But Milt Trenier's is no more, so we're headed elsewhere. "Anywhere on the north side," he says, anticipating the question before I ask it. "I'm a jazz man. I go to Rush Street, to the Back Room. The Back Room has some of the top artists in the city. It's small, quaint, intimate. The music you hear is right there. You get a chance to see the entertainers' eyes. They can see your heart. They can see your passion. I think that's important for an entertainer: for the audience to feel."
I'm feeling it big-time, swept up in Mac Daddy's Chicago, a place I never want to leave. He's rolling now, all cylinders clicking. "The people! The atmosphere! The food! The culture! The attitude in Chicago is just so sweet, Mark. You are going to see the difference when you set your feet on solid ground."
For me, that cold, solid ground of reality comes rising up to meet me far too soon. I've halfway convinced myself that Mac might jet east for the day to personally show me his hometown. But then something in the dressing room's air subtly changes, and he's got to go. Leave. The director rushes in again. Mac's needed on the set. And tomorrow he's off to Amsterdam for six weeks with "the boys," the new Rat Pack - Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Matt Damon - to film Ocean's Twelve.
All of a sudden, I don't feel so special anymore.
Before leaving, Mac's on the phone, passing me off to his longtime assistant in Chicago, who, he swears, will take good care of me. Then he's off, and I'm crash-landing on the sidewalk, once again just another fan with no place to go, the Mac Daddy once at my side now a fast-fading memory. Then it hits me. I might not have him anymore, but I've got the next best thing: Bernie Mac's Chicago.