Has Chicago changed since the turn of the 20th century?

Karen Abbott is a journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Sin in the Second City, an exploration of the role of brothels in the cultural and political life of turn-of-the-century Chicago. Prior to publishing Sin in the Second City – which took her three years to write and research – Abbott worked for Philadelphia magazine and for Philadelphia Weekly. Abbott, a native of Philadelphia, received her BA from Villanova University in 1995. The critically acclaimed Sin in the Second City tells the story of Chicago’s Everleigh Club, a famous high-end whorehouse that was known as the “finest brothel in the land.” Abbott lives with her husband in Atlanta and is working on her second book, a portrait of Gypsy Rose Lee and Depression-era New York.

  • Transcript


Karen Abbott: I forget who said it. There was a great quote. It said, “Chicago is not only a corrupt city. It’s the most theatrically corrupt city.” And I think that’s . . . That was true back then and it’s true today. It’s thoroughly corrupt and it enjoys . . . it almost revels in its corruption. It makes it a big, dramatic spectacle. It’s theater, and Chicago, you know, wants to outdo itself at all times. It’s a city of superlatives. It’s the best of everything and it’s the worst of everything. And I think it’s . . . If it didn’t like itself yesterday, it’ll reinvent and like itself tomorrow. It’s a city that’s always sort of re-evaluating itself and wondering what it can do better and what it can do different. And I really enjoy that about Chicago.

Recorded On: 1/22/08