The Golden Age of Wild Chicago

Wild Chicago, which WTTW broadcast on Sunday nights from 1989 to 2003, always gave the Reader its stiffest competition in chronicling local lore, and the new DVD The Golden Age of Wild Chicago, which collects programs from the first two seasons, is a treasure trove of oddballs and oddities from the city and suburbs. Ben Hollis, the original host, and John Davies, who produced and directed, introduce this program of selections, which are funny, weird, and richly evocative of the city in the 80s. At its least imaginative, the show functioned as sort of a hip chamber of commerce; some of the businesses plugged are long gone (Moo & Oink meats in South Shore, Fisherman’s Dude Ranch in Des Plaines) and some are still around (Margie’s Candies in Wicker Park, Tattoo Factory in Uptown, Al Mansour Video in West Ridge, Snackville Junction—a diner with meals delivered by toy train—in Evergreen Park). But there’s some memorable street journalism here as well: interviews with winos in Marquette Park, punk kids at Clark and Belmont, transients at the Greyhound bus station, and Saturday-night drag racers on Elston Avenue. Off-duty Chicago cop Joe Kosala drives around a blighted Wicker Park, parodying Mr. Rogers (“Won’t you be / won’t you be / won’t you be my prisoner”), and a denizen of the Maxworks Cooperative in Little Italy explains how one resident turned a school bus into his own furnished, solar-heated living quarters. Also included are clips of a nervous Mayor Daley giving a tour of his office and an unknown Stephen Colbert killing time in the park.