Cooch and Crime in Calumet City! Bumps, Grinds and Sleaze Smile Faces in the Sin City of the Midwest! Vintage Sleaze
One way to deal with a sullied and tainted reputation is to simply change your name. West Hammond, Illinois did just that in hopes you would forget Al Capone was running the town during prohibition. Along with Capone's rotgut homemade booze, the town was famous for gambling and hookers. In fact, it gained the name "Sin City." So in 1923 the city fathers voted to change the town's name to Calumet City. (Swipe hands, problem solved, plant some flowers along the sidewalk and welcome the families)
It didn't work out so well. Booze continued to flow...maybe that's why the cops "turned a blind eye"...they were so drunk themselves on the poison swill they couldn't see to make an arrest. Legalization of alcohol after prohibition didn't help either...the speakeasies just became legal and the joints continued to spring up like weeds. At one time, Calumet had more liquor licenses per capita than ANY CITY IN THE COUNTRY!
State Street, the strut of drug dealers and prostitutes was notorious and thriving. Not all the clubs were dives...Frank Sinatra, Sophie Tucker and "tasteful" stripper Gypsy Rose Lee played the larger clubs. In a modest quote from the Fraternal Order of Police of Calumet City own website, they proudly claim "It is scarcely an exaggeration to say the Cal City was a rough-hewn precursor of Las Vegas."
Tura Satana began her career as a "burlesque dancer" in Calumet City, Illinois at age FIFTEEN. You can look her up if you don't know who she is, but you read Vintage Sleaze, you should already know.
She wasn't alone..."dancer" Anita Lapouchok testified before the U.S. Senate in 1962 about the most horrendous things done to burleskers in the Chicago enrirons. Alleged hoodlums Joey "Doves" Aiuppa and Joseph May were quizzed as well. May owned the "21" club and the Follies above. I'm not sure if he owned the others, but they certainly shared the same commercial artist. The senators were stymied...but the jig was up. There was a sleazefest going on, and the address was anywhere, State Street, Calumet.
In 1973, Calumet came up with another idea. SMILEY FACES! That's right! Reformers hoping to seize their property values back from the sordid past painted two huge water towers with smile faces. One of the towers was used on the back of a Dead Kennedys album cover, and it was also seen in the film Natural Born Killers. Not quite the image they were hoping for, but it was also hard to take a drug dealer serious in the shadow of a giant smile face, so they seem to have worked.
The website "Sin Strip of Calumet City" attempts to document and bring back the memories of sleaze gone by, but a tear comes to my eye looking at the demolition of the Whiskey Go Go, and even sadder is the "slide your cursor game" which allows you to see the Zig-Zag tavern disappear before your very eyes! From Beer on Tap to Dandelions on the curbs in seconds. Despite that...yes guys, you can crib these ads for your site.