An Event to Top Off Summer

hats and hobnobbingSummer is almost gone and a memory. But before we say bye bye to it, enjoy one last event. Thalia Spice has become a new favorite haunt of mine and the food and hospitality is great.

Alicja Events is hosting the perfect party. You can enjoy the great food and cocktails , network, and be pampered. Part of the fun is also seeing the fashionable and fun hats that everyone is wearing. Another extra treat is that there will be a contest for the best hat and the prize is a dinner for two at Thalia Spice.

The price for the event is 25.00 pre event  or bring a friend and get five off. At the door its 30.00

Purchase tickets at http://www.handsand

thalia spice logo

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Happy Birthday Cyrus ! A Birthday Tribute to to Steppenwolf Founder Jeff Perry

jeff perry hsToday we celebrate a very special birthday to everyone in the Chicago theatre community. It is one of the founders of the world famous Steppenwolf Theatre, Jeff Perry. Jeff is a world class and world famous actor. Currently he can be seen on ABC’s smash hit “Scandal” as Presidential henchman , Cyrus Beene. Join us as Chitownstarconnections celebrates the actor and one of our favorite “gladiators.”

Born August 16,1955 in Highland Park , Illinois. Jeff’s father was a teacher at Highland Park High School. He had an early interest in drama. One day, his late sister , Jo took him to the Ravinia Festival here in Chicago where he auditioned for a ACT production of “Six Characters in Search of an Actor” . He nailed the audition and got the role.  This also initiated what would be the start of the award winning Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Few people know the humble beginnings of Steppenwolf. It was founded by Gary Sinise, Terry Kinney, and Perry and the first plays were done in a corner of the Highland Park HS cafeteria and later in the Immaculate Conception Church also in Highland Park.

steppenwolf ensembleJeff has been a pillar in the Chicago theatre committee . He has been nominated for two Jeffy awards. (local Chicago theatre award) He has also acted in such plays as “True West” , “August Osage County” and “The Grapes of Wrath.

jeff in august osage county  tracy lettsHere is Jeff in rehearsal for” August Osage County” before it went to Broadway in 2008. The play originated at Steppenwolf.

founders of steppenwolfHere is Jeff , Terry Kinney, and Gary Sinise formerly of CSI NY , the founding members of the Steppenwolf Theatre Co. They have also opened a Steppenwolf West in LA as well. The company boasts such actors as John Mahoney, Gary Cole, John Malkovich, Joan Allen, and Laurie Metcalf. (Perry was married to the Roseanne actress and they have one daughter, Zoe. Currently he is married to the casting director of “Grey ‘s Anatomy”Linda Lowy  and has another child by her.

nash bridgesJeff has appeared on many series in the course of his career. They include “The West Wing”, “Prison Break”, “The Practice”, “Thirtysomething” “ER” and “Chicago Hope” Here he is on the former CBS show “Nash Bridges” as Inspector Harvey Leek

my so called lifeHere he is in the late ABC series “My So Called Life” as  gay drama teacher, Richard Katinski. He also directed an episode of the series.

america dadJeff has also been immortalized in cartoon form. Here he is on an episode of the Fox series “American Dad”  Doesn’t that really look like him?

greys bailey mer lexieHere is one of Jeff’s best known roles. He has come back to the halls of the Seattle hospital several times as Thatcher Grey, the father who left Meredith . In the episode “PYT” , he has returned with a twenty something girl friend much to the dismay of his two daughters.

scandal  jeff tony and kerryBut here is the role he is currently known for Cyrus Beene, President Grant’s Chief of Staff on “Scandal” Here he is with stars Kerry Washington as Olivia and Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant as they endure another stressful day in the White House.

cyrus james and ellaHere is Cyrus with the love of his life , James and their daughter,Ella on the day of her christening. Tragically James was shot while on the trail of exposing corruption. Now Cyrus must raise their daughter alone. Will Cyrus love again?

jeff todaySo lift your wine glass , grab some popcorn and join us as we say Happy Birthday Jeff!!! Chitownstarconnections is so  proud of our hometown boy!!

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The Day that Laughter Died

robin williams profile

Today the world stopped laughing when they heard the tragic news that Robin Williams had died. For someone who had spent a large part of his life making the world laugh, his ending was tragic. Rather than dwelling on that, let’s instead celebrate the life and career of this man.

young robin williams

Robin McLaurin Williams was born July 21, 1951 in Chicago . He didn’t always want to be an entertainer. For a short time he studied political science. But he knew where he belonged, so he enrolled at Julliard .

christopher and robin reeves Robin’s roommate at Julliard was the late actor Christopher Reeves. Williams remained faithful to the end when the actor died as a  result of his injuries.

robin and the fonz Robin first got his first big break when Gary Marshall caught his act and cast him as an alien on an episode of “Happy Days” Here is him with The Fonz (Henry Winkler)

mork and miindy This guest spot led to his spin off… “Mork and Mindy” a seventies sitcom where he played an alien who landed on earth in Boulder , Colorado. He learned about relationships and feelings with the help of his friend later wife Mindy played by Pam Dawber…

pam-dawber-robin-williams-crazy-ones In 2014, Dawber and Williams reunited on his short lived series “The Crazy Ones”. Dawber was a woman that he dated . It was great to see them together again.

the bird cageThere have been so many great roles that Robin has played. It is impossible to list them all. I have decided to list some of my favorites. One is definitely “The Bird Cage” He and Nathan Lane played gay lovers who disguise their lifestyle for the good of their hetero son. It is hilarious especially with the super talented Hank Azaria and “The Good Wife’s” Christine Baranski as part of the cast

good morning vietnam Another great role of his was the story of a dee jay who was sent to Vietnam to entertain the troops . When he became controversial, he was literally threatened by the Army. Robin got an Oscar nom for his role in “Good Morning Vietnam”

robin as the genieOne of Robin’s best loved roles was when he was the voice of the Genie in the Disney classic “Aladdin” He was known for the song “You’ll Never Have a Friend Like Me.” The song was nominated for an Oscar.

mrs doubtfireThe plight of a divorced father is why Williams donned drag in the hilarious “Mrs Doubtfire”

Dead-Poets-Society-Lobby-Cards-dead-poets-society-898393_494_397Another nomination came to Robin for his portrayal of inspirational teacher John Keating in this movie. The cast also included Kurtwood Smith (That 70’s  Show) and Josh Charles (The Good Wife) The phrase carpe diem  became a part of our vocabulary .

Actors-writers Matt Damon (L) and Ben Affleck (R)A triple threat when Robin finally wins an Oscar for his role in “Good Will Hunting” Ben Affleck and Matt Damon share the statuette for their award winning original screenplay.

family guy Seth McFarlane immortalized Robin in an episode of “Family Guy” where Peter imagines turning his family into Robin Williams.  Robin did the voices.

Crazy-Ones-cast “Mad Men” gets funny could have been what Williams last project , a return to television could have been called. He was the owner of a Chicago ad agency with his daughter Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy) in CBS “The Crazy Ones.”

Robin is survived by his third wife, Susan and his children Zelda, Zachary, and Cody… we at chitownstarconnections give our sympathy to the family at this time……

robin williams laughterRobin McLerin Williams


We will remember the laughter above all

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Summer’s Pleasant Surprise- The Divide

the divide  bannerI find that television on the average seems to be a place for brain dead idiots that can’t get enough of  shows like “Dancing With the Stars” or any of the other mindless reality shows. Luckily for me, there are a few people that know there are still people like me that appreciate quality television. I am especially happy for the onslaught of cable shows that boast questions that encourage the viewer to think. Shows like TNT s”Perception” and this new jewel , “The Divide”

I will be the first to admit that my draw to the WE-TV drama was one name , Tony Goldwyn. I am one of the popcorn chewing and wine drinking millions of women who swoon as he woos the fair Olivia Pope as the very charismatic President Fitzgerald T Grant on ABC’s “Scandal”  . After a career of  obscure   and character roles, Mr Goldwyn has indeed struck gold this year. Landing the role of the father in the hit “Divergent”, the controversial role of Warren Jetts in the Lifetime movie, “Outlaw Prophet”and taking the helm of this summer series  have made this a banner year for the actor director. As an admirer of his work, I had to see the dramatic series for myself.

The first episode had his stamp all over it as it was written , directed and produced by Goldwyn. It has a very feature film feel to by all camera standards. Since I have been directed many times, I will say that when an actor directs they can give the best results because they have been on both sides on the camera. Taking place in Philadelphia, it is a critical examination of our legal system. Marin Ireland shines in her role as the idealist law student , Christina Rosa . She just wants people to get the justice they deserve. Sadly she finds out that this isn’t the case. Rosa is further motivated by the fact that her own father is on death row himself. The case that her and a group of her fellow law students are assigned to help with involves a black family that had been murdered. The case is further complicated with the ambitious DA Adam Page played by  Damon Gupton. Page’s life is further complicated by his shrew of a wife played by Nia Long. (Soul Food, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air , Third Watch) . Billie Page and Mellie Grant are cut from the same cloth. They have both found these men and have made them their life’s work to let their careers be the pathway to their own ambitions. Britne Oldford is another standout as the young victim, Jenny Butler. Butler is forever tormented by her memories of that day she lost her family. She shows great promise as a dramatic actress.

We not only see the victims in the show, but also the accused. Chris Bauer (Third Watch,) portrays the doomed Jared Bankowski. He takes a death row convict and shows the human side beautifully. It almost makes you feel sorry for the man especially when you find out he shouldn’t have been executed. We also see that the families are victims along with the criminals. They suffer the stigma of the actions of the family members. Aidan Devine should also be mentioned playing the father of Terry Kucik. His performance can only be described as powerful as he feels the pain  for his son’s sins. Unjustly arrested, his son is forced to wait for a new trial to prove his innocence . He initially allows his son to stay with him while he sits with an ankle bracelet to monitor his comings  and goings. He admits his true feelings when he comes face to face with Kucik (Joe Anderson)  This causes a breakdown when he throws him out. Kucik and Rosa bond when she realizes he is as vulnerable as her.

It is obvious that the people behind the scenes know what they are doing. Oscar nominated Richard LaGravenese and Goldwyn have managed to assemble a stellar cast that has made critics take notice. I am sorry to see this show ending but hope that the show makes its way again next year.

cristina  the dirvide

tony directing damon gupton

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Stars Ride For Life

amfar logo We are always looking for good causes to support. Another thing we are always excited about is the possibility of meeting celebs supporting these causes. Today we got to embrace both of our passions. Always excited about visiting Michigan Avenue, we went to the Kiehl’s store this afternoon for their event.

I have never really tried their products except when they were included in goody bags. But as you well know, I am always about trying to look good and the salespeople were so friendly. I will be purchasing on another day. While the salesperson explained the products, we were also given the option of having a RedBull or Fiji water. Guests of the store were also treated to the yummy gnoshes provided by LillieQ’s . Loved their sliders.

Finally at noon, the riders rolled into the Mag Mile. This is the fifth anniversary of the Amfar ride which benefits AIDS research , education, prevention and treatment education , and also the advocacy of sound AIDS related public policy. Eric Muscateli, Vice President of Development of AmfAR pointed out that everyone in that store has known someone either affected or died from AIDS. That is why it is so important to donate or just help out with this cause. Kiehl sweetened the deal by giving a portion of the sales to AmFar up to 125,000 dollars.

Celebrities are nothing new to us. Well, not when you know the cast of “Chicago Fire” as well as we do. The stars were more than happy to take a break from their long ride. Long time fans of Must See TV, we were thrilled to get to meet the totally amazing Malcolm Jamal Warner. I even got a chance to chat for a few minutes  with the actor-director. He said that he got involved with the ride because of his love of motorcycles and his dedication to the cause . It was also because of Magic Johnson, who inspired him.Malcolm is currently on the TNT hit , “Major Crimes” He loves the part and considers the whole cast family, “They were very welcoming and this was great considering how they had already bonded from being a part of “The Closer.” he smiled when he talked about his role as Lt Chuck Cooper. Of course , we had to mention how we included him in our first article about actors from sitcoms who direct. He was very interested to know we wrote about directors as well as the actors. Another actor that we encountered was the terribly sexy Gilles Marini. Gilles has appeared on many series, including most recently CBS “Two Broke Girls” . His biggest claim to fame remains as the hot , “Dante” in the first “Sex and City ” movie. Other celebs who made the ride included Jesse Lee Soffer, “Chicago PD” Teddy Sears of “Masters of Sex” , Patrick Flueger “Chicago PD” , Ben Cohen, the World Cup Rugby Champion and founder of Standup Foundation. Grant Reynolds, Milissa Sears, and Conrad Leach. Customers and onlookers were given quite a show when the bikes took off for their next destination. The ride started in Wisconsin and will end in New York.

Fore more info: and about Kiehl’s products and involvement

TheoJen, me and the very cool Malcolm Jamal Warner. Boy he sure has grown up from Theo from “The Cosby Show” . Now along with riding his bike , he appears on TNT’s “Major Crimes.” He was so nice.

check presentation The people at Kiehl’s were more than happy to donate at least 125,000 to the riders for Liferide for AmFar.

ridersHere are the riders when they arrived at the Kiehl’s store at 520 Michigan , heart of the Mag Mile. Onlookers could come in or stay outside to have their picture takes with them.

the pork slidersYummy… the great folks at Lillie Q’s brought some fun to the event with these delicious pork sliders. Wash it down with a Red Bull and you have a winner. Perfect for the long ride ahead for the stars.

proclaimationMayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed today Liferide for AmFar Day in Chicago.

taking off Here are the brave riders taking off to the next stop on the multi day journey.  Our best wishes go with you and thanks!!!

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Drama Is Part of Their Lives- Actors Who Direct TV’s Best Dramas

drama masks Previously , we talked about the actors who made us laugh and then directed. Now with brilliant shows like “Mad Men” and summer’s surprise, “The Divide.” , many of the actors who play on television currently on dramatic shows have been on  the other side of the camera as director .

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERABesides being married to TV’s Laura , Jonathan Frakes has directed many episodes from the “Star Trek” franchise. Currently he has directed an episode from the ABC hit “Castle” and also the TNT show “Falling Skies.”

eric mccormack perception Eric McCormack earned his tv fame for playing Will Truman on “Will and Grace” , now he continues on as the brilliant Daniel Pierce on TNTs “Perception” Using his mind to solve crimes, McCormack has joined the fraternity of actors who have directed their own series.

kevin-mckiddKevin McKidd has been a part of the Grey’s family for quite a few years now. He has a fantastic singing voice that he got to use  in the musical episode. He has also directed at least seven episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” where he portrays Dr. Owen Hunt.

chandra wilson As Bailey on “Grey’s Anatomy”, Chandra Wilson  knew how to control her interns. She has taken that knowledge to heart by directing at least ten episodes of GA.

debbie allen Debbie Allen is no stranger to either side of the camera. She has directed from “A Different World” to her own show “Fame” Currently she appears as Catherine Avery on “Grey’s Anatomy” . She has directed GA as well as sister show “Scandal.”

mark and paolo royal painsMark Feuerstein and Paolo Costanzo  not only play the brothers Lawson on the USA show “Royal Pains” , they have each taken over the director’ s chair on the drama.

roger and don mad menAs Roger and the infamous Don Draper, Jon Hamm and John Slattery are partners in directing as well. They have both taken turns directing the AMC soon to be classic “Mad Men.” The show is in its final season.

patrick-duffy-435Patrick Duffy is a television legend. He is one of the original cast members who proudly still portrays Bobby Ewing on the TNT series “Dallas” Patrick directed on the original series as well as his 90’s comedy “Step by Step.”

linda gray dallasLinda has her television hubby to thank for her venturing into the world of directing. She was tutored by the late Larry Hagman before she made her directing debut on “Dallas” She is still playing the tortured Sue Ellen Ewing on the TNT Classic “Dallas”

laura innesLaura Innes is really true to her Chicago roots. She graduated from Northwestern University, went on to star as Dr. Kerry Weaver on “ER” and also directed the series. I had the pleasure of being directed by this all business girl. She has also directed “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” “The West Wing” and most recently “Grey’s Anatomy”

On Location For "Law & Order SVU" - December 15, 2011Mariska Hargitay of Law and Order SVU is truly a power woman. As well as playing the tough but tender detective Olivia Benson , she has been at the director’s helm at least once on her series.

tony goldwyn pp greys scandalTony Goldwyn is truly the renaissance man of the moment in television. He is currently the producer of the new series on WE-TV “The Divide” as well as directing the first episode of the series. He is no stranger to the director’s chair with taking the helm of series like “Dexter”, “The L Word” “Private Practice” “Grey’s Anatomy” and of course his own series “Scandal” Hardest directing assignment ? Directing Kerry Washington in a love scene with him. He will direct the “gladiators” this season as well.

Jeff-Perry-adAs the right hand man to the President , Cyrus Beane , Jeff has a finger in every body’s pie. It should come to no one ‘s surprise that he has directed as well . He directed the late great series “My So Called Life” and is also one of the founders of the world famous Steppenwolf Theatre here in Chicago.

scott foley felcity and monkScott’s character may have spirited away the fair Olivia from Washington and her true love, but Scott Foley’ doesn’t have anything less than his competition. Scott has actually taken the lead in the upcoming movie “Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife” . He stars, directs, and has written the movie in post production. Scott has directed “Felicity” and “Monk”

jon tenney major crimesVP Elect Andrew Nichols, on “Scandal”  has captured the First Lady’s heart , but Jon Tenney has also helmed behind the camera on his two former series . They are the TNT hits “Major Crimes” and “The Closer” .


Dan Bukatinsky was well known as a producer, writer, and director even before his Emmy winning role as “James” on “Scandal” He has served with the consulting  producer title on “Grey’s Anatomy” for many years. He has also directed the Showtime series of pal Lisa Kudrow’s “Web Therapy” .He will also be a part of Lisa’s show “The Comeback.” on and off camera as well. The HBO show that was unjustly cancelled will be returning in November.

paul adelsteinWhen the show “Private Practice” ended, Paul Adelstein had another job at Shondaland . He became Leo Bergen , Sally’s henchman during the election on “Scandal” Paul directed an episode of his series “Private Practice.” Didn’t know Paul was a Chicago boy.

"Insomnia" PremierePaul McCrane began his career with the song he sang in the movie “Fame” But then his career took him to the classic series “ER” as Dr Rocket Romano pursuing the beautiful Dr Elizabeth Corday. Following his demise, he has directed for ‘ER” “The West Wing” and most recently the “Scandal” episode titled “kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”He has also directed “Major Crimes” on TNT.

anthony edwardsAnthony Edwards was the pal to Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” lead the “Revenge of the Nerds” and cemented his place in television history pre Greys as the “hospital” show as Dr Mark Greene on “ER” . His television death brought tears to my eyes. He directed four episodes of the series that lasted a record fifteen seasons.

larry hagmanLast but least to complete this list of drama’s best, we pay tribute to the director and mentor to many of his castmates, Larry Hagman who passed away recently. Larry was not only a director but served as executive producer. Many of today’s greats owe him because he paved the way. JR was truly a television legend , an  original just like Larry.

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Just Like Home “The Great Escape”

the great escapeFood is an international language. No matter where you go, it speaks to people. It can bring a pleasant feeling or evoke a memory from our childhood.It can also be something that you have never experienced before. The bottom line is that food brings pleasure.

Between the glamour of downtown Chicago and O Hare, we were invited to try the food at a cute little place in Schiller Park called “The Great Escape.” I wondered why it was called that and I got my answer. The name of the owner of the restaurant is one Brian Great. It turns out that Brian’s mother and father had a restaurant in Chicago called the Drift Inn. Their specialty was the best baby back ribs and broasted chicken in the Chicago area. Brian and his family have happily carried on this tradition . We got a chance to try the food and absorb the homey atmosphere last week. It was a foodtastic experience . Sometimes the simplest food is truly the best.

Walking in the place, I was transported back to my childhood and the many mom and pop places that we went to in Ohio and on vacation. The decor was early American with wooden tables and chairs and a red , white and blue motif . It was a refreshing drink of water from the pretentious bistros of the Gold Coast. When we sat down at the table, a bountiful feast was laid out for us to enjoy.  Brian had to have us try what made them famous. I have to be honest, I have heard the term “broasted” chicken most of my life and finally learned what it was. It was nice to indulge in chicken that was not skinless and boneless. The skin was tasty, the cole slaw had a mayo base and that is the way it should be, the steak fries were hearty. Verdict, delish. The ribs came right off the bone and the spice was just right, not too tangy.  We tried the the bass as well, with it s special coating. I liked its taste, not too fishy and a big one …no bones. We got to try a few of the items not on the regular menu. One was a healthy treat called chicken and quinoa , Quinoa is a super food that is loaded with protein , but not with carbs. It had mushrooms and grilled chicken mixed with fresh vegetables. It had my approval for tasty and healthy at the same time.

Two items stuck out as what I would call my faves. One was the most magnificent chicken pot pie I have ever seen. You are talking to a baby boomer who grew up with frozen chicken pot pies. Believe me, this one is different . Start with a flaky crust that is fashioned to look like a true work of art. When you see it, you’ll think its too pretty to eat. Fill that shell with chunks of chicken, vegetables, and make it piping hot. We will have to venture back to the place when we are in the dead of the Chicago winters. The other I called a summer explosion of flavor .It was an amazing salad that consisted of fruit, grilled chicken, nuts, and provolone with a yogurt citrus dressing that made it pop.  The food at Great Escape is pure from the free range chicken to the farm to table vegetables. It is good old fashioned food at its best. And you are going to get a healthy helping for your money. That is good news.

The food isn’t the only attraction here at Great Escape. From the huge wine turbine to the famous who have dined here like the legendary Al Capone, you will be entertained and informed as well as fed well. The Great Escape is located at 9540 W Irving Park Road in Schiller Park. They are also available for banquets   and catering.

tangerine chicken salad

chciken pot pie

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