What’s With That Wall of Handprints in Piper’s Alley?

By The Second City | Mar 13, 2019

If you’ve ever been on the second floor of the Piper’s Alley building, you’ve probably noticed–sandwiched right between the doors to the e.t.c. and 1959 Kitchen & Bar–a colorful wall of mosaic handprints, signed by celebrities you’re probably (rightfully) confused by: Mel Brooks, Marlo Thomas, Shelley Fabares, Mickey Rooney, the kid who played “Dennis the Menace” in 1993, Chuck Norris…

What does Chuck Norris have to do with The Second City?

Nothing.

Here’s the story of those handprints, according to our all-around-knower of Second City lore (and Executive Director of Insights & Applied Improvisation), Kelly Leonard:

In 1991, Sony opened a four-screen movie theater in Piper’s Alley in the space adjacent to The Second City e.t.c. entrance. In later years, Loews and then AMC took over the space before it closed for good in 2011.

I distinctly remembered how pissed off Joyce Sloane became when the movie theater started mounting handprints in the shared lobby space–mostly because people all thought that the handprints represented alumni of The Second City. In reality, the majority of those folks had prints done when they showed up for film premiere events at the movie theater, not the comedy theater.
Once the venue closed, we looked at taking the handprints down and keeping just the ones that were from Second City alumni, but it was physically impossible to take them off without breaking them. Something about destroying them felt wrong.”
Things are changing around the building, meaning the wall will become a little more of a hidden discovery for those in the know…or those who happen peek behind the elegant new video monitor display. (And yes, some of those prints DO belong to our people, like Harold Ramis and Bonnie Hunt.)
So if you happen to run into Chuck Norris, let him know with authority that his hands are still alive and roundhouse kicking in Chicago, safely entombed with the rest of them.
Also, please mention that he’s welcome to come join us for an improv set anytime.

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