and I was very much looking forward to performing at the Admiral—which is why I took the booking for a fraction of what other clubs are paying. I’m not kidding when I say my current per-show rate is more than I’m performing for the entire three days. Making up the difference in merch sales was the only chance to not be upside down this week. Sorry it has to end this way but I stand by my crew.'”
Sam Cecola shrugged. “I’ve been in this business for almost 50 years—before Donald I’d never even heard of her. She was here eight years ago, and was totally unremarkable.”
It was a chaotic end to a surreal night that started with a video clip of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”—a song from a time when our presidential sex scandals left slightly more to the imagination. On the night of a Democratic Party fundraiser in 1962, Monroe took the stage and slipped out of a fur coat to reveal a snug flesh-toned dress and sang a breathy version of the song to Kennedy— causing the Madison Square Garden audience to clutch their pearls in shock.
But because Stormy refused to sing the song Thursday, one of the Admiral’s regular dancers—clad in a blonde wig and a see-through, rhinestone-encrusted dress sang it at a faux presidential podium with a large cake resembling the one brought out for JFK.
A Trump impersonator was supposed to come out during the opener (originally Chicago comedian Matt Kissane, according to Robert Feder) but the Admiral also arranged for a little person to play Trump for a special appearance during Thursday’s performance. Daniels wouldn’t work with him, said Cecola.
Daniels’s portion of the show instead began with an announcer boasting about her porn and newsmaking resume (“she’s currently #1 on Pornhub! and her “60 Minutes” interview was the most-watched in the last 10 years!”). Then the theater played a video mashup of her recent cable news appearances to the sounds of operatic music—seemingly playing up her new role as a conquering hero of the anti-Trump resistance. West Hollywood, Calif. leaders called her “a national figure in the resistance to the Trump Administration” as they gave her a key to the city last month.
Not all heroes, as the saying goes, wear capes. But Stormy certainly started with one. She took to the stage to the sounds of Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman” dressed in an American flag-themed corset and flowing red cape. Her outfit was like a hybrid of Captain America and Wonder Woman. But the cape—and the rest of her clothes—didn’t stay on for long.
She got a standing ovation from many in the audience as she tossed her red-white-and-blue colored bra away to reveal her bare breasts and later her star-spangled thong. Several times during the rest of her 15-minute routine, Daniels’ paused to shake them against the faces of cheering men sitting in the front row and stuffing cash into her garter belt. At one point, she simulated oral sex on a man sitting on the right-hand side of stage and then came up burping up a foamy white substance that she the rubbed over her naked body. She returned to the man, took his glasses, playfully pretended to breathe on them and appeared to wiped them against her crotch.
After her show, attendees gave mixed reviews of the performance but many—especially women—praised Daniels for her bravery. A few called her a “feminist icon.”
“She’s so fucking empowering, man,” said a woman who was eighth in line to meet Daniels and who did not wish to be identified. “I love that she’s trying to take down 45.”
Alice Boshold even volunteered to be Daniels’s stagehand for Saturday’s now-endangered show at the Admiral. Boshold, a Chinese immigrant who lives in Bridgeport, said management was initially confused when she contacted them. “They were like, ‘We can’t pay you’ and I say, ‘No I want to do this for free.’”
Even if she’s not needed, Boshold plans to return on Saturday to watch the show again with several members of her family in tow, including an aunt, uncle, and cousins. “I love [Stormy]. She took the plays from Donald Trump’s playbook and [is] turning the tables on him.”
“Women should come out and support Stormy,” said Mia, from Downers Grove, who cheered Daniels on with Boshold. Their group all wore “Clifford/Mueller 2020” t-shirts.
“People underestimate her but she’s a clear-thinking, hard-working woman who is not taken seriously and takes a lot of shit.”
A group of elderly women who live at the Admiral at the Lake retirement community (no, it’s not related to the Admiral Theatre) came out to support Daniels—but looked dazed as they walked out of the show.
“Well, we did it. I’m just glad we’ll never have to do that again,” said a retiree who walked out with a cane.