I love the Holidays….don’t you! And after stuffing ourselves at the feast that is Thanksgiving it’s time to think about Christmas and what better time to do that is to take a short trip to a wonderful small town middle America old fashion day of holiday cheer ending in a lights parade….I can think of nowhere else that exemplifies that feeling than Blue Island, Illinois.
This town, established in 1835, is a hop, skip and jump from downtown Chicago and it’s claim to fame (actually it has many claims to fame…I’ll save more for a future post!) was back in the 1850’s when it became the brick making capital of the world and in 1883 when it became the hub of the car shops of The Rock Island Railroad. It prospered with the growth of the railroads as did other small towns such as Michigan City and LaPorte, Indiana (I’ll save the railroad story for yet another post!) Blue Island has such a variety of homes from vintage Victorian to bungalows to Mid-Century Modern that it is worth your while when you visit to drive around town…it’s extraordinary!
The events are all FREE (except when you find a treasure at The Kringle Mart!). This is made possible by year round fund raisers. This year only needed one to raise the necessary funds, the reopening of the beloved The Lyric Theater. The long awaited totally renovated building can hold up to 400 for special events as well as screens for movies.
Now back to the purpose of this post…Christmas in Blue Island! On Saturday, December 3rd a day filled with so many activities you will need to take a break at one of the many pubs and local restaurants before the evening’s Light Parade. A truly traditional day of family fun in small town America.
Forget about New York’s Macy’s Parade…give me a local heartfelt parade anytime of the year! Let’s look at some highlights from last year’s event…
All photos provided by my BFF’s Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel.
It isn’t often that a book hits a cord or in this case many cords with me….and that is exactly what Michael Kutza’s STARSTRUCK does!!!! It’s a memoir, it’s an insight into the birth of an entrepreneur, it’s a 50+ year history of a City plus much much more! It’s a deep dive into the movie industry with lots of intimate inside stories told with humor, honesty and a bit of sass, okay, a lot of sass!
It all started in 1964 when Chicago columnist, Irv Kupcinent introduced the 22 year old Kutza to the retired film star, Colleen Moore. Moore was a mega star in the 1920’s, was the first to bob her hair (which became her trademark) was the original “flapper“ and appeared in over 60 silent films. And by the way, you can see her magical fairy castle at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. It is amazing…perhaps I do a nenasnotes blog post on the unique artifact in the near future!
Let me let Michael tell you the story of their meeting….
”So I met this wonderful lady named Colleen Moore. She was a silent film comedian just like Mary Pickford but she retired here and married a man named [Homer] Hargrave, who was the president of Merrill Lynch. He had just died so suddenly I’ve got this film star widow with nothing to do and when Irv Kupcinet introduced me to her it was like magic. It was very much like a mother and son relationship, she helped me to do the whole thing. She knew all the movie stars in the old days so she got them all together to come to the first film festival.”
Michael, a native Chicagoan, gives us a history lesson on the birth of the film industry in which, Chicago played a major part. I particularly like his telling of the Chaplin story from the beginnings of the mega genius Charlie Chaplin to his daughter, the actress Geraldine Chaplin, to Robert Downey, Jr. brilliantly playing Chaplin in the movie Chaplin!
From the book’s Press Release…”As described in vivid detail in Starstruck, Kutza presided over an annual gathering that would over the next half-century host a veritable Who’s Who of the film world – from Harold Lloyd to Clint Eastwood, Bette Davis to Viola Davis, Steven Spielberg to Spike Lee, Guillermo del Toro to Jodie Foster, Lauren Bacall to Al Pacino. At the same time, the festival helped introduce a plethora of new talent that would go on to revolutionize the movie business, including Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and Helen Mirren.”
The following photos are found in the book…
You will learn, as I did, the backstories of stars (major actors, directors, producers…many have become Kutza’s close friends) “real” personalities…many very nice…others not so much! Their demand’s, how about a private plane at a huge cost, some a bit more titillating…no detail is left out and I’m sure there are many more stories to fill a volume 2! Plus there is so much to absorb you will want to read it again and again!
Some of the major stars and directors through the years (they, in my opinion. are also stars!!!) Here are more photos from the book…
Kutza’s dream as a very young man was to bring the best of film to his City which he describes in great detail…you get the good, the bad and often the ugly…the ups and downs of the process of working against all odds to produce an Internationally recognized and acclaimed Film Festival that predated, Sundance, Tribeca and Toronto. I’m thrilled to do this review for someone I’ve known for decades and you will throughly enjoy his journey…get the book you won’t be sorry!
Kutza has a Podcast, Nose to Nose….here is a YouTube piece he did on the book…take a look it is fascinating! https://youtu.be/4INswIiePBs
I am so excited to tell you that I will be in conversation with Michael, via zoom, on Tuesday, January 24th when nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club joins the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum in a special event. Do join us when two native Chicagoans talk about two Chicago institutions The Chicago International Film Festival and The Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum guaranteed to be a great time! Invitations will be out soon…to get on the list please contact Nell McKeown at 312.799.2112orMcKeown@ChicagoHistory.org
More images from the book…
Most images are from STARSTRUCK all others found on Pinterest no photo credit available.