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David Marienthal shares his personal journal of memories and updates on the hottest talent to grace Mister Kelly's stage --- plus inspiration for future episodes of the TV show!
By David Marienthal and Tory Foster 08 Dec, 2017

Happy Medium Ventures and Daryl Nitz Entertainment present:

Ella Live at Mister Kelly's: a benefit performance and preview for the documentary film, “Mister Kelly’s: Wasn’t It a Time?”

Monday, January 29, 2018  

City Winery Chicago  at 1200 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607

$25-$40

For tickets go to Ella at Mister Kelly’s  

 

Ella Live at Mr. Kelly's

 

On August 10, 1958, Ella Fitzgerald recorded her “Live at Mister Kelly’s” LP. In 2007 the concert was remastered and re-released in its entirety, including the early and late sets.  This Ella centennial celebration concert presents the entire concert, without song duplication, of both sets.  Featuring such songs as "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Summertime," "Witchcraft," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Stardust," and many more from the classic American songbook of Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Porter, and others. Featuring Sophie Grimm, Lynne Jordan, Frieda Lee, Liz Mandeville, LaShera Moore, Daryl Nitz, Alina Taber, and Ellen Winters. Musical direction by Andrew Blendermann, with Joe Policastro on bass, Phil Gratteau on drums.

Mister Kelly’s: Wasn’t It a Time

Mister Kelly’s Once called a “supernova in the local and national night life firmament,” the legendary Mister Kelly’s illuminated legendary Chicago’s Rush Street, and the entire country, by launching talent like Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Bette Midler, Herbie Hancock, and Richard Pryor. It’s visionary owners George and Oscar Marienthal smashed color and gender barriers to put fresh, irreverent voices on stage and transform entertainment, as America knew it in the 50s, 60s, and ’70s.

Now, with the club long gone, and its star talent reaching its golden years, George’s son David, goes on a quest to collect the memories of the clubs before they are lost. Celebrity interviews now include Bob Newhart, the Smothers Brothers, Dick Gregory, Lainie Kazan, Dick Cavett, Shecky Greene and Ramsey Lewis. Interviews with dozens of local musicians, staff, family, and patrons provide a delightful balance with engaging stories, rich with vintage detail. Discussions are underway to interview Woody Allen, Lilly Tomlin, Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand, Steve Martin and others.

The film will portray through interviews, live footage, photos, music, and song, the most beloved and famous talent of our time at the decisive moments when they showed up, dug deep, and broke in. How do you change the world with a laugh and a song? Find out in a film that documents the rise and fall of one of American entertainment's great proving grounds.  

 

Check out the hot sizzle reel and read Rick Kogan’s story in the Chicago Tribune and the links below for more about this exciting new film.

•      Chicago Tribune Story: http://trib.in/2pZT07H

•      Website: http://www.misterkellyschicago.com

•      Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/misterkellyschicago

 

 

Happy Medium Ventures is the leading curator and steward of legendary Chicago nightlife venues, London House, Mister Kelly’s, the Happy Medium, and the Rush Street scene, from 1946-1970’s; the epicenter of Chicago’s entertainment scene. Today, Happy Medium Ventures is reviving this bygone era for a new generation of fans through an unprecedented collection of photos, recordings, press clipping. First-person interviews include key players in the Rush Street scene — from celebrity performers at London House, Mister Kelly’s and other Rush Street venues, to the employees behind the scenes, patrons of the nightspots, family and friends. Happy Medium Ventures aims to capture the fun and excitement through a documentary film, a new TV series, vibrant social media and other original content about this captivating chapter of Chicago history.

 

Daryl Nitz Entertainment is an event-concert production company specializing in shows that celebrate cultural anniversaries and historical recreations.  Operating since 2004, with such show as “Judy at Carnegie,” “Voices of Chicago,” “Ladies Sing the Blues: a centennial birthday concert for Billie Holiday,” “It Was a Very Good Year: a centennial birthday concert for Frank Sinatra,” “Above Us Only Sky: John Lennon at 75,” “That’s Amore: a Dean Martin centennial celebration” and many more.

 


By David Marienthal and Tory Foster 05 Dec, 2017

Guest Blogger Adam Carston brings us another story of greatness foretold!


By the early 1970s, Steve Martin was a young comedian and writer who had amassed a respectable resume in television. Martin was a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and appeared on talk shows hosted by luminaries, like Steve Allen, Merv Griffin, and Mike Douglas, but he was still unsatisfied. Working as a writer was no longer enough for Martin. He wanted to dedicate himself fulltime to his true passion, stand up comedy.

Steve Martin gave himself an ultimatum in his late twenties: either make it as a stand up by the age of thirty or find a new line or work. Martin did not take this challenge lightly and embarked on a herculean touring schedule that would make or break him. The comedian played virtually every small club and college he could, in an attempt to hone his comedy skills. “For the next few years, I was on the road with an itinerary designed by the Marquis de Sade,” Martin recalls in his memoir, Born Standing Up.

The road would become his proving ground, for better or worse. While on this grueling tour schedule, Steve Martin found himself on Chicago’s Rush Street, playing the legendary club, Mister Kelly’s.   Beginning in mid-August of 1971, Martin played a two-week engagement at the club as an opener for the singer Oliver. Today, Oliver is best remembered for his 1969 cover of “Good Morning Starshine,” from the musical Hair.

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While on this grueling tour schedule, Steve Martin found himself on Chicago’s Rush Street, playing the legendary club, Mister Kelly’s.   Beginning in mid-August of 1971, Martin played a two-week engagement at the club as an opener for the singer Oliver. Today, Oliver is best remembered for his 1969 cover of “Good Morning Starshine,” from the musical Hair

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By David Marienthal and Tory Foster 15 Sep, 2017

 

The Mister Kelly’s team is overwhelmed by the incredibly talented and generous people that we have met, while creating our archive of the Marienthal Brother’s legendary nightlife empire. From colorful Rush St. regulars to famous performers, and everyone in-between, it has been a thrill. One of the most exciting encounters has been working with the renowned photographer, Art Shay. At the age of 95, Art is truly a legend in his own time.

            Shay began his career as a writer and journalist, but after showing a great eye for capturing images, soon transitioned into a career as a photographer. Based out of Chicago, he became one the nation premier photographers, working for major publications such as Life, Time, and Sport Illustrated. Art Shay photographed everything, from historic moments (1968 Democratic Convention) and iconic personalities (Muhammad Ali, The Rat Pack, President Kennedy), to street photography that captured the everyday life of average Americans. In the process he became one of the most celebrated artists of his medium and a Chicago legend.

            In light of this, we were honored when Mr. Shay was kind enough to donate one of his brilliant works to our project recently. The print is a wonderful slice of Chicago’s Rush Street from the 1960s. The photo was taken outside of The Happy Medium and features actor Tom Williams dressed as a child, holding a toy boat.

            Why is a grown man dressed as a child? Why a toy boat? Well, this can be explained. Tom Williams was part of was a comic review, produced by the Marienthal Brothers, called Put it In Writing . In the political satire, Williams plays America’s youngest president (an obvious nod to the newly elected JFK), who still has some childlike features. Put it in Writing would become the biggest play to originate at The Happy Medium and, after a long run in Chicago, it eventually made its way to New York for an off-Broadway production.

            We are humbled to receive this generous gift from such a preeminent artist. The photo is a brilliant image of mid-century Chicago history, from one of the men who documented it best. The photo will be cherished and used in our mission to record this unique piece of Chicago and American history. We wish to give a heartfelt thank you to our friend Art Shay, who contributed this beautiful photo to the Mister Kelly’s archive.



More Posts
GALLERY
A closer look at the historic location where America’s biggest stars of jazz, comedy, and singing first grabbed the spotlight. Click on each image to see its full gallery!
VIDEOS
Watch clips of great talent from the club's heyday…Keep your eyes on this page for upcoming documentary interviews of the people who made Mister Kelly’s the entertainment ground zero of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. 
TV SERIES
In the shark pit of Chicago’s 1960’s Rush Street, two Jewish brothers struggle to build their dream of a glamorous, romantic nightclub that spotlights controversial young talent…but first they’ll have to dance with critics, comedians, Irish cops, the IRS, Robert Kennedy, the color barrier, and the mobsters who run the street. The brothers embrace a ragtag group of waiters, hat-check girls, bartenders, valets, musicians, chanteuses, and playboys, who tell a fascinating story.
PILOT SCRIPT PILOT TREATMENT VIEW LOOKBOOK
Documentary Info
DOCUMENTARY
Mister Kelly’s was on Rush Street, the Vegas of Chicago. Getting on stage there meant you’d made it to the big time. Performers such as Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand were catapulted to fame after appearances as relative unknowns, and established artists recorded albums there: Sarah Vaughan, Muddy Waters, The Smothers Brothers, and Freddie Prinze. While it glistens in the memory of performers who are still going strong, it’s an overlooked nexus of America's cultural revolution.

For its founders, the Marienthal Family, Mister Kelly’s was a risky endeavor that never offered security. Growing up, young David Marienthal and his siblings enjoyed a traditional midwestern Jewish family life…but Oscar Peterson and the Smothers Brothers attended family parties. Through David’s eyes, this documentary tells the story of a cultural phenomenon, the family that created it, and the talent it brought forth. How do you change the world with a laugh and a song? Find out in a film that documents the rise and fall of one of American entertainment's great proving grounds.  

Mister Kelly, the documentary?
By Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune
Featuring Interviews with:
Dick Gregory
Shecky Green
Ramsey Lewis
The Smothers Brothers
Lainie Kazan
Bob Newhart
Tom Dreesen
…and many more, coming soon!

CONTACT US

Mister Kelly’s was not just a club, it was a family, and it still is. We welcome you to it. Your comments on the site, the history, and these marvelous performers are appreciated, so drop us a line!  

Mr. Kelly’s website was created and produced by Happy Medium Ventures. For information about projects, investment, partnership or business-related questions, please go to Happy Medium Ventures or contact:

David Marienthal
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