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Chicago Pump Room Photo Treasure Trove is a Time Capsule RevealedBonnie King Salem-News.com
The historical photo collection by Fred Krueger is a unique find.
(SALEM, Ore.) - The Ambassador East Hotel, Chicago, was built in 1926 with 285 rooms. Over a dozen years later, Ernie Byfield launched The Pump Room, one of the first high class restaurants to open after the Prohibition era.
It was immediately "the place to be" in Chicago.
Byfield’s inspiration for The Pump Room was based on an 18th Century London pub, depicted in the novel “Monsieur Beaucare” by Booth Tarkington, which was frequented by celebrities and nobility including Queen Anne. The name specifically came from the hot drinks “pumped” into cocktail glasses for the rich and famous at the pub of olde.
Ernie Byfield was a quite a character, a showman, and he knew that his restaurant would be a hit if he replicated that unique noble ambiance. He did it, and it took off like wildfire. From the very beginning, The Pump Room was a hangout for actors and musicians – the delight of epicures, the meeting place of celebrities.
The Pump Room was known for its regal splendor with walls of deep translucent blue, luxurious white leather settees, sparkling crystal chandeliers, and dinners dramatically served on flaming swords according to an “old English custom”.
All was part of the illustrious Pump Room atmosphere that they came to experience. Everybody that was anybody came to the Pump Room when they were in Chicago.
Photographer Fred Krueger was there for it all.
Documented for All Time
Recently, an antiques dealer on the Oregon Coast was shown an incredible collection of photographs from the mid-late 1940s, and decided it was quite a find. The 100 plus photos in the collection by Fred Krueger show the Gold Coast restaurant as it was in its heyday -- the favorite Chicago destination for out-of-town luminaries.
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall went to the Pump Room on the night of their wedding. So did Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner. In later years, Mick Jagger ate there when the Stones hung out at the nearby Playboy Mansion. Paul Newman and Robert Redford ate there during the shooting of “The Sting”. It is nothing short of notorious as an eatery.
The entrance to the Pump Room is shown in Hitchcock’s film North by Northwest, and the restaurant is mentioned in songs by Judy Garland and many others; in the introduction to the Monkees song "Don't Call on Me" Micky Dolenz says "the elegant Pump Room...high over Chicago"; and in Frank Sinatra’s song “My Kind of Town”, he says “Chicago is the jumpin’ Pump Room”.
Phil Collins titled his album “No Jacket Required” after the Pump Room’s well-known dress code. Phil Collins was the drummer for Genesis, and was the only person not allowed to enter because he had no jacket. He was so offended that he named his solo album after the experience. It was a hit. The Pump Room apologized soon thereafter, and as an offer of truce, sent him a jacket.
Booth One in the Spotlight
Arturo Petterino was the maitre d' for many years, greeting the famous patrons at the entrance to the Pump Room, and steering certain VIPs to the coveted “Booth One” available only to the most famous during the glamour days of the 30’s and 40’s. That booth included a telephone, so the star could have a phone conversation right at the table. It was also the perfect place to have your picture taken.
“Booth One” was probably the most desired spot of any dining establishment in the entire country for a time, with the highest sought, most famous patrons. Many photos in the Fred Krueger collection were taken of whoever was seated in that vaunted spotlight. Others capture the moment as stars, big and small, smile for his camera in different Pump Room locations and poses, history in the making.
Some of the photos are of Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Bogie and Bacall, Lou Costello, Bing Crosby, Basil Rathbone, Bob Hope,, Morton Downey, Loretta young, Greer Garson, Judy Garland, Dorothy Lamour, Olivia DeHavilland, Errol Flynn, Cyd Chryse, Ann Sothern, Cornell Wilde, Shirley Temple, Burt Lancaster, Jimmy Stewart, Lowel Thomas, Roy Rogers, Jack Benney, Walter Pidgeon, Jimmy Durante, Ernest Byfield, June Lockhart, Hal Roach Sr, and many many more. (Complete list available upon request)
Return to the Grandeur of Yesteryear
In April 2010, the Ambassador East Hotel was sold to Ian Schrager Co. It was completely remodeled as the “Public Chicago Hotel” and reopened in fall 2011. Entrepreneur Ian Schrager’s most notorious project was back in the 70’s, when he and his late partner Steve Rubell created Studio 54. He has achieved international recognition for revolutionary concepts in the entertainment and hospitality industries, and the new acquisition would be another fantastic, demonstration of his talents.
Along with the new hotel makeover came the restaurant restoration. But a new name? As Chicagoans are notoriously loyal to whence they came, the traditional Pump Room name won a popular vote of the people, and therefore remains a Chicago icon, even with the turning of a new leaf, of a new millennium.
‘Who was there’ and ‘what they did' is important to locals and tourists alike. Those that have an interest in the historical side of the hotel restaurant are as passionate as those intrigued by the lives of celebrities, and all that remains of that bygone era. They want to see it all.
Today there is a separate street entrance for The Pump Room. That is where you’ll find most of the restaurant’s historic black and white photos, turning the tiny vestibule into a gathering place for a very special sentimental journey.
With the passage of the golden era, the flaming swords have been long extinguished. The new Pump Room has created its own orbit, its own place in the universe. There are no more white tablecloths, and the semicircular booths are now wrapped in butter-soft camel-hued Italian leather, an understated, but classic look. And yes, there is still a Booth One.
Get the picture?
Photographer Fred Krueger spent the better part of his life at the Pump Room, at the ready. The actual photos that he shot 1946-48, many that were published in magazines and newspapers, are together in an album put together by a family member.
They are the only known prints. It is a collection of over 100 8 x 10 original glossy photos in fair-to-good condition complete with photographer’s original notes in many cases. With respect to the historical significance of Chicago’s Pump Room, these photos belong somewhere.
They would be an integral aspect of any documentary about those “glamour days” of the 30s and 40s; a spectacular addition to any visual merchandising, reproduction endeavor, or Hollywood collection.
The Pump Room's bygone days represent a part of American culture that deserves to be remembered, and in some ways it lives on, in those black and white photographs. Keeping it alive is easy. It's all in the remembering.
Watch the VIDEO below to see more of the Krueger Collection:
Video produced by Bonnie King; Music by Gilad Atzman
Bonnie King has been Publisher of Salem-News.com since August '04. She is a photographer and video producer, writer, editor and mother, which she considers her greatest position. Bonnie has served in a number of positions in the broadcast industry; TV Production Manager at KVWB (Las Vegas WB) and Producer/Director for the TV series "Hot Wheels in Las Vegas", posts as TV Promotion Director for KYMA (NBC), and KFBT (Ind.), Asst. Marketing Director (SUPERSHOPPER MAGAZINE), Director/Co-Host (Coast Entertainment Show), Radio Promotion Director (KBCH/KCRF), and Newspapers In Education/Circulation Sales Manager (STATESMAN JOURNAL NEWSPAPER).
Bonnie has a depth of understanding that reaches further than just behind the scenes, and that thoroughness is demonstrated in the perseverance to correctly present each story with the wit and wisdom necessary to compel and captivate viewers and readers alike. An lifetime activist for just causes, she continues to strive to present facts that support Truth, Justice and Peace, as we are in the world to change the world for the better. "TJP"
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