Chicago Pt 3.
The New Flight ...
"I worked there from '82 until it closed in 1988. I would say that Bob Goodman was probably the best man that I ever worked for. He took care of his people, his people being both his employees and his customers. If you had a problem and you told Bob about it, he would find some kind of solution for you, whether it be monetary or whatever.
"The bar closed because, as Bob himself would tell you, he was stupid. He was offered the chance to buy the building in 1980 and he turned the guy down, saying he felt it was too much money. He had a 10-year lease, from '78 to '88. Bob didn't realize what was going to happen to the area. If he'd bought the building at that time he could have looked back and said, 'I got it for a song.' But he didn't buy it, and as soon as the lease was up they wanted to triple his rent and he said, 'No way.' That was the end of the bar.
"The Flight was known as a hustler bar, which is what it was, but we took care of our people. If there was a bad hustler we would not let the person work the bar, but by the same token, if there was a bad john we'd make sure they were not welcome. We couldn't actually throw these people out, or refuse them entry, because they never did anything in the bar, but say you're a hustler and I see you talking to a john, and I know you're a bad boy or he's a bad man, I'd just pull one of you aside and say, 'Hey, that guy you're talking to is not cool and I'd be very, very cautious.'
"That's the way we kept the house clean, and pretty soon the johns realized they couldn't pick anybody up, or the hustler couldn't pick anybody up, so they just stopped coming in."
Paying off the cops ...
"I never actually saw that. I think by the time I started working in bars that era was over, with the death of Richard J. Daley and the end of the Big Machine. Maybe some of the bars still did, but if they did I didn't know about it.
"There was one time I was working at Le Pub and it was New Year's Eve and there was supposed to be a pay-off, so that we could stay open all night, but it never materialized. That was the closest I saw, but by the time I got into the business, it was like, 'You can't do that to us anymore.' The bar owners made sure they kept everything on the up and up and we had to be very strict with checking ID's because if you don't do that you do have to pay them off ... if you want to keep your business running."
Arrests at the Flight ...
"Every so often they would come in and pick up a hustler and charge us with running a house of prostitution. I was arrested two times as keeper of the house, and we had a very good lawyer and I beat the rap both times.
"The second time, a cop came in and he's talking to this kid and I'm looking at him. I walked over to Tommy behind the bar and said, 'Tommy, why does that guy look familiar, but not in a good way?' Tommy looks at him and said, 'That's M_______ ."
"I knew that name, because he was the cop that arrested me two months before. I was behind the bar that night, but this night I was on the floor. I was working as a doorman. I walked over to him and said, 'Excuse me Officer M_______ is there a problem?' He goes, 'No, there's no problem.' I said, 'If there's a problem I want to take care of it right now, because I don't feel like going to jail.'
"I'm talking to the cop, trying to give the kid a hint, but he was so stupid he didn't take it. So I just said, 'Ok,' and I went back up in front. On their way out the door I said, 'See you after you get out of jail, Bobby.' That was the kid.
"Then M_______ , whose name was also Bob, said, 'You won't see him when he gets out of jail, because you're going with him.' When we got to court, I told the judge exactly what happened, and the judge said, 'Officer is this true, did this man approach you in the bar and ask if there was a problem?' M_______ said, 'Yes.'
"So the judge said to me, 'What would you have done if he said, "Yes, there is a problem?"' I said, 'I would have followed my boss's instructions and walked over to the phone and dialed 911, and said, 'There's a problem involving a police officer in the bar.'
"So the judge said, 'Do you know what kind of trouble that would have caused?' I said, 'Well, yes, but that's what I would have done. If there's a problem in my bar, I want it snuffed out right away. I'm the doorman and my job is to check ID's and quell disturbances. If there's a problem I want it taken care of.'
"And the judge says, 'Case dismissed!'"
Memory Check: The New Flight at 420 N. Clark St. opened approx. April 1976. At the time, it was described by one paper as having an "attractive decor lounge featuring mechanical games and pool table. Pop and easy listening jukebox. Attracts a leisure, conversational crowd."
The bar was co-owned by brothers Bob and Howard Goodman, and their sister Harriet Freeman. Howard died in October 1980. In 1979, the Sunday afternoon buffet at 5 p.m. was a popular feature, and would include meat loaf and gravy with mashed potatoes and vegetables + three salads.
Future historians take note: The memory section in this column contains just that—memories—and are only to be used as a starting point for your research. Send your stories to Sukie de la Croix at Windy City Times. You can leave a message on his voicemail at 773-871-7610. He interviews over the phone, in person, or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org