"This town was too quiet and seriously lacking in anything bohemian."
—Billy Corgan

B

illy Corgan recently opened a 1930s Chinese-style tea house, Madame Zuzu’s Tea House, raising eyebrows among the hoi polloi of navel gazing hipsters who are probably wondering if the famed Smashing Pumpkins frontman has committed a serious rock n’ roll faux pas. He hasn’t. 

In fact, there’s nothing more “rock” than tea. 

What do you think Keith Moon did after throwing a 20-inch Emerson television set off a Howard Johnson’s roof in Des Moines back in '72? And what did Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhodes do after they blew up the backstage toilets at Cobo Hall in Detroit? 

Well, first they looked to see if anyone was dead or seriously injured as a result of their hijinks, but eventually each poured themselves a nice cup of tea.

steve bill Our intrepid reporter and the tea-peddling rocker.

And while William Patrick Corgan is as American as lynch-mobs and Chef Boyardee, unlike the said legends from Britannia, he is no less a rockstar.

The seeds for Corgan’s latest business venture were sewn back in 2003 when he sought a quiet refuge from the excess and tumult of stardom and bought a home in an upscale suburb north of Chicago, Highland Park. The only problem was that he got just what he wished for.

“This town was too quiet and seriously lacking in anything bohemian,” Corgan told us tableside at Madame Zuzu’s Tea House in Highland Park.  

“For about 10 years I wanted to open an artistic space--it could have been anything from art gallery to a music performance space but it dawned on me that tea was the way to put it together.”

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Billy Corgan's 1967 GTO sits outside his tea house.

Corgan envisions that the tasteful, art deco tea-room will be a vibrant and eclectic venue where local performers, artists, holistic healers, and photographers of all ages can come together, network, and showcase their talents. 

Because of Highland Park’s conspicuous affluence, as seen in the multi-million dollar lakefront properties nearby, one might think of it as a town comprised solely of patrons of the arts and not artists, but Corgan disputes that notion.

“Highland Park originally was an artist colony and Ravinia was developed to get people to move up here. So, there are roots for it,” Corgan said.

“I think there are a lot more artists here than people realize, but how would they coalesce? There has been no reason for them to coalesce.”

Corgan’s enthusiasm for his new pet-project is absolute, and on any given day at Madame Zuzu’s Tea House you may very well find Corgan (when he’s not on tour) serving tea behind the counter and chatting up customers.