a love affair

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restaurant 1978tango 1979

the year was 1977. i was 19 years old and had been a  gogo dancer at a gay bar in chicago and transitioned to bartender at that place. i worked with a guy who was dating a server from a french seafood restaurant in the belmont hotel called tango and got a second job as a coat check boy there. the manager “nadia” moved me to service bartender within a couple of months. there were over 200 wines on the winelist which often needed to be waded through with the help of the gritty and classic frend sommalier “gerard” the chef  “henri coudrier” had also emigrated from france and set up residence in the windy city. the bar area was slick and uber modern. you walked in and were greeted on the right by an elegantly dressed host and the left was the entrance to the bar which was flanked by a large smoked sturgeon on crushed ice and a wedge of gruyere. the martinis were served with blue cheese stuffed olives. the food was au-courant.

i worked at badonsky’s brewery and le bastille as well. all were amazing training grounds and ignited my romance with fine dining and intersting cuisine. but it was the life behind the scenes that truly captured my attention. the mechanics of putting on such a beautiful and memorable show each night was instantly fascinating. and the art of service has been a passion of mine these almost 40 years. the owner of tango (and several other popular eateries in chicago passed in mid-december of 2014. his daughter jessica even found a blog post of mine about the restaurant just after that time and left a sweet comment- she was about 5 or so when i worked there. this article came out in the chicago sun-times and a co-worker and friend from that time posted pics with that article on facebook.

it was like a big warm hug and brought back sweet memories and i realized that i have lived a lifetime dancing in the glow of that same food-service choreography i learned at george badonsky’s restaurants those decades ago. i love the backstage element. i love the entrances and exits from stage left and stage right. the applause is quiet, but somehow the satisfaction that producing a memorable dining experience has become like a japanese scroll painting for me extending and shifting and rolling out and in over these years. i continue to do this work to this day. and i still find joy and satisfaction. friendship, love, and fulfillment. the feeling of a job well done. and i still feel at home in the kitchen and at a dinner party.

bon appetit!


here is the article reprinted from the chicago sun-times..

George Badonsky, 78; restaurateur ‘was ahead of his time’

Posted: 01/12/2015, 08:15pm |

George Badonsky was sued by Italian couturier Pierre Cardin, had a hand in two of the biggest garage rock hits of all time, and ran some of the hottest restaurants in Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr. Badonsky, 78, died Dec. 14 at his Harbor Country home in Stevensville, Michigan. He had had bypass surgery at the end of August.

“He was found in his kitchen, where he would have wanted to be,” said a friend, Leigh Jones.

When Chicago was still a meat-and-potatoes town, Mr. Badonsky started restaurants that were a mirepoix of tasty food, entertainment and events. On Bastille Day, he closed down the street for wine-carrying waiter races at his bistro, Le Bastille, 21 W. Superior.

“He was ahead of his time,” said chef Jean Joho of Everest, whom Mr. Badonsky recruited from France to America to polish the jewel of his restaurant realm, Maxim’s on Astor Street. “He had five restaurants, and they were all hip and modern. . . . He loved food, and he was what you would call a bon vivant.

“He was a pioneering, iconic restaurateur in Chicago who brought wonderful new restaurants to the North Side,” said Larry Levy, founder of Levy Restaurants. “I admired him a lot.”

His empire started in 1969, when Mr. Badonsky opened the Brewery, an upscale burger joint at Broadway and Briar. Then came Tango, an airy, romantic room in the Belmont Hotel decorated with Andy Warhol’s Mao and art by Peter Max. It featured fresh fish, “all flown in from the East Coast,” said Joho.

In the 1970s, he launched Le Bastille, an authentic French bistro. “If you were at Le Bastille,” said Joho, “you were in France.” Before anyone in Chicago made much ado about the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, “He created a festival” tied to the wine, said John Banks, who with Garret Eakin of Banks/Eakin architects helped build  his restaurants. “That was just a great event and party.”

Later in the decade, he opened George’s, a 220-seat cabaret at 230 W. Kinzie that was one of the first places in the city to showcase Northern Italian food. It presented hot comedians and stars including songstress Etta James; Ruth Brown, the R&B dynamo who appeared in the 1988 film “Hairspray;” nightclub legend Bricktop, who ran with Hemingway and Fitzgerald in Paris; jazz greats Sarah Vaughan, Dorothy Donegan and Blossom Dearie; blues chanteuse Alberta Hunter; drummer Buddy Rich, Harry Connick, Jr. and singer Bill Withers, known for “Lean on Me,” “Use Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “A Lovely Day” and “Just the Two of Us.”

Mr. Badonsky bought and reopened the elegant Maxim’s on Astor in 1984. It featured rich fare like Burgundian snails in ravioli and quail eggs with fresh foie gras. Cardin, who owned the Maxim’s de Paris name, wound up suing him over licensing rights. Mr. Badonsky prevailed by adding his own name to the restaurant to differentiate it, said his ex-wie, actress Pat Bowie.

He got out of the business for a variety of reasons. Extended restaurant martini lunches were becoming a thing of the past. Some thought Maxim’s opened at a time when diners wanted simpler options. George’s required attention to the entertainers, in addition to the menu. A devastating fire occurred at George’s in 1984.

And as Mr. Badonsky’s father took ill, he devoted himself to his care. “Instead of putting him in a rest home, he took a lot of personal time in Michigan with his dad, and had his dad move in with him,” Banks said. “He took care of his dad 24-7. He did it by himself, really. That just really impressed me. That’s the kind of person he was.”

“He wasn’t the kind of dad that read stories at night,” said his daughter, Jessica Jolie Badonsky. “But he introduced me to food, and [performers] Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Dorothy Donegan and Jessye Norman.” Her father bestowed her middle name, French for “pretty.” He doted on his two grandchildren and enjoyed babysitting, she said.

Mr. Badonsky had a whole other life before becoming a restaurateur. He worked at record companies and co-produced two 1960s smashes that came out of Chicago, “Gloria” by the Shadows of Knight and “The White Ship” by H.P. Lovecraft. He also had a hand in the hit “Bend Me, Shape Me” by American Breed,  Bowie said.

His curiosity contributed to his success, she said. “He would talk to someone on the phone and the next thing you know, he’d be on there an hour, learning about how to buy the best meats.”

Mr. Badonsky was born in New York. He told the Sun-Times in 1988 that his father, Andrew, was a custom tailor who had to add $22,000 in gold braid to Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s clothing, an extravagance that taught him to equate simplicity with elegance.

He also is survived by a sister, Elizabeth Ecoff. A Chicago memorial is being planned.


thank you george… for the gift that has lasted a lifetime… you don’t know how glad i am.


pas de deux 11-11-2014

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Only with time do we really learn who the other person is and come to love the person for him- or herself and not just for the feelings and experiences they give us.” ― Timothy Keller
Only with time do we really learn who the other person is and come to love the person for him- or herself and not just for the feelings and experiences they give us.”
― Timothy Keller

this post is meant to send a blessing to my dear friends ruben and alex on the day they have chosen to make a commitment to declare their faith and love for each other. i  love and admire them sincerely and have no doubt they will continue their enchanted dance and remarkable adventures making the very challenging and most complicated things in life seem elegant and effortless.

best wishes and congratulations my dear friends.


When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. - Pema Chodron
When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.
– Pema Chodron


Go n-eírí an bóthar leat.
May the road rise with you.

May the blessing of the rain be on you—
the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit
so that all the little flowers may spring up,
and shed their sweetness on the air.
May the blessing of the great rains be on you,
may they beat upon your spirit
and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there many a shining pool
where the blue of heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.

May the good earth be soft under you
when you rest upon it,
and may it rest easy over you when,
at the last, you lay out under it,
And may it rest so lightly over you
that your soul may be out
from under it quickly,
and up, and off,
And be on its way to God.

Dear Lord,
Give me a few friends
who will love me for what I am,
and keep ever burning
before my vagrant steps
the kindly light of hope…
And though I come not within sight
of the castle of my dreams,
teach me to be thankful for life,
and for time’s olden memories
that are good and sweet.
And may the evening’s twilight
find me gentle still.

May your day be touched
by a bit of Irish luck,
brightened by a song in your heart,
and warmed by the smiles
of the people you love.

May the light of heaven shine on your grave.

Bless those minding cattle,
And those minding sheep,
And those fishing the sea
While the rest of us sleep.

If God sends you down a stony path,
may he give you strong shoes.

May the rains sweep gentle across your fields,
May the sun warm the land,
May every good seed you have planted bear fruit,
And late summer find you standing in fields of plenty.

May the frost never afflict your spuds.
May the leaves of your cabbage always be free from worms.
May the crows never pick your haystack.
If you inherit a donkey, may she be in foal.

May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine on your windowpane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

Wherever you go and whatever you do,
May the luck of the Irish be there with you.

Wishing you always…
Walls for the wind,
A roof for the rain
And tea beside the fire.
Laughter to cheer you,
Those you love near you,
And all that your heart may desire

May neighbours respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.

May the light of heaven shine on your grave.

May the smile of God light you to glory.

God bless the corners of this house,
And be the lintel blest,
And bless the hearth and bless the board,
And bless each place of rest,
And bless each door that opens wide
To stranger as to kin,
And bless each crystal window pane
That lets the starlight in,
And bless the rooftree overhead
And every sturdy wall.
The peace of man, the peace of God,
The peace of love on all.

my heart will go metallica

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the pain is real the dance is real
the pain is real
the dance is real

The pain is real. That is the point. Turn towards that
pain again and again. It is your open and sensitive heart
hurting. Don’t shut it down – let the hurt open you up –
it’s no use trying to shut it down. It doesn’t get better
that way. It is like trying to kill something that just
won’t die. Better accept that the pain is real.

What else are you going to do with it if not try to
smooth it away? Let it be what it is – open out – let
it hurt and notice again and again that it is this pain
that unites you will all other beings.

Everywhere you look others are suffering just as
you are. It is universal. Everyone longs for that love,
that being known, that being accepted for what they
are – for companionship, for communication deep
and meaningful, for trust, for warmth, for the joy
of discovering what is true and genuine in oneself
and others.

So let your heart open and feel the pain of yourself
and of others. That pain cannot destroy you and it
cannot make things worse – at least when you open
to the pain you feel alive and where there is life
there is hope.

The pain is what makes you a human being and it’s
driving you to look for the truth, the truth that
goes beyond the grasping and trying to make things
what they are not, the truth of awakening to what
is truly real and precious in yourself and others –
all others.

Notice how you ignore and count for nothing all
those people around you that you think of as not
really your friends. How lonely are they? How
much are they doing to themselves what you are
doing to yourself?

Let the pain in your heart open you to everyone –
every living thing and let the pulse of life pulse
through you and tell you that there is another way
to be. It is the only solution. You cannot kill the life
of your heart and you cannot get rid of the pain –
you can only realise what it is, awaken to what it is.
It is Bodhichitta – the Awakened Heart. I really
cannot see any way round this – whatever words
one chooses to use – I cannot see any way round this.

I wish I could help you to have courage and confidence in this.

— By Lama Shenpen Hookham

i love lesbians

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The crisis, as well as the opportunity, of our time is to surrender our ego and conditioned fear mechanisms to the primary torsion energy of unconditional love that is seeking to evolve us and is calling us as a species home.... Sol Luckman
The crisis, as well as the opportunity, of our time is to surrender our ego and conditioned fear mechanisms to the primary torsion energy of unconditional love that is seeking to evolve us and is calling us as a species home….
Sol Luckman

one thing i forgot to mention in yesterday’s post was the scene in “the normal heart” with the lesbian estelle who came to volunteer at gmhc after her best friend died. she cried and declared that her lesbian friends all told her “what have they ever done for us?” but she didn’t care. estelle  wanted to do something. it was for her friend.

this is very much a part of my 80’s memories. gay women became the glue that held our emotional bandages together. they brought food, ran errands, went to protests and marches, helped us believe we could survive, and gave gay men love when there were very few others doing this.. even ourselves. and in the process, they carved out a completely new lgbt community and agreement field.

instead of strictly separatist living, we began to learn that were stronger together and also that maybe we just needed each other.

so in a way, the gay cancer created the space for our community to heal. and the lesbian community- the beautiful and buxom and butch and lipstick and country and city lesbians were the the thread that connected our torn and tattered rainbow flag.

i love lesbians. always have. always will.


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