Monday, January 18, 2010


The Gold Star Bar is located on Divison Street, East of Damen Avenue on the North side of Chicago. Rumor has it that the joint is haunted. Above the bar are apartments. Residents have told me that they have seen 'ghostly apparitions'...female ghosts in negligess...Yum! That would freak me out! Real women are frightening enough! Way back in the 30's, the Gold Star Bar was home to a number of nefarious ganster types. It's a fact that Al Capone occasionally had a drink in there. There were prostitutes who worked the bar, and the guys in the bar would buy a bottle, and bring them upstairs to the apartments, to do what healthy men do with working girls. The old wooden placard with the cup-hooks, that held the room keys, is still predominantly displayed next to the front door of the establishment.
The modern Gold Star Bar is owned by my friend, Mary Ann Reid. She is a sweet litle lady with eclectic interests in art and travel. She is my sweet Irish friend and benefactor....for you see, she owns a couple of my paintings and has had a couple of solo art shows for me in her bar. She enjoys a whiskey once in a while, which doesn't make her all bad! When I first met her, I was a raging alcoholic...and enjoyed the ambience of her bar many a night. While I was having one of my art shows, the day bartender told me that all my paintings were tipped and askew when she came in to start her shift in the morning. This freaked both of us out! She'd have to straighten them out every morning. The bar is vintage-deco and very beautiful. Dark hardwood surrounds the mirrors behind the bar and decorative motifs give it a special old world flavor. These bars are few and far between. The craftsmanship that went into their construction is absolutely priceless. When I am sitting at the bar, I feel as if I am being transported back to the days of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Gold Star Bar has a neighborhood feel to it. It is a true representation of what a Chicago bar should look and feel like, to an urban customer. I mean URBAN...not! Most young up-and-comers probably wouldn't notice its' beauty, because most young people have no sense of history these days.
I really believe that the Gold Star Bar is haunted. Sometimes, when I sat on my stool in there, the hair on my neck and arms stood up. The 'ghost-chasers' call this a cold spot, or maybe the ghosts were trying to communicate with me. I didn't like it one bit! Maybe the dead girls liked me, or their jealous 'johns' were trying to tell me to get the hell 'outta' there! The bathroom in the bar gave me the creeps a few times too! Sometimes when I was using the urinal, I felt like there was something standing in back of me. The doorway to the bathroom is really short by today's standards. People at the turn of the century weren't as tall as we are today. The outside of the building is as architecturally interesting as the inside of the bar. The ornamental design is beautiful in the exterior brick and concrete work.
I'm glad that Mary Ann Reid still runs the place. She just bought my Memoir, and tells me that she is enjoying it. She wants me to hang artwork at the Gold Star again this year. I think I'll take her up on it. Maybe I felt the presence of the 'ghosts', because I was drinking alcoholically at the times I sat at the bar. Maybe now that I'm sober, I won't be as susceptible to the power of suggestion. At least I didn't see any pink elephants! Hookers make better apparitions than elephants, any day of the week, in my book! Maybe now that I'm sober, all the ghosts have gone away.
*** from Chicago Stories and Other Thoughts from a Working Class Guy...available on

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