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I couldn’t think of a better debut for my very first Scene and Be Seen piece. I’ve been going to the Green Mill for over (cough cough) years, generally as a Thursday night regular for swing dancing to the Alan Gresik Swing Shift Orchestra. I love donning my vintage duds and cutting a rug. Now, there are other nights of the week when the music is the focus and there is no dancing and even less talking, if that’s your thing. Me? I like to dance.
Okay, we’ve all heard the rich history within the faded walls and worn booths of the Green Mill. Al Capone went there every day and killed several men in the underground tunnel leading to the Aragon Ballroom (secret tunnels = major cool points). He would sit in the back-facing booth on the right monitoring the front or side doors for prospective enemies so he could kill them before they killed him (talk about Hunger Games). Even if those things aren’t all true (and I believe they are), the Green Mill will still give your imagination a wild ride thinking of all things gangster, hooch and old Chicago.
There is something dangerously exciting about heading to Uptown for a night at the Mill, one of Chicago’s oldest jazz clubs. As you approach the corner of Lawrence and Broadway, the glowing green and sparkling gold sign beckons you. “Don’t be afraid. Come on in,” it says. With a sign like that, it’s gotta be a good time inside.
Upon entering, a large, handlebar-mustached man with an eye patch checks your ID and then ushers you inside. It’s like the magical doors opening into Willy Wonka’s candy room, only instead of chocolate waterfalls and lick-able wallpaper, the treats are delicious tunes and writable bathroom stall walls. The walk towards the stage feels like slow motion. People taller than you mingle and laugh and glance at you as you walk by. The drums pound, the horns wail, the dancers twirl and…hey, there’s Vince Vaughn! Grab a whiskey, beer or – my personal choice – a Champagne split. Find a seat at the long, curvy bar if you can, or stand by the best true jukebox in town. Time is elusive here. You’ll wonder if it’s been two hours or 20 minutes. Either way, you’ll wish there was more.
I always leave the Mill feeling better than I did when I got there. It makes me feel like I’m part of something. Something both classy and dingy, important and frivolous, toxic and healing. There’s just something about the jazz, the vibe, the atmosphere.
I say, get out your vintage best, red lipstick and dancing shoes and bask in the Green glow.