Monday night’s lavish grand-opening bash for the new JW Marriott hotel in the Loop reminded me of prerecession partying, circa 2006. Gift bags! A full bar! Lobster on the buffet! Even a celebrity attendee!
On a small “red” (actually black) carpet in the hotel’s lobby, Emmy Rossum, the star of the 2004 film version of The Phantom of the Opera, posed in a yellow Grecian-style dress as a smattering of media types snapped her photo. Rossum, 24, has been spending a lot of time in Chicago lately while filming her edgy new Showtime series, Shameless. The show reportedly includes topless scenes, but since Rossum’s Phantom-era image was so wholesome, I wasn’t sure how she would answer my questions about where she drinks in Chicago (a smoothie shop, perhaps?). Being The Chaser, I asked anyway.
The Chaser: Where have you been partying it up in the Windy City?
Emmy Rossum: Oh, I like Rockit quite a bit. Some of the other cast members and I have been hanging out there.
TC: So you know Billy Dec, I presume?
ER: Yes, he’s a cool guy.
TC: A lot of celebrities seem to think so. Rockit’s always jammed with visiting stars. Anywho, do you feel like people in Chicago gawk at you any more than they might in New York or L.A.?
ER: No way. People here are super nice and usually treat me completely normally. Chicago’s kind of become my second home for the moment.
TC: What’s your go-to cocktail?
ER: Woodford Reserve on the rocks.
TC: You’re blowing my mind right now. I thought you’d say rum and Diet Coke or something similarly low-cal.
ER: Nope. I’m a bourbon girl.
Later I ran into Rossum in the ballroom just before she sang for Mr. Marriott. My friend Tim and I had snagged a very large cupcake—easily five times the size of a normal cupcake—from the Crumbs table, and we were busily snapping photos of it. I think it was intended for display purposes only, but it was red velvet, so we dug in.
ER: What the hell is that? [sidling up to our table]
Tim: It’s a humungous cupcake. Would you like a clean fork?
She declined. I imagine that much sugar isn’t good for the pipes right before a performance.
Rossum sang three songs, including the ever-emotional “Think of Me” from Phantom. She sounded great, and everyone clapped. Performance, interviews, and speeches complete, she hopped off the stage and chirped to a handler: “And now it’s time for a drink!”
I knew just what she would order.
At the end of the night, I stopped by the Marriott’s lobby lounge. The hotel interior is mostly contemporary luxury at its corporate best, but the design philosophy behind the bar’s bronze-tiled fountain is a mystery to me, especially the glowing pile of crystals up top. Fountain aside, I predict the lounge—with its cozy couches, flatbreads, sushi, and $12 cocktails—will be the scene of some big-business goings-on: It’s about as close to the Board of Trade as bars get.
P.S. This morning I talked with Rockit’s co-owner and consummate celebrity sidekick, Billy Dec, currently traveling in Vietnam, about what it’s like to party with Rossum.
TC: How did you originally connect with Emmy?
Billy Dec: She came in with actress Amy Smart, who I’ve been friends with for a long time.
TC: Do you have to make any special arrangements when Emmy comes in, or does she just chill like a normal customer?
BD: She just texts me and is treated like the rest of our friends and friends of friends, which pretty much is normal for all guests. Super special treatment is regular for us.
TC: Emmy says her favorite drink is Woodford. Is that what you guys drink? How is she to hang out with?
BD: We didn’t drink that. We drank Grey Goose and Patrón, but I feel like that’s what I always have my guests drink at my table. Emmy is just a huge ball of positive hilarious energy, so we clicked instantly.
Nothing shameless about that.