When the first big snow of the year hits Chicago, you know who the real partiers are by looking around the bar. It takes moxie to clomp through a foot of fresh snow for the sake of living life – and bonus points for me for fearlessly displaying a short skirt and scoring a babysitter.
It was worth it last night because we got to see Heather Sullivan pay tribute to all her favorite female artists of the 20th century at Davenport’s. It was an Aretha Franklin/Patsy Klein/Dusty Springfield LOVE FEST with Heather doing it the old fashioned way on a baby grand.
During the show though, one question kept running through my mind: Why isn’t Heather Sullivan on that list herself? She writes plenty of her own songs. Despite her experience, she has the voice of a teenage powerhouse that alternates between breathy sweetness and pure steel. She’s a gorgeous hybrid of Cher-like showmanship with a face like Britney Spears’.
In the front row was her brother, Mike Sullivan, an established leader in sales in Chicago. Watching Heather perform, it is crystal clear they share that magic gene that gets people moving. In cabaret, the “sale” is engaging an audience. I mentioned this to her after the show and she thought about it for a moment and said, “the whole show is selling. I have to sell the audience a good time – which is why I don’t do ballads. They’re a downer.”
Also on her refusal list? Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz song, much to her brother’s chagrin (he is part owner of the Mercedes Benz dealership Fletcher Jones in the Gold Coast). Well. Not that she won’t sing it all – she did bust it out acapella during our conversation which made the room stop and listen, but she crinkled her button nose and dismissed it as not having any pep.
Janis Joplin’s vocal ability wasn’t her draw anyway. Her appeal was grit. (I like grit, but it misses me somehow. For example I was dressed in all black last night and yet I was sprinkled with the pick-up line, “you look like Cinderella!” from a grown man to which I replied “there’s my pumpkin” and pointed at my husband pulling up the car. But back to Janis Joplin and grit . . .) If she were alive today, I’m sure she would have made it out in the snow to see some cabaret.
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