Community rallies to raise money for nightlife legend’s cancer treatment, order of mayoral ballot decided and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Jojo Baby in a beehive hairdo. An influencer before Instagram, Jojo came to symbolize an era of drag culture before reality TV popularized it. Friends and performers have organized events to raise money to help pay Jojo’s medical expenses.

The Greer Lankton Collection, Mattress Factory Museum, Pittsburgh

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be cloudy with a chance of rain and a high near 44 degrees. Similar weather will continue into tonight with a low near 37. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy with a high near 47.

Top story

Chicago nightlife legend Jojo Baby won’t let cancer be a drag

For decades, no matter who you were or how old you were, everyone in Chicago nightlife knew Jojo Baby.

A hairdresser, they were the mastermind behind Dennis Rodman’s psychedelic hairdos. A quasi-celebrity in the Chicago club scene, they designed outlandish, phantasmagorical nightclub looks that made them a draw. An artist, they were an early star of the drag scene as well as someone who challenged it, a model and a muse to other artists, including Nick Cave, Geoffrey Mac and Greer Lankton as well as the subject of a Clive Barker documentary.

Over the years, Jojo Baby built as eclectic of a career as you could in Chicago and came to symbolize an era of drag culture that existed well before reality TV popularized it.

Then, Jojo Baby announced earlier this fall another bout with cancer, prompting a hasty career retrospective as friends and performers across Chicago began organizing events to raise money to help pay medical expenses. The events have put a spotlight on one of Chicago’s most influential, living queer artists.

Tomorrow, drag queen and longtime friend Pottymouth will host “My Friend Jojo,” a cabaret show at Hydrate, where some of Jojo’s artwork will be raffled off.

Some in the drag community have pointed to Jojo’s illness as a sign of inconsistencies in health care for performers and artists. 

Jojo is “a perfect example of someone who’s in the medical system of Cook County,” said Mark Bazant, known in the nightlife scene as Silky Jumbo. “They don’t have the best health care, so they’re having to deal with a lot of issues and not pretty issues.”

Jojo, who is gender fluid and uses they/them pronouns, said that, despite tough bouts with chemotherapy, they are still answering the call of performance.

“I do Sam Zell’s birthday and Christmas party every year,” Jojo said. The organizers “just said, ‘You’ve been here for 20 years. We need you to be at the party.’ So I did it.”

Even in a scene epitomized by difference, Jojo’s story is remarkable.

Aaron Gettinger has more on Jojo Baby’s story in his latest for WBEZ here.

More news you need

  1. Family, friends and colleagues are mourning the loss of actor Xavier Lofton, who was killed in a shooting Friday that also killed another person and critically wounded a third. Lofton, 29, was remembered as someone determined to put in the work, often taking several acting classes at the same time. He was also known for bringing a sense of joy to a classroom or set, our Sophie Sherry reports.
  2. Chicago police were releasing few details about an off-duty cop who said he fired at an armed thief who was trying to steal a catalytic converter from a parked car in Irving Park. Sophie and our Tom Schuba have the latest on this developing story here.
  3. The order of the mayoral ballot in February 2023’s municipal election was officially determined today in a lottery held by the Chicago Board of Elections. To get into the lottery, candidates needed to submit nominating petitions on the first day they were being accepted — something the incumbent, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, chose not to do. We’ve got more on the ballot — which will now have Ja’Mal Green’s name at the top — here.
  4. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, a powerful construction union, has made a $1 million commitment to mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. The contribution nearly triples Garcia’s campaign war chest and underscores deep divisions within the labor movement, our Fran Spielman explains.
  5. An online petition calls on the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to rescind the honorary doctorate it awarded the artist Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. Ye has been spewing antisemitic hate speech in recent weeks, sparking a group from the SAIC community to create the online petition on change.org.
  6. After Whole Foods closed in Englewood last month, two groups worked to fill the gap in food security yesterday by holding a giveaway at 63rd Street and Ashland Avenue. People and cars lined up down the block to receive some of the 60,000 pounds of frozen beef, hot dogs and bacon from Andrew Holmes Foundation and Taste for the Homeless.
  7. A jury awarded more than $2.6 million to three former Lake County employees who claimed they were fired by County Clerk Erin Cartwright Weinstein because they supported her opponent in the 2016 election. One of Weinstein’s first acts after taking office in December 2016, after defeating incumbent clerk Keith Brin, was to fire three of Brin’s former top deputies.
  8. A Southwest Side economic development organization, joined by seven other groups, asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker yesterday to delay the sale of the Damen Silos along the Chicago River. The groups hope the delay will allow for public meetings before determining the fate of the 23 acres of industrial land, our Brett Chase reports.
  9. Uber Eats and Postmates have agreed to make $8.5 million in refunds to struggling Chicago restaurants — and pay $1.5 million on top of that to the city. The money will settle claims that the companies ignored a 15% cap on delivery fees and listed restaurants without first obtaining their consent, our Fran Spielman reports.
  10. And last night, former First Lady Michelle Obama returned to her hometown to share stories from her new book, “The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times” in a sold-out event at the Chicago Theatre. Obama spoke about coping with the pandemic and polarization and about the lessons she learned from her father, like, “You fall, you get up, you carry on.

A bright one

Field Museum’s Sue lends a hand to paleontologists studying why T. rex arms are so short

You’ve probably heard the jokes. Now, paleontologists want to know why Tyrannosaurus rexes’ arms are so short.

The Field Museum’s dinosaur Sue is lending a hand — er, an arm — to the project. Sue’s right arm was removed yesterday so it can be CT scanned at the University of Chicago and used to create computer models that will give scientists a better understanding of Sue’s muscles and joints.

Jingmai O’Connor, a Field Museum paleontologist and leader of the project, hopes the tests will help show how the arms were used and ultimately why they were needed. 

“There’s all these funny jokes about how a T. rex can’t clap its hands and it can’t play drums or do pushups, but jokes aside, the proportions of these forelimbs are very strange,” O’Connor said. 

Paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor is leading the project on testing Sue’s arm.

Paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor is leading the project on testing Sue’s arm.

Nicky Andrews/Sun-Times

Sue has the most complete T. rex arms and there are only a few others in the world, according to O’Connor. Due to the lack of arms, the Field Museum will be working with scientists from the University of Alberta who have a different species of Tyrannosaur forelimb to compare with Sue’s. 

“We’re going to do these same analyses of both to compare function,” O’Connor said. 

The project is significant in the paleontology world as there has been little to no study of T. rex arms in the past 20 years, O’Connor said. 

For the time being, Sue will have a prosthetic right arm and can still be visited by guests

Nicky Andrews has more on Sue and the study here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What is the quintessential, most-Chicago restaurant you know? Tell us why.

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: Say you’re making a documentary set in Chicago. What — or who — is your film about?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Siskel & Ebert. Classic buddy film but as a documentary. Two opposites pair together, snarling and snapping first but their relationship grows into mutual respect and friendship made all the more poignant with tragic ends. Interspersed in all are their looks on film, Chicago and life. Chicago’s film scene may never have had two more fierce critics and admirers.” — Edward Schaffer 

“Any documentary set in Chicago has to focus on the famous, or infamous, mayors who’ve led this city and the high/low points of their tenure. The trials and tribulations of just two of them could easily be called ‘The Daley News.’” — Paul Lockwood

“If I was doing a documentary of Chicago I would do it on the different ethnicities that settled in different pockets of the city and all the traditions and cuisine that is associated with the different groups.” — Wendy Herman 

“It would feature one of the most important polka musicians in history, L’il Wally, who wrote the ‘Go Go White Sox’ song for the 1959 Sox. L’il Wally was the first member inducted into the International Polka Association Hall of Fame (also in Chicago).” — William Helmcke

“Profiles of notable and everyday regular Chicago West Side natives/residents. There are a great many that Chicagoans, and society at large, are not even aware hail from this part of town. As a North Lawndale native, I’d love to see this come to fruition.” — Tamiko Bowie

“It would be a documentary about alleys. Alley life, shoveling snow, your kids learning to ride a bike, hit a ball, play cornhole, etc., sitting in a garage facing your alley drinking beer all night and listening to the game. Alleys are special to Chicago and I miss them.” — Melissa Leonard

“I have a real story. A group of friends all from Cabrini Greene, that all encouraged each other in their youth to grow up and make the most of their lives so after high school they leave the projects and all go off to an HBCU in the South, graduate, and become amazing young leaders in each of their professions, remaining friends 30+ years later.” — Curtis Sweat

“The life of Al Raby because he was one of the first leaders of the civil rights movement who, for various reasons, was overshadowed by others who actively sought the spotlight while he preferred to do the difficult and often thankless grass-roots level organizing.” — Jim Rafferty

“Definitely The whole House Music scene.” — Aubrey Barnes

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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