Eddie Carr, who created Christmas magic at Butch McGuire’s tavern, dead at 63
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If you ever walked in to Butch McGuire’s bar at Christmas and gaped in wonder at the fairyland on the ceiling, you have Eddie Carr to thank.
For 30 years, he supervised the design and installation of the 35,000 lights and two working double-decker trains and created the spinning mobiles with igloos, elves, reindeer, Minions, Disney characters and snow people that decorated the popular Division Street bar.
For much of the rest of the year, Mr. Carr hammered, sawed, glued and sculpted papier-mache figurines in his workshop above Butch’s, said to be America’s first singles bar and the nexus that’s led to thousands of marriages. The bar also claims to be where the Harvey Wallbanger and the Skip and Go Naked cocktails were invented. Hugh Hefner and John Wayne used to drop in.
At Christmas, “Families would come in, and the kids would look up and be thrilled’’ at Mr. Carr’s handiwork, said his partner Vickie Shields.
He did the decorating all over again for St. Patrick’s Day, creating green-themed decor for the tavern at 20 W. Division.
Mr. Carr, Butch’s “artist in residence,” died of pancreatic cancer June 18 at the University of Chicago Hospitals. He was 63.
Young Eddie grew up in Boston’s working-class Dorchester neighborhood in a family of steelworkers, firefighters and military veterans.
In 1972, he enlisted in the Navy. “He used to say they were on their way to Vietnam” when the war ended, Shields said.
In the mid-1970s, he began studying art at Columbia College Chicago, she said.
A few years later, he started tending bar at Butch McGuire’s, working his way up to manager and using his artistic skill to do a lot of the tavern’s signage.
The holiday decorations were started by a group of firefighters. But Mr. Carr took the trimming to another level of luminosity.
“He was very creative,” said owner Bobby McGuire.
He began working in November and December to deck the bar’s halls. “It’s a big boost for us,” McGuire said of the decorations.
When he wasn’t creating holiday decor for the bar, Mr. Carr liked to do paintings of rock stars. His favorites included the Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead.
Mr. Carr lived in the St. Ben’s neighborhood, and he loved the Boston Red Sox.
In addition to Shields, he is survived by his sisters Deborah Martin and Katherine Duvall, brothers Frederick, Lawrence, and Dennis, 10 nephews and four nieces. A memorial is planned for 3 p.m. July 19 at Holy Name Cathedral.