From 1928 to (circa) 1950 The Levee was known as Gayety Village. Run by Ben Rynkus and his wife, the internationally renowned burlesque star, Trudy DeRing, the bar was known worldwide as one of the best locations to see a top notch burlesque show. The legendary Violet Strand was a regular performer. Trudy, under her stage name Radiana, performed at Madison Square Garden, Copa Cababa and in almost every city in the U.S. Make sure to see her scrapbook when you come in. You'll be amazed! Trudy was featured in the Pictorial History of Burlesque hard cover book with such stars as Jackie Gleason, W.C. Fields, Abbott & Costello and Marilyn Monroe - nice company to be with! Just ask Warren to show you his copy of the book. Trudy's picture hangs in the bar above the jukebox.
Gayety Village became Mc Duff's in the 1950's. The McDuff family owned the bar for 25 years and was acknowledged in the Chicago Tribune for having one of the best hamburgers in Chicago.
Warren Johnson, along with his wife Renee, bought the bar in 1979 and changed its name to "The Levee" after a bar in Kansas City that Warren frequented when he was in the U.S. Marine Corps. The Levee has an antique feel in the back room inspired by the Kansas City Levee.
The Levee has been known as the Chuck E. Cheese for adults as it features pool, darts, ping pong, bean bags and a real basketball free throw basket. It has a large back room for private parties that fills up on weekends and has hosted everything from baby showers to fundraisers and weddings. The decorations for Christmas, Halloween, and St. Patrick's Day offer a special look. On St. Patrick's Day The Levee serves corned beef & cabbage dinners as well as green beer. The bar stools at the front bar came out of the skybox at Soldier Field and are some of the most comfortable seats you can imagine. The serpentine brass bar was designed so people could talk without stretching their necks to see each other's faces. Viewing the game on the many TV's at one time is no problem as the back room features a six foot and an eight foot screen. You can surely catch the Cubs, Bears, Bulls or Blackhawks games and, if you ask him VERY nicely, Warren may even put the Sox game on for you. The front bar displays sports memorabilia and the back bar features an antique feel. A tree outside on Keystone Av. has been trimmed and shaped, by Warren himself, to look like a beer bottle. The drinks are well priced and the bartenders are friendly. Wings and pizza are served nightly.
The Levee hosts fundraisers for charities such as an annual picnic for the veterans at Hines V.A. Hospital, cancer, MS and youth baseball leagues around the city.
In 1992 Superfans George Wendt, Chris Farley and Robert Smigel filmed five Bulls commercials at The Levee. Come see their pictures hanging in the bar and ask Warren to put the commercials on for you.
The Levee was acknowledged in Barfly and featured on the cover of Time Out Chicago. It was voted "Best Bar 2012" by New Bar Tuesday.
The lovely young lass on the right is Ms. Jean Olsen dancing at the Gayety in 1948.
She still comes to the Levee today.