The ShowPlace ICON theater on Roosevelt Blvd in Chicago’s downtown was bustling a little bit differently on Tuesday June 7th. Friends of Charles Parnell, the Hyde Park native- now a major actor in Hollywood, waited patiently to greet him with open arms.
Eric David, a professional photographer and longtime friend of Parnell captured the moment in pictures and describes the fanfare at the movie theater and the after-party at the new Chemistry Chicago in Hyde Park.
“It was beyond cool for Charlie to return to Chicago as a major character in a blockbuster movie featuring Tom Cruise,” says Eric.
Over one hundred of his closest friends were invited to join him at the theater for a private screening of his latest movie Top Gun: Maverick.
“It was next level for him to setup the screening, join us at the entrance for the viewing, then give a first class after-party to celebrate in our neighborhood.”
Its a big tradition for Parnell to celebrate his most recent on-screen accomplishments among friends. But since he moved to New York years ago and now currently lives in Los Angeles, he never forgot his friends and regularly makes a special trip to Chicago to enjoy their company.
“There were lifelong neighborhood friends, Chicago House-Music legends, high school classmates, neighbors, mentors,” says Eric on describing who was in attendance. “I’m sure some old girlfriends, and just about anyone else who could attend.”
In its first weekend, Top Gun: Maverick box office sales totaled over 150 million dollars. A juggernaut blockbuster and massive popularity worldwide, Parnell played opposite of his superstar friend Tom Cruise, in this long awaited sequel to the 1986 hit movie Top Gun.
“Even on the first one as an action movie, the relationships are so strong and so tense, its not your average war movie,” says Parnell as he reflects on the first Top Gun and why this movie is so special. “So when I read the second script, I came out of the office thinking this is a relationship film, kind of disguised as an action film.”
From his childhood friends of Louis Wirth Middle School to high school buddies from Kenwood Academy, Parnell has shown his love of ‘everything Chicago’- from Harold’s Chicken to local House parties.
Toni Shelton fondly calls Parnell her brother, although not related, they both grew up together in Hyde Park since they were pre-teens.
“I’ve been hosting house parties ever since I was 16 years young,” says Toni, a pioneer of the house music genre and one of the first female house party promoters. “And Charles has rarely missed any of my annual house parties.”
Parnell has always called Chicago his hometown, ever since his first acting role as a jail guard on the soap opera One Life to Live. Now he’s taking flight with Tom Cruise on the big silver screen, portraying an admiral in this years’ hottest movie.
“Every time we saw Charles on the screen, we screamed and applauded in the theater!” says Toni, “It was super crazy seeing him up there so much and we enjoyed every second.”
Eric agrees that “there’s nothing but love and an enormous since of pride” for Parnell. He also says that Parnell gives back to the community and makes them feel like a superstar too.
“If you couple that with the genuine love that Charlie gives to everyone that he knows,” says Eric, “and his willingness to make others feel that they are worthy of superstar treatment, you may get a small sample of the admiration that I have for that brother and his success.”
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About the Author: Don Howze is an Emmy Award Winning Film/Tape Editor and Associate Professor of Journalism and Television Production. Don is the producer and director of the upcoming film documentaries The Production Crew and Toni Shelton’s Queen Of House Music.
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