Update….Booth One


I recently had the MOST incredible experience that I want to share with you  I was asked by my new friend, Betsy Ingram, to be interviewed on the BOOTH ONE podcast. I found the idea intriguing and while I am very use to being interviewed and doing interviews, they are usually for print. In addition, I have been wanting to do my own podcast, to expand on nenasnotes and nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club, for a long time and was anxious to see how it all works.  All I can tell you is it was a total joy.  Gary Zabinski is an unbelievable interviewer…he had, most certainly, done his homework on me.  The interview, let’s call it a conversation between friends (which we now are!) was held in their apartment  we had a casual dialogue before the taping which was followed by wine and cheese….my faves!!  I don’t usually do anything other than my own musings but wanted to give you ALL the info on this amazing podcast the only thing missing was not meeting co-host, Frank Tourangeau, next time!!  I’m am happy to share the interview with you.  Enjoy!!!!!

Fashion world icon Nena Ivon joins us in the Booth to talk about her astounding career, her varied interests in all things cultural, and so much more!

A legend in Chicago, Nena Ivon was the fashion and special events director at Saks Fifth Avenue from 1956 to 2009, where among other things, she produced all of the fashion shows, handled publicity, styled the windows and dressed the mannequins.

She has worked with hundreds of the leading fashion designers and style icons of the 20th and 21st centuries, including many great models. Nena talked about the quality one-on-one time she got to spend with these designers, picking them up at the airport when they came to town for Saks events.

She is currently a member of the executive board of the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum, and a faculty member in Fashion Studies at Columbia College Chicago (where the Nena Ivon Collection is archived).

She is also the author of a marvelous blog called Nena’s Notes. We love the way she organized the blog. As you will learn in more detail on the episode, each day of the week has a different theme to reflect things she’s passionate about. Monday is for profiles of people, starting with a Proust-like questionnaire, then an interview. A favorite topic for her is how people reinvent themselves when they leave one career, such as the models she worked with. Tuesday is for book reviews. Wednesday is musings, which can go in a number of different directions. Thursday is for collections, not just of fashion, but also other beautiful objects. Friday is for Fashion. Spotlights on designers she’s worked with or the current season. Check it out. There is something for everyone. We are excited that she is working on a podcast and a book!

Amazingly enough, Nena has a direct connection to the real Booth One and the impetus for our show. Back in the day at Saks, they would hold two fashion shows a week at The Pump Room at lunch time. Then there were conversations in Booth One with stars, Broadway tryout cast members, authors, and local personalities. Nena led a number of these interviews. Oh, how we wish those were recorded!

Speaking of Booth One, she is a huge fan of theatre, ballet, and opera. Her favorite medium is musical theatre!

Learn who Nena’s favorite designers are, including the great Bob Mackie, who she says is a brilliant designer of clothes as well as costumes. Gary tells Nena that he has never missed an episode of Project Runway. Her favorite designer to come out of that show is Christian Seriano and she tells us why.

Check out this glam photo of Nena with Christian LaCroix. The photographer, Robert Carl, said of the picture, ““I love this shot of two sophisticates, Nena Ivon and Christian Lacroix. It reminds me of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” even though she is the high priestess of Chicago fashion and he is the darling of Paris.”

We talk about the new Library of Congress National Screening Room, which has films from 1890-1999. They are being digitized so we can all check them out. The goal is to have their vast collection reach the largest possible audience.

Nena talks about Guo Pei’s collection at Paris fashion week. Wow. Check out her stunning and show-stopping designs on her website.

Kiss of Death: Dorcas B. Reilley

As you know, we end every episode with a celebration of a life. Our New York correspondent and good friend, Robbie Young, suggested Dorcas B. Riley, the inventor of green bean casserole! She was a supervisor in Campbell’s Soup test kitchen and led the group to come up with a great dish that could be made with things already in most people’s pantries. Made with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, it offered “convenience with a touch of glamour.” Here is the original recipe, still being made today. It is estimated that it will be served in 20 million homes this coming Thanksgiving. Our producer’s grandmother added some Velveeta, which made it even better. Read her story here.


In the heyday of the Pump Room at the Ambassador East Hotel here in Chicago, Booth One was the most sought after seat in the house, as the privileged celebrities and other luminaries (check out the amazing list here) who were seated there could be seen from the lobby, the bar and the rest of the room.  A place to see and to be seen.*

On our BOOTH ONE podcast (formerly known as TalkSports), host Gary Zabinski and his rotating co-hosts and guests engage in the art of lively conversation as we attempt to revive that feeling of being in the best seat in the house. We talk about our recent “Booth One” encounters with brilliant artists,celebrities, world-class events, and behind-the scenes experiences.  Our Booth One conversations cover a variety of topics, including current events and the esoteric. We also send our hosts to some of the more exotic places and events in this great metropolis and beyond, looking for Booth One-type experiences to share with our listeners.

Anything is fair game on BOOTH ONE, reflective of the kinds of conversations that must have taken place in the legendary Pump Room’s first-class seating.  Be a fly on the wall we attempt to recreate the magic, mystery and mischief of the BOOTH ONE experience for your amusement and edification.

Send us photos and descriptions of your Booth One experiences and we’ll share them with our listeners on the podcast and here on the website. Your reservation to BOOTH ONE is waiting!

*The original Booth One from the ’40s is on display in a wonderful exhibit at the Chicago History Museum called The Secret Lives of Objects.  There is a colorful replica in the theater at the UP Club at Second City.

Gary Zabinski (Host):

Gary’s career in the entertainment industry spans four decades as a producer, director, venue manager and promoter in theatre, music, dance, opera, cabaret and comedy.

He has an Actors’ Equity card from his days as a professional stage manager and emergency performer on and off-Broadway and in the legendary Chicago theatre community.

His passions include golf, the American Musical Theatre, Stephen King, the US Supreme Court, cooking for friends, red wine, the Cubs, the Blackhawks, and a frosty half volka/half gin martini (a “OO7”).

Gary is the product of a well-rounded education from a slightly obscure Midwestern liberal arts college. And the school of hard knocks. His friends refer to him as The Gangster.

Betsy Ingram (Producer):

Betsy has worked in Chicago theatre as a producer, director, actor, and general manager. She currently works with the company that oversees production for concerts and events at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Past positions include founder and Artistic Director of the Thresholds Theatre Arts Project, General Manager for Chicago Shakespeare Company, Producing Director for New Crime Productions, and Executive Director of Blind Parrot Productions.

She directed The Remembered City featuring Tony Fitzpatrick and Steve Earle, which was performed as part of the Traffic Series at Steppenwolf Theatre then was selected to be presented at the Galway Arts Festival. She is the president of Booth One Productions, a nonprofit arts organization that produces this podcast as well as theatre projects such as the world premiere adaptation of Stuart Dybek’s The Coast of Chicago, co-produced with Kristan Schmidt and Walkabout Theatre, presented at Loookingglass Theatre. Betsy is a graduate of Stanford University.

Frank Tourangeau (Co-Host):

Frank’s life has been spent in the arts and in arts education; teaching, performing and directing both at the high school and college level. After getting a BA in English from Elmhurst College and an MA in Theater from the University of Illinois, he started teaching at University High School in Normal, IL where he coached the speech team there to three consecutive IHSA state speech championships. He then moved back to the Chicago area and taught at Fenton High School in Bensenville, running the Speech and Drama Dept. His 5 years there culminated in a state championship in speech and a few weeks later a state championship in drama, a feat that has been unequaled.

After taking time off to get a Ph.D from Southern Illinois University, he began teaching and directing at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL where he directed such productions as Jesus Christ Superstar, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Hair, Little Shop of Horrors, A View From the Bridge, Summer and Smoke, Dames at Sea, The Elephant Man, ER, Grease, and where he coached the C.O.D. speech team to 5 National Championships.

He has now become somewhat of a world traveler with recent trips to Cuba, Turkey, Russia, Montenegro, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Spain, Iceland, among others. Plans for later this year include Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore. Frank is married and lives in the Chicago suburbs. He goes way back with our producer and has many many stories!!!




  1. Lesley D. Brewster November 17, 2018 / 8:55 pm

    Dearest Nena – Your Booth One Podcast was as you say, ‘exquisite’. So humbled and honored to call you my friend.

    • nenasnotes November 17, 2018 / 9:17 pm

      As always, Lesley, you are MUCH too kind. Have a super Thanksgiving. Hugs….

    • nenasnotes November 17, 2018 / 9:23 pm

      Thanks dear Lesley, as always you always say the loveliest things. Happy Thanksgiving Hugs.

  2. Betsy Ingram November 18, 2018 / 10:20 pm

    It was a joy to have you as a guest and get to know you better! I agree with Leslie, your interview was exquisite! Thank you so much for sharing your time and genius with us.

    • nenasnotes November 18, 2018 / 11:33 pm

      Thanks so much Betsy forbinvluding me on your outstanding podcast Booth One. Loved the experience. Correction to your site is done!!

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