America lost its greatest cabaret singer ever with the death of Bobby Short
last week. Although best known for his performances at the Carlyle Hotel, Short
was a native of downstate Danville, Illinois and was frequently in Chicago for
club and private engagements.
We were fortunate to meet Bobby Short in 1989 when we were in the midst of
raising funds to build the Eli M. Schulman Playground and reconstruct Seneca
Park. The budget for the project was over $400,000 and we needed a major
fundraising event to make it possible. We were so fortunate to have Mr. Short
agree to come in for a performance at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, which is located
just north of the Park. Thanks to the generous support of the Ritz , Michael and
Kathy Leventhal of Ronsley who provided all the decor, and over 350 very
generous friends of Eli’s and the community, we raised much of the money
required. The photo below is of Mr. Short with Maureen and me and the Mayor and
Mrs. Daley. We were also fortunate to have the project covered by John Teets and
Rick Kogan in the Tribune, which articles are also below.
Mr. Short was scheduled to return to Chicago on April 15th to receive the
Illinois Arts Legends Award from the Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation. The
event, to be emceed by Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun Times and CBS2 Chicago
will now be a tribute to Mr. Short
In Short, it was a delicious evening;
By: John Teets
Oct 25, 1989.
“It was just one of those nights,” Bobby Short was singing with gusto-which
meant, of course, that it was NOT just any old evening.
It was a hundred-thousand-dollar night, in fact: That’s what the party in the
grand ballroom of the Ritz netted for the Eli M. Schulman Playground/Seneca Park
reconstruction project, which is turning the little plot of land between the
Water Tower Pumping Station and the Chicago Avenue Armory into a slice of
civilized heaven. It’s a memorial to the late Eli (who ran the restaurant across
from the park), spearheaded by his son and daughter-in-law, Marc and Maureen
Short, king of the Carlyle, sultan of the Gold Star and el supremo of style,
held a short clinic on the history of American popular music-studded, of course,
with songs as luscious as macadamia nuts in a cheesecake.
A little earlier, somebody let it slip at the microphone that Maureen is
expecting (“And I shopped for weeks for a dress that wouldn’t make me look
pregnant,” she sighed later).
Others talked more about the $385,000 project, which includes tree-lined
promenades, wonderful playground equipment, old-fashioned benches and lights and
a new wrought-iron fence.
And old friends of Eli’s nodded knowingly when word got out about a Deborah
Butterfield sculpture that would be going up in the east end of the renovated
park: It’s a horse, Eli’s favorite four-legged creature-on the track or off.
Child of Chicago lives on…in a slice of city
Oct 8, 1989
Friday night, Bobby Short will perform at a dinner/dancing benefit for the
playground and park. Already more than $300,000 has been raised and this final
blowout will raise enough to finish the work.
“Any surplus we have left we will donate to other park projects around the
city,” said Marc Schulman, the only child of Eli and Esther.
A former lawyer, Marc is the fellow who took Eli’s Cheesecake and made it a
national sensation, who continues to run the restaurant and has been the
principal mover behind the park project.
We had bumped into him just a few days ago when, walking home, we decided to
vary our path so it would take us through the park.
Even before we had crossed Chicago Avenue we noticed changes. Toward the
west, close by the firehouse built in 1902, there were two sections now occupied
by a gleaming choo-choo train, a baby swing and all manner of playthings for
A brick path cut through the park and near it stood Marc Schulman. With him
was Maria Whiteman, the Park District architect who designed the new park. She
told us that when the work was completed, the park would contain Japanese lilac
trees, wrought iron benches, daisies and lights reminiscent of old Chicago.
“We’ve been lucky,” said Schulman. “This is an affluent area and that
combined with the many friends Eli had made raising the money less difficult
than it might have been. And made the work go much faster.
“I can’t wait until I can come here in the spring, when it’ll be crowded with
people, with kids.”
The little children, of course, won’t know who Eli Schulman was. Maybe they
will ask. And maybe, if their parents know, they will learn of this gentle man
who used to come here too, for a bit of quiet and peace.