Innsbrook Director of Event Operations Kate Leto Welcomed Back with Open Arms
When Kate Leto left her job as Director of Event Operations for Innsbrook Country Club for a year to work at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza, she discovered she missed the club’s camaraderie, social atmosphere and family environment. The feeling, as it turned out, was mutual. Although she enjoyed her time at the Radisson where she made some wonderful friends, she says, she never really severed her relationship with Innsbrook.
“I maintained a membership at the club and I would constantly run into members at the Radisson,” Leto says. “Of course, Mr. McColly asking me to return did make it very easy to say ‘yes.’ It was like coming home, I was absolutely thrilled to receive such a warm welcome back.”
Ronald McColly, president of McColly Real Estate, who has co-owned Innsbrook Country Club since 2004 with James Gagan, says that Leto, who genuinely cares about all the country club’s members, was definitely missed.
“When she came back people were saying that was the best thing that happened to the club in a long time,” McColly says. “She really understands the banquet catering business and what the bride and the mother of the bride want to make the wedding day special. That is important because it is one of the biggest days of their lives.”
McColly explains that Leto has been responsible for helping build Innsbrook’s current team. “I admire the autonomy of our management team, namely Jim Formas our Golf Pro, Marko Avorio the Executive Chef, Joel Sanders our Grounds Superintendent and Carmen Regalado our Comptroller. We work together as a team; while maintaining our independence in running our own departments and realize that a sense of humor goes a long way.”
Leto, who began working at Innsbrook in 2006, oversees the day to day operations of the clubhouse, staffing, menu development and the Banquet Department “plus all the other little details that add up to a successful country club.”
What Leto loves most about her job is the interaction and connection with the members and the planning and execution of special events and all aspects of banquets. “The friends you make become an extension of your family. That is part of the allure of a country club. The challenge, Leto says, is keeping the exclusivity of a private club for the members while continuing to grow and cultivating a banquet department that is open to the public.
Leto said her proudest accomplishments at Innsbrook include the smooth day to day running of the clubhouse, especially when the members are fully engaged and benefitting from all the amenities that the club has to offer. Secondly, Leto said, starting with the first wedding back in 2006, she developed the banquet department/special events and with McColly’s blessing, opened the banquet facilities to the public.
“We have watched the event business grow very successfully over the years,” Leto says. “Mr. McColly also renovated the northwest end of the clubhouse to incorporate three additional meeting rooms.”
Future plans include installing a Bocce Ball court within the year, she said.
“We want to continue to enhance the holiday events such as the Halloween party for the kids, and the Mother’s Day and Easter buffets,” Leto says, “Not to mention, our pool mimics a mini water park. Each year, we continue to grow and draw new members. Our central location has been very advantageous in that regard.”
Leto grew up and was educated in Belfast, Northern Ireland. “I came to America and started my career in the hospitality industry and here I am 30 years later,” Leto explains.
After 16 years working for the O’Brien Family and eight years at Whittaker Woods, Leto took the job at Innsbrook because she wanted to be closer to home and was ready for a new challenge. “Innsbrook offered me that opportunity,” Leto says.
Leto considers Peter and Danny O’Brien her mentors.
“I worked for Peter at their restaurant in Old Town and then at their restaurant on The River Walk on Lower Wacker Drive,” Leto says. “In 1998, I joined his father at Whittaker Woods Golf Community in New Buffalo and commuted for eight years. I would have to say my biggest supporter is my husband Mark. He is and has always been, a wonderful dad to our two children. He took up the slack when I worked the long hours that are demanded when one works in the hospitality industry.” She believes responsibility, commitment and integrity are the keys to success plus the necessity to deliver and exceed expectations.
“It is the ability to adapt to each new situation while staying faithful to the client’s needs and paying attention to detail in order to achieve the best possible outcome,” Leto says. Her personal goals are “to always produce the best quality work and “to be true to myself, the clients, and my coworkers.”
Leto finds the commitment of Innsbrook to the community fulfilling.
“At this time myself, Ron McColly, his daughter Rhonda McColly-Fleener, and her daughter Randalynn McColly-Fleener are very active with the Methodist Hospital’s Foundation,” Leto says. “We, along with other members of our staff and club members, have all been working very hard to support the Foundation’s Mardi Gras Season, which, for us, is actually a year-long process.”
Innsbrook Country Club also silently partners with the McColly Foundation, which raises funds and supports local charities including Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana, the American Heart Association, the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, Dollars for Scholars and Purdue University.
Innsbrook Country Club will be 95 years old this year, she explains and the club has been completely renovated and has an amazing Member Grille that overlooks the greens.
“Our steakhouse restaurant, Langford’s Grille, boasts the best prime aged steaks in the area,” Leto says. “We try to get across the message that Innsbrook is not just a golf club, we offer a great social membership. I would go as far as to say we are the Region’s best kept secret for dining.”
Beat Boogie Quality Drums owner Steve Crabtree has loved drums since he was a young boy and heard Sandy Nelson’s classic “Let There Be Drums” for the first time.
“I was smitten and now Sandy Nelson is playing a snare drum that I built for him,” Crabtree explains.
Growing up during the golden era of rock and roll, Crabtree received his first snare drum in the early 60’s. Five decades later Crabtree has become a custom design drum builder, percussionist and drummer who has made drum sets for many celebrities.
Crabtree said his first snare drum was held together with springs.
“Being one of ten living in a house on the south side of Chicago taught me the persistence to stick with it. This was just prior to the ‘British Invasion.’ There was a group of musicians who would get together and jam in a garage near our house. The drummer had a maestro snare and high hat.”
The group played Americana-type songs and the guitar player/drummer Cedric Carlson showed Crabtree a shuffle beat and roll.
“It was like throwing gas on a fire,” Crabtree says. “Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich were a big influence. That maestro snare became my next level drum for about $7.50 cents.”
The first wave of classic rock had landed on American soil: the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five and the Zombies.
“My next snare was a jump to a silver sparkle Ludwig,” Crabtree says. “Soon it was a red sparkle Kingston drum-set. It was The Who, Cream, Jimi, The Doors, Big Brother, just non-stop great music.” After that there was a Ludwig kit and set of Premiers.
“I played in a few rock bands in the later 60’s and began working with original rock bands in the `70s and `80s but the brass ring was nowhere to be found. Later I worked for a gear manufacturer in Chicago and became a product manager for a gear line that I sold through distributors. I enjoyed the challenge of seeing the production of parts to the packaging and shipping, the cold calls and selling to a bigger and bigger distributor base.”
Crabtree took what he learned along the way and put his efforts into the Beat Boogie Drum line. He likes working directly with the musicians. “I network with them on-line, in person, from my trunk, whatever it takes. I have an opportunity to make a rim-shot heard round the world with my Beat Boogie Psychedelic Air Drum.”
A video of the Psychedelic Air Drum is available on the company website at http://www.beatboogie.com.
“If it works out it will send ripples throughout the industry,” Crabtree says. “If it doesn’t, I’ll continue to be a boutique drum builder. My dad once told me that I have this little target way out in outer space and that it’s going to be difficult to hit it. He said to bring it in closer and make it a bigger target.”
Crabtree's passion for drums led him to become a boutique drum builder.“In March of 2010 I created my first snare drum and wanted to offer an affordable primary or alternate snare drum that has bling and pop,” he says. “Most drummers own more than one snare drum as they are the most integral part of a set. It requires a lot of work and time to build and assemble drums, for example a typical snare drum uses over 240 components depending on the type of lugs used. It requires over 40 holes to be precisely drilled. I’ve taken a similar approach to the drums sets I build and use wood, steel, assorted retro wraps and wood veneers." On account of what started as a hobby, Crabtree now provides drums for many regional musicians---who play in many musical genres---as well as other drummers as "far away as Germany.”
The Beat Boogie drummers list continues to grow including a number of well-known names who perform with Prince, Kansas, Styx and the Buddy Rich Big Band.
Crabtree knew the founding drummer of Styx, the late John Pannozo, back in 1973 when he was still working a second job at Just Music on Halsted Street in Chicago.
“I bought a big set of Premier Drums, Keith Moon style, from him,” Crabtree says. “After 1978 I lost touch with him and they went on to be a world-wide success.”
Beat Boogie Customized Snare Drums are geared for drummers seeking an affordable alternate for a primary snare drum.
Percussion is the heart and soul of any song, Crabtree believes. Whether it's a pulse-pounding heavy metal track or cool and classic rock and roll, the drums are there, setting the pace for the entire band and injecting energy into the sound. With such a vital role to play in the performance, the right acoustic drum kit is one of the most important investments a drummer can make. Beat Boogie Quality Drums’ custom snares come in a variety of colors, wraps and wood and metal shells.
Crabtree is proud to play a small part in an industry he loves.
“The people you meet, the things you learn from drummers, the various drum manufacturers and master-drum builders throughout the world,” Crabtree says. “It’s truly a small, tight-knit world that I’m grateful to be part of.”
Crabtree will have a booth at the Chicago Drum Show in May, the world's biggest and longest running show of its kind.
The Beat Boogie Quality Drums Schererville showroom is accessed by appointment only. There is a link on the website for contacting Crabtree or he can be reached by e-mail at BeatBoogie@BeatBoogie.com.
Today, hundreds of people will gather at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster, Indiana, to hear a baldish twinkly-eyed, fifty-ish fellow with round wire glasses, read stories related one way or another, to Christmas. Over the years, he’s read a half dozen Truman Capote stories, Jean Shepherd's perennial favorite, "A Christmas Story," a few by David Sedaris, and many others, including a terrific story he wrote, "Christmas with Larry Flynt." This year, it's Truman Capote's “Jug of Silver.”
"Everybody has a great time," says John Cain, who's been hosting this event and reading stories for the past 20 years."We actually start with wine at 11 a.m.—that's when we open. We all laugh a lot. I really enjoy it because I get to pick the stories and nobody tells me what to do".
Obviously, nobody needs to. Besides being a witty raconteur, Cain is an excellent performer. South Shore Arts Christmas Readings Through the Ages are often sold out weeks before the show. The word is out: it's a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and contribute to a very good cause.
Executive Director of South Shore Arts, John Cain, hosts this event that raises money, to share the surprise and magic of art with as many people as possible. By all accounts he's doing a fabulous job—more than 28,000 children and youth participated in South Shore Arts’ "everykid" program last year. More than 400 other art classes were offered, and then taught by area artists in the three South Shore Arts centers in Crown Point, Hammond, and Munster.
Cain, who wins big-time awards as an arts administrator, also curates fascinating art shows. He has been executive director of South Shore Arts since 1993 and the Northwestern Indiana Symphony Orchestra since 2008. He's a fine actor, and hopes to someday reprise the role he played four years ago as Truman Capote. Day-to-day he runs these $2.5 million dollar operations serving as kind of a year-round Santa for many area artists and lots of folks trying to figure out where they fit into this crazy world.
I met him years ago at a dinner party and thoroughly enjoyed talking with him. He's smart and witty—the kind of delightful, funny person who knows something amusing and thoughtful about whatever the heck you might be talking about. You wouldn't at first think of him as someone who raises money and runs a major organization—but it's impossible to think of anyone who'd be better at his job. An accomplished and talented artist and performer is not usually as good at crunching numbers and maintaining fiscal order and responsibility as he is at being an artist. John is the rare manager of an arts organization who never loses sight of the bottom line. “We all know that John is hilarious,” one long-time board member explains, “but when it comes to money, John is deadly serious.”
"I was so lucky to get this job 20 years ago," he says. "It was the chance of a lifetime. If I weren’t doing this, the only thing I’d probably be qualified to do is wait tables, because I like eating in restaurants and like being waited on, so I think I’d be good at it. I could anticipate people’s wants and desires." See? That's his funny take on it. But how did he get from "wherever" to here?
How does a kid grow up knowing his life's work isn't to hunt and kill wild animals, but to paint their pictures on the walls of caves? Or show others where the pictures are? Or how to mix paints? Or make up a song about the hunting trip? Or a play about the chase? Or, in Cain's case, raise lots of money so that others can share their gifts? Where does the inspiration come from?
John Cain grew up in small-town America—Gary, Indiana. "My father grew up pretty poor," he says, but notes that there were some educated, bright people in his family. Both his parents graduated from Horace Mann High School in 1946, when it was one of the top-rated high schools in the country. His dad came back from the army, went to Northwestern on the G.I. Bill, and worked as an industrial engineer. "My mother smoked and drank and talked on the telephone," he laughed, but made it clear that both parents' love of theater and music influenced him.
When John Cain grew up as an only child in the1950s, he ran and played with the rest of the neighborhood kids, but there were hints of something special out there (and in there)—somewhere.
There was his family: "I was lucky that two generations earlier, my forebears had left the farm, achieved a certain level of education and aspired to worlds beyond themselves. It was because of their aspirations and what attracted them in life that I was exposed from an early age to the arts. It was because my parents liked witty, fun people who drank a lot that I grew up to be a witty, sometimes fun person who drinks a lot.
There was theater: "The lady across the street was big into community theater in Gary. She played Agnes Gooch in “Auntie Mame” in the ’50s. She also taught elementary school and my mother took me to see the Christmas play in her classroom. She gave me the scenery to take home afterwards. I played with it all winter long."
There was musical theater: "My parents took me to Chicago to see “My Fair Lady,” “Camelot,” “The Sound of Music.” We always sat in a box at the Shubert Theatre." He remembers his mother tying one of his father's belts around his waist so she could hold on as he leaned way over the side of the box.
At home, the little boy relived the moments over and over. "We had this record player in the rec room that looked like Henry Higgins’ gramophone. My father played the original cast albums and danced around the room. Sometimes, I joined him. His favorite was 'Get Me to the Church on Time.'"
There was music: Cain learned to play the piano and the violin and sang in a children's choir. "I played all of my mother’s Barbra Streisand albums over and over." Cain sang along with her, and Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, and Vicki Carr. "It was the same with my father’s Ella Fitzgerald records. I knew the lyrics to every song by heart. I still have those records and play them from time to time."
There were objects of art: "My life was utterly transformed by my first visit to the Art Institute. It was a school field trip, and I was mesmerized by the Impressionists, the Picassos, the Matisses, everything. I started buying as many of those postcard reproductions they sell in the gift shop as I could afford. I started an album of them, going back on the train time and time again to acquire more. I also bought the tiny reproductions they sold of Mayan pottery figures, Aztec gold, and African bronze amulets. I still have those too."
And then there was Uncle Rob. "His greatest work of art was himself," says Cain. "He was quite brilliant, very theatrical and rowdy, with a great sense of humor, and I had the feeling that I was being allowed in on his jokes."
Cain's mother's uncle lived outside Cleveland in a neighborhood built on the estate where John D. Rockefeller spent his boyhood. Uncle Rob's world was a lot different from working-class Gary, Indiana. "Uncle Rob was a Noel Coward sort of figure, witty, urbane, threw his head back with rollicking laughter, and threw fabulous parties. He and his 'friend,' as we called him back then, traveled extensively."
"They had amassed a magnificent collection of antiques—18th and 19th century American and English furniture, 19th century French paperweights. Everything arranged just so. I loved going to their house because I loved being around adults in general, more so than children, was used to being around people who drank and laughed. Also, more than anything, I loved things. Although I wasn’t allowed to touch anything at Uncle Rob’s, I didn’t mind. I just liked standing in the middle of the room and admiring everything around me."
Cain went to college in Ohio because Uncle Rob was there. "He belonged to the Cleveland Playhouse Club, so we’d go there for dinner and go to the plays and then go back to the club afterwards. I got to meet the actors and directors and Uncle Rob would invite them for lunches and dinners. We drank vodka for lunch and scotch for supper. We napped a lot."
And also Truman Capote: Cain was inspired by Capote's writing years before he played him in a local production of "Tru," four years ago. "Why do I like Truman Capote? Seriously? Do I have to spell if out for you? Let’s see . . . he was odd looking, he liked rich people, he was bitchy, he was a brilliant artist, he came from a semi-dysfunctional home (I know, who doesn’t), he drank too much . . . have I forgotten anything? Oh yes, he was gay! Do you see any similarities here? If it weren’t for Truman Capote—well for that matter, if it weren’t for Truman and Judy and Cole and Noel and Oscar Wilde and Christopher Isherwood and Cecil Beaton and Tennessee Williams, just to skim the surface—who would I be? It takes a village, you know, and a very cosmopolitan one at that, to raise a gay child."
Cain studied theater and voice in college, and like many of us graduated without a clue as to what to do. He recalls his situation in "Christmas With Larry Flynt," (check it out online at www.nwi.com/prime) a wonderful story he wrote and read in 2001 in which he describes one interminable period in summer stock theater.
“I knew that a life in the theater would be hard, especially in the beginning, but this was already too much. By the time that dreadful summer was over, I knew I’d made a huge mistake, that the suffering life of an actor was not for me. I didn’t tell my parents right away that all that money they’d spent on my studying the Stanislavsky method of acting for four years had been a waste. I thought it would be more merciful if it should dawn on them slowly over time. Maybe when I was 50 I’d tell them I’d changed my mind and wanted to pursue something else.”
Cain goes on in the story to describe his subsequent job working as a publicity assistant for "Hustler" publisher Larry Flynt's new publication, "Ohio," which never succeeded. He gradually made his way back to Northwest Indiana where he worked in local theater and opened an antiques shop and art gallery.
Eventually he was asked to direct the Northern Indiana Arts Association (NIAA), which has since changed its name to South Shore Arts. "Everything has changed since those days," he says. "Society has changed, and NIAA was a very social organization back then. When I came to work there in1993, we needed a social conscience, and we needed to create excitement. There was a new board willing to create a new mission, one that was much more sensitive to what comprises our community—our region—as a whole.
"We had been a little too heavy on affluent white people. Now, don’t get me wrong: I am personally very fond of affluent white people, have been all my life, hang around them all the time, but when you’re being scrutinized by potential funders, particularly the kind with public dollars, you need to be more inclusive. All of these words—inclusive, underserved, diversity—became part of our vocabulary. "
He says it used to drive him nuts when he'd write "underserved" in a grant proposal and the computer software would wonder if he meant "un-deserved."
"Lord, no," he says.
Cain says his days vary: "I do a lot of writing. I’m on the move. Lately, I’ve been
helping the Miller Beach Arts and Creative District as a member of its board. The arts and artists were always a big part of life in Miller, and there’s still so much potential there to use the arts to rebuild the community. When I was growing up in Gary, my mother and I drove out to the beach every summer day while my father was at work, and on the weekends, he came too. I met my first visual artist there, a friend of my mother’s, who lived on the beach and taught me how to paint like her."
He says he does a lot of meetings. "You have to in order to engage people, make them interested in the organization and its needs. And I socialize. Lunches at Giovanni’s, dinners at Gamba, I tell people that I drink for a living, and I’m not exaggerating."
Is it harder than it used to be to raise money for the arts?
"There is plenty of money if you know how to ask for it, it’s just not coming from the same places. Fundraising is a much more sophisticated undertaking these days. People go to school and get degrees in what I do. I, on the other hand, have always flown by the seat of my pants. But there’s an adage in fundraising that still holds true: people give to people, not to things. In other words, it’s all about relationships, so I try to keep making friends, keep maintaining friendships. It’s exhausting being nice all the time, but I have very few friends who don’t give me money."
Years ago, when our ancestors settled small towns, many thought there should be more to life than working from dawn `till dusk. They started bands and art museums and theaters. They funded libraries and schools. They wanted their kids to know something of the complexity of human vision and desire. John Cain thinks our schools are offering fewer of these options all the time, but arts organizations, like South Shore Arts, are expanding, trying to fill the gap.
"The arts have emerged over the past ten years as one of the region’s most positive aspects of life," he says, "and I don’t see that ever going away. People are expanding their horizons all the time, and the boundaries that separate us from Chicago are blurring with every young artist who graduates from Columbia or the School of the Art Institute or wherever they study and in whatever discipline. It’s all one metropolitan region. But it’s a vast region, so we still need arts locally to make it accessible to people and we need quality arts to make it worth their while."
1994 A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
1995 One Christmas by Truman Capote
1996 A Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote
1997 SantaLand Diaries by David Sedaris
1998 Red Rider Nails the Hammond Kid (A Christmas Story) by Jean Shepherd
1999 Two by Sedaris (Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol and The Drama Bug by David Sedaris)
2000 A Politically Correct Holiday Reading from James Finn Garner
2001 Christmas with Larry Flynt by John Cain
2002 Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit by P.G. Wodehouse
2003 The Andy Warhol Diaries
2004 A Christmas Memory (reprised) by Truman Capote
2005 SantaLand Diaries (reprised) by David Sedaris
2006 Christmas at The New Yorker, featuring Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor by John Cheever (and other writings)
2007 Peanuts & Martinis, compiled by John Cain
2008 A Christmas Story (reprised) by Jean Shepherd
2009 Side by Side by Sedaris (Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol and Six to Eight Black Men by David Sedaris)
2010 You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs
2011 Gnome for the Holidays, compiled by John Cain
2012 Home for the Hols, travel humor by Tina Fey and Patrick Dennis
Christmas with Larry Flynt is an entirely original piece, but Peanuts & Martinis was a compilation that John Cain put together about the imaginary meeting of Truman Capote and Charlie Brown at one of Jackie O’s Christmas parties. John says, “That story had a lot of original stuff in it as you can imagine.”