Chicago Poetry Bordello

Last night, we got to participate in another wonderful historical reenactment at the Chicago Poetry Bordello. The Chicago Poetry Bordello is an early 20th century recreation of a bordello where the Poetry whores, both male and female, read poetry instead of doing tricks. It’s delightful fun.  The night is filled with various poetry readings so you can get a little sample of the goods. And when you have decided that you like the cut of a poet whore’s jib, you purchase a token (the poetry whores don’t handle money) and give it to him or her. Then you go into the backroom and have a private poetry reading session.

This was our second time at the Chicago Poetry Bordello and it was wondrous.  We were playing temperance workers who were protesting the liquor and poetry whores. The highlight of the recreation was when we were marching outside of Schubas, chanting “Hell No, No Hell” with wonderful signs: “Vote Dry” or the famous “Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Not Touch Ours.” It was lightly snowing as we called out to passersby’s and Schubas’ patrons to turn back from the iniquity. There was time enough to save their souls. The culminating part of the whole experience was when a cop van passed us, saluted us, while we pleaded with them to shut down the house of ill repute. Then the cops came back and asked us what we were doing. Then they asked if they could take a picture of us. It was pretty awesome.

Eventually, we went inside and sat in front. We’d occasionally boo the sinful things on stage or act scandalized at the various acts. Gypsy Smith, famous evangelist, gave a brief speech about souls. He pledged that he would go into the back room with Madam Black-eye Susan to fight this devil. Naturally, he came out worse for wear.  It was good fun. In addition to the Poetry Whores, there were some other acts. There was the marvelous burlesque dancer Lula Houp-Garou who did various “scandalous acts” with hula-hoops. Her first one was in brilliant, blue flowing fabrics that she’d twirl around like an old scarf dance.  There was the Vaudevillian Duo “Pinch & Squeal” who sang silly songs on banjo and accordion. Pinch did some pretty nifty magic too. There were tarot readings in the back. Previously, there was a silhouette artist to make your likeness.

All in all it was a good time. If you have the chance, you should check them out. And remember to wear Victorian garb. You get a discount on the admission if you do. And it’s Victorian garb, how could you say no?


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