|Died||2005 (age 83)|
|Known for||founder of Morton's Restaurant Group|
Arnold "Arnie" Morton (1922–2005) was a restaurateur who founded Morton's Restaurant Group/Morton's Steakhouse. He is the father of Peter Morton, owner of Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and co-founder of Hard Rock Cafe; of Michael Morton, head of the N9NE Group, which operates contemporary American steakhouses in Las Vegas, Chicago and Dallas; of Amy Morton, owner and operator of Found, a restaurant in Evanston, Illinois; Stephanie Morton, producer- owner of Stephanie Morton Productions which produces still photo shoots all over the globe and David Morton, co-owner of DMK Restaurants. He is the grandfather of Harry Morton, President and CEO of the Mexican restaurant chain Pink Taco.
Personal life and background
Arnie Morton was born to a Jewish family in Chicago, one of three sons of Mort and Isabel Morton, and grew up in Hyde Park, Chicago. He graduated from Hyde Park High School and enlisted in the United States Army in World War II. He saw eight months of action and arrived in Normandy, France, just after D-day. After the war, he attended the University of Alabama where he played football for two (2) years.
Arnie Morton's father owned a restaurant on the South Side of Chicago. From the age of 15, Morton bused tables, worked in the kitchen, and performed a wide array of odd jobs at the restaurant. These laid the ground for his work in the 1960s as a founder of the famed Playboy Clubs and Resorts.
Arnie Morton opened his first restaurant, the Walton Walk, between Rush Street and Michigan Avenue in the 1950s. This paved the way for a partnership with Victor Lownes and Hugh Hefner, the founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy Magazine.
Morton was the right-hand man of Hugh Hefner when he launched the Playboy Empire on February 29, 1960. He was largely involved in the opening of the first Playboy Club with Hefner and Lownes in 1960.
Over the course of 20 years, Morton created his flagship namesake restaurant, Arnie's, a landmark of Chicago's Gold Coast; Zorine's a tribute to his beautiful wife; and Morton's of Chicago Steakhouses. In 1978, Morton's of Chicago opened in the basement of a Near North Side high-rise in Chicago adjacent to the existing Arnie's restaurant. The menu consisted simply of giant potatoes and large steaks. It was slow at the beginning, but gained a boost when Frank Sinatra arrived at the restaurant and became a regular. This original Morton's of Chicago became the stepping stone for 65 other Morton's locations in the United States, Hongkong, Singapore, and Canada. During the 70s and 80s, his other ventures included Arnie's Restaurant, Arnie's Cafe, Maple Street Pier, Arnie's First Street Pier, Arnie's North, Morton's Marketplace, the Institute and an exclusive Club, Zorine's (discothèque).
Morton met Klaus Fritsch while working alongside Hugh Hefner. Then, Fritsch was food and beverage director of the Playboy Clubs. Morton left Playboy in the early 1970s as did Fritsch to begin a 20 year run of working together.
Morton was married for a short while out of World War II and had twins: Peter Morton and Pam Morton. Later he met his surviving wife Zorine at a Playboy party in 1960, and they married in 1961. They had five children: sons Michael and David; and daughters Stephanie Morton, Amy Morton-Levin and Debra Morton-Berger. He has a brother, Robert.
Morton died on May 28, 2005, aged 83 at a care home in Deerfield, Illinois. He had Alzheimer's Disease and cancer. In recognition of his significant contributions, a resolution was presented to his family from the House of Representatives of the 94th General Assembly of the State of Illinois "so that his memory may be honored and ever cherished".
Morton is credited as the brains behind the "Taste of Chicago", one of the city's best-loved summer festivals. He got the idea when he went to a similar event in New York in the late 1970s. Thinking that Chicago could do much better, he lined up restaurants to participate and persuaded then Mayor Jane Byrne to block off Michigan Avenue for the first Taste of Chicago on July 4, 1980, planting the seed for this food festival. Of the 100,000 people the organizers expected, more than 250,000 showed up, with food and soda sales grossing $300,000. Since then, the festival has evolved and has been done every year during the Fourth of July celebrations.
- Chicago Jewish History: "HPHS Jewish “Fame and Fortune” Alumni" Fall 2007
- Chicago Tribune: Robert C. Morton Obituary December 30, 2011
- [dead link]
- "News - NORM: Playboy event 'as good as it gets'". reviewjournal.com. Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
- "Steakhouse chain pioneer 'Arnie' Morton dies at 83 | Nation's Restaurant News | Find Articles at BNET.com". Findarticles.com. 2005-06-06. Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
- Meitus: Burger launched chef's career-building alliance : Columns & Blogs : The Rocky Mountain News[dead link]
- Los Angeles Times: "Arnie Morton, 83; He Worked the Room at His 'Steakhouses for the Rich'" by Myrna Oliver] May 31, 2005
- as well as a brother Eddy. http://www.juf.org/news_public_affairs/article.asp?key=6265
- "HR0540 94TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY". Ilga.gov. 2005-05-28. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
- [dead link]