Chicago Reader https://chicagoreader.com Chicago’s alternative nonprofit newsroom Wed, 30 Mar 2022 15:52:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://chicagoreader.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/cropped-Reader-R-logo-icon-32x32.png Chicago Reader https://chicagoreader.com 32 32 196496116 A farewell to the A.V. Club https://chicagoreader.com/news-politics/news/a-farewell-to-the-a-v-club/ Wed, 30 Mar 2022 15:46:11 +0000 https://chicagoreader.com/?p=10956024

The Chicago-based pop culture site moves to Los Angeles, leaving many worried about its fate.

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Earlier this month, the Chicago-based staff of the A.V. Club wrote their final words for the esteemed, deeply midwestern pop-culture site, which is relocating its headquarters to California. 

The dreadful move came months after the company’s private equity owners announced they were bringing the site “closer to the industry it covers”—and forcing staffers to either relocate or quit their jobs. 

Longtime fans from all over poured out their sympathies online for the writers and editors forced to make the gut-wrenching decision between moving cross-country or losing their jobs. 

For years, the A.V. Club was the pop culture website for people who religiously follow entertainment news. Maybe you were lucky to witness the site’s comment sections after hate-watching season eight of Dexter or the A.V. Undercover live music webseries. 

If the somber news of the departure feels eerily familiar, that’s because it is: news companies everywhere are being gutted by private equity firms or hedge funds. The publication’s owners claimed the move will “allow the site to grow its entertainment relationships and provide more access to exclusive events.” But that kind of music-insider business is the very antithesis of the A.V. Club. 

There’s “something midwestern at the heart of the site,” former managing editor Erik Adams told the Reader in February. Founded in Madison, Wisconsin, the A.V. Club was once buried in the back pages of the Onion, and later grew to become its own media sensation. Over the years, it would find a home in Chicago, far from Hollywood’s glamour, where it had space to write the honest (and sometimes crass) pop culture criticism it grew to be loved for. 

This isn’t an obituary of the A.V. Club—the site isn’t shutting down. It’s a tribute to the people who made it a staple of the midwest, and the story of how they did it. 

In the fall of 1992, a satirical weekly newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin, was becoming popular enough to start attracting advertisers. With the revenue they brought in, the Onion was able to hire more staffers and add pages—so much so that its writers, who were mostly college students, began looking for new ideas to fill the paper. They hired a friend, Stephen Thompson, to write concert listings for a whopping $15 a week. Other weeks, they paid him $25 for album reviews.

As a 20-year-old fan of the Onion, Thompson happily agreed. Over time, he began fleshing out an entertainment section to fill the back pages, including sections of its own: Sonic Boom for music, Toilet Reading for books, and the A.V. Club, its name a nod to high school audiovisual clubs, for movies.

Then the staff decided to rebrand the paper, which Thompson said was originally designed to be silly, with over-the-top screamer headlines, to look more like a real newspaper. 

“They went from being a parody of Weekly World News to a parody of USA Today,” Thompson recalled. The entertainment section, too, was redesigned and collected under the A.V. Club.  

It wasn’t until the mid-90s, with the launch of its website, that the Onion went from being a regionally known paper to an international media phenomenon. TV camera crews parked outside the Madison office, desperate to capture writers in action. 

“I remember cameras pointing at the accumulated dust and garbage strewn on the floors,” Thompson said. “It was like a college group house.” 

In contrast, the A.V. Club was inconspicuous. Its Internet debut was gradual. Staffers updated the site once a week with a few reviews and a feature—always in the shadow of the Onion.

“One of the big things that we had to learn was how to be our own publication and have our own voice that was separate from the comedy section,” Thompson said. 

But its time would come soon enough. In 2000, the Onion moved its editorial offices to New York. A.V. Club staffers stayed in Madison, but not for long. They began to look elsewhere—148 miles south to Chicago—where they could get better access to press screenings and movie premieres. 

Thompson stayed in Madison, where he worked remotely as editor in chief of the A.V. Club. The Onion’s online success meant faster turnaround, which also meant he was working seven days a week for six months at a time. 

“I was massively burned out,” he said.  

He stayed on until 2004, having paved the way for a new era of the A.V. Club under the leadership of Keith Phipps. Over the next eight years, the publication would reach unprecedented heights in its new home in the heart of the midwest. 

The A.V. Club broke into the Chicago scene in a cramped office near the corner of Clark and Belmont, on the second floor of the building neighboring the Dunkin’ Donuts affectionately called “Punkin’ Donuts” because of the mohawked, leather-jacketed kids who hung out there (the location is now a Target). Former film editor Scott Tobias fondly remembers the stench of urine greeting staffers from the alley every day while walking into work. 

“We were all working on top of each other,” Tobias said. The office was a tight space for the growing staff. 

From its inception, the A.V. Club has been a home for pop-culture obsessives, but rooted in midwestern sensibilities, it stayed accessible to casual fans as well. Its distance—both physical and philosophical—from the industry’s epicenter granted readers and writers alike the space to be critical of popular media, from Breaking Bad to America’s Next Top Model

A few years later, the A.V. Club upgraded to a converted loft space at 212 W. Superior, and later moved into a bigger office around the corner near Chicago and Franklin. The new office had a rooftop deck (that they only used for a couple of summers because the building owners didn’t get the right permit), a Kegerator, and a tech start-up feel. It was also a short walk from film screenings in the Loop. 

A space at 730 N. Franklin would later become the Onion’s headquarters, too, after that publication returned to the midwest from New York City in 2011—a move that startled its staff, who like the A.V. Club staffers a decade later, were forced to either make the move or quit their jobs.

“I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, I don’t know how you could give up a job like that,’” Erik Adams said. “It’s hard enough getting a job at the A.V. Club. For a job with the Onion, there’s so many other hoops to go through.” 

The Franklin building would end up housing several of the Onion’s sister publications—the A.V. Club, ClickHole, and the Takeout. Staffers quickly became accustomed to working closely with one another.

“What I remember a lot about that office is the A.V. Club writers would be sitting there writing their 5,000-word treatises on TV episodes, while the Onion pitch meetings would be going on and they would always be laughing really loud,” former senior writer Katie Rife said. “It was an interesting combination of a library and a comedy club in there.” 

The Franklin office remained the A.V. Club’s headquarters as long as the publication was based in Chicago. In interviews with the Reader, staffers reminisced about their days working at their “dream job.” 

Former unofficial music editor Alex McLevy still remembers the excitement he felt on his first day walking into the office. “It felt like Charlie Bucket getting the gold ticket” in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he said. 

During his first week at the A.V. Club, McLevy was working on a story when his editor told him to take a break so that they could go watch Screaming Females play. Down the hall, the three-member rock band was performing a cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”

It was one of hundreds of performances from bands invited to perform song covers at the Chicago office in what came to be known as the A.V. Club’s Undercover series.

“It was cool because you could kind of pause your workday and go into the studio and watch your favorite band play for a little bit,” Rife recalled.

From its office at 730 N. Franklin, the A.V. Club helped make Chicago a mainstay of pop-culture criticism. Credit: Ian Miller

The A.V. Club was  also deeply embedded in Chicago’s music scene.

The Hideout’s annual block party, which later turned into the combined A.V. Fest/Hideout block party, was a popular hit for local fans in the mid-2010s. Named the “anti–Lollapalooza” by Consequence Media, the music festival was affordable and fan-friendly. A.V. Club editor Josh Modell and Hideout co-owner Katie Tuten curated a lineup of their favorite bands, and the dive bar’s parking lot served as the stage.

The A.V. Club also grew to be lauded for its TV coverage, which exploded in the 2010s. Phipps expanded the freelance budget to hire more contributors from around the country, like TV critic Emily VanDerWerff, who worked remotely from her apartment in LA. 

Fans became enamored with the reviews and comment sections, like VanDerWerff’s reviews of the TV sitcom Community. Her recap of the season three finale garnered over 100,000 comments. 

The in-depth TV coverage was exceedingly popular, even for people hate-watching Dexter or True Blood. “I bet there were people that only watched terrible shows to go to the A.V. Club afterwards to crack some jokes,” a commenter on the news-aggregator site Reddit wrote. 

“There is often a fair accusation of rose–colored glasses in that the people who worked there, the people who commented, the people that read that site cared about each other in a way that has become a lot harder to find online,” VanDerWerff said. “It felt like you could go there and the world would be a little less unforgiving . . . even if it was comment wars about America’s Next Top Model. It wasn’t like we were arguing about the future of the republic. It was a place where the world felt like it made sense for a little while.” 

In the late 2010s, the A.V. Club began diversifying its masthead and pool of freelance contributors. Former film editor Danette Chavez remembers being the only person of color working full-time at the A.V. Club. She successfully pushed the company to hire more Black and Latinx staffers and also widened the contributor pool. 

“We now have young Black women, like Ashley Ray-Harris writing about Insecure, and Ali Barthwell, who recently won an Emmy for her work on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,”  Chavez said. 

As that success panned out, “The A.V. Club became more of a platform for voices that have been historically underrepresented in alternative media,” Chavez said. 

In 2012, Phipps stepped down from his role as editor in chief, the first in a wave of departures at the A.V. Club that included staffers Scott Tobias, Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson, Genevieve Koski, and Noel Murray. A few months later, the six former staffers announced their new senior roles at the Dissolve, a Pitchfork-run film website that closed in 2015. 

“There was greater concern for metrics, page-views, and sponsored content,” Phipps told the Reader regarding his A.V. Clubdeparture. “I think my views on that have borne out, but I don’t think sponsored content saved online editorial sites in the long run.” 

A few years later, CEO Mike McAvoy sold the Onion to Univision. Alex McLevy said the new owners mostly kept their hands off the A.V. Club, other than forcing the site to adopt Kinja as its new publishing platform, effectively annihilating the popular comments section. Around the same time, Univision purchased Gawker Media, another online media company, and reorganized several of its sites under the new Gizmodo Media Group. 

In 2019, Univision sold the Onion, along with Gizmodo Media Group, to private equity firm Great Hill Partners. The new organization was rebranded G/O Media company. 

“That’s when all the changes really began in earnest,” McLevy said. 

The first mention of moving to LA, staffers recall, was in 2019. 

“It was presented to us as an actual invitation,” Chavez said. “The way that the information was disseminated to us was that they were building up an office in LA, not that they were shutting down the Chicago office.”

In September of 2021, G/O Media hired Scott Robson, Los Angeles-based media executive previously from E! Online and Yahoo! Entertainment, as editor in chief.  

The move didn’t come up again until December of last year, when staffers say they were informed during a meeting that the company would be shuttering its Chicago office and relocating to LA. 

Staffers were given two options: move to LA, or quit and take a severance package. 

The company offered the Chicago-based staffers $5,000 each to cover relocation costs, but no salary raises despite the higher cost of living in Los Angeles. They were given a month to make their decision. One said that had they not been unionized, they wouldn’t have even been offered the severance.

“We didn’t get an incentive to move,” Chavez said. “We were given an ultimatum.”  

In a statement to Gawker, G/O Media’s spokesperson wrote that “The A.V. Club’s move to Los Angeles was planned to commence two years ago,” but was slowed because of the pandemic. 

Some staffers considered the move, but it was less possible for others. “I have a three-year-old and we didn’t really want to uproot our lives,” said Alex McLevy, who ultimately chose to quit. “And also I fucking love Chicago.” 

Before the deadline to make up their minds had even passed, the company was already advertising three of the seven Chicago-based job positions.

“It’s clear that G/O wants these veteran employees to leave so the company can replace them with workers paid at the salary minimums as stipulated in the union contract—minimums that were bargained based on Chicago rates,” the union representing A.V. Club staffers wrote in an online statement. 

On January 18, the seven Chicago-based staffers announced they would be taking their union-contract-protected severances. In March, the A.V. Club began relocating its headquarters to Los Angeles. 

On March 2, in the comment section of her last article for the A.V. Club, Katie Rife wrote a farewell to readers. 

“I was a reader long before I was a writer for AVC, and many incredible writers, some of whom I am lucky enough to call friends and colleagues, passed through these doors before my time,” Rife wrote. “Many more have during my time, and many will after.” 

From its inception, the A.V. Club has been a home for pop-culture obsessives, but rooted in midwestern sensibilities, it stayed accessible to casual fans as well. Its distance—both physical and philosophical—from the industry’s epicenter granted readers and writers alike the space to be critical of popular media, from Breaking Bad to America’s Next Top Model

Chicago is deeply indebted to the A.V. Club for helping make the city a mainstay of pop-culture criticism that is honest and sharp, like a true midwesterner. And perhaps because that kept it grounded, the A.V. Club was a platform for high-profile and emerging artists alike. 

No one gave Bob Odenkirk—a native of Berwyn and star of the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul—the time of day quite like the A.V. Club. Local traditions like the old Hideout shows will be lost as well. 

Thanks to the writers who gave it breath over the years, the A.V. Club will always be a product of the midwest (and maybe a candidate for “Chicago Not in Chicago”).

“I hope that people recognize that even as much as the A.V. Club has changed, if people are doing this work, it’s because they care about it,” Adams said. 

“Our work at the A.V. Club wasn’t Pulitzer–prize winning investigative journalism and it wasn’t writing that righted injustices, but in small ways it helped people understand their world better through the media that they love.”

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The Rhino in spring https://chicagoreader.com/arts-culture/performing-arts-feature/the-rhino-in-spring/ Wed, 30 Mar 2022 15:22:00 +0000 https://chicagoreader.com/?p=10956013 Two photos. On left is a picture of three middle-aged white men in dark suits. Two are seated, with the one in the middle standing and leaning in slightly. On the right is a photo of Black drag performer Eve the Bunny with orange fake-fur bunny ears, holding white eyeglasses.

In January 2020, I checked in with Jenny Magnus about Rhinoceros Theater Festival (better known as Rhino Fest), the city’s longest running fringe theater festival. “The world is really hard right now,” Magnus said at the time. “All we have is each other and the intention to do something good. Aid and comfort. We just […]

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Two photos. On left is a picture of three middle-aged white men in dark suits. Two are seated, with the one in the middle standing and leaning in slightly. On the right is a photo of Black drag performer Eve the Bunny with orange fake-fur bunny ears, holding white eyeglasses.

In January 2020, I checked in with Jenny Magnus about Rhinoceros Theater Festival (better known as Rhino Fest), the city’s longest running fringe theater festival. “The world is really hard right now,” Magnus said at the time. “All we have is each other and the intention to do something good. Aid and comfort. We just need to be paid attention to and we need to be taken care of a little bit.”

That was before COVID-19 wreaked havoc with everything, not least the fortunes of small theater companies like Curious Theatre Branch, which Magnus cofounded with Beau O’Reilly and which has been producing Rhino Fest since the late 1980s. Among other developments since the last Rhino, Prop Thtr (cofounded by Magnus’s husband, Stefan Brün) gave up their longtime two-venue building in Avondale, where Rhino had been housed for many years.

But Rhino is back—or at least, “A Hint of Rhino” is. 

A Hint of Rhino: Rhinoceros Theater Festival 2022
4/1-5/7: performances at Jimmy Beans Coffee, 2553 W. Fullerton, and the Broadway at PrideArts Center, 4139 N. Broadway; full schedule and tickets at rhinofest.com, $20 or pay what you can. (The Broadway is wheelchair accessible; Jimmy Beans is up one flight of stairs.)

Opening April 1 and running through May 7 at two venues—Logan Square’s Jimmy Beans Coffee and the Broadway at PrideArts Center in Buena Park—the latest incarnation of Rhino may be a little truncated compared to the abundant schedules of years past. And unlike past Rhinos, where performers were invited to submit proposals, this year the producers reached out to artists old and new that they wanted to highlight. 

“We’re calling it a Hint of Rhino because it really is different,” says Magnus. “It’ll never be like this again. If we do Rhino and when we do Rhino again, it will go back to the bigger submission process of really trying to open the doors to just as many people as we can possibly cram in.” She further notes, “This is our first time doing it in not our own space in like 17 years. It’s the first time doing it in two different venues that are at different places [in the city] in a really long time.”

One of the other things that Curious and Rhino are trying to come back from is the loss last October of Curious’s longtime managing director, Matt Rieger, who died shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.

Rieger’s work is part of Rhino this year, however; Brün directs Rieger’s play Jimmy and the Nickels at PrideArts (it runs Sundays and Thursdays, with a celebration of Rieger following the 3 PM show on Sunday, May 3). It’s a follow-up to Rieger’s My Dinner With Joe, which ran in the 2020 Rhino. “That play was very humorous and sort of brought up a little world of modern masculinity that is in a crisis, but in a very humorous crisis,” says Brün. In Rieger’s last play, “There’s three old guys who run this little shop and they’re all Jimmys and all they got is nickels,” says Brün. “There’s actually a nickel shortage and they’re old-fashioned Luddites who don’t want to adapt to new tech. They just want to keep things really simple.” 

He also notes that the PrideArts space (and possibly Jimmy Beans) will have a listening station so audiences can hear Rieger’s Aviva Green: The Rebirth of Bleak, inspired by his noiresque play Crossing Aviva, which Curious produced in 2018. The episodic follow-up was recorded as an audio drama for Rhino at Experimental Sound Studio; it’s also available as a download through Bandcamp.

Magnus and Brün both note that the two different spaces will offer different kinds of programming. The more intimate room at Jimmy Beans, where O’Reilly has been organizing Saturday cabaret-style shows, will feature music and storytelling; opening night features an evening of new speculative fiction from Sharon Houk, Andy Sullivan, and Tanner Vaughan Halversen, and the Crooked Mouth (a band composed of Magnus, O’Reilly, T-Roy Martin, Vicki Walden, and Heather Riordan) will perform on Saturday, April 2.

The connection to PrideArts came about because Brün was brought in as a consultant when the company started fixing up the space during the COVID shutdown. PrideArts let Curious use the theater for a three-week tribute to the late Rhino/Curious vet Michael Martin last fall. 

Chicago Beast Women, who bill themselves as “Chicago’s longest-running showcase for veteran and premiering female artists,” will take the Saturday late-night slot at PrideArts for Rhino. Labyrinth Arts and Performance Collective, run by Diane Hamm, will offer The Labyrinth Hour Cabaret, featuring several drag artists (including Eve the Bunny, Narcisca, and Slussy Vanity) as well as sketch artists John Klingle and Paul Brennan in John & Paul: Strictly Platonic at PrideArts.

Even in this somewhat-smaller format, putting together Rhino Fest remains a gargantuan task (one that Magnus sadly notes is even harder without the administrative chops and general joie de vivre of Rieger to lean on). So why do it?

“It’s the philosophical question for us as a company, for sure,” says Magnus, “and for us as makers. Why should we do this unbearable amount of work that is just so exhausting? We really sit and go, ‘Do we really want this again?’ And the answer always comes down to: we could just be making our own little stuff in our own little corner and that could be enough. Or we can extend ourselves and support other artists who don’t have a company with money behind them. We support artists who don’t have an infrastructure, who don’t necessarily even have collaborators. We can support artists who want a low-stakes environment for their work.

“So I think it is sincerely about wanting to be of service to the community and the tremendous feeling of togetherness that brings. We call it the Rhino bliss. It’s the summer camp feeling. There’s nothing like it when you’re in the lobby and people are coming out of one show or going into another show, and there’s this mix of all kinds of people.”

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Coming of age in an ordinary and dangerous place https://chicagoreader.com/columns-opinion/on-culture/coming-of-age-in-an-ordinary-and-dangerous-place/ Wed, 30 Mar 2022 14:40:20 +0000 https://chicagoreader.com/?p=10956008 Three Black people onstage. A boy in a short-sleeved white shirt kneels left. A woman in an orange dress sits in a blue chair in the center. Behind her is a man wearing clothing similar to the boy.

Journalist Charles M. Blow once wrote in his New York Times column that he “likes to think of himself as a Southern writer.” His childhood in Gibsland, Louisiana, shaped his writing, and in the south, “you don’t so much say words as sing them.”  Now, at Lyric Opera, his own story is literally being sung. […]

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Three Black people onstage. A boy in a short-sleeved white shirt kneels left. A woman in an orange dress sits in a blue chair in the center. Behind her is a man wearing clothing similar to the boy.

Journalist Charles M. Blow once wrote in his New York Times column that he “likes to think of himself as a Southern writer.” His childhood in Gibsland, Louisiana, shaped his writing, and in the south, “you don’t so much say words as sing them.” 

Now, at Lyric Opera, his own story is literally being sung. But not exactly in his own words.

Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Blow’s memoir of his early life, was published in 2014. It’s a deeply introspective coming-of-age story, rooted in an incident of childhood sexual abuse and its psychological aftermath for a gifted young Black man struggling to come to terms with his sexual orientation.

But what’s most striking about the book is its lyrical power. Poetry dressed as prose, it’s a rich portrayal of 20th-century life in a still-segregated small town—its impact coming as much from the evocative use of language as from the events described.

Which doesn’t necessarily make it ripe material for opera.    

Fire Shut Up in My Bones
Through 4/8: Sat 4/2, 7:30 PM, Wed 4/6, 2 PM, Fri 4/8, 7 PM; Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-827-5600, lyricopera.org, $49-$299.

So when the opportunity presented itself, on opening night of the Lyric production of composer Terence Blanchard’s new opera of the same name, I asked the librettist, filmmaker Kasi Lemmons, whether having such a beautiful text to work with made her job easier or harder.  

“Both,” Lemmons said, because Blow’s text was “so inspiring, but not theatrical in form.”

No worries: the creative team of Lemmons, jazz virtuoso Blanchard, co-director and original choreographer Camille A. Brown, and co-director James Robinson—all here for the opening—have succeeded in turning Blow’s literary tour de force into a riveting three-plus hours (including one intermission) at the opera.

Lemmons, who told me she tried to retain as much of Blow’s poetry as possible, managed to wrangle the story into the condensed narrative opera demands, while making his internal drama explicit—in part by personifying the pull of destiny and the loneliness that was his frequent companion. And Blanchard, who’s scored many of Spike Lee’s films, notes (in an interview available on the Lyric website) that he composed the opera by speaking Lemmons’s lines out loud, over, over, and over, to capture the inherent rhythm in the words. The result is the best vocal storytelling in the form of recitative I’ve heard from a contemporary composer—backed and carried by a luscious, lyrical, and jazzy orchestral score that includes piano.          

The opera tracks the book, opening with a glimpse of the climax to come, when Charles, 20 years old, armed, and in a rage, sets out to kill the older cousin who took advantage of him when he was only seven. According to the book, this assault did not include penetration of Blow’s body, but it definitely got into his head, and stayed there. As the teenage Charles—a perennial outsider, longing for his absent and inattentive father—finds himself attracted to men as well as to women, he’s haunted not only by the assault, but by his own complicated tendencies. (Was he, “a child of peculiar grace,” somehow complicit in his own victimization?) Forays into religion and fraternal bonding (through hazing) at college fail to eliminate this self-blame, but provide the rationale for a rousing gospel scene and a show-stopping step-dance routine by the fraternity brothers. A breakup with Greta, the woman he loves, precedes the moment of decision that’ll determine the course of his life.

Lyric’s entire cast is exemplary, starting with Benjamin Preacely, the impressively professional fifth grader who plays the young Charles. Baritone Will Liverman, well-known to Chicago since his years at Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center, is fine in the demanding lead role of the adult Charles, and soprano Latonia Moore delivers a knockout performance vocally and dramatically as Billie, Charles’s strong, beloved, and beleaguered mother. Soprano Brittany Renee gracefully handles the triple role of Destiny, Loneliness, and Greta, while tenor Chauncey Packer nails the part of Charles’s charming rascal of a father. Reginald Smith Jr. invests the dicey Uncle Paul with a resonant baritone; another Ryan Center alum, baritone Chris Kenney, pulls off the role of the villainous cousin, Chester, with aplomb. Daniela Candillari conducts the Lyric Opera orchestra; Stu Mindeman is on that rippling piano.

Fire Shut Up in My Bones premiered at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2019. This co-production with the Metropolitan and Los Angeles opera companies was the first opera by a Black composer to be presented on the main stage in the Met’s 138-year history; at Lyric, it is the second (preceded by Anthony Davis’s Amistad in 1997).  

“I don’t want to be a token,” Blanchard has said about that. “I want to be a turnkey. I want this to open up the floodgates for all different types of people.”

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A bad hand https://chicagoreader.com/columns-opinion/on-politics/a-bad-hand/ Wed, 30 Mar 2022 11:00:00 +0000 https://chicagoreader.com/?p=10955968 image of joker representing chicago casino

Now that Mayor Lightfoot has officially revealed the three finalists for Chicago’s casino, the bamboozling of the city will begin. Oh, Chicago, you know you’re getting bamboozled. I think you sorta like it—a little attention from the boss.  It’s like you matter as they try to win you over into supporting something you don’t really […]

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image of joker representing chicago casino

Now that Mayor Lightfoot has officially revealed the three finalists for Chicago’s casino, the bamboozling of the city will begin.

Oh, Chicago, you know you’re getting bamboozled. I think you sorta like it—a little attention from the boss. 

It’s like you matter as they try to win you over into supporting something you don’t really want or need. In this case—a casino. Like the one they have in Hammond. Don’t call us the second city!

If I were an old leftie, I’d say they’re manufacturing consent. Noam Chomsky coined that term for when the powers that be (mass media included) convince you to sign onto something that’s not really in your interests.

Actually, I am an old leftie. So let’s run with it.

You know the game by now. It starts with the mayor trying to build anticipation over the heated competition to see which site will be lucky enough to win the casino.

By the way, pretty much everyone I ask—and I ask everyone who comes on my podcast—thinks city leaders have already selected where the casino will go and the site-selection competition is just a ruse. And people say I’m cynical?

We played this game with Amazon a few years ago, when they created a nationwide competition between cities looking to win the right to pay for their headquarters. Somehow Amazon bamboozled city leaders throughout the country to fight over who got to give their tax dollars to Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s richest men.

The good news is that the casino bamboozle is not nearly as outrageous as Amazon’s. 

But it’s pretty offensive when our leaders tell us we absolutely, positively need this casino to pay our police and firefighter obligations.

I’d say that depending on casino revenue to cover pension obligations is the dumbest idea out of Chicago in this century, except . . .

Mayor Daley’s Olympic bid also occurred in this century. And nothing can be dumber than writing a blank check for an Olympics that would have sold away our parks for years.

If you recall, we were bamboozled into a breathless competition to win the 2016 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee wound up going with Brazil—a clear case where we won by losing.

Depending on casino revenues to pay off pension obligations is a regressive and uncertain way to pay your bills. That’s because you’re relying on getting money from people who probably can’t afford to give it to you.

Casinos are set up to make sure the people who gamble there lose—that’s how casinos make their money. So we’d be paying essential obligations by squeezing people who can’t afford to be squeezed.

And we’re doing that because we’re apparently afraid of raising taxes on the wealthiest people in the state—who can afford to pay more to help cover our basic obligations.

But if we try to raise taxes on the wealthy, the wealthy will fight back by paying for commercials that trash the politicians who raised their taxes as tax-and-spend radical leftists, who are also soft on crime. Good luck getting elected with that label.

So we’re stuck with taxing vices like gambling and reefer. Don’t get me started on the latter. Cannabis is taxed so high—pun intended—that sales are starting to fall.

I’m pretty sure people are still consuming cannabis. They’re just buying it from their black-market dealers.

Now that I think of it—legalizing cannabis in order to raise money to pay our bills was the wrong reason to legalize it. We should have legalized it because it was unfair that Black people went to jail for doing something that white people freely do every day. We shouldn’t have worried about how much money it brought in.

Have you ever noticed that when our leaders actually do the right thing, they do it for the wrong reason?

Back to the casino . . .

City officials have not been upfront about how much it will cost the public to build the casino. But I think we all know that much of the money will eventually come from a TIF.

To refresh memory—that’s the infamous tax increment financing program, where the city slaps a surcharge on your property taxes in order to raise money to eradicate blight in a poor neighborhood. Though few of the neighborhoods that benefit the most from TIFs are poor.

That’s certainly not the case with the three sites in line to get the casino.

There’s One Central, a proposed megadevelopment that would be built over the train tracks just west of Soldier Field. The developer of that proposed project has been looking for a multibillion-dollar handout from the state.

The city says a casino can go there even without the handout from the state, which raises the question—why give the developer billions of dollars in the first place?

Another site is the Freedom Center printing plant on the near north side, not far from Lincoln Yards, which has already received a $1.3 billion TIF handout.

Putting the casino here means giving even more millions of public dollars to a community that was gentrifying even before Lincoln Yards, while the rest of the city collapses into a giant pothole. Hard to believe they’re so shameless as to even propose this site.

Finally, there’s the 78, the vast expanse of vacant land along the Chicago River just south of Roosevelt Road. I call that site Rezko Village in honor of Tony Rezko, the man who once owned it.

You may remember Rezko. Years ago, he went to federal prison after being convicted on various charges of fraud and corruption.

If this is where the casino goes, they should call it the Al Capone Casino at Rezko Village. It’s only appropriate that if we’re squeezing saps to pay our obligations, we name the casino for a gangster and a crook.

The Latest from the Ben Joravsky Show

https://art19.com/shows/the-ben-joravsky-show

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New body-cam images show CPD attack on Miracle Boyd https://chicagoreader.com/news-politics/news/new-body-cam-images-show-cpd-attack-on-miracle-boyd/ Wed, 30 Mar 2022 11:00:00 +0000 https://chicagoreader.com/?p=10955916

Officer Nicholas Jovanovich now faces firing as a result of the 2020 incident, in which he knocked out an activist’s tooth and seized her cell phone.

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Content warning: police violence

Police reports and body-cam images obtained by the Reader and South Side Weekly shed new light on a 2020 incident in which a Chicago police officer attacked activist Miracle Boyd at a Grant Park protest, knocking out her front tooth. 

The images, which were attached to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s (COPA) investigation of the incident, are stark. As another cop looks on, officer Nicholas Jovanovich, facing the camera, runs toward Boyd and swings his fist at her as she backs away. When the blow lands, her cell phone flies to the pavement and she stumbles away, bent double.

Jovanovich has been with the department since September 2005. Last May, COPA concluded its investigation of the incident and recommended he be fired for excessive force and other violations. Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown objected, suggesting he be suspended for a year instead. 

Officer Jovanovich (left) begins approaching Miracle Boyd.

On March 17, the Sun-Times reported that Chicago Police Board member Nanette Doorley reviewed COPA’s investigation and agreed with the agency’s recommendation over Brown’s objection. The board will hold an evidentiary hearing to decide Jovanovich’s fate.

Last spring, after COPA denied Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests for police body-cam footage and other materials related to the agency’s investigation of the attack, the Weekly sued to get them. In December, COPA relented, releasing a heavily redacted video and nearly 100 still frames from body cams to the newspaper.

Until now, some of the only publicly available footage of the attack was a cell-phone video filmed across the street and tweeted by youth activist group GoodKids MadCity, which Boyd is a member of.

While the video COPA provided is almost entirely redacted, multiple still frames clearly show Jovanovich approaching Boyd, extending his arm, and striking her. An object that appears to be her cell phone is knocked to the ground. As Boyd turns away, Jovanovich appears to immediately pick up the phone.

Officer Nicholas Jovanovich strikes Miracle Boyd at a July 17, 2020 protest.

In addition to finding he used excessive force, COPA determined Jovanovich “seized [Boyd’s] phone without justification” and failed to inventory it.

COPA also found Jovanovich made “false, misleading, inaccurate, and/or incomplete statements” in the tactical-response report (TRR) he submitted about the incident. CPD officers must file a TRR whenever they use force against a civilian. 

Last week, the Reader obtained 22 TRRs Jovanovich filed over the course of his career, including the one about the 2020 incident. According to the Invisible Institute’s Citizens Police Data Project, that’s more use-of-force reports than 96 percent of Chicago cops. 

Eighteen of the people Jovanovich reported using force against were Black, and four were Latinx; four, including Boyd, were women; two, including Boyd, were only 18 years old at the time of the attacks. At least six required medical attention.

In the report about the Grant Park incident, Jovanovich apparently conflated a confrontation between police and protesters that had occurred earlier in the day with the incident in which he struck Boyd. He checked boxes indicating Boyd was “armed with a weapon” he described as “cans [and] explosive devices” that she attacked police with. He also checked boxes indicating she committed “assault or battery” against him, and that he responded with an “open hand strike.”

In the narrative of the incident involving Boyd, Jovanovich wrote that during the protest at the Columbus statue, he was struck in the head, chest, and shoulder with frozen drink cans, and that two explosive devices went off near his head and feet. He describes “maneuvering” his way out of the melee with fellow officers while unopened cans, rocks, and fireworks continued to rain down on them. 

Some protesters did throw fireworks and other objects at police officers near the Columbus statue. The police initially retreated before returning in force and indiscriminately attacking protesters and journalists alike with fists, batons, and chemical irritants, confiscating cell phones and bicycles, and making mass arrests.

Jovanovich’s report says that “a short time later,” after he had regained his composure and caught his breath, he first saw Boyd. 

Jovanovich wrote that he “observed an unknown subject who was moving towards the back of the arresting officers who could not see the highly agitated person swinging and flailing their arms with an unknown object in their right hand. [Boyd] was yelling profanities and walking quickly toward the back of the arresting officers. [Boyd] continued to walk toward the officers extending the unknown object with their right hand. The officers were unaware of [Boyd] approaching them from behind and [Jovanovich] believing [Boyd] was going to batter the arresting officers or attempt to defeat the arrest [Jovanovich] immediately approached [Boyd] and with an open left hand struck [her] right hand knocking the object from [her] hand. [Boyd] then fled the scene.”

The report doesn’t mention that the “object” was a cell phone.

Body-cam footage apparently shows officer Jovanovich reaching for Miracle Boyd’s cell phone.

Boyd’s statement to COPA differs markedly from Jovanovich’s account.  

According to the statement, Boyd wasn’t among the group of protesters at the Columbus statue who threw objects and fireworks at police. She was on a sidewalk near the northeast corner of Columbus and Roosevelt, using her cell phone to livestream video of the police beating demonstrators and making arrests. 

The statement says Boyd observed a man being arrested and approached within “eight to twelve feet” to “get his name and birthdate in order to attempt to locate him in CPD custody and assist him in obtaining legal services. She stopped following after the police took the man into an “area that was full of police officers.”

Seconds later, Jovanovich walked toward her “with haste,” and said “something like ‘piece of shit.’” 

His hand “was raised with his fist balled up and he struck her in the face. [Boyd] said she was moving backward at the time she was struck because the officer was walking toward her aggressively. She said she ‘flinched’ as he struck her. She was not sure whether it was [Jovanovich’s] fist or her phone that knocked her tooth out. She said she felt pain and put her hands on her face and blood was rushing from her mouth. She then heard the officer say, ‘give me that fucking phone.’” 

Boyd fled, and later went to a hospital. She never did get her phone back. 

She told the Reader she still wants Jovanovich to make amends and participate in a restorative-justice peace circle with her, adding that he should be fired regardless. She said that she didn’t press charges against him because of her personal beliefs.

Boyd briefly met with superintendent Brown, who she said smiled and extended his hand to her at a March 19 town hall on community safety in Garfield Park that was also attended by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. 

“Brown went against COPA’s recommendation and instead believed officer Nicholas Jovanovich,” she told the Reader. “It felt like a slap in the face for him to shake my hand and show his teeth.”

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The Greyboy Allstars transform lockdown jam sessions into a new album and tour https://chicagoreader.com/music/greyboy-allstars-get-a-job/ Wed, 30 Mar 2022 11:00:00 +0000 https://chicagoreader.com/?p=10955831 Color photo of the five members of Greyboy Allstars

The Greyboy Allstars are a bunch of rare-groove re-creationists from San Diego focused on mining soul, funk, and anything else with a deep pocket. Since forming in 1993, the group have consistently toured and put out six records and a couple soundtracks, but they spent the early months of the pandemic cloistered like the rest […]

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Color photo of the five members of Greyboy Allstars

The Greyboy Allstars are a bunch of rare-groove re-creationists from San Diego focused on mining soul, funk, and anything else with a deep pocket. Since forming in 1993, the group have consistently toured and put out six records and a couple soundtracks, but they spent the early months of the pandemic cloistered like the rest of us. While the group was sidelined from their usual routine, they decided to work up a bunch of their favorite tunes (originals as well as covers) and perform them in the studio for a contingent of remote fans. The resulting streaming series, titled Soul Dream, later turned out to be a preview of their current tour, and the best of the covers they performed eventually became their sixth album, Get a Job: Music From the Original Broadcast Series Soul Dream. These ten tunes offer a cascading look at the group’s influences, which run the gamut from pop staples to lesser-known personal picks, and each is embedded with at least a glimmer of the kind of funk that the Allstars expand upon. The band take on “I’ve Known Rivers” by saxophonist Gary Bartz, in an acknowledgement of jazz’s foundational place in the Allstars’ sound; Bartz himself is such an influence on members of the group that keyboardist Robert Walter invited him to collaborate on his first solo album, 1996’s Spirit of ’70, which was reissued last year. There’s also a version of “Jug Eyes” by Chicago-born saxophonist Gene Ammons, on which the band revel in the vernacular bounce of his work and split solos between Karl Denson on sax and Elgin Park on guitar. The Allstars further solidify their jazz-world credentials with a cover of “Play It Back” by organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, and they also manage to inject a fair amount of personality into a rock song that’s been recorded by so many artists over the years it didn’t really need to be done again: the Beatles’ “Taxman.” The eclectic reworkings on Get a Job speak to the Greyboy Allstars’ studious approach and their ability to retrofit just about any tune to sound like something of their own making.

Greyboy Allstars, Fri 4/1, 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, $30, 18+

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Venerable jazz guitarist George Freeman celebrates 95 years with a new compilation https://chicagoreader.com/music/venerable-jazz-guitarist-george-freeman-celebrates-95-years-with-a-new-compilation/ Tue, 29 Mar 2022 18:01:31 +0000 https://chicagoreader.com/?p=10955902 A black-and-white photo of George Freeman playing guitar in a tuxedo

Legendary Chicago jazz guitarist George Freeman has been honing his dynamic, explosive style since the 1940s, working with dozens of the genre’s hall of famers, including Charlie Parker, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Gene Ammons, Jimmy McGriff, Buddy Rich, Shirley Scott, and his brothers Von and Bruz Freeman. On Sunday, April 10, Freeman turns 95, and to mark […]

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A black-and-white photo of George Freeman playing guitar in a tuxedo

Legendary Chicago jazz guitarist George Freeman has been honing his dynamic, explosive style since the 1940s, working with dozens of the genre’s hall of famers, including Charlie Parker, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Gene Ammons, Jimmy McGriff, Buddy Rich, Shirley Scott, and his brothers Von and Bruz Freeman. On Sunday, April 10, Freeman turns 95, and to mark the occasion, local label Southport Records will drop Everybody Say Yeah!, a set of favorites and rarities from its archives. The tracks span 26 years, and the 19 ace backing players involved include drummer Hamid Drake, harmonica player Billy Branch, and two of the guitarist’s relatives: Von and his saxophonist son, Chico Freeman. Eleven of the 14 cuts are Freeman originals, and among the standouts is a new version of his ballad “Perfume”—a highlight when Gossip Wolf saw him at the Green Mill in 2019.

Southport Records producers Joanie Pallatto and Bradley Parker-Sparrow throw an informal listening party with George Freeman, introducing him to the CD of his new compilation, Everybody Say Yeah!

In February, Reader contributor Steve Krakow reviewed Here Comes the Sunset, the new album by everything-but-the-kitchen-sink prog-rock weirdos Cheer-Accident, in the process anointing them “one of the greatest, most challenging, and most fun bands that Chicago has ever produced.” On Friday, April 15, Cheer-Accident celebrate with a streamed performance from the basement where they rehearse, hosted on the Bandcamp page of Skin Graft Records. Tickets to “attend” are $10, and the label promises a professional shoot with multiple cameras, plus some “pre-recorded surprises.” The band are notorious for their oddball onstage high jinks, so this wolf is eager to tune in!

Here Comes the Sunset is the 24th studio album by Cheer-Accident.

Last time Gossip Wolf checked in with Strawberry Jacuzzi guitarist Shannon Candy, she was about to drop her solo debut in November 2020. The irreverent bubblegum dance-punk on that album, So Long, hooked Italian label Aua Records: it just issued two of the LP’s tracks, “Well Actually” and “Gimme Liberty,” on a seven-inch for its Lo-Fi Mono Single Club!

These two songs from Shannon Candy’s debut solo album appear on the new Aua Records seven-inch.


Got a tip? Tweet @Gossip_Wolf or e-mail gossipwolf@chicagoreader.com.

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Uma Bloo’s languid indie rock will send a rush of blood to your head https://chicagoreader.com/music/uma-bloo-dont-drive-into-the-smoke/ Tue, 29 Mar 2022 17:00:00 +0000 https://chicagoreader.com/?p=10955825 Black and white photo of Uma Bloo in fishnets and corset looking down at the camera

Before Chicago singer-guitarist Molly Madden began performing indie-rock songs as Uma Bloo in 2016, she used that stage name as a burlesque performer. As she told Tribune critic Britt Julious in 2020, burlesque provided her an outlet to explore complex emotions while giving her a confidence she hadn’t felt growing up in a devout Catholic […]

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Black and white photo of Uma Bloo in fishnets and corset looking down at the camera

Before Chicago singer-guitarist Molly Madden began performing indie-rock songs as Uma Bloo in 2016, she used that stage name as a burlesque performer. As she told Tribune critic Britt Julious in 2020, burlesque provided her an outlet to explore complex emotions while giving her a confidence she hadn’t felt growing up in a devout Catholic household. These days Madden has a full band, and she’s just released a new Uma Bloo album, Don’t Drive Into the Smoke (Earth Libraries). Madden’s songwriting has burlesque’s flair for the dramatic gesture, and her somber electric guitar casts a spotlight on her voluptuous voice. She’s a careful singer, and often drapes her tender, intimate lyrics over the music as gently as she might make a bed. Her bandmates employ a variety of styles that bring out the color and dimension in her performances, moving among arty synth sounds, alt-country, and indie rock. On “To Be Vast,” echoing snare drum and a smidgen of slide guitar enrich Madden’s languid singing with a dusky, golden swagger. And no matter what stylistic direction each song takes, Madden makes it clear that the stage belongs to her.

Bridey, Brigid Broderic, Uma Bloo, Thu 3/31, 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, $12, 21+

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Summer Walker’s songs invite you to learn from their missteps in love https://chicagoreader.com/music/summer-walker-still-over-it/ Tue, 29 Mar 2022 11:00:00 +0000 https://chicagoreader.com/?p=10955820 Summer Walker in a purple dress reclining against a pink backdrop

After the breakout success of Summer Walker’s 2019 debut album, Over It, the Atlanta singer-songwriter continued its saga of betrayals and learned lessons with their 2021 follow-up, Still Over It (LVRN/Interscope). The cleaning technician turned songbird fearlessly plumbs the truth in every heartbreak through somber, grappling melodies. On their second album, they continue this approach […]

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Summer Walker in a purple dress reclining against a pink backdrop

After the breakout success of Summer Walker’s 2019 debut album, Over It, the Atlanta singer-songwriter continued its saga of betrayals and learned lessons with their 2021 follow-up, Still Over It (LVRN/Interscope). The cleaning technician turned songbird fearlessly plumbs the truth in every heartbreak through somber, grappling melodies. On their second album, they continue this approach while sprinkling in more upbeat tracks, such as “Ex for a Reason” (featuring JT of the City Girls) and “4th Baby Mama (Prelude).” 

Walker shared a message on Apple Music upon the release of Still Over It last November: “Take this opportunity to learn from my mistakes,” they said. “You don’t have to guess if something is love. Love is shown through actions.” This perfectly sums up the insights you can gain from loving hard without bounds, as Walker expresses in their music. Throughout the record, Walker boldly owns the missteps they’ve made trying to make their relationships work, even acknowledging when they’ve traveled down the wrong roads; on “Circus,” they describe feeling out of control as they chase a lover who doesn’t reciprocate. Still Over It seems largely inspired by their public 2021 breakup with producer London on da Track, who produced much of the material on Walker’s two albums and is the father of their young child. But even though Walker sings from personal experience, their music continues to feel like a universal Band-Aid for the love woes that inevitably find us all. With their transparent lyrics—and with contributions from Cardi B on album opener “Bitter” and fellow Atlanta native Ciara in “Ciara’s Prayer”—Walker taps into something relatable to people from all walks of life, no matter their status. Tickets for Walker’s March 31 show in Chicago sold so quickly that they added a second date on April 1. Walker is sure to comfort and relax their audience, while reminding them that even though the pain of heartbreak feels individual, it’s an experience we all share and has the power to bring us closer together.

No1-Noah, Marvxxl, Summer Walker, Thu 3/31, 7 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, $69.50, all ages

No1-Noah, Marvxxl, Summer Walker, Fri 4/1, 8 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, $69.50, all ages

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Best Sugar Daddy Websites For Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babies To Meet (2022) https://chicagoreader.com/reader-partners/sugar-daddy-sites/ Mon, 28 Mar 2022 21:00:00 +0000 https://chicagoreader.com/2021/07/01/best-sugar-daddy-websites-for-sugar-relationships-and-a-sweet-time/ Seeking Arrangements

A sugar daddy is always looking for his sugar baby, and vice versa. These are the top sites where sugar daddies and babies connect for real sugar relationships.

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Seeking Arrangements

Sugar daddy sites have risen in popularity over the last several years as society becomes more comfortable with unconventional relationships. As more and more people seek either companionship or financial security, sugar arrangements have become very attractive.

Unfortunately, the popularity of sugar relationships has caused an influx of sugaring sites to pop up. Some sites do their part in vetting the members, but others invite scammers, leeches, flakes, and fakes.

We’ve done the leg work for you and have found the best sugar daddy sites where a sugar daddy can meet a sugar baby and vice versa. These sites strike the delicate balance between safety and fun. We review what’s best about a site for daddies and what’s best for babies.

These are our brand new rankings for 2022.

The Best Sugar Daddy Sites and Apps in 2022

RankSiteBest For
1.SugarDaddy.comOne of the oldest and more reliable sites
2.Seeking ArrangementBest reputation
3.Secret BenefitsBest mix of daddies and babies
4.SugarDaddyMeetVerified income feature
5.SugarDaddyForMeQuickest way to find an arrangement
6.Ashley MadisonJudgement free sugar dating site
7.What’s Your PriceBest for women to set their own price
8.Millionaire MatchBest to meet ultra-rich daddies
9.R/SugarBabyFree way to find sugar babies
10.Elite SinglesMeet intellectual sugar babies and daddies
11.Established MenBest for daddies seeking a long term arrangement
12.RichMeetBeautifulMost secure and discreet site
13.Miss TravelBest for sugar babies who like to travel
14.Wealthy MenMost straightforward sugar dating site
15.AgeMatchFind younger women
16.SudyBest sugar dating app
17.SugarBookBest sugar app for babies

1. SugarDaddy.com – Best overall site

sugardaddy.com

Sugardaddy.com is one of the most reliable sugar daddy sites around and has been around for quite some time. The site is hailed as one of the greats because it verifies all of its members (daddies and babies) and there are almost 10 million members and counting. At any given time, the site is active with several thousands of users and nearly 2/3rds are babies looking for someone to take care of them.

Free members can actually enjoy tons of features (like sending kisses, using the advanced search feature, and responding to paying members), but a membership is well worth it and pretty affordable compared to its competitors. It’s a credit-based system and costs around a quarter per credit. Privacy is a top priority on Sugardaddy.com, making it easy to discreetly enter into relationships.

What it’s like for daddies:

70% of the users on sugardaddy.com are babies looking to be spoiled. With millions of users, this makes being a daddy on the site extremely easy and entertaining. Credits can be used to get in touch with the babies and they won’t cost you much. Because privacy is taken so seriously on this website, there’s no need to fear your identity being revealed. Furthermore, daddies can rest easy knowing they won’t be scammed by any members given that they are all verified.

What it’s like for babies:

Sugar babies tend to love the ease of this site and how slick it is. Other sugar baby sites tend to look shady or seedy, but sugardaddy.com is slick and modern. It makes it easy to layout exactly what you’re looking for in a daddy. One drawback is the fact that most of the users are babies, so there’s some stiff competition out there. But with millions of daddies online searching, finding the right one shouldn’t be too difficult.


2.  Seeking Arrangement – Most popular sugar daddy app

Seeking Arrangements

Seeking Arrangement is the largest, most successful, and most referenced sugar daddy site available. There’s a large possibility that you’ve heard of it. If you aren’t already signed up and are wondering if it works, the answer is yes. Seeking Arrangement boasts over 10 million users in over 130 countries. The website itself is very discreet and the Seeking team works tirelessly to protect its members from anything that might jeopardize physical or financial safety. Read our full review here.

What it’s like for daddies:

Seeking has one of the best female-to-male ratios for sugar daddies. There’s also an understanding on the site that relationships are no-strings-attached, and women are both very sexual and extremely beautiful. Maintain anonymity by putting revealing photos or face pictures into private galleries that you grant access to. This is not a free sugar daddy site for the daddies, but it is for the babies.

What it’s like for babies:

Seeking Arrangement makes it easy for young women to sign up. There’s a way to check out each daddy’s net worth, so you can be better informed of what type of arrangement they’d be able to handle. The site is also 100 percent free for babies!


3.  Secret Benefits – Best gender ratio

SecretBenefits.com is one of the most popular and stylish sugar daddy dating websites. It has a modern and fresh look along with an easy-to-use interface which has encouraged millions of attractive and wealthy individuals to join and search for a positive sugar dating experience on the site. Due to its popularity and stellar reputation among the site’s members, there is a constant flow of new hopeful sugar daddies and sugar babies as well as a very active member base.

Anyone can signup, create a profile, and search for free. Sugar babies can enjoy the site and its features for free. If a sugar daddy finds a sugar baby of interest, they need to purchase credits to open a chat with them. There should be no lack of potential candidates among the millions of members as the gender ratio is about 50/50.

What it’s like for daddies:

Signing up as a sugar daddy is very fast and painless. You can also choose to start a very basic profile to search for potential sugar babies in your area before committing too much time or money. Another great feature if you’re looking for a discreet relationship is you can hide your profile at any time as well as go invisible for 24 hours and browse profiles in secret. These features help maintain your privacy while discreetly allowing you to find your perfect sugar baby.

What it’s like for babies:

Sugar babies love using Secret Benefits not only because it’s free, but also because the site’s outstanding support team keeps the riffraff out which provides a safe platform full of serious and active sugar daddies that are not looking to waste anyone’s time. Getting your profile verified via a short intro video also encourages daddies to reach out once they see that you are the real deal. The success rates for legit, happy, and ongoing sugar daddy relationships are extremely high on SecretBenefits.com, so it’s really just about getting signed up and putting yourself out there to find exactly the type of daddy you’re looking for.


4.  SugarDaddyMeet – For rich men who can spoil

SugarDaddyMeet, one of the original sugar dating sites, doesn’t sugarcoat its true intentions. According to the site, it’s only available to men who live in the 20 richest countries in the world. By attracting affluent men, it also attracts beautiful young women. Verifying income and wealth are two major features on SugarDaddyMeet, making it one of the best sugar dating sites for the ladies.

What it’s like for daddies:

For one, you’ll need to actually be rich to get approved for SugarDaddyMeet. Those who meet the requirements are introduced to a world of beautiful females. The platform itself feels like other social media sites that you may already be familiar with. It’s very casual and generally a breeze finding a mutually beneficial arrangement.

What it’s like for the babies:

This site has plenty of features that make women feel safe using it. You can verify income and let the site know what you’re looking for in a sugar daddy. Using a handy algorithm, it’ll match you up based on your preferences. A free membership is all you’ll need!


5.  SugarDaddyForMe – Speedy matching process

This chic site is slick in design and even better in matching capabilities. It doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a tried and true sugar daddy site designed for arrangements. This is made clear for both the women and the men who join SugarDaddyForMe.

What it’s like for daddies:

You should know first that the payment structure is unique. The membership tiers are based on how much time you want to buy rather than what you have access to. SugarDaddyForMe will want to verify your income, but there’s not much to it after that. You’re essentially brought into the SugarDaddyForMe world within minutes, making this platform one of the fastest ways to find a date.

What it’s like for babies:

This is a free sugar daddy site for you! Signing up takes only minutes and you’ll be glad to know that SugarDaddyForMe will want to know what your ideal arrangement would be. This can all be altered later if you change your mind.


6.  Ashley Madison – Find a casual companion

Ashley Madison is the site that people hate admitting they love. Sure, it’s received some shady press over the years, but it works marvelously. Though linked to affairs, it’s a perfect site for those in open-relationships to find fun arrangements with other folks. It’s a completely open-minded and judgment-free space for people to explore sensual relationships.

What it’s like for daddies:

Ashley Madison can be used as a sugar site. It follows a credit-based payment structure that allows men to communicate with women. There’s nothing on Ashley Madison to weed out the sugar babies from the rest of them, so you’ll need to use the age preference feature to find the ladies and chat to see if they are interested. Women are free to join, making it a great breeding ground for relationships with younger college-age women.

What it’s like for babies:

Men on Ashley Madison are usually looking for excitement, and sugar babies know how to have fun. There are a lot of wealthy men looking for younger women on the site, so if you specify that you are looking to set up an arrangement, you’ll have no problem finding a handsome catch.

Want even more about Ashley Madison? Check out our full review.


7.  What’s Your Price – Bid on dates

On many sugar sites, the idea of an arrangement is implied but not always enforced. In other words, SDs don’t feel like spending or SBs ask for too much. On What’s Your Price, the intention is clear. It’s about an agreement or arrangement that works for both parties. What’s Your Price will set everyone up with their ideal situation so that the minutiae of finances don’t cloud the fun! And it was created by the established folks behind Seeking, so you know it’s legit.

What it’s like for daddies:

You will feel like you are shopping for gorgeous women through an online marketplace. We hate to boil it down to an online shopping experience, but that’s kind of how it works! You will be shown tons of ladies who have a price in mind. Then, you can bid on anyone you find attractive or worth your time. You can also send virtual gifts and make bids as low as $10. You don’t have to be “wealthy” to join.

What it’s like for the babies:

What’s Your Price puts you in total control, which is a nice alternative to the chaotic free-for-all approach that other sites have. The only negative to What’s Your Price is that there is a lot of competition. There are 3 million members and counting, which means that your ad is going to have to be competitive.


8.  Millionaire Match – Use the “Let’s Meet” feature to avoid flakes!

First things first: Millionaire Match is not technically a sugar site. It’s a legit dating site to meet wealthy people.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to join Millionaire Match. If you are, you can display that through a visible verification badge that Millionaire Match will provide. Having the financial information readily available creates an environment that fosters long-term relationships. It also creates quick meet-up opportunities with a “Let’s Meet” feature that displays members in the area who are free that very day for an IRL meetup. No more flakes!

What it’s like for daddies:

We should rephrase this as “what it’s like for the rich person,” but we’ll stay consistent. Keep in mind that there will be a vetting process to ensure the safety of everyone who uses this website. Unexpectedly, you can use this dating site for free. The site is set up in such a way that enables users to send “winks” to women they find attractive. If you don’t pay for a membership, you’ll be granted 50 of these winks per day. In our opinion, that’s more than enough to find someone awesome. However, to message and receive unlimited winks, you will need to pay. We’d suggest finding someone you are into first. Why spend the money otherwise?

What it’s like for the babies:

Again, technically there aren’t babies on this site, but the vetting process should put you at ease. It’s clear that Millionaire Match makes safety its biggest priority, which is how it should be. Finding wealthy men is easy through this site and there’s a way to determine who is in the millionaire’s club and who isn’t. Depending on the type of relationship you’re looking for, this information can be very useful.


9.  Reddit (r/SugarBaby) – Top sugar forum

Reddit is a site that gets a ton of volume. As a general forum for a huge range of topics, people come to Reddit to get information about virtually anything you can think of. It works for sugaring, too, on the subreddits that are related to the subject. If you don’t already know, a subreddit is a specific message board. For the best sugar daddy action, visit the /r/SugarBaby board. We should also warn you that sexy photos flood the page!

What it’s like for daddies:

This subreddit has over 80K users, making it more intimate than most but still giving you a ton of options. The best part is that it’s one of the only free sugar daddy sites on this list. Men aren’t allowed to post, but you can browse through the photos and proposals of the women on the page.

What it’s like for the babies:

You can post on this forum photos and a description of your ideal relationship. If a guy sees you on the page and is interested in pursuing you, he will direct message you through the platform! To post, you will need to go through a verification process, but it’s not complicated.


10.  Elite Singles – Dating site for educated daddies and babies

Elite Singles was not designed specifically for sugaring. It’s a premium dating site that caters toward educated and successful individuals looking for someone who is like-minded. As a baby, you should be seeking something serious when you join Elite Singles. This site is made for real relationships, not a one-time hookup. A majority of the people on this site are college-educated, regardless of age, so that’s another thing to keep in mind.

What it’s like for daddies:

Elite Singles is ideal for the man (or woman) who is interested in meeting an intelligent, independent person to shower with affection or anything else. One of the best things about Elite Singles is that nobody is flakey. People are genuinely searching for their other half and they aren’t greedy for cash because they are successful themselves.

What it’s like for the babies:

This is an app best suited for the baby who isn’t just in this for the money. You don’t need to be wildly successful to get on Elite Singles, but you should have a semblance of independence and perhaps a college degree (or working towards one). This isn’t the quickest way to find a sugar daddy, but it is a place where you’ll meet successful people.


11.  Established Men – Great for long-term sugar dating

If you couldn’t gather from the name, Established Men is a dating site created for successful men looking for a relationship. Men who are established and wealthy often don’t find much time to date around. This site makes finding a partner very simple. It’s not a hookup site but rather a place that caters directly to wealthy guys who want a relationship. Though not exclusively for sugar relationships, women aren’t charged for a membership, making it feel like a free sugar daddy site for them.

What it’s like for daddies:

Established Men is not a free sugar dating site for men, but that shouldn’t be a problem if you are, in fact, established. Through the platform, you are able to send gifts and interact with the beautiful ladies that this website attracts. There are new members daily, so you’ll never run out of options!

What it’s like for babies:

Step into the world of Established Men. These are individuals who know their worth, so they might be tough to please. What’s nice about the site is that these guys aren’t expecting you to come to them with a set arrangement. They just want to spoil someone special with bags, shoes, and more.


12.  RichMeetBeautiful – Encrypted sugar daddy site

Contrary to popular belief, RichMeetBeautiful is not just for rich men. Anyone who is reasonably well off can still engage with beautiful men and women through the platform. It’s also one of the most secure sugar dating sites because it uses encryption security.

What it’s like for daddies:

RichMeetBeautiful claims to be rich in several ways: experience, romance, passion, style, and so on. It also explicitly says “no sugar dating” on the homepage. You’re probably asking yourself why it even made the list. It’s a site for successful individuals to meet one another through a scientific matchmaking algorithm. If you want to find a younger woman to spoil, you will absolutely be able to.

What it’s like for babies:

RichMeetsBeautiful is not explicitly for sugar dating. It is a site where you can converse with men who enjoy spoiling their significant others. It’s built for long-lasting relationships, so be prepared to meet people who want to find real love.


13.  Miss Travel – Best for the adventurous

Miss Travel puts an exciting spin on sugar dating. Rather than finding a companion locally, this site encourages people to find partners from places they’d love to travel to! It adds a whole new element to the fun of sugar dating, and women can join this site for free.

What it’s like for daddies:

SDs in open relationships or looking for fun outside of a relationship love to use this site while they travel for business. However, it’s also convenient for men who want foreign women to come to them. There are a ton of beautiful women who use Miss Travel because they are looking for an adventure with a well-to-do man.

What it’s like for babies:

Ever wanted to travel the world? This is one of the best ways to make that happen. The daddy you find will likely pay for the entire trip. There’s also an exciting “Create a Trip” feature that allows you to plan a wonderful vacation right there on the site.


14.  Wealthy Men – A no-frills approach to sugaring

Wealthy Men is the most straightforward sugar daddy website available to users, and it’s very reliable too. It promises young women that they will meet the wealthy man of their dreams. And, it has a guarantee for its paid members that they’ll find someone in three months. Members can rest assured that Wealthy Men will absolutely work for them.

What it’s like for daddies:

We’ll be honest: Wealthy Men does not make it that easy on the guys initially. You will have to prove that you make at least 85K by providing documentation stating so and comment on how much you’re willing to spend on a baby. While this is annoying, it maintains the integrity of the site.

What it’s like for babies:

This is one of the best sugar daddy sites out there. The financial aspect works in your favor. But you’ll want to pay for it, as the free version doesn’t allow for messaging.


15.  AgeMatch – Best for relationships with significant age gaps

AgeMatch doesn’t market itself as a sugar website. Instead of sugar daddies and young models, it pins itself as a dating platform for people with a very large age gap between them. This works for arrangements because most of the companionships on this site are between successful older men and stunning younger women.

What it’s like for daddies:

Some men don’t want arrangements and prefer the idea of spoiling someone who enjoys their company. For those types, AgeMatch is perfect. You will feel like you are on a real dating site and not a shady or seedy arrangement site, which is a nice alternative to the normal setup.

What it’s like for babies:

The expected age gap works in your favor, but the fact that sugaring is more implied than explicit does not. You won’t be asked about your preferred arrangement. However, there are plenty of wonderful successful older men at your disposal and you are welcome to present them with your terms.


16.  Sudy – A sugaring mobile app

Sudy is a fantastic app in terms of usability. It functions really well and is set up in such a way that makes it easy to meet someone new. There are some things about Sudy that aren’t perfect, which is why it’s at the bottom of our list, but it’s certainly a great option for someone who would rather use their phone than a desktop to find a date.

What it’s like for the daddies:

To join, you’ll need to make over 200K. Once you verify this, you will be introduced to the world of beautiful ladies (there’s a 4:1 male to female ratio). Gorgeous women like to know that you make enough to entertain them, so the verification works in your favor. Sources report having trouble deleting their profiles though, so that might be a turn-off for you.

What it’s like for babies:

There are more women than men, which means it’s competitive. But at the same time, Sudy is also very safe. The Sudy staff work tirelessly to moderate the platform and remove suspicious or fake profiles.


17.  SugarBook – Great for alternative arrangements

Sometimes arrangements aren’t all money-based. There are ambitious women (or guys) out there who desire connections, advice, opportunities, and financial help. Sources say that SugarBook is ideal for that type of relationship with a sugar mama or sugar daddy because each interaction begins by laying out expectations for one another.

What it’s like for daddies:

You will need to verify your income before getting accepted to SugarBook. This is technically a free sugar daddy site for men, but the premium option will show you many more profiles. We’ll admit that it’s limited on the free side.

What it’s like for babies:

You can join for free or pay for more features, that’s totally up to you. Try the free version first, though, because the features just include access to more daddies and a more specific search. You might find what you’re looking for on the free version alone. You’ll have a chance to create a profile where you can explain what you’re interested in.

The post Best Sugar Daddy Websites For Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babies To Meet (2022) appeared first on Chicago Reader.

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