Closing the Coronet

Under the guise of protecting the tender buttons who attend Northwestern University from the demon rum–and as home to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union–Evanston has been wacky about alcohol for as long as it’s been a city. The latest victim of Evanston’s low-level prohibition may be the Coronet, the six-month-old music club run by Chris Schuba. Schuba envisioned the 460-seat former theater as a relatively classy North Shore music room, bringing in Bill Monroe and Ramsey Lewis on the high end, the Ohio Players and local dance bands like Uptighty on the low end. But now a furious Schuba says he’s shutting the hall down, citing as the reason “an arbitrary and antagonistic campaign” on the part of an Evanston alderman.

The alderman in question is Art Newman. The Coronet isn’t in Newman’s ward, but he says he saw people taking wine into the theater seating area at the Ramsey Lewis show –a no-no, because Schuba’s license allows drinking in the lobby only. The club was cited for a liquor infraction.

The charge was later thrown out, but Schuba says he has neither the stomach nor the money to stay open while city fathers creep around his club looking for infractions. He says the theater is a good neighbor that has caused the city no parking or noise problems and in fact has enlivened its business area, on Chicago Avenue across from the Main Street el station.

For his part, Newman dismisses Schuba’s charges as a “smokescreen” and says, “If Mr. Schuba is deciding to shut down because he cannot make money under the liquor license he applied for, that’s his business.”

Schuba’s alderman, Emily Guthrie, supports the Coronet. She says she’ll introduce an ordinance next week that would allow the Coronet a 21-and-over license, bringing Evanston into step with most of the other municipalities in North America. “We might get enough people who want to keep [the Coronet], if their concern is what they say it is, underage drinking,” she says of the law’s prospects. But any change in Evanston’s liquor laws won’t come quickly. Schuba says the Coronet will close at the end of the month.

Musical Editors

David Fricke ended a three-year stint as Rolling Stone’s music editor two weeks ago. Acknowledging speculation that working for Jann Wenner is something of a hardship posting–“We had our disagreements”–Fricke said there were other factors at work as well. “It was an accumulation of stress and not being able to write as much as I wanted to,” he says. “I wanted to step down on a high note, before I turned to toast.”

During his tenure, Rolling Stone got better: he signaled his intention with an early cover of Neneh Cherry, an unprecedented elevation of a noncrossover female black artist. Fricke also points to the Rolling Stone interview with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and the magazine’s refreshingly unexpected lead review of a handful of avant-garde jazz albums as other evidence of what he tried to do. “When I started reading Rolling Stone, they were putting people like Sun Ra and the MC5 on the cover. I don’t think that what we were doing was all that much in left field,” says Fricke.

While there were some other signs that the magazine was heading toward its former strengths–an extremely witty and offbeat feature by Mim Udovitch on Weezer was one–these were not overly frequent. Too much of the time the magazine churned out its colorless, smiling features on warhorses like Tom Petty. And while Rolling Stone’s public affairs coverage has always been strong, Fricke was close to supine when it came to covering the ongoing Ticketmaster controversy.

Fricke will help choose a successor and stay at the magazine to write. Another longtime fixture at Rolling Stone, record-review editor Anthony DeCurtis, has left entirely; he and former Musician editor Bill Flanagan have been enlisted to help drag VH-1 out of its ratings doldrums. DeCurtis is a very bright person–he has a PhD in literature from Indiana–who did almost nothing to get Rolling Stone’s review section out of its rut of anonymous boosterism. His replacement is Mark Coleman, former music editor at Details.

Who will replace Fricke in the most powerful position in rock journalism has been the subject of no little speculation, some of it not even on Internet industry- discussion groups. One leading contender is Karen Johnston, currently the second-in-command music editor at Rolling Stone. The three other names considered as givens are Keith Moerer, Mark Kemp, and Craig Marks, the editors of Option, Request, and Spin, respectively. Hitsville finds it hard to believe that anyone associated with the glorified fanzine that is Spin will be taken seriously at the increasingly professional-minded Rolling Stone. Moerer and Kemp, who for the record are both passing acquaintances of Hitsville’s, declined to comment.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Randy Tunnell.