5 Questions with...Billy Dec

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5 Questions with...Billy Dec

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the city's most popular personalities on the spot with everyone's favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guest ... one of the nations premier and most popular dining and entertainment entrepreneurs -- however, our guest this week is more than that ... he's become a city leader for his 24/7 philanthropic work helping those in need around the world ... plus, his venues around the city continue to attract the biggest names in both sports and entertainment a Chicago native who continues to give our city a good name, here are 5 Questions with ... BILLY DEC!

BIO: Billy Dec is an Emmy Award Winning Entertainment TV Host and CEO ... Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, Chicago's premier restaurant and entertainment development company, specializing in the creation, marketing and management of some of the city's top venues including Rockit Bar and Grill, Rockit Wrigley, The Underground and most recently his New Asian restaurant Sunda.

Dec's educational background includes the University of Illinois where he majored in EconomicsPre-Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law & the Harvard Business School. He has received numerous awards including Operator of the Year from the Nightclub & Bar Conference, Excellence in Business Award from the State of Illinois, the Asian American Hall of Fame Award, The Byrne Piven Community Service Award and the Cook County States Attorneys Asian Pacific American Community Leadership Award and Chicago-Kent College of Law Alumni Professional Achievement Award.

Dec is also actively involved in various committees and boards for non-profit organizations in Chicago, including: American Cancer Society; Make-A-Wish Foundation; After School Matters; the formerly held Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee, where he served as Director of Cultural Relations; and Lookingglass Theatre Company. Billy also enjoys participating annually in Mayor Daleys Chicago Public Schools Principal for a Day.

Dec writes his own blog on www.BillyDec.com about Chicago and its culturally rich entertainment landscape, where his contact info, press pages and upcoming events calendar are also posted, along with his much talked about www.twitter.combillydec & www.facebook.combillydec.

1) CSNChicago.com: Billy, thanks for taking time out of your always-hectic schedule to spend a few minutes answering the 5 Questions we have for you today. Lets get right to it ... your success story is off-the-charts impressive as you have grown your brand to levels that other business entrepreneurs can only dream about. Outside of your own personal drive and vision, what would you say has been the single most important element to the overall success of your business ventures?

Dec: Finding great partners, managers, employees...who share the same passion, ethics, drive, commitment, vision ... has really been the key for our successful growth thus far. Granted, that has taken a lot of personal drive to figure out, work for & develop, but our team is the most important part of our success. Not me, trends, location, celebrity, pricing, design, recipes or any one person or one thing out there. And by the way, for those that think that is a B.S. easy answer that I'm just throwing out there to be politically warm fuzzy & swell, try building a well-working team of 500 primarily young aggressive adults in one of the most cut- throat, high-pressured industries with the highest expectations from consumers in the middle of the worst recession we have ever seen.

2) CSNChicago.com: Youve received countless honors for both your business and philanthropic efforts, including recognition from President Obama. Some truly amazing accomplishments in your not even decade-old career. However, there's one accomplishment in particular that is very intriguing to us and thats your Emmy-winning documentary, Journey to Sunda. Tell us what prompted you to take that voyage to Asia and specifically how it influenced you to open up one of Chicago's most popular new eateries, Sunda.

Dec: We knew we wanted to open a unique Asian concept before the travel. In fact, all the travel through Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore was strategically planned to insure we were able to discover new things that didn't really exist in Chicago yet, so that it would be unique in food, presentation, culture, philosophy, design & more. As we have always prided ourselves on being innovators & filling voids in the entertainment & hospitality scene in what we think is the greatest city in the world Chicago, the video just naturally evolved out of our love for entertaining and telling the story.

I first compiled my travel pics into a book, then responded to requests for a copy of my book by making and gifting a thousand of them to friends and customers, then responded to even more requests to see the story of our discovery through word of mouth. So I compiled it all into a mini travel doc that I posted to the internet called "Journey to Sunda! It was a hit, it filled a void, it was innovative and a great story. Tomorrow morning, I actually leave for Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand... as the Journey never ends. Follow that story on my Twitter & Facebook as I love sharing in real time now!

3) CSNChicago.com: As we all well know, Chicago is no doubt one of the worlds premier and diverse cultural gems. In your opinion, what makes Chicago and its citizens unique when compared to, lets say, New York or LA for example?

Dec: When I was Director of Cultural Relations for the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee, I asked 50 celebrity friends a very similar question on camera and aired one a day each day leading up to the official decision in Copenhagen (all on www.aChicagoThing.com ... a must see ...they are so good)! I agree with them when most shared how Chicagoans were a very unique & desirable mix of personable, reasonable, hardworking, honest, diverse, sports loving, food savvy, proud, sophisticated, hospitable, cosmopolitan, grounded... people from all different backgrounds who just love their community.

4) CSNChicago.com: In addition to everything else you have going on, you have been featured lately as an actor in several movies and TV series. Is this a new direction you see yourself focusing on even more in the years to come or is it more of a side hobby for you?

Dec: Part of me wants to say acting is a hobby because I kind of just picked it up & I love it. The other part of me says its still business as we always look to entertain in new ways at Rockit Ranch, which acting ultimately is, and I love what I do here no matter what it is!

I really haven't thought about it enough, I guess? I mean, its such an amazing experience to be on a huge set like "Entourage" or "Nightmare on Elm Street"...or a small stage pretending to be someone else. I will say, having hosted TV shows NBC & Metromix in the past, it has given me a lot of confidence in getting in front of the camera to entertain in whatever capacity. So I guess we'll just have to see. Here is my reel if want to see some of my past stuff!

5) CSNChicago.com: For any young entrepreneurs out there aspiring to be a Billy Dec one day, what would you consider to be the three most important steps in becoming a success in business -- and life for that matter?

Dec: Hmmmm...here is a link to some lessons my dad taught me before he passed away. Maybe this will help.

BONUS QUESTION! CSNChicago.com: This will definitely be an easy one. Are there any upcoming Rockit Ranch Production events or charitable functions you can share with CSNChicago.com readers? Tell us, we want to hear about them!

Dec: We allllllwaaaaays have stuff going on! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook to be the first to hear the invites announced and to be connected to all of the goodness as it happens!

Dec LINKS:

Billy Dec Official Website

Rockit Ranch Productions Official Website

Rockit Bar and Grill

The Underground

Sunda New Asian

Billy Dec on Facebook

Billy Dec on Twitter

Impressions of Aroldis Chapman as Cubs head to Dodger Stadium

Impressions of Aroldis Chapman as Cubs head to Dodger Stadium

SAN DIEGO – The Los Angeles Dodgers made an honorable no-tolerance statement on domestic violence, or their high-powered front office didn’t do enough homework on Aroldis Chapman, or a Hollywood franchise couldn’t deal with the bad optics.

Maybe all those factors swirled together as a deal with the Cincinnati Reds collapsed during the winter meetings, the police report surfacing weeks after an ugly incident at Chapman’s South Florida home. 

The New York Yankees scavenged and acquired the superstar closer at a steep discount in late December, before the Broward County State Attorney’s Office decided to not file criminal charges, and before Major League Baseball imposed a 30-game suspension to start this season. 

The Cubs handled Chapman’s transition in a clumsy, awkward manner after that blockbuster trade with the Yankees one month ago, looking unprepared for his welcome-to-Chicago press conference with coach Henry Blanco sitting there as the translator, and sounding insensitive when the Wrigley Field sound system played a 1997 Prodigy song called: “Smack My B---- Up.”

The Cubs hired a new translator – and fired a DJ – and now have Chapman’s 100-mph velocity waiting for a potential playoff preview that begins Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

“The talent is even more impressive when you’re actually there watching it on your side,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That life at home plate is purely different. It’s just different what the baseball does.

“It’s obvious to me that you have to get in there and talk to him and develop that relationship. He’s smiling more easily already and the conversation’s actually coming back to me in English a little bit, which is fun to hear, so I’ve been really happy about that.”

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Whether or not Dodger fans stay until the end to watch a first-place team that has weathered Clayton Kershaw’s back injury – and the 26 other players who have spent time on the disabled list this season, tying a major-league record – watching Chapman is a unique experience even for an MVP candidate or a Cy Young Award winner. 

“It’s fun hearing the crowd do their oohs and aahs on every pitch,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, “how engaged they are, and how excited they are when he comes in to pitch.”

“A lot of the players are almost in the same amount of awe that the fans are,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “When you see a guy like Chapman go out there and compete and perform, there’s a lot of appreciation and respect for what he’s capable of, because, frankly, the game’s never really seen anything like it, especially from the left side. 

“We’ve seen a lot of hard throwers. But when you see a scouting report that’s 100-to-105 (mph), he’s a one-of-one type of guy. You definitely stop and watch when he’s out there.”

Chapman – who can cash in as a free agent after this season – has so far answered the legitimate questions about how he would fit into a laid-back clubhouse and effect best-team-in-baseball chemistry.

“He’s an absolute professional,” Arrieta said. “I’m very attentive to details. (I’m) watching the way he goes about his routine and (how) it starts for a 7 o’clock game. He’s starting right around 2:30, 3 o’clock, getting ready for that ninth inning.

“He’s getting his body ready. He’s getting his mind ready. You can see his focus. A guy like that, he obviously has his routine down extremely well, so it’s really nice to kind of watch him throughout the day. What’s he doing at 3:30? What’s he doing at 4:30? What’s he doing at 6 o’clock? He’s constantly doing things to prepare himself for those three outs.

“That’s why he’s so successful. Obviously, he’s very gifted. His velocity, his presence and his size alone are extremely tough to defeat. But when you see the amount of hours that he puts into those three outs, it makes you realize why he’s able to go out there and be as successful as he is.”

[RELATED: How soon before Cubs make Javier Baez an everyday player?]   

Chapman hasn’t quite been the add-on to a dominant bullpen the Cubs envisioned, because top setup guy Pedro Strop (knee) and former closer Hector Rondon (triceps) are on the disabled list. Maddon also had to curb his enthusiasm for four-out saves and realize Chapman – who’s allowed four of eight inherited runners to score – prefers to work one inning at a time.  

But Chapman has been as good as advertised, going 9-for-11 in save chances, allowing two earned runs in 15 appearances and striking out 21 of the 48 batters he’s faced while giving up only three walks.   

“It’s probably a demoralizing feeling for the other team to see him warming up,” pitcher Jason Hammel said. “Big-league hitters will hit a fastball after a while if they see it enough. But he makes guys take some pretty silly hacks.”

“You can literally hear the ball out of his hand,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “He can make the seams sing a little bit with the power he’s getting.”

Dodger Stadium draws celebrities to an iconic site, creates a sense of energy and gets louder and louder. But after a series of decisions that could echo into October, Wrigley Field is where Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up” blasts from the speakers as Chapman warms up and the fans look up at the video board after each pitch.   

“The guys on the bench are like mimicking what the crowd is doing,” Maddon said. “It’s wonderful. How many pitchers elicit that kind of reaction? There’s a couple, but you’re anticipating that big number and we’ve never seen that here. 

“But most any place you’ve not seen it. (It’s) the reputation, where he’s come from – and his presence and how big he is – he’s so formidable and imposing. And now he’s our toy.”

White Sox rule Austin Jackson, Matt Davidson out for season

White Sox rule Austin Jackson, Matt Davidson out for season

Austin Jackson and Matt Davidson are officially done for the season.

Meanwhile, the White Sox still remain hopeful that Brett Lawrie is on the mend after a second MRI.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday that Jackson, who had surgery June 10 to repair a medial meniscus tear in left knee, and Davidson, who had surgery after he fractured his right foot, won’t return this season.

“Austin is progressing, but it unfortunately it’s been a slow pace,” Hahn said. “He has not taken baseball activities. I wouldn’t expect him back this season.”

Jackson hit .254/.318/.343 with 18 RBIs in 203 plate appearances before he suffered the injury.

At the time of Jackson’s injury, Hahn didn’t think it would end his season. But, Hahn did say it would take at least six weeks before they could re-evaluate Jackson’s knee post-surgery and get a better determination of when he might return. Jackson’s re-evaluation was pushed back a few days from the six-week mark and the White Sox made it clear they weren’t optimistic about him returning.

Davidson went 1-for-2 with an RBI before he broke his foot running the bases in his first game of the season.

“(I) would not expect (Davidson) either. It was a pretty bad fracture. It’s progressing and he’s hitting the early milestones. There just isn’t enough time for either of those two.”

Lawrie, who has been on the disabled list since July 22, had a second MRI earlier this week and is being treated, Hahn said.

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Manager Robin Ventura has been adamant all along that Lawrie’s injury was tricky to diagnose. What began as a strained hamstring and later was thought to be a quad injury has been reclassified as a knee and calf issue. Hahn said the MRI showed the area is structurally sound.

“He received some medicine in the joint there,” Hahn said. “We’re let that work for a couple of days and we’ll ramp up the activity and see how it goes. No specific time frame.”

Miguel Gonzalez will participate in one more bullpen — possibly a simulated game — before he starts a rehab assignment, Ventura said. Gonzalez is on the DL with a strained right groin.

Rookie class making much-needed impact from Bears

Rookie class making much-needed impact from Bears

Preseason games are about evaluations as well as fusing together the component parts of offense, defense and special teams. But for a handful of Bears, a little more is at stake, for the franchise itself, not just for themselves.

The foundation of any franchise ultimately is the draft, and the Bears are seeing at least preliminary impact from key members of this draft class, and not simply down in the lower third of the projected roster. Why that becomes particularly relevant this weekend is that preseason game No. 3 is when starters and key rotational players, and the top picks in this year’s draft are in fact already firmly ensconced in roles at the top of the depth charts.

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Among the most significant:

No. 1 - OLB Leonard Floyd

The No. 9-overall pick has not dominated through two games but insiders told CSNChicago.com that Floyd has not only played the run very well, but also delivered impact pass rushes even if only netting him a half-sack on stat sheets. Floyd has played 68 of opponents’ 126 presesaon snaps already and is a critical part of the current edge rotation with Sam Acho, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young as well of the future Bears defenses.

Floyd has missed practice time with three separate issues but “we've been very, very pleased with his progress,” coach John Fox said, an extra “very” always being noteworthy.

No. 2 - LG Cody Whitehair

After a brief flirtation with him replacing injured Hroniss Grasu at center, Whitehair has resumed his upward-trending at left guard. He has been the starter there since the opening of training camp, given an opportunity with an injury to Ted Larsen, and Whitehair has never given the job up.

“He’s done well,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “He’s a smart kid. He’s quiet, he kind of fits in with that group and he’s doing exactly what we ask him to do. He’s really talented. You can see some stuff he does, the way he passes things off, it comes natural to him.”

No. 3 - DE Jonathan Bullard

Bullard has been given significant playing time (71 of opponents’ 126 snaps) and has produced four tackles, one for loss, and a half sack. He is part of a rotation with Mitch Unrein primarily and has demonstrated starter-grade impact already. “Our expectations are big,” said Fox. “My experience has been, you don’t expect much, you don’t get much. I think he’s lived up to expectations so far.”

No. 4’s - S Deon Bush/CB Deiondre’ Hall

The Bears selected safety Deon Bush three picks ahead of Hall in the fourth round; Bush did play 44 snaps and make two solo tackles against New England but has been out with an injury this week. 

Hall tied for team high with five tackles vs. Denver, plus two pass breakups, and followed that with two tackles at New England as he took over when starter Jacoby Glenn went out with a concussion.

“[Hall] has improved,” Fox said. “When you bring in rookies you don’t really know. You get them out there, they play. He’s played a lot. He’s actually shown up pretty good. We’ll see where that takes us.”

No. 5 - RB Jordan Howard

Howard was given the ball 11 times during his 31 snaps at New England and netted 46 yards along with rave reviews from scouts. His workload may diminish against Kansas City with Ka’Deem Carey back from injury and Jeremy Langford and Jaquizz Rodgers doing heavy time with the No. 1 offense. But he has already made a strong impression.

“Howard, the rookie, has kind of followed along, picked it up as he goes,” Cutler said. “So with those four guys, you’ve got a lot of options.”

Safety DeAndre Houston-Carson (No. 6) and wideout Daniel Braverman (No. 7) have played but their main work will come next Thursday in the game four at Cleveland.