Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-03-13
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



BOOKS Jim Elledge spills 'Fairy Town' secrets at Unabridged
by Liz Baudler

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Gay history descended upon Lake View's Unabridged Bookstore June 20, when Unabridged employee and local historian Owen Keehnen interviewed Jim Elledge, the author of the recently released Boys of Fairy Town.

The book is a comprehensive look at the lives of Chicago's gay men from the 1860s to just before World War II, and contains both little-known tales of gay life as well as in-depth portraits of seminal figures in Chicago's gay history.

As Keehnen pointed out, gay stories were often "sensational," and therefore covered in great depth in more "scandal-sheet" style newspapers rather than the Tribune. Elledge said his primary means of research were the copious microfilm archives at the public library, as well as the Burgess papers at the University of Chicago.

One of Elledge's research discoveries was the nightclub performer and female impersonator Frances Carrick, who ended up legally marrying a man with Indiana government officials none the wiser. In her time in Chicago, things took a turn when Carrick was accused of murdering an insurance agent who had recently had dealings with Al Capone's mobsters. According to Elledge, Carrick was likely innocent and the police were not pursuing the real killer with any real passion. But as for the trial, "you'll have to read to find out the rest," Elledge teased. As Keehnen said, Carrick's adventures could be a plausible TV miniseries. ( People can find out more by checking out a recent Windy City Times interview with Elledge about his book. )

Sadly, Elledge found there was very little information on any actual girls of Fairy Town. "I couldn't even find enough to fill a chapter," he admitted.

Keehnen observed that many of Elledge's source materials were written accounts, including many firsthand narratives, and that printed material is harder to historically eradicate. An early for Elledge was the diaries of John Wing, a Chicago newspaperman who had chronicled his gay life in diaries since he was 13, including actual names of men he shared a bed with. Although, as Elledge explained, sharing a bed was a much more common back then, and less suspicious. In fact, sharing a bed with a "less fortunate man" was considered "a Good Christian act."

As Keehnen described, Chicago's gay culture took a huge hit after the Great Depression. While the '20s featured a "pansy craze," when overtly gay men were popular entertainers and a drag queen in Bronzeville could make enough money to buy respect, the gay scene was forced underground in the '30s, when ferreting out vice became a public preoccupation. Keehen asked Elledge if the same societal reversal was possible today.

"It only takes a few laws," Elledge replied.

To the delight of all, Elledge also revealed secret histories of Chicago places. Apparently, Museum Campus used to be a notorious gay hobo camp, and if you wore a red tie down State Street by the former Marshall Fields, you were in the market for men. The same was true of Randolph and State under the clock—if you crossed your arms.

The well-informed and curious audience wanted to know how exactly Elledge determined who was really gay in an era where the word "odd" in a newspaper may have multiple implications. Elledge described a process of looking for corroborating evidence of a person's sexuality through and in census records. Did they live with a man for several years? Were they both artists? This was often the best he could do. "Most people didn't leave much behind," he said.

Issues of social class came up in response to other inquiries. Elledge agreed with an audience member that the material he found mostly applied to lower and working class men, who had less income to pay off the police or media if they should be caught in a gay scandal. Races and classes would mingle in Bronzeville cabarets, the home of pianist Tony Jackson, who wrote "Pretty Baby" about one of his male lovers, and where popular jazz acts like Cab Calloway were often backed up by female impersonators. And in general, Elledge explained, class and money struggles created a climate where boys as young as 6 were abandoned on the street or sent to asylums when their families could no longer take care of them. Asylums were also a place where people who had been arrested for masturbating—the act then code for gay behavior—could be sent for the rest of their lives.

Chicago in the 1800s, Elledge concluded, was "a real rough place to live."

Related coverage at .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

NATIONAL Couples' eviction, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, dancer sentenced 2019-03-20 - A lesbian couple filed a complaint against the transitional housing facility they once called home after they were forced out, LGBTQ Nation reported. ...

Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls 2019-03-17 - By T Kira Madden $27; Bloomsbury Publishing; 304 pages Anyone who came of age in the late 1990s and early 2000s ...

Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Dugan's Bistro and the Legend of the Bearded Lady 2019-03-15 - By Owen Keehnen $17; Out Tales, Publishing; 148 pages Bob Theiss contained multitudes—most under a completely different name. Known as the Bearded ...

Gay News

Clarence Darrow Symposium in Chicago on March 13 2019-03-13 - CHICAGO—The annual Chicago tradition marking the anniversary of the death of famed Chicago attorney Clarence Darrow will take place Wed., March 13—and will ...

Gay News

Gerber/Hart hosts Black Lesbian Archives stop 2019-03-12 - Kru Maekdo is a 26-year-old creative director, archivist, and artist. She is the owner of Maekdo Productions, a multimedia production and event programming ...

Gay News

BOOKS Chicago author talks space opera, queer representation 2019-03-09 - Chicago author/Hollywood stuntwoman SL Huang ( author of the science-fiction novel Zero Sum Game ) has recently teamed with fellow authors Becky Chambers ...

Gay News

BOOKS Kimberly Dark's 'Daddies' issues 2019-03-08 - Writer and raconteur Kimberly Dark plucks the fig leaf off the patriarchy in her latest work. In The Daddies, writer and raconteur Dark ...

Gay News

BOOKS Sissy Pride, Talking With Gender Activist and Author Jacob Tobia 2019-03-07 - Sissy: A Coming of Gender Storyis a smart, compelling, honest and very funny new memoir by Jacob Tobia. In the book, the ...

Gay News

Women & Children First March events include noted authors 2019-03-06 - Wednesday, March 6 at 7 p.m. Am I Man Enough? Storytelling Show & Podcast ( This is the rescheduled date due ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Tyler Blackburn, Ellen Page, Isaac Mizrahi, Annie Lennox 2019-03-06 - Former Pretty Little Liars actor Tyler Blackburn recently talked with Entertainment Weekly about the same-sex relationship his character, Alex, has on the new ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.