Visiting nightspots for 100 Bars We Love, Jennifer Wehunt explored a lot of unfamiliar territory. “I felt like I was taking these mini adventures,” says Wehunt, Chicago’s events editor and the coeditor of the article. “I did develop a taste for trying these new places.” After collecting input from a wide circle of informants, Wehunt and her collaborators spent weeks paring down the list, eliminating some favorite places in the search for spots that had that special something. “One hundred is actually such a small percentage of the thousands upon thousands of bars in Chicago,” she says. Wehunt edits the magazine’s monthly recommendations of cultural happenings around town, Chicago Guide, and the popular weekly e-newsletter of the same name.
AMALIE DRURY, Chicago’s nightlife writer, shouldered a large research burden for 100 Bars We Love. “I love the shock value of telling people I’m working on a story about the 100 best bars,” she says. “It makes people think I’m a nightlife warrior.” She ended up visiting several dozen places, which was more than her initially enthusiastic friends could take. “Everybody got nightlife fatigue,” she says. “More people started staying home to watch Gossip Girl.” Drury writes the print column Cheers and the weekly Chicagomag.com blog The Chaser, both narrating her barhopping exploits.
Louis Susman, whom CAROL FELSENTHAL writes about in Our Man in London, ascended last year from being a rainmaking Democratic fundraiser to being the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. After interviewing him, “I went off on one gigantic tangent,” Felsenthal says. She investigated the reigning system for choosing ambassadors, in which political bundlers often are rewarded with the cushier posts in stable, wealthy countries. “The U.S. is the only developed power that picks its ambassadors this way, and our method lines up perfectly with banana republics and dumb dictatorships,” says Felsenthal, a contributing editor to Chicago. One duty of ambassadors is to host visiting citizens at the embassy. “I don’t think that I’m going to be invited,” she says.
NATHAN KIRKMAN photographed pinball machines old and new for Bumper Crop, a photo essay about Chicago’s historical connection with pinball, in collaboration with the writer J. C. Gabel. Kirkman tried to capture the distinctive exterior aesthetic of the machines—but also opened them up to see the style on the inside. “The wiring was really graphic, almost like an abstract painting,” he says. He wasn’t interested in playing the games, though: “I don’t have enough attention span to finish a whole game.” Kirkman also photographed The California Clipper for this month’s cover.
“The biggest occupational hazard is you really can’t drink on the job. It affects focus,” says CHRIS GUILLEN. Having photographed nightlife for Chicago for more than ten years, including for 100 Bars We Love, Guillen is speaking both literally and figuratively. But even if he were drinking, he wouldn’t exactly blend in with the crowd. “I’m a six-four bald man,” he explains. He does, however, have a well-honed strategy: Find the two or three people who typify the spirit of a place and capture them in vibrant color and style. “Somebody told me my goal was ‘You’re taking sexy,’” he says.
Photography: (Wehunt) La Juana Wehunt, (Drury) Jayson Lawfer, (Guillen) Taras