chicago ain’t no sissy town

I’m trying to plan another holiday with daisyfae this July. Unfortunately dolce can’t join us like she did in Greece last year *sob*

Lesbos July 2010 – we had fun didn’t we girls?

So far I’m considering New York, Chicago and/or Hawaii. Chicago sounds like a riot of a town

Nearly 20,000 drunken, yelling, brawling revelers filled the Coliseum and clogged the street by the time the Honorable John J. Coughlin arrived at the First Ward Ball by carriage in December 1908.

image found here

For more than a decade this was the city’s most notorious party, hosted by “Bathhouse John” and Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna. Tiny cigar-chomping Kenna was a genius at political organization and the owner of a popular saloon. Coughlin had been a bathhouse masseur, wrote terrible poetry and wore garish clothes. He blustered while Kenna said little. 

Hinky Dink and Bathhouse John found here

They conceived the First Ward Ball as a way of stuffing their pockets, already bulging with graft, through imposed ticket and liquor sales. The first ball, held in 1896, attracted a wild mix of society thrill seekers, police captains, politicians, prostitutes and gamblers.

image found here at flickriver

The 1908 ball made that affair look tame. During the course of the evening, revelers slopped up 10,000 quarts of champagne and 30,000 quarts of beer. Riotous drunks stripped off the costumes of unattended young women. A madam named French Annie stabbed her boyfriend with a hat pin.

French actress Annie Giradot found here

“It’s a lollapalooza! . . . There are more here than ever before. All the business houses are here, all the big people,” Kenna proudly proclaimed. “Chicago ain’t no sissy town.”

Almost half a century later, Hinky Dink died, at age 89.

image found here

He and his lifelong partner, Bathhouse John Coughlin, had set out to rule the new metropolis. Bathhouse John, once a rubber in a Turkish bath, was the front man. He was a huge, bumbling, handsome ruffian, full of pomp and speech. Tight-lipped Hinky Dink was the boss. They were elected aldermen; together they controlled the vote, became loved, feared, respected.

image found here

The pair staged an annual ball which was attended by thousands of whores, pickpockets, hopheads, politicians and pimps. Their guests drank free champagne, brawled, engaged in orgiastic dancing, and cheered as Bathhouse John led the Grand March wearing a bright green cutaway, mauve vest, lavender pants and a high silk hat.

vision in purple found here

Times changed. Prohibition put Hinky Dink out of his saloon; Al Capone stole much of his power. Bathhouse John died in 1938, old and broke. In 1943, diabetes and old age beat Hinky Dink down. He retired to a hotel room. His fortune (estimated at $2,000,000) afforded him but little comfort beyond the dozen $1 cigars he smoked every day. He died attended only by a male nurse.

Al Capone fishing found here

Jack (“Greasy Thumb”) Guzik, one of the successors to Capone’s power, came to his wake. Hymie (“Loud Mouth”) Levin, another underworld kingpin, sent flowers. But the funeral was a disappointment—half the seats were empty, and Hinky Dink got only three automobile loads of flowers, as compared to Bathhouse John’s seven.

Don Corleone’s funeral flowers found here

An apologetic First Ward lobbygog (Chicagoese for ward heeler) explained: “He was retired too long. If you don’t go to other people’s funerals they won’t go to yours.”

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60 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. this is oddly apropos. Remember that “gauntlet” I threw down to LC Aggie Sith yesterday? Well…she picked it up.

  2. If you come to NY or Chicago I’ll try to make it up there to see you. Especially if you’ll be wearing that leafy green.

    Are you watching Boardwalk Empire? The writers find a way to use so much real history. I love that show, you would too.

    • Boardwalk Empire isn’t on here yet 😦

  3. Cities don’t change much, do they. Chicago, Sydney – same same.

  4. So you didn’t consider Frinton then Nursie!

  5. Nothing like this ever happens when I go to Chicago, but people keep saying it’s a great town.

  6. Chicago?? Ick…. so damn expensive, and they squeeze tourists dry with their taxes.

    You would do better to come to Texas 😉

  7. My biggest fear is that when I die, people will send only three carloads of flowers to my funeral.

  8. Personally I think you should visit Ingerland …. just sayin’

  9. I really like Chicago – it’s a great city with lots to do, and good transport links to other places. I like Seattle even more…..but mostly I like Brighton.

  10. Nothing wrong with New York, but Chicago is pretty great- good food, beautiful town and there’s good stuff to do from high falutin’ like the Field Museum down to well grimy. Gets awful sticky hot in summer though.

  11. Now I’ve got the theme to ‘The Godfather’ stuck in my head. But that’s okay. It goes nicely with my pinstripe suit and fedora.

  12. “If you don’t go to other people’s funerals they won’t go to yours.” That definitely applies here in Northern Ireland, attendance at funerals is almost a legal requirement, you can skip just about anything on the grounds that you’ve got a funeral to attend.

    When I die, I expect all the florists within a ten mile radius to be emptied of stock within minutes by my heartbroken devotees.

  13. Any big US city – be guided by friends or family or the professionals. Just like all cities people can be easy prey if find themselves in dangerous areas. There are parts of the great city of Philadelphia that police and fire rescue will not enter after dark.

    • Oh I loved Philadelphia. And it’s got a great permanent Duchamp exhibition

  14. it was grand. will definitely miss the delicious dolce this year, but the plans for Tuscany, 2012 are already in the making!

  15. You had me at the first photo.

    The King

  16. Chicago is very under rated, Happy Mother’s Day btw

  17. I never realized they threw such parties a hundred years ago.

  18. Chicago is about 70 miles from the D man.


    • Then we expect you to drive up for lunch

  19. This is the first time I’ve felt stressed about how many flowers will be sent to my funeral!

    • I want booze sent to mine.

  20. So if I went to someone’s funeral are they going to dig themselves out of their grave to come to mine?

  21. Happy Mother’s Day!!! Thanks for making the Internet a brighter, happier place.

  22. I’ve told everybody I want only white flowers at my funeral, masses and masses of them.
    (Did the guy die of the hatpin stabbing???)

    • Nope, I don’t think he did.

  23. Chicago is high on my list of US must-see cities. I guess in July you won’t have to worry about the cold…

  24. Is it going to be Prague?
    I’m sure that all your fans out there hope for similar photos this time ’round!

  25. So cool to read the word “lollapalooza” in an original early 20th century context.

  26. I would, of course, argue for New York but you can’t go wrong with Chicago, either. Too bad about Dolce. My scorecard currently reads: Two down, one to go.

    • Scorecard?!?! Daisyfae and Dolce didn’t say anything about that….

  27. When “Hinky Dink” threw a party was it known as a “Hinky Dinky Do”?

  28. Doesn’t Rassles live in Chicago? Maybe she can sit in for Dolce.

    • I’m definitely hoping to catch up with Rassles

  29. But if other people don’t go to your funeral, then why should you go to theirs? I’ve always thought it unfortunate that funerals aren’t held before you die, that way you can enjoy them.

  30. If you come to Chi-Town, we will go eat at somewhere delicious. Many delicious somewheres. There is a list of them in my brain. Plus I know more cool unique Chicago things to do than any guidebook. Plus I am amazing. Plus I will change your life.

    • I’m there!!!

      • oh, yeah! hanging with you is at the top of my list of things to do in Chicago! i’m going to want a cool nickname like all your other friends when we’re done. hopefully not “Vomity” or anything like that…

  31. PLUS! Haters go home.

  32. So… in other words, not much has changed in Chicago politics. 🙂

  33. Hawaii – sun and pineapples – it doesn’t get better than that.

    How do you get to be a rubber in a Turkish bath? I’m thinking it sounds appealing but I might have the wrong end of the stick.

    • I think they mean he started out as a masseur of sorts. No rub’n’tug that I know of 🙂

  34. This has a whiff of Raymond Chandler about it – and all the better it is for that.

  35. Depending on when and where you go in July, I might be able to make a brief appearance. Perhaps for a quick photo shoot. Think you can get Rassles her own corset?

    • Oh wow – that would be great RF. Will be in Chicago from 24th to 28th July

  36. If you decide on Chicago, and if it’s open, you might like to visit the Everleigh Club ( I’ve never been, but read about it in Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul.

    Thanks for another great post.


    • I’m reading that book at the moment! But the Everleigh Club doesn’t exist any more does it?

      • Apologies–it was wishful thinking on my part. Such a significant establishment ought to be preserved.

        Enjoy the book!

  37. I’ll invite Simon Callow to my funeral provided he wears that hat!;-)

  38. been lurking..but it’s exciting to see you will be in Chicago..I’m only about an hr away from there now..
    I like the city but my driving skills are truly lacking when it comes to being in their horrible traffic. Takes an hr to get there and 2 hrs to get thru the city.
    Those drivers there scare me.

    • What about catching a train?

      • We do have a train that runs from Milwaukee to the center of Chicago..haven’t taken it yet..
        Chicago’s not that just need to have a GPS to navigate if you’re not a native Chicagoan. We do OK getting around if we map out where we’re headed first.
        I do love the busyness of the city during a nice day..But only for a day or 2 then I have to escape all the hustle and bustle..

  39. I am not sure if I would prefer to be known as “Bathhouse John” or “Hinky Dink”

  40. Boston *cough*

    Although I suppose I could take the train down to New York for a day.

    • *gleeful squeals* Oh please do, daisyfae and I would LOVE to meet you

  41. “Good Americans are said to go to Paris when they die; but it appears to depend on whether they had been to Chicago first”. The Merry Gangster. mgf 7-11-11

  42. Chi-town its history has been written in blood!

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