Chicago used to be a must-stop for Hollywood's top talent and New York's glittering stars. If for no other reason than to change trains.
The Superman movie is a wrap. Laurence Fishburne and Amy Adams have gone home. And while "The Playboy Club" is filming here for the next few months, the star power in the city is reverting to its usual dimmer wattage.
Whether they were going east on their way to Europe or heading back to Los Angeles for the big movie opening, the stars were forced to spend a few hours in Chicago, the nation's rail hub.
Beginning in the 1920s and continuing for decades, their comings and goings were noted in the Tribune and by die-hard fans who prowled the Dearborn, Grand Central, Union and North Western stations. After the Super Chief or the Capitol Limited rolled in, those waiting would be rewarded with a glimpse of Lillian Gish, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, John Wayne and Elizabeth Taylor (with varied husbands).
The practice continued even after train lines introduced sleeping cars with through-service in the mid-1940s, and even into the age of air travel. Freelance photographers staked out Midway Airport in the 1950s and early '60s to catch such stars as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.
All that publicity was no accident. The traveling starlet surprised by her fans at the train station was already a tired script by 1927, according to a delightful feature story by famed Tribune reporter Genevieve Forbes Herrick. In it, she describes how a press agent's telegram alerts newspapers of the star's imminent arrival, how the pack of reporters and photographers draws a crowd at the station, how the star — dressed to the nines — feigns wonder at the big to-do being made over her, and how she always manages a throaty, "Chicago, there is really nothing like it."