There was once a time when the Northwest Side of Chicago was dotted with movie palaces that showed the latest running movies. Theaters like The Gateway, The Portage, The Will Rogers and The Patio were grand structures with high ceilings and ornate interior designs that showed first run movies.


None of them show movies anymore. Those have gone to the multiplexes.

While three of these four structures remain standing, The Will Rogers failed to survive the wrecking ball and is gone, the site of a strip mall now. God knows we don’t have enough of those.

Two of the remaining three structures are on life support struggling to survive as alternative venues for sporadic events. Only The Gateway survives and thrives as the remodeled and renamed Copernicus Center, but they don’t show movies.

I have a recollection from several decades back of a sign on the marquee of the Portage Theater stating simply, “NO PAY TV”. At the time, I had no idea what the apocryphal notice meant. Television was free for the viewing over the airwaves at the time. It had been all my life and I had no reason to believe it would be any other way in the future.

Then came the winds of change. It started with cable TV, then satellite, then dish, then digital, then TV right in your pocket on your smart phone. Of course, all of these cost money. Money paid to “the man” for the privilege of watching what had heretofore been free. Pay TV. We all jumped on the wave at first, then the prices slowly started to creep up.

Our family has been “cable free” since 2002. It was then that we had planned a trip to Disney World, where “all your dreams come true” … if you have enough money. If you don’t have enough money, then only some of your dreams come true.

To augment the funds to make selected dreams come true, we stopped our Cable subscription in 2002. We traded 6 months of cable TV for 2 four day Disney hopper passes. We never turned it back on.

I don’t miss it much. Except lately, the corporate moguls have been putting some pretty good sports events exclusively on cable stations. It started with the Rose Bowl a few years back. It continued Monday when the NCAA Championship game was aired on a cable outlet.

I figured no problem, I’ll just stream it on my computer. Guess what? When I signed in to watch, a message prompted me saying, “Please enter your Cable TV provider.” If I had a Cable TV provider, I would NOT be streaming it. Oh well.

Now, normally I would hit a local establishment to watch the game. But this would be contrary to the point and defeat the purpose. This time it was personal. If the corporate bourgeoisie of sporting TV would not extend the privilege of seeing the game to the proletariat masses, who was I to spend my money to see their product.

I learned a long time ago that the outcome of a sporting event is not contingent on my viewing it. Besides, the Cubs opener was on Free TV and available to the common folk.

Turns out, some say the 2016 NCAA title game was one of the best ever. Especially the last dramatic shot. But guess what? The next day I saw the shot a thousand times, so I didn’t miss it (Spoiler Alert: Neither did the shooter.) I just missed seeing it live.

So I happily continue cable free and have NO PAY TV. By my calculations, at $100 a month for 14 years, I’ve saved $16,000.00. It’s worth missing a live shot or two.

FOOTNOTE: Here’s the ending of the game in case you missed it too: