CCS Hall of Fame '20
How a doughnut-shop parking lot became a confluence of Chicago youth subcultures—and what killed it off
Whole article is a good read, with great videos therein. Will post the opening part. Kind of disappointing that they didn't point out in the article that Dahmer and Gacy used to drink at the L&L across the street and scope out potential victims.
In 1987, Ben Hollis and John Davies pitched Chicago PBS station WTTW on a program that would capture the city's obscure corners, unusual characters, and fringe phenomena. To show the station what they had in mind, they'd shot a "guerilla demo" at a spot Hollis already knew: the Dunkin' Donuts on the corner of Belmont and Clark in Lakeview. He'd often driven past it late at night and seen groups of young people hanging out in the parking lot, and he figured it'd be worth investigating. What were they doing there? Why that spot, not somewhere else? And what was the appeal?
Around midnight on a Saturday in August, Davies and Hollis brought their gear to the Dunkin' Donuts. They'd decided to call their show Wild Chicago, and Hollis dressed like an intrepid wilderness explorer: he wore a pith helmet and a short-sleeved khaki shirt, with binoculars around his neck. While Davies ran the camera, Hollis pointed a dinky microphone at just about any bystander who would talk. "I'm Ben Hollis with Wild Chicago, a make-believe TV show," he explained to a middle-aged Black cop inside the doughnut shop. "Just trying to figure out if you've got any good ideas about what brings these kids together out here. Why do they come here?"
"For a good time," the cop responded.
Hollis and Davies's footage from that night includes a couple teenagers freestyle skateboarding, crowds of enthusiastic kids dressed all in black and smiling for the camera, and a Dunkin' employee who said some of the teens were "straight-up sugar fiends." The two of them brought the tape to WTTW senior vice president Pat Denny, who was in charge of production for the station's regular programs. "He said, 'Yeah, there's magic here,'" Hollis says. "'Let's make a real pilot.'"
Wild Chicago debuted in January 1989, its weekly episodes each half an hour long. Once it was no longer make-believe, Hollis wanted to do a proper shoot at the Dunkin' Donuts that had gotten the show off the ground. "Something that alive, organic, and chaotic is rare—it did stand out," he says. In August 1990, when he arrived with a station cameraman, Hollis immediately saw that the crowd in the parking lot had ballooned in size since his previous visit. "It was on the cusp of dangerous," he says. "It was an excited crowd, and everybody was jumping around. It was so chaotic. Everybody wanted to stick their face in the camera and say something."
Both times Hollis visited the Dunkin' Donuts on camera, he called it "Punk Rock Park." "I maybe saw a guy with a Mohawk or something and just figured, 'Oh, it must be punk rock-y,'" he says. But the young people who hung out there had another name for it: Punkin' Donuts.