Oak Theatre

2000 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60647

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Showing 1 - 25 of 47 comments

Filmteknik
Filmteknik on August 3, 2019 at 2:37 pm

Hi Linda! Glad you reposted. I saved the pictures (❤️) since I figured they’d be removed but didn’t think I’d need to save the text so glad it’s back. I love reading first hand accounts.

lindajones
lindajones on July 23, 2019 at 2:39 pm

I posted this comment a few weeks ago and had added photos of me dancing at the Oak Theater in the late 70s and early 80s along with my comment. However, my comment (see below) AND my photos were deleted because I posted some of my photos of me dancing (during the time it was an Adult theater) that were probably not suitable for this site. I am just reposting my comment but no risqué photos. If anyone would like to see photos of me from that period please feel free to email me at I would be glad to send them to you. I would love to connect with anyone who was an audience member and remembers me from my dancing days and anyone who might have photos of me from the Oak Theater. When I was in college in Chicago in the late 1970s, my boyfriend at the time, talked me into entering the Oak Theater “Amateur Night” Dance Contest. I was nervous and scared about doing the contest for 3 reasons.
First, I had never taken all my clothes off in front of 200 or 300 men. The Amateur Night contest consisted of the girls dancing to 3 songs. One fully clothed. One topless. And the 3rdfully nude that also included an extremely provocative floor routine when girls were on the stage floor on their backs and lying back and parting their legs wide open. The 2ndreason was that I was worried that someone from college might be there that night and recognize me on campus later on. “Hey Esme, that was quite a show you put on at the Oak Theater the other night!” (Esme was my stage name that my boyfriend gave me thinking it better not to use my real name as a contestant.) And the 3rdreason was the Oak Theater permitted photography and more than half the men in the audience had cameras. There were going to be hundreds of photos of me completely nude out there. At least this was before the Internet so all that might happen is that I might end up in some men’s magazine. I mustered up my courage and did the contest and to my surprise and amazement I won the contest and the $50 winner’s award that night. As I was in the dressing room after the show Paul (I am pretty sure that was his name) the manager came in and said he had just gotten a call from the Festival Theater and they were short of girls for their amateur night contest and would I be willing to dance there? I was pretty thrilled and excited about having won the contest so sort of blurted out, “Sure.” Paul gave me the address and then asked for my phone number, which I casually gave to him. My boyfriend was, as you can imagine, thrilled that I had won the contest and that I was going to dance again. The Festival Theater is configured a bit differently than the Oak Theater with the dressing rooms up a flight of stairs and at the back of the theater. Again to my astonishment I won that amateur contest that night and Peter (the manger of the Festival Theater) said I was a natural and he too asked for my number. For the next 6 or 7 years I regularly entered the amateur night contests (actually Paul and Peter usually called me to sign me up each time) and won quite a few of them. I stopped dancing as I got older and had a more regular full-time job worried what a co-worker might think of me if I was recognized there. I thoroughly enjoyed my times as a dancer at the Oak Theater over those years. Growing up I suffered from extremely low self-esteem and body issues (probably the root cause was a father who was cold and distant and offered little approval of me) and dancing gave me the self-confidence and security that I was ok. Especially when I won a contest. The men were always so nice and friendly to me when I danced and the floor routines were always a favorite of mine. In the floor routine I was literally inches from the men in front of the stage and they talked to me often. “Esme, you are just a darling tonight.” Esme, you make my night when you dance.” “What a gorgeous girl you are Esme.” Esme, spread open your flower petals for us girl.” I just always enjoyed the comments and appreciation I got as a dancer. Dancing at the Oak and Festival Theaters opened up doors to private dancing opportunities, bachelor parties and a modeling gig at Pandora’s Box, a private men’s club in Chicago. Most of my boyfriends over the years were ok with my dancing (although some did not accompany me on Amateur Contest night) and only one objected. After taking him to watch me at the Oak Theater he said that it was obscene and disgusting what I did. Well you can imagine how long he lasted! I have posted some photos of me dancing in the contests. If anyone here remembers me from those days or has photos I’d love to hear from you. my email address. In 1994 I was up in Chicago and decided to drive over to see the Oak Theater and was heartbroken to see it had been torn down.
I have such fond memories of the nights dancing and the girls I met—my fellow contestants—who were all such sweethearts.

lindajones
lindajones on July 10, 2019 at 6:24 am

Was a great place to dance for me in the 70s and early 80s. Sad that it is no longer there for us.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on July 7, 2019 at 5:33 pm

The homeless have now set up camp in the former drive through bank lanes.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on June 29, 2019 at 10:23 pm

The drive-thru bank on the Oak Theatre site is now permanently closed. Likely the victim of the 5/3rd Bank takeover of MB, who consolidated former MB locations and closed others completely.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on June 23, 2019 at 6:13 pm

I agree. The Admins should have just removed the racier photos, and left her comment as it applied to the history of the Oak. I hope they change their mind and return it to the comments.

Filmteknik
Filmteknik on June 23, 2019 at 6:05 pm

Not surprised the photos posted by the former Oak stripper were removed but wished her (text) reminiscences could have remained.

yingli0521
yingli0521 on June 2, 2019 at 10:58 am

Why was it named Oak?

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 17, 2019 at 5:04 pm

Posted previously:

DavidZornig on October 12, 2013 at 11:55 pm

The address needs to be changed to 2000 N. Western. Check the 1993 flier I posted in the Photos Section. Several Chicago Tribune articles from 1992 also confirm the address.

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/4539/photos/1323

Mister_Comics
Mister_Comics on April 17, 2019 at 3:10 pm

Newspaper ads for this theater list the address as 2004 N. Western, but papers have been known to make mistakes. See posted ad in the “Photo” section.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on February 14, 2018 at 7:38 pm

Circa 1931 photo added courtesy of the Old West Town Facebook page.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 3, 2017 at 11:26 am

Ran across this 1992 Tribune article about the Oak’s then conversion to a music venue. Further proof on how sadly short that incarnation was to last.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-03-03/news/9201200335_1_sun-ra-texas-tornados-national-trade-magazine

GFeret
GFeret on December 28, 2016 at 8:13 am

for a long time I certainly had my full of the old Oak theatre starting in the late ‘50s, certainly the '60s and into the '70s, and at least drove past throughout the '80s. But beginning mid-'90s I wasn’t ever in the neighborhood there so not only didn’t I see it’s demolition but was quite unaware of it then. Nowadays I return often but all I get for my trouble’s a drive-through bank (admittedly my wife likes the Mexican restaurant across western), because now Sam’s red-hots is gone too. Talk about a neighborhood character upheaval

okcray
okcray on December 28, 2016 at 3:52 am

Does anyone remember the recorded messages from the late 1970s-early 1980s? You would call the phone number listed in the movie ad and you’d get the Oak Girl saying something like “Hello honey? I thought you’d never call! I’m at the Oak Theater… the show’s so good… I’ll be waiting honey!” and other messages to that effect. Apparently these were so popular that the tapes would wear out, and until the “Oak Girl” could record a new one, a man would give a general description of the theater and movies.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on May 12, 2015 at 1:47 pm

The What Was There website with the Illinois Historic Preservation Society photo from circa `75. Has a magnifier plus the Then & Now fade.

http://www.whatwasthere.com/browse.aspx#!/ll/41.9177398681641,-87.6874084472656/id/6222/info/details/zoom/14/

GRANDMASTERCHUCK
GRANDMASTERCHUCK on March 30, 2014 at 12:08 am
   During the War Years 1941-1945 and before the Korean War, the Oak Theater not only showed movies of the day but had Stage Shows as well. 
                

This was during the time between the Vaudeville and Television eras, which was called the Golden Years of Movies, but the Oak Theater and a few others in Chicago, were still trying to cater to both the movie and live entertainment audiences. I can’t remember exactly how many nights a week there was live entertainment but it wasn’t every night like the Downtown venues, the Chicago, State and Lake and the Oriental Theaters. Their stage shows ran seven days a week, several times a day and night, and drew some of the top names in Radio and Movies of the day.

   My sister and I were on the circuit that included the Oak Theater with, what was called a Song and Dance Novelty Act, and we played it several times around the end of World War Two. We also played dates on just about every Saturday night at some Elks, Moose, Eagles, VFW or American Legion Hall somewhere in the city, or one of the nearby suburbs. We also entertained at the Naval Hospital at Great Lakes Navel Training Station for the wounded coming back from overseas.
                   Then came Television and that form of entertainment quickly went away. I left Chicago in 1952 at the request of my Uncle Sam and became a United States Marine, stationed in California, never to see my home town again, but I never forgot the Oak Theater and its dressing rooms back stage, and waiting in the wings to go on. We always got a warm welcome there. 
                   It was the best of times.
                
DavidZornig
DavidZornig on October 12, 2013 at 8:55 pm

The address needs to be changed to 2000 N. Western. Check the 1993 flier I posted in the Photos Section. Several Chicago Tribune articles from 1992 also confirm the address.

lovinemmie
lovinemmie on April 13, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Well I remember Oak theatre so so well !!! Many good times there as a little girl .Used to go with my Mom and Dad with all of us children , this was their night out , and guess what the movies were silent movies ,with Valentinoand many others,I was so young could.nt read the lines in the picture , but still seemed to understand the movie. Later in my life as we grew up ,that was where I watched the first talkie. As children we would save the “nickel to go to the Saturday special of 20 cartoons and some live entertainment, dancers , magicians, even the chiquita banana , lady Carmen Miranda ,I remember seeing Roy Rogers also , and especially Cisco kid , she Miranda , was very famous and well known especially as"the chiquita Banana lady” the song she sang then. We did'nt have a TV, not until 1952. Times were tough then.

Broan
Broan on February 27, 2013 at 8:50 am

Looking at the demolition photos, it looks like the Oak’s interior had already been gutted – bare brick walls and open ceiling beams. Is that right?

matthew1964
matthew1964 on July 31, 2012 at 4:02 pm

THe Oak,,OMG,, I REMEMBER IT WELL,,I FIRST WENT TO THE OAK,,IN FEB,1982 THATS WHEN I TURNED 18 ,ON THE MARQUIE IT SAID HAD TO BE 18 TO ENTER,,SO ME AND A FRIEND FROM HIGHSCHOOL ,, DECIDED WE WANTED TO SEE WHAT THE OAK WAS LIKE ,,WE,VE SEEN THE PLACE A MILLION TIMES ,, BUT NEVER TRIED TO GET IN,,SO ON THE MONTH OF MY BIRTHDAY ,,WITH ID,S IN POCKET WE CREPT UP TO THE INTRANCE BEING CARE NOT TO BE SPOTTED BY ANYONE WE KNEW,SPORTING DARK,SUNGLASES (AT NIGHT),AND OUR MEMBERS ONLY JACKETS ,WE BOUGHT TICKETS ,WE DIDDNT EVEN GET ASKED FOR OUR ID,S ,,I REMEMBER THE 2 MOVIES ( THE BANGKOK CONNECTION,,AND SCRUPLES ) WE SAT IN THE 1ST ROW DECKED OUT IN NEW LEE JEANS POLO SHIRTS AND OUR JACKETS AND SUNGLASSES STILL ON ,NERVEOUS AS HELL,,, SURROUNDED BY ALL OLDER MEN IN THERE LATE 40,S AND 50,S ,,THE DANCERS WERE FUNNY ALL OLDER WOMEN ,,OLDER THAN US ,WE ONLY REMOVED THE GLASSES TO GET A GOOD LOOK AT THERE BREASTS ,THEN WE PUT THEM BACK ON,,I DONT REMEMBER IF IT WAS AT THE END OR DURING INTERMISSION,, THEY HAD SOME YOUNG PORN ACTRESS ,,THERE FOR PHOTOS ,,A LITTLE GIRL,BUT CUTE ,,FOR $5.00 SHE WOULD SIT ON YOUR LAP,HER ARM AROUND YOUR NECK,AND YOUR HAND AROUND HER WAIST,,LATER IN THE YEAR OF 1992 ,I HAD A NEW GIRLFRIEND ( WIFE NOW) WHO LIKED BAD BOY BLUES THEY WERE THERE LIVE ,,WE DIDDNT GET A CHANCE TO GO REGRETABLE,,SHORTLY AFTER THAT CLOSED DOWN,,SOMETIMES WE STILL GO TO MARGIES CANDIES ,,I WILL LOOK AT THE SMALL DRIVE THRU BANK AND REMEMBER THE OAK,VERY COOL MEMMORIES THANKS,,MATT

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on July 29, 2012 at 7:22 am

I remember going by on the El and seeing XXX on the marquee. Later I remember going by on the El and seeing concerts on the marquee. Then once I went by on the El and it was gone. Maybe it’s too bad the Oak couldn’t have hung on a few more years. I’ve heard that smaller concert venues are making money these days.

walterbrzeski
walterbrzeski on July 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm

@Oak Theater:

I’m putting a gift together for someone of ‘The Oak’ and I would love to use any photos you have..I posted a piece I had drawn of ‘The Oak’ to use as the centerpiece of the gift. And, I found some photos here and online. But, I would love to have more.

OakTheater
OakTheater on May 24, 2012 at 10:40 am

My parents reopened the Oak Theater in the 90’s. I have few memories of hanging out in the office during some of the shows. I will never forget running around that place in between shows and the way my voice echoed throughout the empty theater.

Most of you never noticed the floor when the theater was filled up to capacity but i remember the giant Oak Theater logo painted on the floor. My parents had a difficult time operating the Oak Theater and they had no choice but to close it.

It is a shame that it was replaced by a bank. A building with some much history and a theater that many hold dear to their heart to this day. If my parents still had it today, i would definitely be involved with operating it. I know there is a photo album somewhere. I will have to dig this up and share it.

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on May 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Hey everyone. I am working on a project to document the history of adult theatres in the US. If anyone has any memories of the Oak they would be willing to share, please contact me at

HughJazz – if you see this, I’d love to talk to you. I would love to talk with some people who worked at these places. I’ve read your posts and it sounds like you have lots of stories.

HughJazz
HughJazz on September 3, 2011 at 1:33 am

By the way, www.classmates.com may help you find others from Chase school.