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A Chicago Tavern: A Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream

Overview

Chicago newspaperman Rick Kogan plunks down at a barstool at the Billy Goat Tavern and tells the tales of the city landmark, which became a haven for newspaper reporters, policemen, politicians, and anyone else drawn to the hospitality and showmanship of hardworking William “Billy Goat” Sianis and his often antic, uniquely comforting establishment. The story begins in the summer of 1934, when a baby goat fell off a truck and limped into a tavern owned by Greek immigrant William Sianis, ...
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Overview

Chicago newspaperman Rick Kogan plunks down at a barstool at the Billy Goat Tavern and tells the tales of the city landmark, which became a haven for newspaper reporters, policemen, politicians, and anyone else drawn to the hospitality and showmanship of hardworking William “Billy Goat” Sianis and his often antic, uniquely comforting establishment. The story begins in the summer of 1934, when a baby goat fell off a truck and limped into a tavern owned by Greek immigrant William Sianis, and a Chicago icon was born. Later, when he and one of his goats were barred from entering Wrigley Field during the 1945 World Series, the Cubs’ eventual loss to Detroit fueled a legend as enduring as their fans’ “Wait ’til next year” mantra. Kogan writes about some of the regulars, visitors, employees, and luminaries found at the tavern, including columnist Mike Royko and the young stars who immortalized the tavern in the Saturday Night Live "Olympia Diner" skit—John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Don Novello—and discusses Sam Sianis, Billy's nephew and the current owner.

Let the Goat In!

In the summer of 1934, a baby goat fell off a truck, limped into a tavern owned by Greek immigrant William Sianis, and a Chicago icon was born. The Billy Goat Inn became a haven for newspaper reporters, policemen, politicians, and anyone else drawn to the hospitality and showmanship of hardworking "Billy Goat" Sianis and his often antic, uniquely comforting establishment. But did Billy jinx the Cubs? When he and one of his goats were barred from entering Wrigley Field during the 1945 World Series, the Cubs' eventual loss to Detroit fueled a legend as enduring as their fans' "Wait 'til next year" mantra. Today there are seven Billy Goat Taverns, including one in Washington, D.C., and Billy's nephew, Sam Sianis--a celebrity in his own right--oversees what Illinois Senator Dick Durbin called "a national institution."

Rick Kogan's affectionate tale plunks you down at a barstool next to some of the Billy Goat's regulars, visitors, employees, and such luminaries as columnist Mike Royko, and those young stars--John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Don Novello--who immortalized Sam and the tavern in the Saturday Night Live Olympia Diner ("Cheezborger, Cheezborger! No fries . . . chips!") skits. "I remember . . . I miss . . .," someone will say, and names and faces begin to float through the tavern air. . . In these echoes Kogan lets you see and hear why taverns remain essential social focal points and lets you understand what makes a Chicago original.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The Auditorium, a theater, and the Billy Goat, a tavern, are two Chicago landmarks. The first sprang for the vision of Louis Sullivan, nonpareil of architects. The second sprang from the vision of nonpareil journalist Mike Royko, when days seemed too long and nights too short. It is our good fortune that Rick Kogan, of a fabled Chicago legacy, has put forth a work so whimsical, wistful, and wondrous.”  —Studs Terkel

"Rick Kogan. . . has become our local Boswell, a serendipitous chronicler of the nooks and crannies and curious characters that can turn the very act of living here into an adventure.”  —Jonathan Alter, Chicago Tribune

“In the book’s acknowledgments, Kogan writes, ‘Reading the work of all the writers who have, with varying degrees of literary license, told the story of the tavern through the years, reminded me why I got in this business in the first place. There were once poets working for newspapers.’ Well, fortunately for us, there still are a few, and Kogan is one of them.”  —Bob Sirott, author, One More Thing

“The book is slender, like a volume of poetry, and I immediately read it cover to cover. I would say that it is perfect—celebratory and sad, a deft encapsulation of the present and an elegy to the past.”  —Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times

“Colorful and true Chicago-styled journalism.”  —Food Industry News

“Incredible that this story has not been told until now. But, what a story it is. . . . As readers, we’re not just reading about the Billy Goat—we become one of its patrons, sitting alongside the bar, listening to these stories as if we were shoulder to shoulder with Rick, Mike, Sam, or Billy . . . for a few hours we feel like part of the family, too.”  —Gapers Block

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781893121492
  • Publisher: Lake Claremont Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2006
  • Pages: 115
  • Sales rank: 1,433,325
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Rick Kogan is the host of WGN radio’s Sunday Papers with Rick Kogan and a senior writer and “Sidewalks” columnist at the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of America’s Mom: The Life, Lessons, and Legacy of Ann Landers and Dr. Night Life and the coauthor of Everybody Pays. He lives in Chicago. Rick Kogan is the host of WGN radio's "Sunday Papers with Rick Kogan" and a senior writer and "Sidewalks" columnist at the Chicago Tribune. The son of Chicago newspaperman and author Herman Kogan, he was raised in the city's Old Town neighborhood and wrote his first story for the Chicago Sun-Times at age 16. His first book was Dr. Night Life, and his recent books include America's Mom: The Life, Lessons, and Legacy of Ann Landers and Everybody Pays with co-author Maurice Possley. He lives in Chicago.
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