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'Boystown' producer: 'The show will go on'
by Joseph Erbentraut, Windy City Times

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Shortly on the heels of the news of two East Lake View nightspots withdrawing from his proposed Jersey Shore-esque, LGBT-centric reality television show due at least in part to their new knowledge of his criminal record, Boystown producer and Chitown Entertainment, LLC, CEO David Schlessinger released a statement May 5 indicating that the show will proceed.

According to Schlessinger, three bars—Circuit, Spin and Hydrate—are "very supportive and remain eager to be part of the reality show production." Conversations with prospective cast members, he claimed, have remained ongoing, adding that none have backed out from the project and plans for additional location shoots are in the works. Essentially, he added, "the future of the show is in no jeopardy whatsoever."

As Windy City Times reported last week, Schlessinger pled guilty to and was convicted of three separate sexual-assault charges—one predatory, two aggravated—concerning the assaults of three underage boys between June 1995 and January 1997. According to court records, Schlessinger met the boys while cruising through Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. He was sentenced to three years prison time in each case—sentences he served concurrently—and remains listed on the state's sex offender registry.

During the weekend of April 15, following a few weeks of scouting, Schlessinger and Los Angeles-based casting directors hosted casting calls for his proposed reality series at two Halsted Street bars, Scarlet and Minibar. Management from both establishments have since backed out of the project.

Sean Kotwa, manager of Hydrate, one of the three bars Schlessinger described as "eager to be part" of his show, confirmed to Windy City Times late last week that his bar "can no longer support" the series. Management of the other two bars—Circuit and Spin—did not respond to the paper's request for comment at press time, although Circuit owner Mike Macharello told the RedEye he has "chosen to just give the guy a chance and help him out" by working with him on the show.

Schlessinger, who did not comment on record for the original May 4 story, has hired publicist Glenn Selig, the Tampa, Fla.-based founder of the Publicity Agency. Selig, whose most well-known clients have included former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and former suburban Chicago police officer Drew Peterson, specializes in "crisis management public relations," according to his company's website.

Selig described his client as "civic-minded and community-involved" in reference to Schlessinger's 2006 appointment by the National Republican Congressional Committee to the position of honorary chairman on the Business Advisory Council for the state of Illinois and a letter the 45-year-old received from the office of Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2004. The letter thanked Schlessinger for "reporting [his] City service needs" to the office, which appeared to result in the installation of a new street light.

"This could be a positive story. Instead, the media has decided to make it a negative one," Selig told Windy City Times, adding that the show would bring new jobs to the community as well as national exposure to "what locals already know to be a good neighborhood." All of the show participants, he noted, are at least 21 years old.

"Dave deserves to be treated fairly," he continued. "Regurgitating a headline story from 15 years ago and implying that it somehow applies today is just plain wrong. And I will do everything I can to protect Dave's reputation."

In his May 6 statement, Schlessinger said he "[is] and always [has] been truly sorry for the mistakes that I made 15 years ago. I have taken responsibility for these actions and their consequences. If anything, I have used them as a learning experience to help me grow to become a better person."

"The reporting at this time in my life, as if it were some revelation, only serves to publicly humiliate me," he added.

One Boystown resident, a 21-year-old gay man who wished to remain anonymous for this story, sees it differently and said he would boycott "any bar or club that does choose to do business with [Schlessinger]." The resident, who identified himself as a survivor of sexual abuse as a child, said he did "not want a man like him to represent the Chicago gay community in any way" and felt others like him would likely have a similar reaction.

"My gay friends and I look forward to any other responsible people in the Boystown community to stand up against this mockery and self-degradation," he added.

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