Plans going forward for Boystown, a proposed reality television series centered on Chicago's well-known queer enclave on Halsted Street, may be in serious jeopardy as it has come to the attention of Windy City Times that the show's producer, David Schlessinger, is a registered sex offender with one charge of predatory criminal sexual assault and two charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault in his past.
According to court records, Schlessinger, 45, pled guilty and was convicted of the charges in September 1998 related to his assaults of three underage boys between June 1995 and January 1997. Thirty-two years old at the time of his conviction, Schlessinger met the boys while cruising Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.
Schlessinger was originally arrested March 1997 after one underage boy said he had been in the man's company. After he was originally taken into custody, Schlessinger was released on a $50,000 bond before he was later sentenced to three years in prison in each case. He reportedly served the sentences concurrently.
Schlessinger's name re-emerged in the press last month as the producer behind Boystown, a proposed reality show for which he held casting calls at two Chicago bars, Scarlet and Minibar, during the weekend of April 15 after a few weeks of scouting. The events attracted hundreds of interested applicants to the Boystown hotspots and generated a great deal of excitement in local media.
The show, said to be a hybrid of The A-List, The Real World and Jersey Shore, specifically hoped to cast "[m]ales or females between the ages of 21-25 [with] [f]un, dramatic, energetic, interesting and wild personalit[ies] ... MUST BE IN TO [sic] THE CLUB SCENE," according to a listing posted on the website of Chitown Entertainment, LLC, Schlessinger's company. The show's format, although reportedly up in the air, would have either followed the staff and patrons of one of the bars or kept the cameras rolling on an apartment inhabited by a group of young LGBT people.
Paul Cannella, owner of Scarlet bar, declined to comment on Schlessinger's criminal record but admitted his bar had already determined the series was "not a good fit for us" before receiving the news of Schlessinger's criminal history. Cannella acknowledged the proposed series had amassed considerable buzz in the short amount of time since it was announced but described the production company as "not very well financed or put together."
"I don't think this [series] is going to go anywhere," he added. Scarlet bar is located less than a half mile away from a school, the Nettelhorst Elementary School, 3252 N. Broadway.
John Dalton, co-owner of Minibar, also admitted his bar was already unlikely to pursue being a part of the series prior to this development. He described his bar patrons' excitement surrounding the series as "a kind of fun moment to have."
"This is definitely not something we'd want to associate ourselves with," Dalton added.
Neither Cannella nor Dalton knew whether any other neighborhood nightspots had been approached to participate in Schlessinger's series.
Noa Francis Shayden, a Chicagoan who had been in the running to participate as a cast member in the series, said he had not received any additional correspondence from the producer or any casting agents since a request for a video application around the time of the casting call. He added the development made him "a little wary" about working with Schlessinger on the series and hoped to be informed if any other show staff had criminal histories.
Los Angeles-based freelance casting directors whom Schlessinger had hired to work on the potential series indicated they were no longer involved with the project and had severed all ties with the Chicago producer. To their knowledge, the proposed series had not advanced beyond the recent casting calls.
Cannella, Dalton and the casting agents were all unaware of Schlessinger's criminal past, with Cannella reiterating in an email that Scarlet has withdrawn from being affiliated with the show, based on "a variety of reasons."
Schlessinger responded to Windy City Times but would not comment on the record for this story.
Schlessinger describes himself on the Chitown Entertainment, LLC, website as having "a love, passion, and devotion to music, artists, and the entertainment industry [that] dates back to the year 1991" when he first attended the MTV Video Music Awards. "With offices in Chicago, the UK, and Miami, his Success [sic] has exceeded his expectations in his ability to produce and promote sold out events and performances." It does not appear he has any previous experience producing reality television programs.
The sexual-assault convictions are the only felonies marking Schlessinger's criminal record but his name also made the headlines following a bizarre altercation the man initiated in a Lake Geneva, Wis., steakhouse in January 1994.
According to a Wisconsin State Journal story, Schlessinger was unhappy with the way his dinner had been prepared and chose to voice his displeasure by filing a lawsuit against "everyone ... in or out of sightincluding the town of Geneva, the town board and its members and the town's police department and ... chief of police." After the 7th Circuit court called the lawsuit "goofy" and ordered Schlessinger to pay the court costs of those he sued, he filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. The high court did not take on his appeal.