"Step High, Stoop Low, Leave Your Dignity Outside."
This phrase appeared on the door of the historic Dill Pickle Club, a social club founded in 1914, which moved into its club space on Tooker Alley off Dearborn Street in 1915, according to records at the Newberry Library. The club (also known as the Dil Pickle Club with one "l") was known as a gathering place for those who wanted to express themselves by openly and candidly discussing the day's controversial topics. The original club closed in 1934, but a new incarnation of the Dill Pickle Club has since been founded.
The historic club's connection to the literary world included having writers speak at its events. The Chicago-based leaders of the newly formed club - Mairead Case, Emerson Dameron, Paul Durica, Rob Funderburk, Fred Sasaki and Nell Taylor - plan on keeping that bookish association, while modernizing the club by moving meeting locations to get different communities involved in the discussion. The new club's leaders collectively answered these questions.
Q: Where did the idea to restart the Dill Pickle Club come from? Why now?
A: In early 2008, the Newberry Library showed us an extensive collection of Dill Pickle Club records, and the good folks there egged us on.
Just like how social, sexual and political oppression back in the day sparked the original Dill Pickle, something about the current climate begged its coming back. The new Dill Pickle Club is our response to how fragmented (we believe the) arts, cultural and political communities are in Chicago.
The original Dill Pickle was committed to crossing boundaries and bringing together diverse content and audiences. The new Dill Pickle aims for a similar eclecticism.
Q: What do you see as the literary connections of the Dill Pickle Club?
A: Poets and poetry were very important at the historic Dill Pickle Club. Chicago literary renaissance figures like Sherwood Anderson, Carl Sandburg and Ben Hecht all turned up. The young Kenneth Rexroth cut his teeth there as a teenager, and people like Djuna Barnes stepped in too. We want writers as presenters, but then we want all sorts of creative people, professional and nonprofessional, to be involved.
Q: What are some of the differences between this incarnation and the original Dill Pickle Club?
A: Unlike the historic Dill Pickle, the new Pickle will be nomadic. Each meeting will occur in a different space in a different neighborhood. Our goal is to build a returning audience and thereby bring different communities in contact with each other. We also decided that the meetings would have a set format of talks and presentations and performances that would all revolve around a particular theme.
Q: Is heckling encouraged at your events?
A: Indeed. But more specifically, we encourage participation in every way. We want to hear it from the crowd! We want questions and fury, push-back, spontaneous demonstrations, and for anyone who's nuts about something to find us and show us their stuff.
Q: What do you have planned for the next event?
A: Our next meeting will occur in early February, and the theme will be love/death. Some of the topics we will be discussing are the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, "Precious Moments," lovers' tattoos and Japanese death poetry. And that's only the half of it!
For more information, e-mail the new Dill Pickle Club at firstname.lastname@example.org.