The Besties: Copiloting Chicago’s Society Scene

Entering RL with Hazel Barr and Bunky Cushing is like walking in with royalty. They have “their” table—and everyone from the wait staff to the clientele knows them. Hazel, ageless in Chanel and with the energy of a teenager, has been the leading lady on the society scene for decades, and Bunky, a well-known man about town, has been by her side attending events and dinners for 20 years.

Hazel is married to consultant Warren Barr and refers to Bunky as her “Other Man”; she has three children and five grandchildren and is best known for her tireless work on behalf of the Service Club of Chicago, serving as its vice president. In addition she is chair emeritus of the club’s upcoming annual luncheon and fashion show A Day on the Terrace (“my baby,” says Hazel) at The Peninsula on August 5. For the past 30 years, Hazel has been the driving force behind this event. Everyone knows you don’t say no to Hazel.

Bunky, a consultant at a luxury retailer on Michigan Avenue, is renowned for throwing his annual Valentine’s Day Tea—one of the most coveted invitations in town, according to Harper’s Bazaar and Women’s Wear Daily. More than 100 women will join him on February 12 (wearing the traditional red) at the Ritz-Carlton to celebrate the tea’s 20th anniversary. Bunky says that Hazel will be by his side, putting the event together as always. “I have learned so much from Hazel,” he says. “To be much more of a positive person. To see the good in everything and have a go-get-’em attitude. And to realize that each day is a gift and it’s up to me to unwrap it.” He adds, “I call her Auntie Mame.… She is society’s den mother. There is simply no one else like her.”

They are best friends and confidants. He brags about her “brilliant grandchildren.” She praises him as “forever faithful, patient, and trusting,” with “a ready ear for any problems.” With a beautiful, knowing smile, she declares, “Everyone needs a Bunky in their lives.”

Hazel says that long ago she wanted to go into theater, and she uses a little theater in all her endeavors. She married Warren at a young age and had three children in four years (“Pretty good for a Protestant,” she laughs). When her kids were old enough she decided she wanted to deeply immerse herself into community affairs. Bunky says that whatever Hazel touches, it’s always state-of-the-art.

They consider each other family, and meet at least once a week at RL to dissect life and to connect. “I am so fortunate to have a male friend other than my husband with whom I can really let down my hair and who is so loyal. It’s very special,” Hazel says. Where will we find this duo in five years? Bunky leans forward, his tone unyielding, “Same time, same place, same channel—right here.”

The Artists: Coauthors And Coconspirators

Top Chef veteran Art Smith and artist Jesus Salgueiro walk into Eleven City Diner for brunch, casual and relaxed. Art tells how he and Jesus just returned from Washington DC, after preparing a holiday meal with the American Chef Corps for the State Department at The Blair House, which was showcased to nearly 250 embassies around the world.

Art, cooking, and advocacy define the lives of this couple, who met 14 years ago on Fisher Island while Art was working as Oprah’s personal chef. By both accounts, it was love at first sight. Art told Jesus on their first date, “I’m going to marry you.” And he did, 12 years later in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial before several hundred guests.

Their first few years together were life-changing. Jesus tells a story: “A few months after we met it was my birthday. Art said, ‘So, what can I give you?’ I said, ‘I want you to write a book... You are a fantastic chef, but just a chef, and you have so much more potential.’ I could not be with someone who did not utilize his talent to the fullest.”

Art says Jesus, who was born in Venezuela and moved to the US in the ’80s, is the couple’s unofficial businessman and the catalyst to their ventures. “He is the one who sees an opportunity and finds a way to get us there,” Art says. Within six months of their first date, they published their first book, Back to the Table: The Reunion of Food and Family, which became a New York Times best seller and won a James Beard Award. They proceeded to write two other books, Kitchen Life: Real Food for Real Families—Even Yours! and Back to the Family.

In 2003, they cofounded the award-winning nonprofit Common Threads. Based in Chicago, the organization has programs in three states and in the District of Columbia and serves 20,000 kids by teaching them the importance of nutrition and well-being, and by fostering an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking, music, and art. In 2008, Art and Jesus opened Table Fifty-Two (their sixth restaurant) on the Near North Side with partner Julie Latsko, in which Jesus’s vibrant, colorful artwork depicting hearts and angels is displayed.

Over the years, the duo has cooked for world leaders and traveled to 25 countries for major events as culinary diplomats. Everything they do is a “we”—Jesus and Art are a team every step of the way. “Jesus and I are a united front,” says Art, “especially when it comes to kids, education, advocacy, and our relationship.” While Jesus brushes it off, Art says that conquering Jesus’s brain cancer several years ago was truly the most difficult period for them. “I was afraid I would lose him, but Jesus fought and won.” This year they will cochair the Equality Illinois event on February 9 and the annual Common Threads charity event on March 4, in which top toques are invited to “cook their hearts out” for kids. Their new book Healthy Comfort (Harper Collins) will be published in May, and Jesus will have his first exhibition, called “Love Mandalas,” after a 13-year hiatus.

They treasure their alone time: Walking the lake, enjoying their farm in Jasper, Florida, eating in Chinatown, or catching a movie. They even argue openly in the middle of the interview—each one having a different version of the same story. “We love, we argue, we make up,” Art says. “If anyone thinks any relationship is smooth sailing—that’s a crock. A great relationship is living out loud. We are extremely intense, extremely tender, and most importantly, at the end of the day, we can always look at each other and say, ‘We may not agree on something—but I love you.’”

The Multitaskers: Juggling Roles In The Private And Public Sectors

On being welcomed into Susan Crown and Will Kunkler’s spacious Lake Shore Drive residence, one is struck not merely by its calm elegance, but by the aromas of cooking food that waft through the place. “Come in here—we’re all in the kitchen!” calls out Susan, one of our city’s most involved women, a leader in the corporate, civic, charitable, and political sectors. She, Will, and their 21-year-old son, Nicholas, are cooking, hanging out, and catching up. “Whenever I have down time, I become very domestic,” she says warmly. “I love to cook.” One learns quickly that whatever Susan Crown does, she pours her heart and soul into it. “Nothing,” Will attests about his wife of 31 years, “is ever half-way.”

The couple met at Yale University in 1978, first glimpsing each other in a campus TV room while cheering opposite teams during a Yankees/Red Sox playoff game. A New York fan, Susan laughs, “Of course the Yankees took the series.” The pair became close friends after that; months later friendship turned into love. They were married a year out of college and have two children: Kaitlin, 24, a budding filmmaker, and Nicholas, a student at Northwestern University.

They have raised their kids while building their careers and following their personal passions. Susan, the granddaughter of industrialist Henry Crown and the daughter of Lester and Renee Crown, is focused on technology, global poverty, and education. The chairman and founder of SCE , a social investment organization, she is also chairman of the executive committee of Illinois Tool Works; vice chair of the Rush University Medical Center; a vice president of Henry Crown & Company, a Chicago investment firm; and director of Northern Trust Corporation. On February 25, Susan and Deborah Quazzo will cochair the annual KIPP Schools fundraiser at the Four Seasons Hotel. Will serves as the executive vice president of private equity firm CC Industries. He is also a director of Sears Holdings and Nibco; a trustee of the Northwestern Memorial Foundation and the Field Museum; and is in his second term as chairman of the Brookfield Zoo. The Chicago Zoological Society Whirl will be held at the Zoo on April 20; Will says they hope to raise $1.3 million at the event.

When not working, tending to kids, or traveling, they are avid skiers and cyclists, and Will’s eyes light up when he discusses golf. They are also very involved in the political sphere, spearheading Mitt Romney’s 2012 efforts in Chicago. They both treasure that time working closely together. “We are a great team,” he says. “When we engage in something, we deliver for an organization. We’re good at understanding people and implementing strategy to get to a better place.”

During the interview they tease and share inside jokes. She calls him her Rock of Gibraltar. He says life with her never has a dull moment. Both maintain they’d rather be in jeans than in black tie. Susan leans forward. “We are as opposite as two people can be, but we truly complement each other. And,” she adds, glancing at Will, “he can be very romantic.”

The Conscientious Ceos: United In The Fight Against Homelessness

Thirty-one years ago, Quintin Primo III walked into a party and saw Diane Jones. “Love at first sight,” recalls Quintin. He proposed nine months later. Diane, a graduate of Smith College with dreams of working overseas in global marketing, went off to Harvard Business School, where Quintin had also earned his MBA. They got married between her first and second year—and began to build a very full life together.

Quintin, the chairman and CEO of Capri Capital Partners, is celebrating the company’s 20th anniversary, with $3.8 billion in real estate assets under management. Diane is the chairman and CEO of IntraLink Global, a next-generation marketing and content firm that creatively links content strategy, social media, and technology. Their greatest joint venture (“our ultimate treasure,” says Diane) is their children: Franchesca,16, Quintin IV, 11, and Reid, 7. The Primos’ Lake Forest home is sprawling, elegant, comfortable, and filled with fabulous art, particularly their collection of works by African-American artists. The ambience reflects who they are: warm, sophisticated, and spiritual. When asked to describe each other in three words, Quintin says of Diane: “determined, beautiful, and brilliant.” As Diane is about to provide her take on Quintin, he jumps in with a smile: “Three things about me? Pain. In. Butt.”

Each had parents who planted the seeds of success at a young age. Diane was raised by a single mom who was determined for her to succeed through hard work and education. Quintin’s father, the late Right Reverend Quintin E. Primo Jr., served as the first black bishop of the Episcopalian Church in Chicago and was an outspoken advocate for the rights of minorities, women, and gay people. “[My father’s] influence on me was strong, particularly in terms of ethics,” Quintin says. “I couldn’t break the rules if I tried.”

How do the Primos balance work, travel, children, and spending time together? “Both of us make it a priority for our kids to feel secure and loved…. We are fortunate, and we try to teach our kids to think less of themselves, more of others, to get involved, and serve the community.” The Primos lead by example and are very active in civic and charitable organizations. Closest to their hearts is the Primo Center for Women and Children on Chicago’s West Side, a transitional homeless shelter founded in 1978 by Quintin’s father. Both Diane and Quintin sit on the All Chicago board, which includes the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness and the Emergency Fund. On June 9, they will be joined by other charities as part of Run Home Chicago: A Race to End Homelessness, to be held at Soldier Field. “Homelessness and poverty are global and disproportionately affect so many people of color,” says Quintin.

So when life is quiet, what would a fantasy day look like? “Never getting out of my pajamas!” Quintin says. “No responsibilities. Movie, dinner, the simple things—doing nothing, but nothing with my family.”

The Greengrocers: Building A Gourmet Empire

Bob Mariano, chairman, CEO and president of Roundy’s Supermarkets and founder of Mariano’s Fresh Market, tells a good story about how he met his wife, Nina, considered one of the city’s most fashionable women: “I was going through a divorce and having dinner with an old business associate at Gene & Georgetti. As the night progressed, I asked if he knew anyone to fix me up with, and after a few seconds he said, ‘You should meet my daughter,’ (who was divorced with a young son) and he wrote down her number.”

BBob admits he didn’t call. Three weeks later, Nina, who was then working with the mayor’s office, called Bob to ask about his involvement in the “Milan Garden” project. Bob said, “I’m very interested... and here’s what I’m going to do... but now that business is done—Let's have dinner!” Their date at the Park Hyatt’s NoMI on August 5, 2005, marked Bob’s and Nina’s new lease on life (even their license plate reads: 0805). They “closed down the restaurant,” fell in love, and never looked back.

With five kids between them (his four, her one, ranging in ages from 18 to 32), the Marianos pride themselves on being a tight-knit Italian family, who work hard to balance family, career, and charitable work. In their beautiful home in the Northwest suburbs, Nina wears workout attire (FYI: she has a figure to die for), and Bob is equally casual. Upon entering, a guest is immediately enveloped in their warmth. Cookies, treats, and drinks (not to mention pies, which they sent home with this reporter) set the tone and reflect who they really are—givers—inside and out.

Bob heads a $4 billion grocery chain of 165 stores in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota with 20,000 employees (of which, quips Nina, “19,900 absolutely love him!”). His affordable gourmet grocery concept, Mariano's Fresh Markets (the eighth 65,000-square-foot location opened in Greektown in October, with five more on the way this year), represents a “culmination of 40 years of experience in food retailing.”

Bob maintains it’s not just a food business; it’s about “community building.” And that’s where Nina’s expertise comes in. She heads his community relations, ensuring that Mariano’s meets each community’s needs. The Marianos’ business philosophy seems to mirror the ease of their marriage: “It’s not work,” Bob says. “It’s pleasure.”

Bob describes Nina as the “ultimate balancing act artist,” who is intensely devoted to her family and to her charities, most notably Bear Necessities, which benefits children with pediatric cancer. Nina will cochair with Tracy Scurto the 20th Anniversary Bear Tie Ball on March 9. “The organization is very dear to my heart,” she says. “Bob and I are blessed with healthy children, and [we’re] close friends with the woman who founded the organization and lost her son to the disease.” Nina is involved with Folds of Honor, an organization that benefits the families of Folds of Honor, and the Ronald McDonald House. She will also serve as cochair of the Service Club of Chicago’s annual gala on November 1, 2013, at the Four Seasons. Bob heads the Roundy’s Foundation, which provides food assistance to families in crisis, addressing hunger relief, domestic abuse, and literacy.

This duo not only combine forces to make a better world, particularly for children, but also balance each other and treasure their “down time.” They travel, hike, dine, shop (“Aren’t I lucky he likes to shop!” Nina laughs), and they “never fight.”

“We empower each other, and we both feel so loved,” Nina says. “Every day is a learning experience. I see Bob constantly growing and evolving. He is never satisfied with the status quo—watching his drive is infectious and he pushes me to be my best.” Bob wraps his arm around his wife. “Most of all, I trust Nina with everything. We always have each other’s backs.”

Chicago's Top 5 Power Couples

By Lisa Barr | January 14, 2013 | People

Photography by:

photography by maria ponce berre; Styling by rebecca neenan for ford artists (barr and cushing); styling by erica milde for ford artists (Salgueiro and smith); makeup by eric holt for ford artists, styling by erica milde for ford artists (kunkler and crown); styling by erica milde for ford artists (primos); styling by rebecca neenan for ford artists (Marianos)

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