Lydia's

Copyright © Terry O'Brien

Thumbnail description: Lydia's is a nightclub partly owned by Morgana Black (the other half of the club is owned by her Ventrue mentor Gregory Harris) specializing in magicacts, controlled through a holding company located in the same building.

The building itself is four stories tall, with a basement holding the necessary equipment like the furnace. The stairway beside the nightclub is the only public entrance to the upper floors: in the alley behind the building is a series of fire escapes.


Description: Lydia's is a small nightclub located on the fringe of the Chicago theater district, specializing in magic acts. Many famous stage magicians have performed there in the beginning of their careers, and some return from time to time to perform (while the rumor that David Copperfield performed there once is not true, Doug Henning once appeared on the stage as part of a surprise private birthday party for a personal friend or his). The club can be rented for an evening, and has been in the past for private parties such as wedding rehersal dinners, wrap parties, and opening night celebrations.

Morgana likes to perform in the club about once a week, unannounced. The rest of the time one or two professional magicians provide the entertainment, either hourly stage acts or by performing close-up magic from table to table. The lighting is subdued, the music quiet, and the drinks only marginally overpriced: sandwiches or light snacks are also on the menu.

The building's exterior is similar to most of the buildings of the area: dark brownstone facing, covered with decades of birdlime and defaced by decades of Chicago winters, with shade-covered windows on the upper floors. A long dark green awning extends from the door to the street: the club's name is emblazoned on the front in white, cursive letters.

Inside, the walls of the club area are glossy black with gold and silver Art Deco accents. The floor is carpeted in dark fabric with angular, geometric designs in gold. The tables are covered with glass; a centerpiece with a small candle in a red glass and spiraling black metal holder is on every table. Chairs and seats are black wood and black vinyl. Two coffee and water service areas are position at either side of the club area. Lighting is indirect. A large mirrored ball hangs in the center above the stage amidst the spotlights.

The waiting area outside is paneled in dark wood. A coat check room and the restrooms open on to the waiting area: access to the working areas of the club are available through an inconspicuous door in the back.

The kitchen/bar, a manager's office and two dressing rooms (one reserved for Morgana), a washroom/janitor's closet, and the storage area take up the area in back. The storage room holds spare tables and chairs and necessary odds and ends: it also holds shipping trunks for magic acts when necessary. Access to the furnace and basement for dead storage is through the back of the storage room.

The stage is well constructed, with a light and sound desk in the wings controlling a complete lighting and sound system including adjustable spotlights in the ceiling of the club pointing towards the stage. Music for any acts is provided by cassettes or CDs. The two curtains are fireproof: the front curtain is off-white while the rear curtain is black with silver threads. There is enough space backstage to support any small or medium sized magic prop or illusion.

The club employs a business manager; a backstage manager who is also the electrician, light and sound man, and prop man; two bartenders and a short order cook/bartender; three regular waitresses; a coat check girl; and a general caretaker. Temporary waitresses are sometimes hired from an agency when one of the regulars is unavailable or a larger than normal crowd is expected. Cleaning is performed by a contract commercial cleaning company that arrives every night after closing.

Fire exits are positioned beside the stage, out the front door, and out the back service exit.

Lydia's is open from 4:00 pm to 2:00 am Wednesday through Saturday, 4:00 pm to midnight Sunday through Tuesday. Stage performances are usually on the even hour and last about 20 to 30 minutes: close-up magic will be performed at any time. Besides a wide range of drinks available, the kitchen in capable of producing short order items upon request.


History: Lydia's was built as a dancehall and private theater in 1927. Named Lloyd's Dancehall, it was moderately successful, enough so to survive for several years. A secret partition in the basement was designed to hold illegal liquor during Prohibition, although it was not served in the building itself. A tunnel was dug from the basement to a speakeasy across the alley to the rear, but that was filled in when the club closed.

When Prohibition ended, Lloyd's was refurbished as a nightclub, which it remained until after World War II, when it closed in 1946 because of the death of its owner Lloyd Bannister. It remained closed until 1951, when Morgana was seeking a stable Haven. Together with her mentor she discovered the old nightclub (where, by chance, both had performed in the past) and decided to refurbish it, naming it The Magic Circle.

To throw off curiosity, the nightclub has been closed and renamed twice in its history: once in 1963 to Pentacle and again in 1979 to its present name of Lydia's. Its most recent name comes from an old Sherlock Holmes film The Woman in Green, where the title character Lydia was a hypnotist in the employ of Professor Moriarty. Morgana is considering doing the same again except for the fact the nightclub is very popular.


The building:The public entrance to the floors above is normally unlocked because of the businesses there. On all of the landings, however, a locked door prevents access to each floor. Any visitor must call from the door on the intercom for it to be unlocked. Access to the roof is available through a locked door on the fourth floor landing. The public entrance is locked by a patrolling contracted security officer at midnight and unlocked again at 6:00 am the following morning: few people aside from Morgana and the nightclub manager have keys to the public entrance.

Morgana maintains her (relatively) public Haven in an apartment that occupies the rear half of the second floor. All mail comes to her mailbox in the public stairway; all phone messages are intercepted by an answering machine. Morgana rests in an secured, reinforced, windowless interior room. She uses the other rooms to greet guests and keep her collection of magic tricks and momentoes. A secret cabinet, disguised as a piping conduit, holds, among other things, a collection of scrapbooks detailing her entire career (starting in the 1930s), her private books and notes on stage magic, and her collection of occult references. A trapdoor from under the bed in her Haven leads to her dressing room below and the secret passage to her secret Haven in the basement.

Morgana's most private Haven, known only to herself and Gregory, is located in the basement, accessible only by a stairway through a secret panel from Morgana's dressing room. The panel is activated by twisting a knob on the dresser against the wall while at the same time pushing the dresser aside; it can be opened easily from the inside. Gregory is unaware of the trapdoor from her Haven above to her dressing room.

There are two other apartments on the second floor: one is occupied by the nightclub's current manager while the other is unfurnished and unoccupied.

The office of the holding company that officially owns the building is located in a small office on the third floor. It is occupied by a secretary to answer the phone and mail and a manager who visits three times a week: Morgana keeps careful track of the manager for fear that he may be controlled by Gregory. Morgana and Gregory control the company through the mail and via phone messages: they regularly communicate with each other to avoid managerial conflicts.

A professional magic supply store with a world-wide clientele by mail is also located on the third floor of the building. The store holds only a few demonstration models and mostly literature, with a large library of catalogs and books: the actual magic props are located in a warehouse in the suburbs. Despite that, the store takes up half of the space on the floor. It keeps late hours because of the business of the theater district, as it also stocks miscellaneous theatrical items such as stage makeup and standard props. The owner, Marcus diConcini, a third generation stage magician himself, will sometimes appear on the stage below, showing off a new trick or dusting off an old family tradition.

The other businesses in the building are a theatrical booking agent(who has worked with Morgana in the past) on the third floor, and a studio photographer on the fourth floor. The last office on the third floor and the other three studio/lofts on the fourth floor are unoccupied.

Both buildings to either side are one story taller than this building: ladders from the roof lead to both roofs on either side. The building to the East is entirely apartments: there is an alley on the other side that connects with the one behind this building. The building to the West stands on the corner: it has an antique store and used bookstore (primarily paperbacks) on the ground floor and medical offices on the upper floors.


Notes: Morgana is a shadowy, seldom-seen figure in the club with little to do with the day-to-day operation of the club. She keeps careful watch on the employees, however, for fear of Kindred outside control, but she has not seen fit to place any of them under her domination as of yet. However, two of the three regular waitresses and the backstage manager have asked Morgana to use her hypnotic talent to help them lose weight or stop smoking, and, while doing so, she has also placed post-hypnotic triggers in their subconscious so that they will irresistibly fall into a trance upon Morgana's command.

As part owner, Morgana has access to all keys used in the building: she will carry enough to guarantee instant access to any floor or the roof at all times.

Parking is available on both sides of the street: meters are on both sides but are not mandatory after 5:00 pm. The neighborhood is busy enough during the night (and well enough lit) that crime is not very common.

There are rumors that some organized gang members frequent the club. Morgana has repeatedly denied them and has privately taken steps to assure the privacy and security of the club and the safety of herself and her patrons.


Copyright © 1998 Terry O'Brien {dragonmage@sprynet}