This weekend Chicago is hosting the Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park. The festival’s name comes from an annual party that was hosted by the city’s corrupt politicians and featured an orgy of excess by the leaders and denizens of Chicago’s vice districts at the turn of the century. Basically, my great grandparents’ Lollapalooza was way more hardcore than what I’ve been going to since high school.
“It’s a lollapalooza! All the business houses are here, all the big people. Chicago ain’t no sissy town.” – Alderman Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna on his annual First Ward Ball.
The ball was a political fundraiser where respectable Chicago society got rowdy with madams, pimps, scarlet women and other shady characters of the city’s vice districts. Between 1896 and 1909 the First Ward Ball, also called “The Derby,” was held at the Chicago Coliseum at 15th and Wabash. At the time the 1st ward included the old “Custom House Place” vice district and later the infamous 22nd and Dearborn “Levee” vice district, home of the world famous Everleigh Club.