The Bluesmobile returns to Joliet Prison

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The Blooze Brothers’ replica Bluesmobile

The Blooze Brothers’ replica Bluesmobile

A replica of
Jake and Elwood’s
famous ride helps turn
former correctional facility
into a world-class
film-related
tourist attraction

A police car with a large public address system on its roof was parked at Joliet Prison last weekend. The vehicle, owned by Blues Brothers tribute band The Blooze Brothers, was among many sights and sounds at the 2nd Great Joliet Prison Break-In on Saturday, August 24.

The Break-In is a fundraiser held for the benefit of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, which is on a mission to turn the Old Joliet Prison into a world-class tourist attraction. In addition to the replica of the famous Bluesmobile, the event featured food, drinks, and performances by Chicago band Ides of March.

“Last year we drew about 3,500 people and raised about $130,000,” says Heritage Corridor Visitors Bureau Marketing Manager Dan Mulka, who represented one of the event’s co-sponsors. “Some guests came from as far away as Oklahoma.”

JOLIET AREA HISTORICAL MUSEUM
JOLIET PRISON BREAK-IN

 
 

Joliet Prison
Opened in 1858, Joliet Prison is comprised of 20 separate buildings that housed a fire department, a hospital, and a mattress factory. It earned fame as the location where Elwood Blues (Dan Akroyd) picks up his brother Jake (John Belushi) in the opening of the 1979 film, The Blues Brothers.

In the scene, Jake, who has just completed a stretch in the joint, is not impressed with the 1974 Dodge Monaco that his brother purchased from a Mount Prospect, IL city police auction. After the car hurdles over the suspended leaves of the 95th St. Bridge, he admits that it has “pretty good pickup,” and Elwood describes its merits, which include a “cop motor, cop tires, cop suspension, and cop shocks.”

Since then, the prison has been featured in a number of movies and TV shows including the 1994 blockbuster, Natural Born Killers, and the Fox drama series, Prison Break.

JOLIET PRISON
THE PICKUP | THE BLUES BROTHERS

 
 
A strange attraction
The Joliet Area Historical Museum began offering guided tours of the prison during the warmer months of 2018. Taking visitors through several areas of the facility, the walkabouts average about 20 people per session and include a peek at one of the original cells measuring four- by seven-foot wide and seven-foot high.

According to Mulka, the tours have been selling out regularly, “even on weekdays.”

“There’s a strange attraction to seeing a few of the slightly ruined areas,” he says, adding that his favorite stop is another area seen in The Blues Brothers.

“If you view the final scene where they’re playing Jail House Rock, there’s a painting on the wall that looks like a logo inscribed with the words, ‘It’s never to late to mend,’” he says. “That quote is etched into the floor of the solitary confinement building.”

The annual Break-In celebration was launched last year and featured a performance by The Blooze Brothers tribute band, who brought their ride to this year’s event. It raises funds that “go back into the prison to help for signage and repairs and to make it a better worldwide attraction,” says Mulka.

 
Send your bluesy updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, dan@reelchicago.com.

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