A Film Tour of Chicago?

Chicago Detours had a field trip this past week with the Chicago Film Tour (got the Groupon). Since film tours do not comprise our repertoire, Detours’ tour guide Nick and I jumped on this, especially since it gives us the rare opportunity to actually be tour-ees rather than tour-ers. On my way to the tour meeting point, which is in front of the Rock n’ Roll McDonald’s, I grabbed an iced chocolate drink with fresh peppermint from Rick Bayless’s Xoco, a good alternative for a morning jolt.

Where to Find the Film Tours

Normally I would have groaned at having to go to that amusement park pocket of the city, where just looking at the gaudy Rainforest Cafe’ makes me feel embarrassed for its existence (I give it two more years before that smiling plastic frog crumbles with the wrecking ball). However in this case, I was happy to have a thoughtful look at the massive McDonald’s since I had been recently reading about it in Blair Kamin’s Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age.

John Brinkman, the owner of the company, greeted us and I introduced myself as the owner of Chicago Detours. His offered me the option of paying them for their guides if we ever need it, and made no response to my suggestion of cross-promotion. I’m really into collaborative business, and I know it might be a flaw that I’m willing to do favors and donate my services (thanks, Dad, for instilling that anti-hardball gene in me). But I’d much rather do business like this than the old school way.

New Business Practices

This past spring I went to the Illinois Governors Conference on Tourism, and a speaker mentioned how the new trend is to partner, rather than compete. I had no idea that a communal approach to business was trendy. Isn’t it natural that everyone has so much to benefit out of working together versus holding some sort of muscle-flexing contest, especially when our companies have such distinctive niches? That’s why I feel comfortable writing openly about this – I don’t see my company and his as competitive in any way at all. In fact, I’m promoting them! A few of his guests probably would have been interested in our style of travel, and a few of my guests might be film enthusiasts. Trades are awesome.

So the tour started. I’ll admit I have a real hard time staying quiet during other people’s tours (and I remind myself of this on the rare moments my tour guests talk while I’m speaking). I don’t want to seem like a know-it-all – I just get excited. Or I like to murmur to my friend about other facts, etc.

Film Tour Trivia

Tour guide Patrick McDonald gets an “A” for enthusiasm, and this guy knows his stuff. Some cool film history facts I learned:

  1. The MGM lion came from early film producer William Selig (Chicagoan), who knew these creatures provided guaranteed entertainment on the silver screen. He had an entire zoo in LA.
  2. The Oscar trophies are manufactured in Chicago by a company called R.S. Owens & Company.
  3. During the film heyday, 90% of Chicagoans went to the film theaters at least once a week.
  4. An original White Castle building from 1930 is on Cermak, just West of Michigan Ave. It’s classier with terracotta bricks and smaller crenellations than the current White Castle across the street.
  5. Oz Park by Depaul has the tin man statue because Chicagoan L. Frank Baum authored Wizard of Oz and also created its first film adaption of 1910.

The nostalgia factor is where this tour stands out. What fun it is to see clips of films you haven’t watched in a decade or more. And everyone gets happy seeing the ultimate embodiment of ’80s cheese with Ferris Bueller getting down with “Twist and Shout,” right? I would have loved to hear a bit about current Chicago film production outside of Hollywood, like fixtures of local film culture like Columbia College, Kartemquin, or Facets, but that’s just my personal interest and certainly not one that appeals to the masses.

Closing Credits

As someone who loves visual stimulation I got a little bored by feeling like I was supposed to be watching a video screen more than engaging with the fantastic visuals of the city passing by. On the other hand, kudos to Chicago Film Tour for keeping a bus tour at a $30 price. Our Jazz, Blues & Beyond tour is about double this, and of course includes lots of extras like a live musician, archival footage, treats, and gifts. The overhead of the bus is torture and obviously something Mr. Brinkman has figured out. Chicago Film Tour offers a 1 hour and 45-minute excursion of relaxed entertainment, and Chicago has such incredible stories to tell, there’s plenty of room for all tour companies, and many more to come.

— Amanda Scotese, Executive Director

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Ellen

Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”
Robert
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Jen

Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”
Heather
TripAdvisor

Elyse

Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.

Anthony

Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Marie

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”
Lorit
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Sonny

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K
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Alex

Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K
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Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
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