New Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon was in Chicago this past weekend participating in a polar plunge. Does Chicago gain anything by this?
Fallon detailed his experience at Chicago’s Polar Plunge during Monday night’s show, a day after he dipped into icy Lake Michigan.
“I’m never doing that again,” Fallon said.
Fallon said Chicago “didn’t let me fool around” when it came to taking up Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s challenge to take the plunge, which benefits Special Olympics Chicago. The event drew a record number of people.
“I go in, and I hear you’re only supposed to go up to your knees,” he said, recalling running into the lake. “I just plunged back, I went under and a couple bubbles came out and I froze. I just stand up and I took my hat off and my hair turned to icicles, and I heard bagpipes. This is how I went. I thought this was it, I thought it was the end.”
Fallon also shared a gift he received from Emanuel, which declares March 2014 “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Month” in Chicago.
The biggest winner here appears to be the Special Olympics since people donate to participate. Plus, Rahm Emanuel participated because kids read over 2 million books for a Chicago Public Library summer program – reading is good.
But, wasn’t this primarily a publicity stunt for Emanuel as well as Fallon? Emanuel wins by being an active mayor. As Fallon notes in his retelling and shows in a picture, Rahm looks pretty good coming out of the water. Events like this burnish his image as a mayor who gets things done (past Chicago mayors have made similar claims). He helps kids read and cares about others. It doesn’t hurt that a new CNN show “Chicagoland” features him as mayor. Fallon is a new host, replacing Jay Leno. While he takes time out of his schedule to come to Chicago, it is good publicity as he is involved with a charitable cause and is getting out of the New York/Los Angeles bubble that all late night TV shows live in. Maybe the clincher here is Emanuel giving Fallon a resolution saying March is “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Month in Chicago.” Does this mean much of anything?
I’m not sure this all contributes much to Chicago. It suggests some people are willing to donate to Special Olympics – they had over 3,200 participants this year, no doubt boosted by Emanuel and Fallon’s presence. Chicago is a charitable city or a star-struck city? The polar plunge highlights the weather in Chicago, particularly in a season nearing record ice cover on Lake Michigan. On the whole, Chicagoans like to put on an exterior of tough people who can survive the weather, particularly when interacting with people from other places, but there is plenty of grumbling. But, is a polar plunge likely to bring in new tourists or help companies decide to move to Chicago?
(I realize this might be a grumpy take on a lighthearted event with some human interest appeal. However, this event got a lot of attention beforehand and afterwards and I wanted to think about how Chicago makes out in the whole situation.)