Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Starting Over" From Uptown

Did you know that Uptown was the year-long setting for a nationally syndicated reality show? Centric TV, a deep cable channel, has been showing reruns this week of Starting Over, filmed here in 2003-2004. It depicted a rotating cast of six women, each of whom sought to make a personal change, ranging from becoming a stand-up comedian, to getting over a husband's death, to losing weight. As they "graduated" from Starting Over House (a lovely home on the 4200 block of Hazel), new women in search of their own changes replaced them in the house.

As with so many things in Uptown, the show started out with a controversy. "Starting Over House" was originally a mansion in the Gold Coast, but the neighbors caught wind that there might be (gasp) an ex-con among the women in the original cast. They actually sued to keep "a halfway house for malcontents" out of their rarified air. So the show left its original location on the 1300 block of LaSalle Street and ended up in Uptown.

Starting Over is like a snapshot of Uptown in the early Aughties. The ladies go shopping at Whole Foods, donate old clothes to the Salvation Army store on the 4300 block of Broadway, and throw stones representing their previous selves into the waters at Montrose Harbor. After a year of filming in Chicago, the production moved to L.A. -- and we stopped watching. Search your local listings; we're enjoying re-watching this week on Centric.


  1. Very cool, but Q: Where is the Whole Foods in Uptown?

  2. Gold coasters actually sued to keep the new-agey television self help program away!!!

    This little nugget succinctly demonstrates the about 98% of points I have tried to make on this blog.

    Uncaring, closed-minded people do not magically all decide to move to Uptown. On the contrary. Uptown has been a zone for political theater in Chicago since the late 60s. It is where the affluent from the city and suburbs act out a sort of colonialist farce where on one hand they are the absentee landlords, landbankers and developers and on the other hand where they attempt to "shoulder their burden" by using political power and money to keep the homeless, the poor, people with mental illness and substance abuse problems far, far away from them.

    I wouldn't be so upset about all of this (it is not uncharacteristic of economic elites elsewhere) were it not for two related twists. The first one being that the business of keeping things far, far away is also accompanied by "acts of charity" in which this group also donates money or time to inner-city causes but fails to see any connection between their "good acts" and what they are otherwise doing economically and politically that really does make it so that one does not encounter similar crime, mental illness and despair on the streets where they live. These acts are viewed by themselves as being self-less acts by both themselves, their peers and the institutional recipients of their largesse, which leads me to my second issue. As if it were not enough for such people to ease their conscious and achieve tax breaks and social status in the process, this perspective of themselves comes out in a nasty way when people who actually live here raise objections to some of the things they do. Afterall, they are fighting the injustices of the world how could any moral person stand in their way? People standing in the way must be the face of the enemy.

  3. I never commented about Laura Washington's hurtful comments printed in the Sun Times when Helen Shiller decided not to run. It was just too much for me to figure out what to say in response to someone who was able to paint the residents of a neighborhood with such a broad brush. Sure, there are people here who will say "no" to anything. There are also some really conservative people who support all kinds of political positions that would result in taking away what little help underserved people in the community already have. But I don't see any reason to see that their percentage is any higher here than elsewhere. I actually think there is probably more evidence to support that some of the people who may come across that way have been "trained" to say no first and ask questions later by the fact that this community has an internal rift and people don't trust each other. Anyone who knows a bit of Uptown history can support that claim.

    I hope that with the new election, and in the new year, Uptown can finally turn a page and claim its place. We are wonderful and entirely capable of working together to make this a great place for all to live. If others, who live elsewhere, would like to join in...why not move here? The possibilities for change exist in our bonds as neighbors first and foremost. For those who won't live here, please do us the courtesy of judging your own community thoroughly first before you judge mine.