Oak Theatre

2000 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60647

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Showing 26 - 46 of 46 comments

SusanLocke on September 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I went to the Oak Theatre in time span of the late Forties and early Fifties, saw Roy Roger and Dale evans there….saw Cisco and Pancho in person one Saturday on the way to the show. And Cisco’s horse Diaboblo..I am sure I spelled that wrong. I was really young, and in the seventies I tried to show my Children all the different shows I had gone to and unfortunately most were showing porn by then….Oak, Crystal, Tiffen, and the Rockne. In those days show admission was a whole quarter for many hours of movies and normally 2 cartoons too..when I was under five we lived on Stave Street, and then moved to the other house on the same lot Bingham Street…one block from the Ravenswood El.The producer from the Kuckla Fran and Ollie show lived in our neighborhood…I would love to hear from anyone who attened Chase Grade School, I went to kindergarten there. Or someone who lived in the neighbord…contact me at or Susan Besaw on Face Book…would love to make a neighbor hood connection.

sheree1979 on November 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I was one of the adult entertainers in 1979 at the Oak Theater, I went by Sheree Fantasy, I worked with many of the headliners, I enjoyed my time at the Oak, It’s sad to find out that it’s gone with all it’s history. Does any one remember a club around the corner called the hideaway ran by 2 partners named Kurt and Darryl. I would appreciate any information regarding this club or its owners. Please feel free to e-mail me at

HughJazz on November 13, 2010 at 9:31 pm

I worked as an Andy Frain Usher in 1971 & 1972. I was regularly assigned to work at the Oak Theatre, along with Adult “Sister Theatres” Town(Armitage & Clark), Image(Clark near Chicago), and the Newberry (across from the Newberry Library) with its “All Male Cast” features. The owner at the time was Joel Ross, whose father ran similar theatres in Kansas City. Joel was rotund with black hair and black-framed glasses..He always treated us Andy Frains well, and I used to enjoy walking his German Shepard dog, “Major”. Half of the Shakespeare Avenue Police Station could be found in the theatre balcony watching the show. In addition to the 16mm movies, 3 dancers would do a live show, stripping down to pasties and g-string. Two ladies came on,first, then the “star”. I got Tempest Storms to autograph posters for my class at DeVry Tech. Mr Ross would take the strippers out betweeen shows in his green Cadillac.

Broan on March 21, 2009 at 9:31 am

http://tinyurl.com/cwk5fz – Photos of the Oak being demolished

DavidZornig on January 7, 2009 at 12:58 am

I just found my 07/28/93 handbill from the Oak Theatre.
Alas, I have no way to scan it.
It advertises the address in print as 2000 North Western Av. Phone 235-8502. Which still should have been a 312 area code back then I believe.
I recapped this particular July night in an earlier post.

One more little tidbit that only music fans may find of interest. The show that night was actually ELO Part II. A toring group comprised of some former ELO members from their heyday. But no Jeff Lynne, the creative force and founder.
On the handbill it clearly states “Electric Light Orchestra LIVE at Oak Theatre”. Similar versions of this type of advertising would years later rear their head as a legal issue facing ELO Part II.
Turns out some unscrupulous promoters would knowingly bill ELO Part II as ELO, in an effort to boost ticket sales. Then claimed a clerical errors when “brought” to their attention.
At the time original drummer & co-founder Bev Bevan retired and left ELO Part II in 1999, they were no longer legally allowed to use ELO in their name. They now tour as The Orchestra. After a very brief stint as, I kid you not: “Electric Light Orchestra Part II Former Members”. A mouthful indeed, that was apparently later also rejected by attorneys after Bevan’s departure. Still a dynamite show though with experienced, accomplished musicians.

DavidZornig on January 6, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Great info. I wonder what was spent in comparison, on the 1992 conversion to a live venue. Surely the land value trumped whatever was thought could be earned in any amount of time, running concerts.
That and an offer to develop the entire parcel throughout the Milwaukee Ave. side. I thought the White Castle back then was a reasonably new structure itself. There’s a modern looking condo building across on the N/W corner of Milwaukee & Armitage now too. Where Boston Store used to be I think. S/W corner is still vacant with temp fencing.

DavidZornig on January 6, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Ah, you are correct, a Drive-Thru of a bank. What a waste.
Why couldn’t the bank have been incorporated within the Walgreen’s lot? Or maybe built where that vacant Checker’s/Title Loan joint was?

The Oak Theatre had huge new potential, and the area surely would have supported it had it been given more time as a live venue. They even could have reinstalled a screen and ran some art-house type stuff in their down time.

For all the land that spanned the Oak, White Castle & subsequent parking lots along Milwaukee, they could have easily fit the Walgreen’s and bank/drive-thru on the Milwaukee side whilst keeping the Oak in place. It all just needed a better layout.
They should have built the Walgreens structure where it’s own parking is now, instead of having two walls face the Armitage/Milwaukee corner.
The entrance isn’t even ON the corner. So what was the geographic benefit? It’s silly.

Not sure who built 1st or wanted to one-up who, but CVS is notorious for building stores a block from existing Walgreen’s stores. (CVS is in a former grocery store just up Milwaukee).

Down on Division St., there are 2 CVS’s a block in each direction of an existing Walgreen’s. Which coincidentally replaced the Playboy/Sandburg Theatre.

GFeret on September 30, 2008 at 2:06 pm

No, not a bank (at the former OAK Theatre site),

but a DRIVE-THRU (for a bank)!

Talk about your ignoble afterlife.

DavidZornig on August 19, 2008 at 11:30 pm

I was only at The Oak Theatre once in my life. July 28th, 1993. A rare Chicago performance of ELO Part II.
A line up of some former Electric Light Orchestra members, without their former leader/founder Jeff Lynne.

I was amazed at the obvious transformation of what we had driven by hundreds of times as a porno theatre, into a classy, small concert venue.
You could tell by some of the interior workmanship, that some thought & money had been spent on the renovation.

The interior walls had been sand blasted & tuckpointed. Not much appeared original to the building except the exterior. And an inner set of door frames that separated the lobby from the auditorium. Great sound system, and alcohol sales to boot.

I really thought the place had huge potential, as like the next Park West. I think Johnny Cash was even advertised as being one of the upcoming artists to soon play there. So it definately could have positioned itself as a premiere, smaller venue for established acts that would sell out regularly.

I was absolutely stunned as to how quickly it closed and was torn down, in such a seemingly short amount of time. And to put up a bank!? What happened?
The ever growing, recently gentrified neighborhood, surely could have supported a venue of it’s size. It even had a parking lot behind it. And a bonus White Castle behind that.(Now gone too. In place of yet another Walgreens, 2 blocks from a yet another CVS.)

A truly sad, quick end to what could have been.

thekid1 on November 28, 2007 at 3:53 am

Ah, yes. The Oak was at its finest in the late 70s and early 80s. I knew the owner and as a young lad I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of the entertainers. Needless to say I had a smile on my face after each visit. They would get some pretty famous starlets at the time. One of them actually provided me with a first time experience. I’ll never forget her. : )
The Kid

Dallas on September 15, 2007 at 6:28 pm

I worked there several times, I think it was sometime during 1977 to 1979. Beautiful Theater. I enjoyed working there as the Headliner.
Dallas Electra

mjthom on September 7, 2007 at 8:21 pm

So is that entire block gone now? Back in the early 90s, I used to work in that area and shopped at a small mom & pop Ace Hardware store that occupied one of the storefront shops beside the theater. The shops all shared the theater’s terra cotta exterior. At the time the theater was being used for Latin music concerts, I think. They let me poke my head in one day when a band was setting up. Despite the fact that it looked so immense from the outside, it actually seemed quite intimate on the inside – and still in pretty good shape. What a shame that it was demolished. That area had really hit the skids by the time I was working there, so I’m sure it would have been difficult to find any use for it.

HDTVdesignteam on March 30, 2007 at 7:43 pm

I don’t remember Rosa, but, during a Cheri shoot I ended up in a number of the published “spread” photos. My girl friend was up the street at Augastana I believe.

GFeret on February 21, 2007 at 11:13 am

‘House Photographer’ for the OAK Theatre in the ‘70s?!! Did you manage to get “SPERMATOZOA ROSA’ in action?

(More) seriously…how many out there remember the OAK’s illuminated dial-face clock, up above the (emergency) exit just right of the screen? I saw too many movies at that place to enumerate. Took guitar lessons @Melody Music School right next door, too (owner: Joe Guido).

HDTVdesignteam on July 12, 2006 at 4:27 pm

Believe it or not, I was the ‘House photographer’ during the 70’s when it had stage shows…. Just a college kid having fun. The manager had me take some of the acts out to dinner to keep them sober until showtime. Ah, yes.

Broan on June 19, 2006 at 7:44 pm

Here is a profile from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s HAARGIS system. It includes a small picture.

markymark on July 8, 2004 at 10:35 am

I used to walk past this theater all the time in the mid-late ‘70s when they showed pornos and always made comments to my buddy about the poster for the current adult film playing there. I finally got in during the time it was a concert venue in the early '90s and saw Weird Al Yankovic,also got a couple of cool cardbaord posters for the show which state the performance is at “The Oak” with its address! During this time,Margie’s Candies was featured on the WTTW show “Wild Chicago” and this inspired my wife and myself to finally go to Margie’s for some home-made ice cream and candies. We not only met the legendary Margie but also sat in the very booth The Beatles sat in when they visited in 1962 or 63 for their Comisky Park concert.

KenC on May 21, 2004 at 1:09 am

Was in the Oak theatre a few times as a kid. Like many neighborhood theatres, would show double or triple features; second or third run. My one rather vivid memory of the Oak: late 50’s, Saturday afternoon, watching “TERROR FROM THE YEAR 5000” plus “THE SCREAMING SKULL”.The main floor was wide but not very deep; every seat seemed close to the screen. Seemed like there were many more seats in the balcony. As I recall, the lobby was quite small. Yes, Richard, Margie’s Candies is still on the southwest corner of Western and Armitage: has been for decades. A great place for shakes and all sorts of candy.

richardg on April 22, 2004 at 9:39 pm

I tried to see the inside of the Oak during a visit to Chicago during the early 1980’s. Unfortunately, the ticket person wouldn’t let me inside without purchasing a ticket even though I assured him I’d be only five minutes and was only interested in seeing the theatre. I then asked if I could just see the foyer area. This request was also met with a “No tickie, no lookie.” I finally asked if I bought a ticket would I be able to see any of the theatre’s architecture while the movie was showing. He informed me it was very dark and that I probably wouldn’t see anything. I gave up and never did get to see the inside of the Oak before its demolition.
I remember there was a great old fashioned ice cream parlour less than a block away. Anyone know if it’s still there?