“It was a living self-contained theater.”
That’s how Michael Abramson described his
years photographing Peppers Hideout, Perv’s
House, the High Chaparral, the Patio Lounge,
and the Showcase Lounge on Chicago’s South
Side in the 1970s.
Bump contests and blues. Love goddesses and
shake dancers. The Sexy Mamas and Their
Mack. Funky. Sexy. Music and voodoo. Every
night like New Year’s Eve.
This was the scene that Abramson recorded.
Wrote British novelist Nick Hornby, an
admirer of Abramson’s work: “One tiny corner
of the world over a handful of evenings a long
time ago; but that tiny corner of the world has,
for decades now, meant a great deal to an awful
lot of people scattered all over the world.”
Enter Patricia Smith, a poet who grew up not far
from these South Side clubs. She took a look at
Abramson’s photos nearly four decades later
and brought his night world back to life. “These
fiercely breathing visuals are a last link,” she
says, “to the unpredictable, blade-edged and
relentlessly funky city I once knew.”
Her words and his pictures open the doors
and give us a front-row (or a back-row . . . even
better) seat to a time and place long gone.
So: Watch. Listen.
That’s how the publisher describes this breathtaking new collaboration between a great photographer and my brilliant poet-wife, Patricia Smith.
A small sample:
Chicago men got a swagger that says they
know alleyways and a hundred ways to tame
salt pork. They know how to cut loose, how
to double a negative and clear a room,
Chi-town men mean every explosive thing they
mutter to a woman. The shock in their words
is real. They smoke a sweet particular poison.
Afraid that the eyes might really be windows
to the soul, they wear shades smudged dim.
Behind the glasses, their wants are wide open.
Chicago women got a swagger that says they
know the ways of Chicago men. They come up
in the shadows of lumbering boys, the women
built themselves up on doubledutch and swigs
of cooking grease from sinkside jars. When they
dance, their unbridled hips bellow like fists,
overwhelming whatever the music thought it was.
What did the music think it was? In charge.
But no Chicago woman has ever met a dance
floor, or a man, she couldn’t buckle and break.
She smiles because she knows that
You can order the book here.