After years of wondering what goes on behind those forbidding black doors-the ones that stay open until 4 a.m. (5 a.m. on Saturdays), 365 days a year-I finally marshaled the courage to visit Exit (1315 W. North Ave.), which >>>>

>> Tough love: punks dig Exit.

turned 12 in October. To ease my apprehension, I BYOB’d (brought my own bodyguard): Ricky Spritz, owner of the new martial arts and boxing gym GoTime (1601 S. Morgan St.). You can never be too safe.

“You need to be 21 to enter-and showing ink,” Spritz observed upon arrival, eyeing the abundance of body art. What we found, once we made it past the doorman, freaked us out even more than the skulls and nooses hanging from the ceiling: the heavily tattooed and pierced staff was surprisingly friendly. “Imagine a biker party at a cemetery,” says owner Joe P (yep, just “Joe P”) of his punk hang, which first opened in 1981 in the current Tequila Roadhouse location. “Exit was on the edge in 1981, when punk was seriously underground, and I try to keep that vibe going. Punk kids were, and are, the outcasts,” he says with pride. But no one seems to feel out of place at Exit. We spotted a black-clad couple with pink hair (on her) and a full-blown Mohawk (on him). Even our svelte and delightful bartender, Sammie Spades, told me that when she goes to temple for the holidays, she respectfully covers her arms so the rabbi doesn’t see all of her tats. Amen to that. The best part of the evening, besides paying $1.50 for PBR drafts, was watching Pole Girl commandeer the floor-to-ceiling stripper pole, no task for sissies-or guys, for that matter.

Exit features a different punk theme every night of the week, from Wednesdays’ hair metal to Thursdays’ bondage `a go-go ($25 to get tied up and spanked, whipped, or burned with candle wax). There’s something for, um, everyone. “The perception of dark and scary is on purpose,” Joe P says. “It keeps most of the riffraff out.” He’s not kidding. There’s a sign above the bar that reads: “No Shoes, No Teeth, No Service.” Even punks have rules, I guess.


Cheer on the Fighting Irish at Victory Liquors.

Classy Dames

Chicago has its first dedicated Notre Dame bar, thanks to Fighting Irish alum Matt Eisler (Elm Street Liquors, Empire Liquors), who recently opened Victory Liquors in the former Corner Pocket space (2610 N. Halsted St.) with the help of more than 60 fellow grads. Starting at 10 a.m. on game days, the spot will offer “kegs and eggs” and “beer and bagels,” both Notre Dame traditions. “We have a contract with the Notre Dame Alumni Association, which has 15,000 members,” he says. They seem to be showing their support: for its first Saturday game in business, against Georgia Tech, Victory brought in a crowd of 800 throughout the day.


Celebrity Beat

David Schwimmer (Friends), Rockit Ranch honcho Billy Dec, and Joey Slotnick (Nip/Tuck) hosted their fifth annual Madhatter’s Ball at the House of Blues on Saturday, September 9th. The fundraiser supports Lookingglass Theatre Company, which Schwimmer and Slotnick founded in 1988 after attending Northwestern University. At this year’s event, celebrity DJ Samantha Ronson opened for Macy Gray with an audience of 1,200 partygoers. “I’ll be in London filming a movie in the fall called Run, Fat Boy, Run,” Schwimmer told me of his holiday plans. Throughout the night, the three pals schmoozed with guests and theatre company supporters, pushing silent auction bids; the event raised more than $100,000. Slotnick, who will be returning to his regular guest role on Nip/Tuck this season, told me he isn’t really a fan of nipping and tucking. “I would never do it myself,” he said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with it.” After the party, Slotnick and Dec retreated to Dec’s Rockit Bar & Grill; Schwimmer, who had flown in from Italy just before the party, headed home with jet lag.

photography: Chris Guillen