The regular: Marie Baskin at Linda's Place
Linda’s Place 1044 W 51st St, 773-373-2351
By midnight, L’Roy will be standing behind the red-painted bar, wearing a red leather cap and crisp denim jacket, nodding approvingly at the Bullet Proof Band. A rotund middle-aged man in red will clasp a microphone and shake his way around bar stools, patrons flapping dollar bills as he passes. Linda—the bar’s namesake and mother hen—will arrive, bearing bottles of sparkling wine and Crown Royal, giving warm hugs to everyone. A man will brush through with a half-dozen suits for sale in dry-cleaning bags; a potbellied retired CTA officer will dance down the aisles, fanning himself with a conductor hat. Couples and friends will mingle around the pool table, snacking on bowls of chili, dancing to the rock and blues standards.
It will all happen, just as it has every Monday since Linda’s Place opened its unmarked door on a bare stretch of 51st Street in the Back of the Yards neighborhood two decades ago. But even before Linda and L’Roy make their grand entrance, Marie Baskin (75, glasses far down on her nose) will be settled at her stool. “How long I been coming here?” she asks the bartender, Linda’s sister. “Oh, for some years,” the bartender replies. “Some years, some years,” Baskin repeats.
She walks over to the mirrored wall, plastered with portraits of the regulars: She points to an 8-by-10 of herself, dressed up for an occasion she doesn’t remember, looking about 15 years younger. “How many years ago was that taken?” I ask.
Back at her seat with a bottle of Miller Genuine Draft, she gestures toward the handful of women at the bar: “I don’t remember their names,” she says, “but I know them all. Everybody’s real friendly here.”
L’Roy and the Bullet Proof Band draw the regular Monday crowd, inviting patrons to take the stage one by one: Women blast out soulful songs, men belt out the blues. I ask Frances Binny (62, but “don’t you dare tell anybody”) to tell me about her best night at Linda’s. “Every night’s the same,” she replies. No one here would accept it any other way.