by Joanne Yeck
From the dawn of the twentieth century through postwar prosperity, The Blackest Sheep spans over sixty years of Chicago’s past, charting its evolving nightlife before, during, and after Prohibition through the history of one of Rush Street’s best-loved and most enduring night spots, Club Alabam.
This new look at Chicago after dark weaves together three fascinating biographies: the forgotten legacy of multi-talented Dan Blanco, who introduced European-style cabaret to the city; the untold story of the ill-fated beauty Evelyn Nesbit’s tumultuous nightclub career; and the effervescent Gene Harris’ rise from headwaiter to the owner and personality behind Club Alabam.
Rubbing shoulders with gangsters, bootleggers, drug dealers, jazz musicians and leggy showgirls was an occupational hazard, enough to label anyone the “black sheep of the family.” As Blanco, Nesbit, and Harris’ bids for adventure, survival and—sometimes—success prove, the escapades of even the blackest sheep can shock, inspire, and ultimately delight.
This groundbreaking look at Chicago’s entertainment history includes over forty illustrations.