The L&L Tavern sits on North Clark, about half a mile south of Wrigley Field. The owner’s a bit of a celebrity and, should he deem you worthy of service, can set you up with your favorite liquor and/or Stroh’s, PBR or Blatz. Or, of course, an Old Style.
It’s rumored that both John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer frequented the L & L back in the day, separated by many years. And, should you find yourself inside, it’s easy to believe. They’ve done nothing at all to spruce the place up since it opened in the 50s. Though they do have one hell of a jukebox.
On one of many occasions I stopped in with a classmate from Second City, it was snowing Hollywood style. Massive flakes coming down in buckets, a calm, almost comforting snow. The silence was deafening. As my classmate and I stepped outside to have a smoke, we were approached by a slight man. He was dark with a beautiful, bright smile – as wide as the nearby lake.
There was nothing threatening about him, in fact, he exuded a tenderness. His name, he told us, was Jean-Pierre and he’d been in Chicago for three years having landed there from Haiti. We gave him a cigarette, he’d very politely asked for – and he, in turn, offered us some of his Southern Comfort. Why not?
We were enjoying Jean-Pierre very much. He was completely lucid, well spoken, fluent in English and French and didn’t mind the streets, he said. “Chicago has been good to me,” he said, smiling – even during what had been the worst winter there in 70 years.
By the time our cigarettes were getting to their butts, he started singing. Beautifully.
I knew the song, and when he nodded, I joined in. When we finished, Jean-Pierre cupped his left ear to get the note right and started again, motioning for us to pick up the harmony. We looked with surprise at one another, not only did we all know the song, damn it, we sounded good.
One more cigarette? One more pass of the Southern Comfort? One more round of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman?” Hell yes. He wandered away with an even bigger smile and we thanked Jean-Pierre for making a cold night warm.