"Elton John" plays piano in the courtyard. Credit: Andrea Bauer

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An Elton John look-alike plays piano beneath a pink spotlight in the middle of a Wrigleyville apartment-building courtyard. Donning a white boa, platform heels, and blinking sunglasses, he busts into a spot-on rendition of “Bennie and the Jets.” A flapper and a vampire roam the grounds, chatting with corpses and taking selfies. Lured by the spectacle a group of drunken Cubs fans stumble toward the apartment’s entrance, woo-wooing in the neighborhood’s native tongue. The man stationed at the door narrows his eyes, effectively denying them access to the party. “I don’t think we’re supposed to be here,” one of them says as the sporty pack retreats into the shadows.

“I learned early on that in Wrigleyville, if you’re having a party you can see from the street, it’s best to have somebody at the front door being the guard,” David Hopkins says. Measuring six-foot-seven in festive pink high heels, he’s been bumping his head into chandeliers all night. During the day he’s a high-end residential interior designer; tonight he’s the host of an over-the-top costume party benefiting the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival, a nonprofit organization committed to elevating and promoting the artistry of circus performance.

Hopkins opens his home a few times a year to host fabulous parties, usually with a theme. Tonight it’s “Pink.” The party is catered with circus-themed food: Circus Peanuts, animal crackers, and lollipops. Naturally the entertainment features acrobats, jugglers, and someone “who does something naughty with herself that involves a hat and a rabbit,” Hopkins says. Bartenders pour pink-hued drinks, and every lightbulb in the house glows pink. An easy way to create atmosphere, the designer explains, is with “some colored lightbulbs and a lot of things on fire.” In fact, there are 900 candles flickering in the house. 

"A lot of things on fire" is key to creating a good atmosphere, Hopkins says.
“A lot of things on fire” is key to creating a good atmosphere, Hopkins says.Credit: Andrea Bauer

Hopkins’s palatial home takes up what was once seven separate units of the building. Back in 2006, he moved into a 1,100-square-foot apartment on the first floor. Soon after, he acquired the unit across the hall. And then the garden-level apartment, the second floor, and finally part of the third floor. “Some people collect Hello Kitty dolls,” he explains of the additions, “some people collect apartments.” The home comprises 16 bedrooms, seven kitchens, a lounge reserved for drinking, a cavernous basement dining room, and a Harry Potter-style bedroom under the stairs “for people who want to do anything unspeakable.”

“It takes people, like, two hours to figure out where they came in the front door,” Hopkins says. “It’s kind of fun. Although it’s not as fun when people can’t find the bar.”

Hopkins's basement dining room boasts a custom table that seats 24.
Hopkins’s basement dining room boasts a custom table that seats 24.Credit: Andrea Bauer