Saturday, October 29, 2011

Leather Museum: Home of the Red Spanking Bench

Add the Leather Archives & Museum to the list of great overlooked institutions in Chicago. Its scholarly displays about leather, fetish and S&M subcultures fill an old synagogue in Rogers Park. Top exhibits:

•    The Red Spanking Bench - An artifact from BDSM club Galleria Domain, designed to be "all things to all bottoms."

•    Short films offering information such as, "Crisco as a lubricant is fabulous. You could put anything up his butt."

•    Last Supper in a Leather Bar with Judas Giving Christ the Finger - A painting by Steven Brown.

•    Kinky historical nuggets, like naughty advice from Ben Franklin (available via the online exhibits).

Bring your mobile device, as many of the displays have barcodes to scan for further information. The website also provides a coupon for half off the $10 admission fee.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Marilyn's Skirt Blowin' in the Windy City

On this date in 1954, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio divorced. They were married less than a year, and her skirt-blowing pose in The Seven Year Itch supposedly fueled their last fight.

"What would Joe DiMaggio think now?" a grey-haired woman clucks to her two friends before snapping their photo beneath the 26-foot-tall statue of Marilyn on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. 

"This is sexist, man. I don't like the way they're objectifying her," says the guy in the Greenpeace T-shirt, laying on his back and aiming his camera up Monroe's skirt.

"Underpants!" A five-year-old boy sums up the issue in a single squeal. He jumps up and down, pointing to the sculpture's lace-trimmed panties.

A local company unveiled Forever Marilyn, which shows the icon in her skirt-billowing-over-a-subway-grate stance, in July. Citizens have been at odds ever since. Detractors say it incites tacky, leering behavior. Supporters say it's fun and rallies the public.

The day I visit, Girl Scouts stand next to gay men admiring the sculpture's slingback high heels. A busload of Chinese tourists swarms Marilyn beside a young wedding party posing in their finery. Of course, a man in plaid shorts is licking Marilyn's leg while his friends ready their iPhones.

Sadly, the blonde bombshell lacks a key attribute of Chicago's other famed public artworks: Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate and Picasso's untitled piece both generated controversy when they debuted in 2004 and 1967 respectively, but had years to win over their critics. Marilyn dismantles next spring.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Cubs October: Goat, Curse, Theo, Reverse

October is ever the momentous month for the Cubs. Take October 6, 1945, when The Curse fell upon the team. As the story goes: Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, brought his pet goat to the Cubs-versus-Tigers World Series game. When he tried to enter Wrigley Field with his four-legged friend, ballpark staff refused, saying the goat stunk. Sianis threw up his arms, and called down a mighty hex: "The Cubs will never win a World Series!" They didn't then, and haven't since.

Flash forward to October 25, 2011, when Theo Epstein takes over as Cubs' General Manager.  Theo broke The Curse of the Bambino in Boston and brought the Red Sox a World Series championship after 86 futile years. Can he do the same here, after 103 sad, woeful losing years?