Actor and producer Joe Mantegna and sports journalist Brigham Avery sat down with Bob Sirott to talk about their work on Hollywood & Ivy for WGN Radio. The show, which Avery hosts, involves celebrity Cubs fans talking about their memories of the team and Wrigley Field. Besides being the executive producer, Mantegna was the very first guest on the show, with upcoming guests being Vince Vaughn and Bill Hader. According to Mantegna, Hollywood & Ivy was Avery’s idea.
“I’ve gotten to know [Avery] over the years, we’ve done, my wife had the Taste Chicago restaurant in Burbank out here in California, we used to do this radio show. He had a little radio show that he would do out of the restaurant that dealt with sports figures. Brigham has this unbelievable mind for Cub, baseball, and sports trivia. So anyway, out of that came this idea to do a show called Hollywood & Ivy, and I thought ‘this sounds like it’d be a real fun idea.’”
During the interview, Avery also chimed in about one of the shows he did at Taste Chicago. He thinks it was August 28th, 2016, when the Cubs were still in the midst of fighting for the pennant. Mantegna came on the show as Fat Tony, the mob boss he voices on The Simpsons, with a proclamation. If the Cubs didn’t win, there would not be a cement shoe cleat shortage for the umpires. Avery likes to think that was the final push the Cubs needed to win the World Series.
Hollywood & Ivy hasn’t been the first time that Mantega was able to use his love of the Chicago baseball team for a creative endeavor. Back in 1977, he was working with Chicago’s Organic Theatre Company, along with Dennis Franz, Dennis Paoli, Keith Szarabajka, and many others. They had run out of grant money, so Stuart Gordon, the head of the theater, asked the cast if anyone had an idea for a show that would cost nothing they could do that summer.
“And I’d spent my whole summer at that point sitting up in the bleachers of Wrigley Field watching the Cubs, for the most part, lose. And I raised my hand and said, ‘look, I sat up in this area in the bleachers where what’s going on in the bleachers seems to be almost more entertaining than what’s going on in the field for us die-hard Cubs fans. I said, ‘why don’t you guys join me up in the bleachers, and you tell me if that’s not a play.’ And that’s what we did.”
As Mantegna recounted during the interview, they spent two or three days up in the bleachers and collectively agreed that the experience did have the making of drama, which is how the show Bleacher Bums started. Mantegna said that if you were to read the script, even though it says that the idea was conceived by himself, everyone in the original cast contributed to creating the show.