How I Helped CHICAGO MAGAZINE Pimp Gary Kimmel

[(October 5, 2006) Update: Now you can read Chicago Magazine's article on Gary Kimmel for free on their website, here.]

Kimmelgate has officially hit the fan, and score one for the blogosphere. The October issue of Chicago Magazine, hitting newsstands now, features a lengthy, scathing profile of Marina City‘s alleged “pimp dentist”, Gary Kimmel (p108, “The strange tale of the dentist and the pimps”)–with several quotes from Yours Truly.

Faithful readers will recall that Kimmel, Marina City’s former condo board vice-chair and chair of the screening and security committees, was indicted in January based on USDOJ allegations that he was involved in a national underage hooker ring. Among the accusations against Kimmel: allowing hookers to work out of several of his Marina City condos; supplying the ring with a fleet of expensive cars while laundering more than $400,000 in the process; and, of course, fixing the girls’ teeth for free.

It’s a sordid and, for Marina City residents, deeply angering story that I’ve covered on CHICAGO CARLESS all year (see my Gary Kimmel Scandal archives). My refusal to let the scandal rest led CARLESS to the top of the Google rankings for the search term “Gary Kimmel” (a dubious honor, I assure you). And that led Chicago Magazine reporter Bryan Smith to my blog.

Smith sent me an email asking for an interview, which I granted. But given the nature of the Kimmel scandal, I didn’t want the residents of Marina City to end up painted with the same brush as Kimmel. I knew my neighbors needed a chance to tell their side of the story–about Kimmel and the dissatisfaction with the current condo board that the Kimmel scandal raised. So I called a few neighbors and invited Smith to come visit the corncobs–as it turned out, for the first time.

He was able to hear first-hand from residents new and old about their against-all-odds love for this place. We weren’t malcontents or attention-grubbers. We were committed residents with a strong fondness for our communal home, and we were horrified that someone entrusted with great power over our homes had betrayed that trust. I think Smith got the point, and it’s reflected in the article. We spoke up because we care. By the end of the visit, Smith seemed to care, too. That was as evident from his ear-to-ear grin upon visiting the roofdeck for the first time (it happens to all of us the first time) as from his comment upon leaving, for us a common refrain: “I love this place.”

Smith went on to get the thorough participation of Kimmel, himself (though after reading the article that probably wasn’t the best idea on Kimmel’s part), and, apparently, the almost non-existent cooperation of the condo board.

The resulting article summarizes Kimmel’s life story, from his obsession with risky assignments in Vietnam, to the string of dental practices he’s quit or been fired from, to the Fed Ex packages full of money received from alleged pimp associates, to the Detroit detective, Edward Price, who put it all together by seeking the answer to the fateful question, “What was a pimp in Detroit doing driving a car belonging to a dentist in Chicago?”

A good question that wouldn’t seem to lend itself to a plausible answer. Then again, Kimmel, himself, doesn’t go out of his way to appear plausible in his own quotes. In a discussion of the girls who inhabited his Marina City apartments, he says, “I never made the connection in any way, shape, or form. I knew they were escorts…So what? There’s nothing wrong with that. Do these girls do anything more than go out with guys? Not as far as I’m concerned.”

Um, right. More delicious, though, is Price’s description of a telephone conversation he had with Kimmel during which the good doctor tried with all his might to convince the detective that the address of a mailbox in a Detroit UPS store under which one of Kimmel’s luxury cars was registered was actually a vacation home.

But while out-of-state law enforcement was steadily piecing together the details of Kimmel’s involvement with the prostitution ring, those closest to him at Marina City maintain that they didn’t know about his shady activities. Marina City condo board president (and, according to Chicago Magazine, godmother to two of Kimmel’s kids) Donna Leonard is quoted saying, “I found out about this only from a Sun-Times reporter”.

I find that hard to believe. As I told Chicago Magazine, I don’t pretend to say that all the problems in Marina City are related to the Kimmel case. But I don’t think anything occurs in a vacuum. The Marina City community houses a lot of people in a very little space. In the past year and a half here, I’ve come to know the comings and goings and histories of more of my neighbors than has ever been the case anywhere else I’ve lived.

We pass through the same circular hallways, the same little lobbies, the same compact plaza. We tend to know surprisingly well even our most tenuous of acquaintances in these two towers. So for Kimmel’s friends and fellow board members to have known nothing about his illicit activities, it seems to me they’d either have to be living in a different building than this one, or be astoundingly aloof to the world around them.

Or maybe they’re just lying.

It all comes down to an age-old conflict of interests. The powerful can be counted on to protect their power at all costs…and occasionally, to wield their power against the community-at-large for private gain. The public, however, is not defenseless. At least not when anyone’s listening. Shame is a modest but potent tool, especially when wielded in the court of public opinion.

So if you’re curious to know more about Kimmelgate and the unease it’s created between an avowedly clueless condo board and its indignant residents, pick up the latest issue of Chicago Magazine.

And for a good time, read Gary.

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