M.M. & J.D. at the Cape Cod Room

Chances are that if you were sitting at the bar at the Cape Cod Room in Chicago’s Drake Hotel that night in 1954, and the laughing young couple next to you started in on the tradition of carving their initials in the bar, you would have known whom they were. The initials might not have rung a bell. But you would have known their names.

All sorts of royalty would pass through The Cape Cod Room before it ended its 83 year old run this past weekend. There were real life Princesses and kings, show biz luminaries, politicians and sporting legends. From Sinatra to Ronald Reagan to Michael Jordan, Sophia Loren and Aretha Franklin to Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Andrews and Chicago’s Cusack family.

The Cape Cod Room drew the famous and infamous. Frank Nitti, who came after Al Capone, even had an office in The Drake for awhile. So you know that Nitti had to have dined at the Cape Cod Room.

All those famous people. Spectacular food. In an unpretentious room built for soul soothing warmth on the coldest winter night. But none of that’s the real story of the place. Of course all that matters. But it’s not what gives a place an 83 year old run, and truth told, could have kept the place going for another 83 years with just a little more long term thinking. Hunker down to the core of this softly lit, warm oasis next to a looming Lake Michigan and you’ll find what’s true here is the same thing that’s true about any truly great element of Chicago. It’s that Chicago, above all else, is a crossroads.

A crossroads.

And anything can happen at a crossroads. When you put down roots and decide to stay—like the Cape Cod Room did for all those years, then sooner or later the world will pass by your door. As will your neighbor.

Pass by or stay. Richer or poorer. But certainly more alive in the world and in spirit. At a crossroads all things are possible.

Because here at the crossroads, you, me, anyone of us can sit down at the bar right next to that young couple, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.

Their marriage lasted less than a year. But the love went on. When she died, he was the one who made the funeral arrangements. And then for 20 years, every single week, he sent flowers to her grave.

The initials MM and JD were still there carved in the bar this past weekend.

Because at a crossroads . . . anything can happen.

Even that which lasts, as Algren would say, “for keeps.”

Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

10 Responses to “M.M. & J.D. at the Cape Cod Room”

  1. Tom Dickinson Says:

    Nice Roger. Who got that souvenir?

    Did you eat/drink there?

    More good stories in ’17 I hope!

    Happy new year to you and Maria!


    • chicagoguy14 Says:

      The owners say they are saving that piece of the bar.
      I once–after NOT being laid off at MCI–spent seven hours in the adjoining bar. Oh, I might have been married there once as well. . . .

  2. hcgagel Says:

    I only dined once at the Cape Cod Room. I was 8 months pregnant. My lasting memory of the evening is having to scoot my chair in to accommodate passing waitstaff. It became a contest, with them asking me (always politely) to scoot in, and I (equally politely, but with determination) pushing back, protecting my territory.

  3. chicagoguy14 Says:

    THAT is so totally you. I love it!

  4. Naomi de Plume Says:

    Proving commitment doesn’t need a ring.

  5. boomerbob Says:

    I’ve spent time in several large cities, from Los Angeles, to San Diego, to san Francisco to Portland, Vancouver British Columbia. And let’s not forget Tijuana 🙂

    Of all the large cities I’ve spent time in, my absolute second-favorite remains Chicago, second only to the incredible city of San Francisco; a place my wife and I love to visit for weeks at a time.

    Los Angeles is much larger, but the atmosphere is incredibly dull, relative to Chicago.

    Like San Francisco, Chicago is a city you feel, deep inside your soul. You don’t just go there to see it, you visit these cities to feel the energy, the excitement, the history, the people.

    You visit Chicago to re-energize your zeal for life, like recharging your battery.

    I never saw the Cape Cod Room, but so many other choices there offer such an amazing experience, it would be difficult to even force yourself to forget them. Hell; just walking along the sidewalks around town the energy there is palpable and I love some of the old buildings – the incredible Chicago Tribune Tower being my all time favorite.

    • chicagoguy14 Says:

      With you on loving SanFransisco. The energy is comparable. Got bad news on Trib Tower (its one of my favorites too) they are turning it into CONDOS! Which is just wrong. Chicago is not real good at protecting its architectural heritage. A guy named Richard Nickel was a hero in advocating for that. And a brilliant photographer.

      • boomerbob Says:

        Oh no. Now that’s sad. What a beautiful building to allow to go to waste. So many better ways to preserve such a building. Imagine the incredible museum it would make.

  6. chicagoguy14 Says:

    I was hoping for museum!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s