The Baton Show Lounge was all dressed up to say goodbye at its final NYE show on December 31. Balloons were everywhere and every table was topped with the requisite party hats, horns and golden beads. We reserved far in advance as I knew this night would be a sellout and it was.
Chuck and I go wayyyyy back with the Baton. I used to take my mom, aunt and cousins there whenever they were in town and it was always my “go to” place to entertain “newbies” who came for visits. I love the people there, the welcoming atmosphere, the lack of judgment and the love that envelops the small, intimate space at 436 N. Clark.
Owner Jim Flint was a friend from day one and welcomed us whole-heartedly into the fold along with longtime ticket booth manager Chris (aka Mr. Belvedere), performers Chilli Pepper, Maya Douglas, Sherri Payne and others who have moved on like Mimi Marks, Monica Monroe and Chanel Dupree. It was a bittersweet night though not seeing longtime host/performer Ginger Grant onstage. She passed away recently and I know everyone who knew her, deeply felt her absence that night.
The NYE numbers were fun-filled and loaded with outrageous and fabulous fashions–one of my favorites was a peach colored, side-ruffled gown worn by Maya, who I discovered makes all her own clothes! One number that has to go though is the lip-synching to a comedy routine performed by new host Natasha Douglas. This was wildly out of place, in my opinion, and not funny or remotely entertaining. I also thought it threw off the fast pace of the show.
Angel Saez always works the crowd into a frenzy. He’s the only male performer and one who always delivers exciting, sexy performances. On this night, one of his costumes was an homage to George Michael who he nailed perfectly with a policeman’s cap worn low and black sunglasses. It didn’t hurt that he was also wearing an uber-cropped sparkly blue top that showed off his six-pack to perfection. Women and men waited in long queues to tip him. We loved it!
Other performers giving their all that night included Victoria LaPaige, Jackie Couture and Regine Phillips.
Jim delivered some closing remarks that had everyone teary-eyed (watch it here). He thanked everyone for their commitment and support during the 46 years the Baton has been in this location. He also thanked his longtime landlord Al Friedman and his father. He then introduced the new owner of the Uptown location (which will open March 5 at 4713 N. Broadway), Christophe Chivazza. The Baton will officially close on February 28 at the old location and Jim reminded everyone that there will be a Valentine’s Day show on Feb. 14, so we have a bit more fun to come.
For me, I know the new spot will be fabulous but it won’t conjure up the memories I have of this one. Chuck and I had one of our first dates there and the memories I’ve had with family and friends are priceless and will always take first place in my heart.
I look forward to the new spot though and can’t wait to see the art-deco design, a dramatic 360 from the warm, cozy, homey decor at 436. (I created a video for my Candid Candace TV channel of the Baton from many years ago. In it, I interview Chilli, Mimi and other entertainers and take viewers on a tour of the place that only the performers get to see. Watch it here!)
I know change is good and inevitable dear Baton but please don’t change too much! We look forward to seeing you in your new space soon!
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Filed under: Entertainment
Tags: Al Friedman, Angel Saez, Baton, Baton Show Lounge, Candid Candace TV, Chicago New Year's Eve party, chilli pepper, Christophe Chivazza, Chuck Jordan, Dan Neniskis, drag show, female impersonators, Jackie Couture, Jamie Gabala, Jim Flint, Michael Kutza, Mimi Marks, Monica Monroe, Natasha Douglas, New Year's Eve, Randy Montesinos, Sherri Payne, Victoria LaPaige