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In Chicago, Emanuel breaks Daley mold

CHICAGO -- The mayor-elect strolled into the historic Chicago Theatre for a Neil Young concert wearing grayish-green sneakers, jeans and a soft sweater over a blue T-shirt. At his side was actress Jennifer Beals, the star of "Flashdance," and her husband.

Rahm Emanuel was out on the town, and Mayor Richard Daley he's not.

When the former White House chief of staff takes office Monday, a new vibe will emanate from City Hall for the first time in more than two decades. Where Daley preferred a more low-key social life and favored the traditional trench coat look, Emanuel is frequently spotted in jeans while touring the city's vibrant arts-and-culture scene.

In some ways, Emanuel's new, hipper image punctuates the transformation that his predecessor engineered to remake a grimy Midwestern industrial hub into a gleaming global tourist destination.

"I think it's a redirection for the whole city, and he is the face of that," said Bruce Newman, a marketing professor at Chicago's DePaul University. "I don't think it's put on, but I think he's aware of it."

Emanuel may be most famous for his killer political instinct and profane language, but he has diverse cultural interests. He's a former dancer who once won a scholarship to train with Chicago's prestigious Joffrey Ballet. He finds relaxation at the theater, and his musical tastes run from 1960s rock to pop vocalist Adele to Chicago's own Wilco.

This week, the city's Time Out magazine introduced a "Rahm Spotting" feature, inviting readers to send an alert when they see the new mayor out and about.

Emanuel, whose wife and kids will remain in Washington until the school year is over, insists his social activities have nothing to do with his political life, and any hint of hipness is in the eye of beholder.

The change in attitude at City Hall is stark because for much of the last half-century a Daley -- the family name synonymous with the once-mighty political machine -- has been the face of Chicago. The late Richard J. Daley was the political boss from 1955 to 1976, and his son is retiring after 22 years as the paternal figure in mayor's office.

Emanuel's arrival "kills the image of Chicago as an old machine that is still moving in a certain direction," Newman said.

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