Lisa Smyth

              Classic Chicago Woman February 2017



Rosemary Fanti




Illustrated by Rosemary Fanti




Written by Megan McKinney




Lisa Smyth: Delightful free spirit . . . thoroughly original with a patrician core . . . wears “pajamas” to The Chicago Club (think Carole Lombard) . . . posts Christmas cards with an Elvis stamp . . . lives in Lake Forest, Los Angeles AND on a rock band tour bus—but devotes abundant time to the most proper of Chicago area charities. 

Once: Near North Side Chicago upbringing . . . John Hancock Center condominium . . . Latin School. “Fond memories of our neighborhood gang at Goudy Square and Lincoln Park, swimming and skating at the Saddle & Cycle Club.”

Then: Lake Forest . . . wonderful house near the lake with Farwell, David Adler provenance . . . Lake Forest Country Day School and Lake Forest High School . . . summers at Onwentsia Club and “on the beach of a very, very laid-back White Lake, Michigan.”

Most memorable family adventure: Morocco, 1984, “staying at the Gazelle d’Or in Taroudant, then driving ourselves to La Mamounia in Marrakesh. Sitting at hotel pool with Jean-Paul Belmondo and his much younger date.”

Then Again: USC . . . Northwestern . . . Harvard . . . lived in Aspen while teaching skiing and coaching ski racing . . . Cambridge, Massachusetts while working at Harvard Business School as a research associate, case writer for professors. “I loved the proximity of great adventures throughout the East Coast—within a few hours you could be in New York, Vermont or Nantucket. Though I definitely missed the warmth and friendliness of Chicago, I feel the same way about Los Angeles.”

Interests: Always music and entertainment . . . performed onstage at age three in a summer musical revue in Michigan . . . speaking role in Robert Redford’s Ordinary People—still receiving residuals, “about $30 a year.”I remember playing records on a small Victrola when I was very young, then listening to ‘Hair’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ over and over and over.” Attended first concert, The Rolling Stones, at age 10.

First major job: Working for World Cup USA 1994 Soccer in Chicago . . . led to positions creating events for Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the Olympics, Sundance Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival and Lollapalooza.  

Now: House in Lake Forest and pool house in Beverly Hills. “Our family convenes in the Palm Beach area for holidays. Planning family trip to Portugal and Spain this spring.”

Career: Recently switched from event management to working in the music industry . . . first foray into touring with a band was Experience Hendrix Tour, produced by the estate of Jimi Hendrix. “The hours are crazy and sleeping on the bus is hard to get used to. The buses are well-equipped with bathrooms, lounges, electronics and a kitchen. We sleep in bunks that are about 34″ wide x 75″ long x 24″ high, so you can’t sit up. To get into the top bunk takes the skill of a Cirque du Soleil performer. They’ve been touring this way for years.” 

New Job: Vice President of Marketing for Shepherd Entertainment, as in Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. “My position includes communicating with concert promoters and venues to make sure we work together to promote our shows. Kenny has a new record coming out, so we’ll be doing a lot of promotions and touring surrounding it. It’s important to communicate with an artist’s core audience and keep growing the fan base. Kenny also has a project with Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills & Nash called The Rides. We’ll be touring this spring throughout the South. Eight of us travel together, and I have to say, it’s FUN! I relish being able to work with funny, creative people who are also consummate professionals. I learn from them every minute of every day.”

For the Public Good: Woman’s Boards of Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern Memorial Hospital . . . Allendale Shelter Club . . . Event Committee for May’s Piven Theatre Gala and the Elawa Farm Centennial Celebration next fall.  

Diversions: Attending live music performances . . . following interior design and fashion designers online . . . creating a new Instagram account entitled “Lisa’s Visa Bill” with images of styles and interiors she comes upon . . . composes annual Christmas card—typical message: “May the season find you in the one percent.” Also keeps up with friends and family through Instagram with hashtag #nightlyatnine—every night her phone alarm goes off at 9 p.m. and—no matter where she is—she takes a photo and posts it on Instagram. “Sometimes it’s backstage at a show, sometimes it’s my shoe!”  

Classic Connections: Great-great-grandfather John M. Smyth founded eponymous Chicago furniture store in 1868 . . . grandfather booked bands for classic era Pump Room . . . mother was an interior designer and champion golfer . . . creative director father originated the great 1960s “Put a Tiger in Your Tank” ad campaign.

What’s Next: “Anything out there yet to be done. When I made the jump to the music industry, someone asked if I was having a midlife crisis. My reply was, ‘If I said that I was going to work for Goldman Sachs,THAT would be a midlife crisis!’”

Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien