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On former Playboy centerfold and society blogger Candace Jordan

Belle of the Blog: Three decades after steaming up the pages of Playboy, Candace Jordan is attracting eyeballs again—this time with her clothes on—as a sought-after party guest and cyberscribe. Circulating among the city’s socialites, she chronicles swank galas and charity auctions on her blog—required reading for Chicago’s see-and-be-seen set

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Recently, Jordan’s blatant bid for the TV spotlight has raised eyebrows. This past May, when Bill Zwecker’s Sun-Times column reported that Chicago-based Towers Productions was casting for a Real Housewives–like reality series, “it couldn’t have been more than my third e-mail that I heard from Candace,” says Towers’s casting director, Becky Cattie, laughing.

Then Jordan wrote a blog post imploring readers to lobby Cattie. (The post’s title: “Real Housewives of Chicago: Help me become one!”) “Next thing I know, at least five or six e-mails a day are coming in,” Cattie says. “It was like a week of bombardment. It became this big joke at the office: Who is this Candace girl? But it definitely made me think, Yes, this is a girl I have to meet.”

Ultimately, says Cattie, “I fell in love with her”—although she passed on Jordan for the series, which is now being shopped to networks. “I told Candace I think she needs to be on TV. I just have to find the right vehicle for her.” (More recently, Kurtis Productions called Jordan in for a two-hour meeting to discuss doing a show with her.)

Zwecker and CS printed subsequent articles about Jordan’s on-camera audition, which she blogged about on Candid Candace. So when I told a partygoer that I was following Jordan for an article, I wasn’t surprised when she sniped, “On what—how to become famous?”

“Most of the people I know who know her, love her,” Zwecker says. “But I’ve heard snarky remarks, people saying she is too pushy.”

For her part, Jordan says, “Pushy? I call it ambition. Without it, I’d probably still be in Dupo.”

“I think a lot of it is jealousy,” concludes Barr. “But she’ll win them over, because she’s so vivacious and a very good friend.”

* * *

Many have gone Team Jordan already. She is the vice president of the Joffrey Ballet’s women’s board. She also serves on boards for the chef Art Smith’s Common Threads, The Service Club of Chicago, and PAWS. “I love to tell the story of how I met her,” says Helen Melchior. “The Joffrey women’s board went to Miami to visit a dance company there, and we had a party. I walked up to this gorgeous woman I had never seen before and said, ‘Are you a member?’ And Candace said, ‘No, but I’m dying to be.’

“I loved her energy; I still do,” adds Melchior. When she had to hatch a new Joffrey fundraiser in 2006, Melchior chose Jordan as her co-chair. They concocted the now-annual soiree Couture & Cocktails. “We put it together in six weeks, and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had,” Melchior says. “She loves life; she loves her friends; she’s married to a wonderful man; and she doesn’t take any of it for granted.”

Now Jordan is also documenting much of it. The blogging started about two years ago, when Sherren Leigh, owner of Today’s Chicago Woman, suggested Jordan blog for the magazine’s new website. “I had no idea what a blog even was,” says Jordan, who was the magazine’s fashion editor.

She left in 2008, but by then she realized that blogging was, well, her destiny. “I’ve always been a photojournalist,” she says. “Every trip, I’ve got thousands of videos, and I would take a diary and update it every day. But I never thought there was an outlet for it.”

A friend helped her set up her own blog (she now e-mails it each Tuesday to 4,000 of her closest friends). She called it Candid Candace, she says, “because in Playboy, that’s what they called me, because I’m candid, very direct.”

She wrote about the parties she and Chuck—who retired after selling his ad agency—often attended. Some, such as her 50th birthday in St. Tropez, had been quite fabulous. “I’m very social,” she says. “Parties are what I know best.”

This past May, when ChicagoNow.com launched, it advertised for blogs to include on its site. “We got a lot of e-mails from people being told by Candace to write us,” says Bill Adee, the Chicago Tribune’s vice president of digital operations, with a wry smile. “But that was impressive. That’s a good sign, when a blogger tells people what to do, and they do it.”

Adee saw that Jordan’s party blog—which included photos of people like Jimmy and Patti Connors, with whom she had spent New Year’s Eve—filled a niche chronicling the celebrity-society nexus. “And even if she didn’t get a lot of page hits, I knew she’d be great to have around at our parties,” he jokes, alluding to ChicagoNow.com’s monthly cocktail gatherings.

The result: With invitations to sift through every day, parties to cover every night, and techno skills such as photo scanning and uploading to learn, this middle-aged woman is smack-dab in the midst of a modern rebirth. “It is, it is!” Jordan exclaims. “I’m busier now than I’ve ever been. My husband, poor thing—he’s slowed down, and I’m speeding up.”

Her blog at ChicagoNow.com earns her $5 per 1,000 page views. Mostly she covers Chicago shindigs, but her occasional jaunts elsewhere can garner impressive numbers: The January 3rd post about her and Chuck’s New Year’s Eve revelry at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles got 44,000 page views—including 23,000 the first three days it was posted.

Still, she says, “let’s just say I’m not going to retire on this.”

* * *

In 2003 and 2004, I wrote a society column for the Tribune, and I would often spot Jordan at benefits and luncheons. I never spoke to her much, yet I found myself both drawn to and bothered by her. It’s only now that I can put my finger on what bedeviled me so.

It was the audacity of hair.

That close-cropped, salt-and-pepper, shorter-than-her-husband’s coif. On some level, I probably found it brazen, a deliberate affront to the perfectly fine way every other woman in Chicago seemed to wear her hair: dyed, shoulder length, flowy (all the better to deflect attention from our aging faces). Like so many others, I suppose I was a little envious. “When she leaves the salon,” says her longtime hairdresser, Charles Ifergan, “all the women say, ‘Oh, I wish I could wear my hair like that.’”

More recently, as I leafed through Jordan’s scrapbooks of Playboy memorabilia and modeling shots, I came across another testament to her audacity. “That’s my life motto!” she said. Scrawled across a page were the words: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’”

“It’s been an exciting life,” Jordan reflects. “And it’s not over yet. That’s the scary part, my husband says!” And then she laughs—as usual.

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