Reader Susan Beesen, of Merrillville, caught a story I wrote earlier this month about White Lodging hotel properties located at the Chicago Midway Airport Hotel Center complex along Cicero Avenue.
In my story, I included a reference to Dempsey's, a wonderful restaurant located inside the Marriott Chicago Midway Hotel, just off the lobby, prompting Susan to ask me the following:
"Hi Philip, I've lived in Northwest Indiana all my life and I love your columns. They are very informative and I like when you mention stories with your parents. I read in one of your recent pieces a mention about a Dempsey's restaurant located in the hotels near Midway Airport. Many years ago, I went with my parents by train from Gary to New York and we ate at the original Dempsey's restaurant. I even got a photo with my dad standing with the real Jack Dempsey! I would like more information about this Chicago location, so I could visit it for myself for lunch or dinner and relive a wonderful memory from my past. Thank you! - Sue Beesen."
Thank you contacting me, Sue, and I'm happy to add some more details about this dining destination. Dempsey's is located at 6520 S. Cicero Ave., inside the Marriott Chicago Midway, near Midway Airport. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. FYI: (708) 594-9500. It opened a decade ago after the hotel opened in 2002, and the restaurant features a great deal of memorabilia, photos, old framed newspapers and decor all themed around and dedicated to the late, great Jack Dempsey, the American boxer dubbed "The Manassa Mauler."
He died at age 87 on May 31, 1983, after a long and impressive career, including his rank as cultural icon of the 1920s. He held the World Heavyweight Championship from 1919 to 1926. Dempsey's aggressive style and exceptional punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history. In September 1926, Dempsey fought an Irish-American former U.S. Marine named Gene Tunney in Philadelphia, with the latter thought to be the "underdog." Much to the shock of spectators and radio listeners, Dempsey lost, and afterward, gave his now infamous explanation for the defeat to the press, saying to his film actress wife, Estelle Taylor, "Honey, I forgot to duck." (President Ronald Reagan repeated the same phrase to wife Nancy after he was shot during a failed attempt on his life in 1981.)
A much-hyped rematch with Tunney happened a year later in Chicago on Sept. 22, 1927. It was reported gangster Al Capone offered to "fix" the rematch (in his favor, of course), but Dempsey refused. Tunney was paid a record $1 million dollars, which by today's equivalent is more than $13 million! Dempsey, who lost again, was paid half as much.
In his retirement, in 1935, Dempsey opened his Jack Dempsey's Broadway Restaurant in New York City's Times Square, which he kept open until 1974.