Wrestling, tea and tunes with Billy Corgan 

click to enlarge The Smashing Pumpkin founder Billy Corgan has ventured outside of the music realm and has opened a tea house as well as a wrestling company. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • The Smashing Pumpkin founder Billy Corgan has ventured outside of the music realm and has opened a tea house as well as a wrestling company.

The Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan has been a veritable whirling dervish lately, whipping out the new 13-track “Oceania” (which the band is playing in its entirety in the current tour’s first set, along with vintage chestnuts), as well as overseeing EMI’s expanded catalog remasters. Box sets of “Gish,” “Siamese Dream” and “Pisces Iscariot” already are out; 1995’s definitive “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” will be released in December. He also just opened a Chinese-style, 1930s-Paris-inspired tea house in his native Highland Park, Ill.  And there’s more.

So you’re branching out into strange new ventures?

Don’t forget the wrestling company! I have an independent wrestling company in Chicago called Resistance Pro, and we hold shows and I write the storylines for actual wrestling promotions. It’s a fascinating subculture, and I really like being in the business. I get treated really well, and they really like me helping to sell the sport. I get treated far better in wrestling than I do in rock and roll. So yeah — I’ve got the tea house, the wrestling company. And the band.

But what inspired your tea house, Madame ZuZu’s?

It has to do with where I live. There aren’t many cool places to hang out on the North Shore, so we just thought we’d create one. And I’d had an idea for years about having an art-type space, so it’s meant to be a place where you can hang out, show off your work, and even play for free, and there won’t be any clinking-at-the-bar noise while you’re playing. It’s all acoustic — there’s no P.A. amplification. So if you’re going to get across to an audience, you’ll have to figure out how to do it old school.

Are you a tea connoisseur?

Yeah, I’m a tea guy. But we’re not trying to out-snob anybody — we’re trying to create a vibe. But we’re trying to get teas from interesting places. Like, our green tea will taste different because it’s from North Africa. And we have vegan desserts — we’re more on the health-conscious side.

And you played Madame ZuZu’s grand opening last month?

Yes. And we have a small capacity, like 40 or so. So after every set we encouraged people to rotate out and let others come in, and people were actually really good about it. So throughout the day, we had maybe 300 folks coming through. But then I held my breath the next day, because it’s one thing if I show up and fans come, and another to have a viable business. But business has been great!

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Tom Lanham

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