Pictured Baton's anniversary. #2 Mimi Marks and more of the girls during the Baton's 36th anniversary weekend. Photos by Kirk Williamson. #3 Ginger Grant 'covers' Nightspots last week.
The Baton Show Lounge just celebrated its 36th anniversary, highlighted by new sets, dazzling costumes and the ever-appealing mystique of the venue's remarkable female impersonators. Seven of the club's amazing artists delighted a full house to their incomparable craft.
Performers study and salute icons like Cher, Jennifer Lopez and Whitney Houston with a sense of adoring exaggeration. The costumes tend to be as far out as the tactics used to wow the packed crowd. Some of the fashions leave little to the imagination other than the often asked, how did they do that? Yet other attire is inspired by the latest couture and street styles alike.
In the spirit of a traditional Las Vegas revue, the opening number for the Baton's anniversary show involved pink-feathered fans, but the choreographed routine was set to a piece from the camp classic movie Showgirlsso much for being traditional. At the Baton, anything goes and Ginger Grant's first performance of the night warned us that life is a cabaret. Decked out in an evening gown, Grant subtly was teasing the audience with suggestive facial expressions and saucy gestures, while lip-synching flawlessly. Ginger's humor manifested as she later took to the stage in a revealing piece, aping Cher's sailor-handy video 'If I Could Turn Back Time.'
Baton regular Regine Phillips telegraphed J-Lo's signature dance moves and renowned curves during 'Get Right,' while radiating just enough attitude underneath a beaming smile. Women would line up around the stage waving singles shortly thereafter as Regine returned to the stage with Ciara's hit single '1-2 Step.'
The curtains drew open to the introduction of Whitney Houston's anthem 'I Will Always Love You' as Whitney's doppelganger Sherri Payne sat in a chair with her head looking up into the crowd, as the troubled Mrs. Brown once did in her trademark video. The song bled into a dance medley of Houston's hit songs and Payne came to life, treating the crowd, which was ready with tips for this well-studied reenactment.
Victoria LePaige delivered another hit to the stage by bringing her 'Milkshake.' Decked out in denim with a maroon red highlighted wig, Victoria sparkled brighter than her rhinestone choker under the stage lights. The blonde beauty Monica Munro lead the performance of En Vogue's 'Free Your Mind' with three of the other Baton starlets and her star would shine as she breathed new life into Tori Lamaze's 'Don't Cha.' After the night's first set, Munro chatted comfortably amongst a gaggle of fans near the bar.
How could it be that the performer Chilli Pepper was shyly peering through the back stage door into the audience after just strutting on stage like Tina Turner, demanding a bigger tip from a handsome patron to the ironic selection of Sheryl Crow's 'A Change Would Do You Good'?
Chicago native Ginger Grant has been performing at the Baton for 18 years now and finds that every day working there is a reward. Ginger's good nature and quick wit can be seen as she emcees the shows, taunting the brides-to-be light heartedly. Grant notes, 'it is like a big family at work and all of the girls are incredibly sweet.' As the show director, Ginger makes sure everything runs smoothly too.
Nestled between hotels and higher-end restaurants in River North, the Baton Show Lounge has more legs than most Chicago establishments. The audience is generally composed of bridal showers, birthday parties, tourists and even on occasion celebrities. During the filming of A League of Their Own, Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell went to the Baton and Mimi Marks performed a classic Madonna tune. The real Material Girl tipped the blonde bombshell twenties, leaving Marks not immediately recognizing the petite brunette fan, but once she did, the Baton's pin-up girl was left in complete awe.
In the entrance to the Baton Show Lounge are dozens of framed articles and pictures, revealing the club's rich history and many of the faces who have graced the venue's stage.
Out-of-town performers are welcomed, even during the anniversary showDeception, a diminutive blonde Southern Belle, took to the stage. Many of the Baton's starspast and presenthave been Miss Continental pageant winners and participants.
The Baton is open for fundraisers, as the club has been particularly supportive of Windy City Athletic Association because it is close to the heart of Baton owner Jim Flint, former association president. While reservations are advised, the Baton is open Wednesday through Sundays, with 3 shows per night, consisting of about 20 numbers.
Call ( 312 ) 644-5269, 436 N. Clark.