Green Tie Ball and how Chicago passes the civic torch
September 25th, 2016
Neal Zucker and Lara Shiffman were just out of college some 25 years ago when legendary Chicago Sun-Times society columnist Mary Frey called.
She wanted to connect them to Don DePorter, the late Hyatt Hotels executive who founded Chicago Gateway Green, which beautifies expressways and neighborhoods. He wanted to start a charity fundraiser and Frey knew everyone in town.
Zucker and Shiffman came to mind right away, she says, as she knew them through their parents.
Zucker’s dad is retired sports agent Steve Zucker and Shiffman’s was the late Jovan fragrance company co-founder Barry Shipp.
DePorter’s ideas for greening the city “really resonated,” recalls Shiffman, co-founder of JKLS public-relations and strategic marketing firm.
She and Zucker would co-chair that first Green Tie Ball, and they pulled in friends to help.
It was an easy sell, says Zucker, CEO of Corporate Cleaning Services high-rise window washers. “A lot of us grew up in Chicago. So we understand the sense of obligation to give back to the community.”
The party debuted in 1992 under a tent on Orleans Street. Some 500 guests attended and it’s been a hit ever since, raising millions for the nonprofit. Contemporary restaurants provide food and entertainment is edgy. Headlining this year is DJ/singer Samantha Ronson. The ball’s location makes a statement, too.
“We wanted the event to stand out from the typical ballroom charity events,” says Steve Traxler, president of Jam Theatricals and member of the ball’s first and subsequent organizing committees. “We were always looking for outdoor spaces” to emphasize Gateway Green’s mission.
Green Tie Ball has been held on Merchandise Mart’s patio, at Galleria Marchetti and Navy Pier. For 11 years it was held in different outdoor areas of the 22-acre Finkl Steel plant site.
This year’s event is Oct. 1 at Architectural Artifacts on the North Side.
Zucker and Shiffman are co-chairs again–and friends from that first ball are back on the planning committee, including Traxler, Chicago Cares co-founder Leslie Bluhm, attorney Phil Corboy Jr., Lodging Capital Partners founding principal Brad Falk, Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, R4 Services CEO Trisha Rooney, Incisent Labs Group CEO Pat Ryan Jr., Magellan Development Group’s Robin Tebbe, Terlato Wines International Vice Chairman John Terlato and HSN Media founder Estelle Walgreen.
It’s a testament to how Chicago passes the baton of civic leadership, says DePorter’s son, Grant DePorter, president of Harry Caray Restaurant Group and now Gateway Green’s board chair.
He says his dad wanted to recruit young people to his “beautification vision and he wanted them to take ownership of his idea.”
Did they ever.