Mickey’s Tavern in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood died a few years ago. One of its beloved regulars died in December.
I first met Dr. Pelz at Mickey’s when I moved to the neighborhood. It was my first night on the block and I headed over to the dive bar on Medill and Leavitt before my bags were unpacked.
It may have been Dr. Pelz who brought my first beer. It’s hard to tell. There was more than one free beer coming my way from longtime patrons who I would come to know well over the next few years.
Bill Pelz was his name but to me he’ll always be Dr. Pelz.
Dr. Pelz, a history professor at Elgin Community College, hosted an annual Christmas party. About a day before the 2017 version, he had a heart attack and died.
“He will be sorely missed,” his obituary stated. It went on to talk about his life as an activist and prolific scholar and author. It didn’t mention Mickey’s. Says one of the lines in his obituary:
“Generations of young students in Chicago looked to Bill for inspiration, good humor, generous friendship, and political curiosity.”
I think you could say the same for young pubgoers at Mickey’s and other local establishments that Dr. Pelz frequented like the nearby Quenchers Saloon.
I had the good fortune of being treated by Dr. Pelz to lunch or dinner at various bars and eateries on the northwest side of Chicago. The owner, manager or workers at each one all knew him and treated him with respect and that of an old friend.
But most of my memories of Dr. Pelz were at Mickey’s. It’s where we saw semi-regular Mark, AKA “Mosquito” bring in three ladies once who may or may not have been Russian prostitutes. It’s where he gave advice to a friend of mine who was having his small bachelor party at my apartment. We had stopped at Mickey’s prior to the party where we drank until one of the strippers the best man hired entered and led us away.
Dr. Pelz was there when a van caught fire outside and filled the inside of Mickey’s with smoke.
He was there when I played Erasure on the jukebox. And not only was he at Mickey’s when I filmed an audition tape for one of the seasons of “Survivor” but he appeared on the video as well.
I once installed a new doorbell for him at his home.
A memorial for Dr. Pelz is being held January 28 at the American Postal Workers Union Hall in Canaryville.
Celebrating his life for an hour or two in a south side union hall. I won’t be able to make it. I already raised a pint for Dr. Pelz at Bob Inn in Logan’s Square the night he was supposed to have his holiday party. I’ll probably do the same the night of his memorial, either at Bob Inn or one of the other spots where Dr. Pelz brought inspiration, good humor and generous friendship.