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Dwight A. McBride

39, Rogers Park

Real-life roles: Dean-designate of UIC’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, nightclub singer, author 
Starring in: Basic Instinct

How does one get to be a singing scholar? Just six years old when he made his church choir début, McBride planned on a singing career for much of his youth. But as an English major at Princeton, he found a mentor in Ruth J. Simmons, then an administrator and now president of Brown University. “She made sure I got to know the important African American thinkers,” he recalls. “She also hooked me up with Toni Morrison.” McBride served as the Nobel Prize winner’s research assistant and as a dinner party guest in the company of heavyweights such as Cornel West and Houston Baker. Needless to say, McBride kept in touch: “They showed me the life of the mind and the best it had to offer.”

Send Dwight an e-mail

Gutsiest thing you’ve ever done? Sing onstage in front of Ella Fitzgerald.

Who are you a secret groupie for? Tina Turner.

Worst advice you’ve been given? “Don’t talk to strangers.”

Childhood nickname? I absolutely don’t share it, under any circumstances.

How do you show someone you’re not interested? I don’t offer my card or my phone number; I don’t offer to buy him a drink; and I don’t initiate conversation.

In a dream world, who would you look like? Will Smith. Write like? Toni Morrison. Dance like? Bill T. Jones. Cook like? My best friend, E. Patrick Johnson. Sing like? I like the way I sing, but I always envied Luther Vandross.

What do you do every day? Read and respond to countless e-mails, drink coffee, and buy something.

Most quotable movie line? “How nice for Lloyd. And how nice for Eve. How nice for everybody,” from my favorite movie of all time, All About Eve.

Last movie that made you cry? The Pursuit of Happyness.

Most recommended book? James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room.

Name one thing that’s overrated: Travel.

When you’re alone, who do you play air guitar to? Janet Jackson, Black Cat.

What songs will be played at your wedding? If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful, by Whitney Houston and Jermaine Jackson, and Ave Maria.

What’s your go-to homemade meal? I don’t cook. But I do have a go-to carryout spot: Siam Pasta.

Fill in the blanks: Vacations are for relaxing by a pool or on the beach, not touring and schedules.

You pull a Ferris Bueller and call in sick on a beautiful July day. What do you do? I’d go to the beach, followed by a spa treatment at Spacio in Lincoln Park.

What Chicago neighborhoods have you lived in? Rogers Park, Hyde Park, Lake View, and, briefly, Greek Town.

How long is too long to spend looking for a parking spot? Five minutes. I have very little patience for that. Life is too short not to valet.

Teacher’s pet or class clown? Definitely a teacher’s pet. How do you grow up to be a Ph.D and not be a teacher’s pet?

What did you think you’d be when you grew up? A lawyer or singer.

Name one embarrassing thing you hide when guests are coming over: The stacks of mail and magazines that accumulate on the kitchen table.

Describe the state of your closet: My personal closet is pretty neat, things are in order, but don’t ask me about the closet in the TV room.

What’s your power outfit? A suit by either Hugo Boss or Armani. If it’s an occasion where I need to exude authority, that’s what I feel good in.

How much is too much to pay for jeans? Depends on the jeans. But anything over $200, I’d start to feel weird about it.

Have you ever collected anything? I collect modern [and] contemporary art, African American artists’ works in particular.

Last time you jumped up and cheered? At my nephew’s basketball game.

Last time you told a lie? Yesterday. Don’t we all tell little white lies to make people feel good about things?

Last time you Googled yourself? January, because I was being considered for a couple of jobs, and I wanted to see what other people saw when they Googled me.

If you could give someone a talking-to, who would it be? George W. Bush.

What do you do when a server at a restaurant brings you a horrible dish? I’ll politely send it back. I don’t like people who make scenes about sending things back, though.

What time is your alarm clock set for? Nine a.m. I’m not a real morning person.

How many times do you hit the snooze button? Oh, God. Two, sometimes three times.

Dive bar or nightclub? Nightclub.

Drinks before 5 p.m.: always, sometimes, never? Sometimes, if I’m on vacation.

What’s your remedy for a tough day? A martini with friends.

Fill in the blanks: I’d rather have a significant other who is kind than rich.

Where would you like to get engaged? Paris. It’s my favorite city. I don’t think there’s any place more romantic on the face of the planet.

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