There’s a glitzy, glamorous new addition to the bustling South Loop entertainment scene since Lips Chicago opened its doors recently. Lips is a super duper, over the top, drag dining-theater palace located at 2229 South Michigan on trendy Motor Row.
Its unique brand of entertainment pairs Las Vegas style drag performances with delicious food and signature cocktails in a whimsical, fantastical setting; it’s a winning combination that will ensure you a funky good time when you visit.
Lips began as the brainchild of Mark Zschiesche, who left his native Greensboro, North Carolina at the age of 16 headed to New York, where he dabbled in fashion and opened a clothing store.
After dressing as Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe for Halloween celebrations, Mark realized he was a natural entertainer and in 1980 began performing as his alter ego Yvonne Lame’.
The name is loosely based on Ivana Trump – who was popular on the New York scene at the time when Mark was a regular at NYC’s legendary Studio 54 nightclub – combined with his love for the elegant fabric, lame.
Eventually, Mark closed the clothing store and Yvonne Lame, with a team of partners, opened the first Lips in Greenwich Village in 1996, followed by franchises in San Diego in 1999, Fort Lauderdale in 2007, Atlanta in 2013, and now Chicago in 2019. All have been rousing successes.
“For more than 20 years, Lips has set the bar for the drag dinner experience, and our fifth and largest location here in Chicago is no exception,” says Yvonne Lamé. “With the addition of our chef Tom Schmitt, who’s actually from Chicago, and our fabulous cast of queens, including incredible local talent, we’re proud to bring Lips to this great city.”
The truly lavish Chicago venue features a mindblowing kaleidoscope of bejeweled mirrors, four eight-foot crystal chandeliers and sconces, pink leopard tufted walls, velvet curtains, an embellished stage, state of the art club lighting, and even a glamorous onstage throne to create a one-of-a-kind experience rarely had in Chicago. The décor will take your breath away.
The food is pretty good – basic American fare like chicken, fish, steak, and pasta in various permutations. The salmon I had was grilled to perfection and accompanied by asparagus and rice pilaf. Delicious! The prices are reasonable and the fun part is that the menu selections are named after the drag queens, who not only perform the shows, but also serve as the waitstaff.
The Ari Gato Grilled Salmon. Delish!
So you can order the Angel LeBare Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, the Delilah Brooks Crispy Chicken Tenders, the Ginger Snap Shrimp Cocktail, the Saadi Fierce Crab Cakes, and then during or after your meal, you can watch these queens get up and perform.
Our server for the evening was Ms. Batty Davis, whose menu item is Batty Davis Elite Corn Fritters. Because she was a warm and caring server as she took our order, it was then somewhat surreal to see Batty go on stage and do her rendition of Whitney Houston that was so good we were dancing in our seats while singing along. At one point, Batty did a calculated to-the-beat flip that brought an uproar throughout the room.
Every audience member enjoys a front-row seat to the shows, which include lip syncing, live vocals, bawdy humor, choreographed numbers and campy comedy. The performing queens are both nationally recognized and local talent.
This list includes Chicago drag legends Mimi Marks, Mz. Ruff N’ Stuff, and Angel LeBare; Atlanta’s Shavonna Brooks; and New York City’s Delilah J. Brooks.
Mz. Ruff ‘N Stuff (aka Thomas Hunt), is originally from New York and moved to Chicago in 1989 as a member of the Guardian Angels. He started working as a nightclub promoter and throwing loft parties, and became a manager at a bar called The Club House, where they had a drag show.
One night the host did not go on, and Thomas stepped in, first only donning lipstick and a wig, but not dressed as a queen. He/she was such a hit that people wanted him to come back, and he started to bring clothes to wear as costumes. She started working full time as a drag queen in the mid-90s. Mz. Ruff ‘N Stuff hosts Lips’ Sunday gospel brunch. She is also a 4th degree black belt in martial arts.
Shavonna B. Brooks grew up in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago and has been in the art form of female impersonation for 17 years. She started her career in the South Side clubs, competed in Miss Continental Plus, and is the reigning Miss Gay US of A, winning the award in September 2018.
Shavonna has been with Lips for five years, first working in the Atlanta location, where she hosted. Now she’s back in Chicago hosting the Glitz & Glam revues for Lips Chicago on Friday and Saturday nights.
She performs interpretations of other artist’s music, but does not impersonate the artists. Musically, she’s inspired by Lizzo and enjoys performing her interpretation of Lizzo’s music. She is thrilled to be back living in Chicago performing a career that she loves.
Shavonna is larger than life, fun, entertaining and engages everyone. Her performance and emceeing was one of the highlights of my evening. Shavonna had it lit! Working her room, she was lovely and blew you away with her sexy and flexible moves.
Lips Chicago shows include Twisted Broadway Wednesdays, Dinner With The Divas Thursdays featuring celebrity impersonation, Glitz & Glam Fridays and Saturdays (with two shows nightly), and the Dragalicious Gospel Brunch Sunday afternoon and Showstopper Sunday Nights.
Reservations are required, but walk-ins can usually find a seat at the spacious bar. Dinner packages on Fridays and Saturdays are $39.95 per guest, while Sunday brunch is $30 per.
Lips also caters to bachelorette parties, birthdays, anniversaries, even the occasional divorce party. Special guests of honor can enjoy time onstage with the performers and a commemorative photo.
On the night we attended, by show of hands as asked by hostess Shavonna Brooks, the packed crowd turned out to be half gay and half straight and nobody really cared who was which, as a great time was had by all.
Lips Chicago is a novel dining-theater experience offering good food and service, stiff drinks, banging music, kinky visuals, and a kickass show. Check it out.
For reservations, call 312/815-2662. For more information, visit lipschicago.com.
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