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The Collectorsby Matt Lee | Men's Book Chicago magazine | August 24, 2011
You can call them hobbies, passions or even diversions. When the workday is done, many Chicago men spend their free time pursuing an interest that enriches not only their lives, but also the city. We present a few Chicagoans taking their contagious enthusiasm to a whole new level.
One hardly need ask why Joe Hayes, founder of Hayes Properties Inc., is interested in collecting cars. A quick walk through his Ravenswood Event Center, where he stores his fleet of 30 American and European sportscars from the ’50s-’70s, is all the explanation you need. “What American kid doesn’t love cars?” says Hayes, who started collecting 15 years ago. A few peaches: A 1960 Aston Martin DB4, a 1957 Mercedes Roadster and a 1955 Mercedes Gullwing. But the best story by far belongs to his 1957 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Series 1, which he bought from actor Nicolas Cage. Originally, the Ferrari was given as a gift to Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa from his wife, heiress Doris Duke. All the cars run well, and, in the summer, Hayes likes to drive a different one home to Lincoln Park each night. “I’m always trying to upgrade to a better or more rare car, but I think I’ll stop at 30,” he says. “It’s hard enough to keep these running. And if you can’t be happy after 30, you probably aren’t going to be.”
When Howard Tullman started collecting art during his first career as a corporate lawyer, it’s doubtful whether he envisioned himself ultimately owning one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the country—currently about 1,400 pieces. But Tullman’s life has been anything but predictable. When he isn’t scouring fairs like Art Basel or galleries like Ann Nathan and Carl Hammer for that next great figurative piece, he’s heading the Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, the revolutionary new digital arts school dedicated to something close to every student’s, and parent’s, heart these days—actually landing a job after graduation. With Tullman’s track record of off-the-charts entrepreneurial success, including turning Kendall College around, you can bet that more than a few traditional universities are feeling a little uneasy. One of the best perks for Flashpoint students? Its walls are lined with Tullman’s pieces. “No nudes though,” he says. “There’s too much testosterone there.”
John Gross’ love affair with wine began with an elegant bottle of 1962 Lafite Rothschild. Well, sort of. “In college I would go to the wine store for my Gallo Hearty Burgundy,” jokes Gross. “I saw a climate-controlled cellar and became curious.” The Lafite soon followed and a lifelong passion was born. These days, Gross keeps his remarkable collection stocked through auction houses such as HDH and Edward Roberts International, as well as trips to vineyards with his wife Deb. “Our collection is very eclectic,” says Gross, who recently had a state-of-the-art cellar built in his Lincoln Park home. “We have everything from very early California wines like BV and Diamond Creek to a good amount of Burgundy.” In fact, several local restaurants of note look to Gross for their harder-to-find bottles. And while he cites a ’79 La Grande Dame—his “Champagne epiphany”—as a bottle he would grab in a fire, he’s currently most excited about South American wine. “It’s where Napa was 30 years ago,” he says.