The First Straight Dope Column

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Dear Cecil: Remember after the ’68 Democratic convention a number of professional/ academic associations cancelled plans for future conventions in Chicago because of what happened here. Did they follow through on their threats, and how much convention business has Chicago lost as a result? D.F., Rogers Park


Cecil replies:

Apparently there were some unsavory circumstances attached to the 1968 convention, and, as a result, several groups reacted by cancelling Chicago convention dates or agreeing not to bring future meetings to Chicago. God only knows what got these people so upset, but whatever it was, it seems to have blown over, since most of the associations involved have returned to Chicago since ’68 or have future plans to do so. You can’t really blame them — Chicago is an ideal convention site.

The American Sociological Association cancelled planned meetings for 1969, ’72, and ’76 but will return in ’77. The American Psychological Association, which cancelled a 1969 date, will be back in ’75. The American Humanistic Association, citing a “massive affront to human dignity,” vowed not to return for five years. They were back in 1971, three years later. None of the groups reported any adverse reactions from their memberships when plans to return to Chicago were announced.

In all, seven conventions were lost at the very least. In 1968, after three or four groups had made their announcements, the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau estimated the 1969 loss to be about $6,000,000. Although they recently verified that figure (which is what you’d expect them to do), it’s impossible to say with certainty how much business was lost, since some groups might have cancelled or changed tentative plans without making a lot of noise about it. Also, it’s possible that some groups were attracted to Chicago because of the Democratic convention incidents — where do you think the American Redneck Association holds its meetings, for example?

Do I really live in the city’s highest crime neighborhood?

— L. Becker, Uptown

Cecil replies:

Not exactly, but you’re close. The 20th police district, which corresponds roughly to Uptown and Rogers Park, was tied for sixth place (out of 21 districts) in total crimes for 1972. Assuming that there is lots more crime in Uptown than there is in Rogers Park (a safe assumption, I think), you’re right up there with the best.

The city’s highest crime district is the 2nd, which runs from the Ryan east to 800 E. between 35th and 55th Streets. Second prize goes to the 7th District, stretching from the Ryan west to Western between 55th and 75th Streets.

Speaking of the Kinetic Playground, whatever became of Aaron Russo?

— M.L., New Town

Cecil replies:

The word on Russo, who ran the old Kinetic, is that he now lives in New York and is involved in Bette Midler’s management.

Is the Bryn Mawr Theater as successful as it seems to be? If so, why don’t more neighborhood theaters follow their lead?

 — Pat Martin, Lincoln Park

Cecil replies:

The Bryn Mawr, which charges $.60 admission for adults and always seems to be full, is every bit as successful as it seems to be. They went to the low price policy about 12 years ago — if they weren’t making money with it, they wouldn’t be sticking with it.

The Bryn Mawr shows movies long after their inital release. Therefore, they pay lower film rental and they rarely get stuck with a bomb. Of course, they rarely get a premier socko smash, but they settle for a modest, steady income; meanwhile, the larger theaters, many of which are chain-owned, take their chances and hope for the big buck. The Bryn Mawr is able to pay projectionists less because of their low admission price, and they run a small tight operation. In short, they are not greedy, and they are smart.

Other neighborhood theater owners don’t follow the Bryn Mawr’s lead because they are greedy and stupid.

Cecil Adams

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