Art Sims: A Real Survivor
For the last two years, Chicago radio listeners have had the pleasure of tuning in to Art ”Chat Daddy” Sims on WVON 1690 AM. The host of the nightly show, “Real Talk, Real People,” has been on the airwaves from Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. for over a year, but launched in early 2015 as a Friday night entertainment weekly.
Sims is not a stranger to the media and broadcast world. He’s become a regular fixture on the social scene throughout the last three decades. His young adult days spent as a club kid on the House music scene to throwing some of the hottest parties, traveling around the world as a flight attendant, culinary wizard to becoming one of Chicago Defender’s premier columnists.
His columns began to build him a reputation for his clever sense of humor as he covered everything from relationship advice to travel excursions with his followers. His signature style of “‘the chat” grew into his nickname, ”Chat Daddy” — a label that would carry him into the world of radio broadcast.
Being exposed to working at radio nearly 20 years ago, Sims received an opportunity to work for Connie Lee Welch at WGCI. There, he got a chance to meet legendary radio personalities Doug Banks and Steve Harvey.
“I always wanted to do radio, and it never worked out like that. I joined the Defender under Roland Martin’s administration. After that I went into television. Now, I’m back in radio where I’ve always wanted to be at.”
Every evening, following the Cliff Kelley show, Sims has three hours of non-stop topics and interviews discussing entertainment, lifestyle and breaking news items. He feels a success formula lies primarily on making people feel comfortable and keeping it relatable.
“You have to use realness in everything. Let people know it’s OK to be comfortable. There’s only three stories that I haven’t been able to do on that show which I have no personal connection to; never had a baby, never had a pap smear and I’ve never adopted a child,” he jokingly says.
“But any other story that has been on that show, I can understand or I know someone who’s been through that situation. The reason why the show is so popular, it’s just everyday people telling their life’s stories or how they’ve come to whoever they are in this day and age. That’s what I like about who I am as a talk show host,” said Sims.
The South Side native says he has always had a desire to be in the limelight since he was a teenager. “This was before FB, Twitter or texting. I always knew I wanted to be a celebrity of sorts. I cannot sing but I could dance rather well back in the day, but none of that would’ve gotten me to become the celebrity. So I always felt my ‘gift of gab’ would take me to where I needed to be. It has allowed me some great opportunities.”
It doesn’t take much to be drawn to Sims’ personality. Upon meeting him, people are immediately attracted to his wide smile and comfortable nature. But, over time, he’s had to confront the prejudices that faced him being an openly gay Black man.
“White gays are allowed to live and be who they want to be — flourish in the workplace and are respected for their gift and talent. Where in the Black genre of being gay, it’s a lot of discrimination. There’s a lot of people who don’t want to give you the chance,” he said. “If they do, it’s because you are a ‘character’ that is gay and not really a human being who’s gay. I’m not really trying to be bothered about what’s in your bedroom or have you be bothered about what’s in mine.”
Although there have been challenges, he admits that his sexuality has also afforded him many benefits — standing in his truth.
“This is from networking, doing business deals to some of the best relationships with people. People would be very surprised.”
Sims would find out that being gay was the least of his worries as he was confronted with the grim diagnosis of leukemia nearly five years ago. He said the news was devastating to him.
“No one in my family had never had it. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood, so I’m wondering if I cut myself, will I bleed out; a blood clot, would it take me out?” Having to deal with escalated costs of $10,000 a month in medication and drowning in a mountain of debt, he found a way to channel his recovery into rebirth.
“It’s been a very interesting journey but also one of the most rewarding experiences in my life ever. Now, I’ve had to readjust everything I was used to. It’s done so much differently now.”
Now, in remission, as a cancer survivor, he doesn’t take anything for granted. His radio show has become a source of therapy and renewed strength as he prepares to release an upcoming book and hopes to expand “Real Talk, Real People” to national syndication. “Oprah is my number one hero. I know her and watched her do what she has done.”
As he moves into his second year as a daily radio personality, ”Chat Daddy” has very little left on his bucket list.
“I’ve done it all. Every fetish, every fantasy — I was told I had cancer and didn’t know what would happen. So, I’ve exhausted it all. Maybe marriage and finishing this book. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve slept in five- to seven-star hotels. I’ve eaten everything. If I died today or tomorrow, it’s been amazing.”