jeff rossen (1955-2023)
Former Gay Chicago Magazine entertainment editor Jeff Rossen died April 19, at the age of 67.
Born Dec. 10, 1955 in Oak Lawn, Jeff spent his childhood and teen years in Oak Lawn and Tinley Park. While attending Purdue University for a time, he met his first love of over 25 years, Ben Rogner, while directing a play as a theater student. The couple started a now-defunct temporary help work agency at the start of Rossen's career endeavors.
Rossen then worked as a digital audio Cook County court reporter for over 15 years. Even while in that job, he also became Gay Chicago Magazine's theater reviewer and later entertainment editor where, for about 15 years, he supervised the After Dark Awards for Chicago actors and cabaret performers. Both Rossen and Rogner spent their lives producing and supporting live theater in Chicago for many years. Rogner died in 2000 due to complications from AIDS.
When Rossen left his court reporter job, he went on to work at now-defunct Karnes Music Company, which was owned by his future husband, Mark Owen (whom he had already met a few years prior). In 2013, Rossen and Owen tied the knot after years of being each other's domestic partners. The couple recently celebrated 20 years as a couple.
Following Rossen's retirement, they moved to the Dallas area in August 2019 to be amongst family members.
Rossen was preceded in death by Rogner. He is survived by Owen, sisters Sue Plotke and Alison Stroud, brother Dave Rossen, brother-in-law Ken (Pat) Rogner and niece Julie (Charles Smith) Gilliland.
"He was my nearest and dearest friend," said Owen. "Working and living together proved to be a delight. It has not even been a week and I'm already missing him, as is our dog Remi. I loved him with all my heart. He was my everything."
"As an adult, I had a dear and deep bond with Uncles Ben and Jeff," said Rogner's niece Julie Gilliland. "They showed me what a healthy and fun marriage should be, [as did] in the later years, Jeff's with Mark. I learned so much about the theater from them, and have dedicated my career to the arts."
"I moved to Chicago 35 years ago, and one of the first people to take me under their wing and welcome me into their family of friends was Jeff Rossen," said longtime friend Beckie Menzie. "He was a musical theater nut, and a special friend."
"Jeff was a passionate enthusiast for Chicago's theater and cabaret scenes," said friend, former Windy City Times editor and Chicago Reader theater critic Albert Williams. "As entertainment editor of Gay Chicago Magazine, he used his weekly forum to celebrate the artists whose work he admired. The After Dark Awards, which he supervised under the aegis of Gay Chicago, were an important force in Chicago's entertainment world. In their heyday they were as impactful as the Joseph Jefferson Awards. I valued Jeff as a journalistic colleague and as a friend."
"Jeff was a true theater geek, a lover of entertainment, especially musical theater and cabaret," said friend and theater producer Vicki Quade. "He championed lots of shows, including mine, and when you ran into him and asked what he was recommending in town, he would easily suggest two, three, four shows and lots of individual performances. He would light up talking about the ones he loved.”
"Jeff will be remembered for his contributions to the LGBTQ community through his appreciation for cabaret, theatre and piano bars in Chicago," said friend Russ Goeltenbodt. "Jeff's support led to Gay Chicago's After Dark Awards, recognizing gay artists and many of us remember his singing at Gentry on Rush at Beckie Menzie's Open Mics."