That toddlin’ town

As we head off to Chicago for the first of what I hope are very many Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fairs, I likewise hope that Billy Sunday hasn’t shut the place down. Don’t you love that song? Any version, but Sinatra especially. Ashamed to admit it, but neither Keith nor I have ever spent much time there, despite having some excellent clients, both collectors and interior designers. And we look forward to sampling the local cuisine. Although we try to pass ourselves off as connoisseurs, we are really hard-core foodies. And not fanciers of  the California version of nouvelle cuisine that is one of our dubious exports. Although supposedly based on unusual combinations of fresh local ingredients, too often our local cooking consists of bizarre flavors and, to paraphrase a friend, small portions at high prices. So, it is traditional local fare that attracts us. Deep dish pizza, though, is not what I’m after. Steak is what sounds good, and Gene and Georgetti, nearly in the shadow of the Merchandise Mart, will be on our list.

Chicago must be booming, with huge houses going up on ‘tear-down’ lots in the Lincoln Park area. Astonishing as this phenomenon always is, no matter where it occurs, but even more so here, with at least one home that we know of having nearly an acre- that is nearly 45,000 square feet- and, no, my finger did not stick on the ’0′, under roof. Appropriately, the gala preview is a benefit for the Lincoln Park zoo, so the zoo can continue to operate a free admission policy. Presumably, the neighbors, having to pay those huge property tax bills, must be entitled to something for free.

We love shows, and are eager to promote them. In some of my earlier blogs, I’ve spoken of how great the shows are for designers and collectors, beginning and established, as it provides an opportunity to see a range of goods, and, as the Merchandise Mart is a vetted show, provides the buyer the security of knowing that you will get what you pay for. Frankly, we are taking some pretty good pieces with us, including a beautiful parquetry commode attributed to Pierre Langlois, from Birthwaite Hall in Yorkshire. A lovely thing, I can see it in my mind’s eye gracing the entry hall of one of those new Lincoln Park houses, or an early 20th century David Adler house in the near North Side.

The Merchandise Mart is an exciting venue, too. For years, the Mart was the largest commercial structure in the world. It was purchased by Joseph P. Kennedy in 1945, and still operated by the family, with Christopher Kennedy now running the place. Bette Davis always said that promotion was the key to success, a credo the Mart has taken seriously, too, with plenty of pre-show promotion. This should pay off for the Mart, and the dealers, and who knows? Maybe Keith and I will be able to afford a steak dinner at Gene and Georgetti.

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