Quirky community boosters are equal parts commerce, caring
A "Rocky Horror Picture Show" screening to raise funds for ALS was organized by IMODS and Skokie Chamber member Scott Holtz on Aug 24 at the Skokie Theater in Skokie. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:19PM
SKOKIE — There’s something to be said about putting life on hold to enjoy a quirky movie with neighbors and friends.
Especially when the film’s outrageous plot enjoys timeless fanfare, and the cost of admission supports the greater good.
Scott Holtz said he “had been looking for another excuse to do “Rocky Horror” since a late-night showing two years ago helped raise funds for a floundering Skokie Theatre.
The cause celebre this time around at the Aug. 24 “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” screening was to raise money for Les Turner ALS Foundation.
Headquartered in Skokie, the foundation is one of the nation’s largest independent ALS organizations.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a health matter “near and dear to many people in Skokie,” said Ann Tennes, the village’s director of marketing and communications.
The debilitating disease hit even closer to home the past March when Village Attorney Pat Hanley disclosed his ALS diagnosis.
Within a few months a “team of warriors” led by Hanley’s wife, Lisa, set out to raise $10,000 for the Sept. 22 ALS Walk4Life along the Chicago lake front.
“Lo and behold we will probably be closer to $20,000,” Lisa Hanley said.
“My family, friends and co-workers have been very supportive,” Pat Hanley added, noting that he can’t say enough about Holtz and Randy Miles, who respectively serve as the vice president and president of the Independent Merchants of Downtown Skokie.
“What IMOD has done has been terrific,” he said. “They’re such terrific supporters of great causes.”
The group sold 120 tickets and raised about $2,500 from the “Rocky Horror” screening, which was part of the village-sponsored street fest Backlot Bash, Holtz said.
“It was a wonderful, warm auditorium full of crazy people,” Holtz said.
Inspiring goodwill and promoting activity downtown has become a personal mission of sorts for Holtz.
In addition to serving on the IMOD board, the Skokie resident and small-business owner sits on the village’s Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Task Force and Backlot Bash Planning Committee.
“I’m an avid believer that something can happen and is happening in downtown Skokie,” Holtz said.
He said helping preserve the century-old landmark theater at 7924 Lincoln Ave. was part and parcel to economic development in the area.
Fortunately, Chicago-based theater franchise Gorilla Tango saw it in its best interest, too, and purchased the venue the past spring.
“The thing that is great about our business is we are a destination business,” explained Gorilla Tango Theater Owner and CEO Dan Abbate.
Abbate added: “Our model is particularly unique in that we don’t market to a specific demographic. We’re pulling a larger, diverse group of people.”
Both Abbate and Holtz share in the village’s goal of transforming downtown Skokie into a hot spot for entertainment, dining and leisure in addition to serving as a work hub.
“Any positive activity that brings people to downtown Skokie is very beneficial and welcomed,” Tennes said.
Luring people of all ages downtown with the longest-running release in film history was a no-brainer for Holtz.
Though the film itself is not that great, he said, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” “has the amazing power of bringing all sorts of different people together for different reasons.”
“If I can build a community out of something, it’s an accomplishment,” he said.