Category Archives: Tony Brewer

Hot Air

Big Talk

Who’s the coolest person in Bloomington?

Today, at least, it’s Nate Powell. The noted cartoonist and author of numerous top-selling graphic novels is grilled, pierced, gutted, and otherwise questioned online by the majordomo of this communications colossus in the new interview series Big Talk.

That majordomo? It’s me.

BigTalkRoundCorners

Big Talk, long-time readers of this series of shrieks already know, is the shiny new monthly run of colloquys co-sponsored by The Ryder magazine, WFHB radio, and, natch, The Electron Pencil. The whole shebang had a soft kick-off in mid-January with the first airing on ‘FHB’s Daily Local News of my interview with the author/drawer of March: Book One, Any Empire, The Silence of Our Friends, and others. As in any new endeavor attempted by creative types, getting this thing synched up has been about as efficient as the wrangling of a houseful of cats by a blind man, so the other shoe part of interview No. 1 finally hits the interwebs today.

Powell Cartoon

Powell By Powell

We’ve already run a second interview with poet extraordinaire Tony Brewer on WFHB, with his print chat set to hit the streets in the April edition of The Ryder, due out soonly. Slowly but surely we’ll get our radio, print, and online skeds to jibe, so keep your shirts on while we pretend we know what we’re doing.

To refresh, the whole idea is for me to find fascinating Bloomington characters and shine the harsh light upon them, sans the blackjack and the telephone book treatment. Honest, I try to treat my victi…, er, subjects nicely. We want to learn about B-Town’s cools, not gawk at their lifeless bodies. The resultant interviews will find their way to your ears and eyes via an 8-minute feature segment on WFHB’s Daily Local News, a much longer discussion in that month’s hard-copy Ryder, and then a web redux on The Ryder‘s site. Natch, all links will be accessible here, thanks to our (duh) Big Talk page.

EP Screenshot

Go Ahead, Click It; You Know You Want To

So, unless you want to be the most square square in this Indiana college town, listen to the Daily Local News, read The Ryder when it hits your local merchants and street newsboxes, and, well, read it again when each month’s issue comes out online.

And, of course, you have to read The Pencil every single day. No misses, No excuses. What — you want your neighbors to think you’re out of it?

Ideas, Babies

Oh, before I forget: Feel free to suggest people you’d like to see interviewed by me. I’ve already got a long list of potential subjects. Hard as it may be to believe, I might have missed someone of note, so I’m leaning on you, hep Pencillista, to help me out. Send in your suggestions via the comments section in these posts or at glabagogo@gmail.com.

Do your part, savvy? It takes a village.

Mea Culpa

Alright, I’ll admit it. I’m a human and I sometimes have evil thoughts. Herein, I’ll confess my latest.

For a hot minute, I really, really wanted that Nevada rancher flap to devolve into a shootin’ war. Yep. I wanted all those loony militia members converging on the Bundy Ranch as well as the Bundys themselves and their supporters to get the living crap kicked out of them by the Feds.

Bundy Ranch

Standoff

The very notion that these gun-fondlers, Tea Party “patriots,” and miscellaneous survivalists and supremacists should position their dopey stance as a fight for freedom makes me want to retch. The Bundys, pure and simple, are letting their cattle graze on publicly-owned land. They owe us rent. That is all, kids.

And they want to fight a war over it? Yeesh.

An alarming number of Bundy-ists believe in a twisted interpretation of the Posse Comitatus rule — that is, the only governmental authority they recognize is that of the county. The state of Nevada and the US Gov’t, to these people, are unlawful, tyrannical entities.

In short, they’re nuts.

Bundy Ranch

Yikes

And don’t buy the line that they are the moral equivalent of the Freedom Riders, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks. They’re not. Merely suggesting that they might be comparable to those civil rights activists insults anybody who’s truly risked life and limb for freedom and equality.

The Bundy-ists said they were prepared to shoot it out with Bureau of Land Management security forces. One of their tactics, it’s been revealed, would be to place unarmed women in the front rank of their picket line so that when and if the Feds started shooting, their sainted womenfolk would take the first slugs.

Nice, huh?

Just imagine if one of the Bundy-ists had squeezed off a shot to start the party rolling. The Feds, of course, would be obligated to fire back and, necessarily, those target dames would be riddled with bullets. And then the Bundy-ists could cry martyr.

That mean little part of me wished it would have happened. The devil within me said, Mow ‘em all down.

Now, my firmly-held believe is that it’s our second thoughts that make us human. My second thought was, Aw, hell, I don’t want to see bloodshed. But for that flash of a moment, I figuratively rubbed my hands together and hoped for the worst.

See, that’s the diff. between me and those Bundy-ists.

[BTW: The paranoiac, conspiracy-obsessed website Natural News is coming down four-square on the side of the Bundy-ists. More evidence that those of us on the crunchy, natural Left should stay away from Mike Adams' scare-mongering delusion-fest. As if his chemtrails fetish wasn't enough for you.]

Hot Air

Rhyme Season

April is National Poetry Month.

My fave poet is Dorothy Parker. She was a smart-ass par excellence back in the 1920s. Parker was a member of the fabled Vicious Circle that met daily for lunch at New York’s Algonquin Hotel. Her regular lunch and repartee partners included Robert Benchley, Alexander Woolcott, Franklin Pierce Adams, George S. Kaufman, Harold Ross, Heywood Broun, and Ruth Hale. People like Harpo Marx, Tallulah Bankhead, Estelle Winwood, and Edna Ferber dropped by on occasion.

Parker

Dorothy Parker

They engaged in banter and wordplay that fascinates to this day. Because a number of the Circlers had syndicated daily newspaper columns, the group’s bons mots would spread across the nation in those quaint pre-TV, pre-interwebs days. For instance, Parker was challenged to use the word horticulture in a sentence one day. It didn’t take her all that long to pronounce: You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.

As the group grew through the ’20s, the Algonguin restaurant’s maître d’ began seating them at a huge round table, ergo, the repast became known to outsiders as the Algonquin Round Table. They referred to themselves as The Board. Their lunches, natch, were dubbed Board Meetings. Acc’d’ng to legend, the maître d’ assigned the group a new waiter named Luigi one day. From then on, they called themselves the Luigi Board, a takeoff on the Ouija Board, a popular toy at the time.

 Ouija

Luigi’s Weegee

It can be said (if one wanted to speak pretentiously and presumptuously) that Bloomington’s own Boys of Soma is a direct descendent of Parker et al‘s Vicious Circle. Only we’re not vicious (not too much.) Nor are we as talented and accomplished as that gang. Ah, forget I mentioned it.

Anyway, my fave Bloomington poets are Ross Gay and Tony Brewer. Pick up one of their books this month and lose yourself in their meter. Read anybody’s poetry this month. Write some of your own.

Go ahead, play with words. It’s fun. And you just may hit upon a creative usage for the word euthanasia in a sentence.

Chinese Children

A Healthy Success

Okay, so twenty-somethings now get to be covered by their parents’ health insurance policies. People with pre-existing conditions get to sign up for health insurance. Lifetime benefit caps are out. And the poor now can afford health coverage so that they don’t have to make the choice between that and Dumpster diving for dinner tonight.

In all, more than 10 million Murricans who didn’t have health insurance last year now have it this year. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Yet some corporate media outlets still refer to its “disastrous rollout.”

What disaster?

What did I miss?

Wait, you mean because some people had trouble logging on to a massive, never-before-attempted online enrollment system for a few weeks, the ACA is a disaster?

In that case, I wonder what we might call a health care system wherein some 40 million people routinely find themselves shut out of simple medical care. An annoyance? Business as usual?

I’ll go with the latter. That is, it was business as usual until Barack Obama got his ACA through the Congress in 2010. The Act profoundly changed the way we provide medical care in this holy land.

Sawyer/ABC

Former Republican Flack Diane Sawyer Reports

I’m not in love with the ACA, mind you. But until we have universal, single-payer health coverage in the United States, it’ll have to do. And it’s one hell of a lot better than what we had before.

And if the Dems had any brains, they’d run with that ball through this year’s mid-term elections. They’ve got at least 10 million votes in their pockets right now.

Hot Sunday Air

Old School

The fabulous historian Rick Perlstein has changed his Facebook profile picture. Now, when you go to his page, you see the one-time celebrity bank robber “Tania.”

That was the nom de guerre of kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst. To refresh, she was snatched by members of some rump revolutionary bunch of crazies who fancied themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army. By and by, thanks to the psychological condition known as the Stockholm Syndrome, she fell in love with one of her captors, donned camouflage, and lugged a machine gun into a bank to help the gang finance its lifestyle.

Here’s the pic:

Hearst

“Tania”

I’ve gotta admit it: She looks pretty hot in that get-up.

Big Talk

Okay, Big Talk is moving forward, baby step by baby step. Thus far our new cross-media, multi-platform interview series has aired twice on WFHB. We’ve talked with cartoonist/graphic novelist Nate Powell and sound effects artist/actor/poet/roller derby announcer Tony Brewer.

Big Talk

The companion print piece for the Powell interview is in the current issue of The Ryder (it’ll go online in a week or so.) Brewer’s print interview will run in the May issue. And we’re working on a YouTube channel so you can actually see Big Mike grill his victi…, I mean, subjects.

Go to our new Big Talk page on this here interwebs site for links to the audio interviews. They’re only eight minutes each, so have fun. Quick fun.

Criminal Behavior

Back to “Tania” and her posse. I couldn’t figure out immediately why Perlstein was homage-ing her until I hit Neil Steinberg’s column today in the Chicago Sun-Times (and, concurrently, in his own blog, Every Goddamn Day.)

Steinberg recently got a call from a fellow who was up in arms about the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana employing one James Kilgore at its Center for African Studies. Kilgore, it seems, was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army. He participated in a bank robbery where an innocent bystander was killed. Kilgore didn’t actually pull the trigger but, as a participant in the caper, he was subject to prosecution for the murder. Kilgore went on the lam in 1975, spent 27 years teaching at the University of Cape Town in South Africa under an assumed name, and was extradited to the US in 2002. He served six and a half years for the robbery/murder and when he was released, claimed to be remorseful and rehabilitated. Eventually, he got the job at Illinois under his real name.

Kilgore

The Stages Of A Man’s Life

The caller was aghast that such a man could be teaching “18-year-olds from Schaumburg and Arlington Heights.” He told Steinberg, “I don’t like bank robbers who kill moms in banks.”

BTW: My guess is a scant few 18-year-olds from Schaumburg and Arlington Heights are taking any course offered by U of I’s Center for African Studies. It’s doubtful they see that academic pursuit as helpful to their eventual goal of getting the highest paying job possible.

BTW II: The son of the murdered Mom, a fellow named Jon Opsahl, apparently has forgiven Kilgore.

Anyway, Steinberg goes on to ruminate about criminals and the possibility they’ll become productive members of society. He writes: “[W]hile we demand they turn their lives around, we seem to also resent the ones who do.”

Yep. That’s us.

Getting Hotter Air

Chit Chat Chit Chat

How about those Roller Mortis Films boys, Chris Rall and Tony Brewer? They just posted the first in their new series of interviews with fascinating B-towners on their YouTube channel.

Between them and my own Big Talk series on WFHB radio and The Ryder magazine, we’ll have the interview racket all sewn up here in So Cen Ind. The Herald Times, the WFIU news dept., and Bloom magazine may as well start handing out severance checks to their unlucky future former employees.

And, of course, there’s plenty o’incestuousness going around inasmuch as the subject of the first Rall/Brewer opus is, well, one Tony Brewer. Who just happens to be the second subject of the Big Talk series, the recording of which I am, as we speak, transcribing and editing. My Brewer interview should air on WFHB within a week or two. So you can grab yourselves a little sneak peek into the life of TB by checking out Roller Mortis’s 3-minute documentary on him. Rall & Brewer are calling their first effort a pilot, so expect their project to grow and evolve as time goes by.

Just like Big Talk.

Broadcast News

So, it’s out. The spanking new WFHB newsletter has hit the stree…, er, actually, the screen. Your computer screen, that is, if you sign up for it.

Firehouse News

Click Image To Subscribe

The first edition of the community radio station‘s latest stab at transparency now exists in the electron-sphere after a whirlwind gestation and birth. Many of Firehouse Broadcasting’s volunteers, donors, sponsors, and listeners found themselves in a tizzy last fall after the WFHB Board of Directors made a controversial choice to replace former General Manager Chad Carrothers. A fellow named Kevin Culbertson from California and other points west and whose resume included involvement with a passel of Christianist media outlets was tabbed to steer the ship into the foreseeable future. But when folks in these parts got wind of his religious programming past and his non-Bloomington-ness, the resultant roar could be heard as far as the Pacific Coast. Culbertson declined to come aboard and the Board faced the angry glares of its aforementioned constituents.

Since then, the Board and the WFHB staff have sworn to high heaven they’ll dedicate themselves to more open proceedings.

Et voila: Firehouse News.

And, yeah, I’m one of the inked-stained wretches who write the thing.

All Clear

Well, now that WWIII isn’t due to break out just yet, we can all get back to worrying about other important things like Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar night acceptance speech or whether Stand Your Ground laws were written by inmates in mental institutions.

Russia’s Vlad Putin is busy zipping up his fly after exposing his titanic phallus to the rest of the world in the Ukraine this past week. He promised this AM that his boys won’t bomb, maim, rape, pillage, and otherwise recreate in the Crimea unless such pastimes are absolutely necessary, a step back from his Rambo stance of several days ago. Phew, now I don’t have to stock up on canned green beans anymore.

Bomb Shelter

Nothing Says Home Like A Fallout Shelter

Meanwhile, remember that Florida woman who fired warning shots at her potentially abusive hubby? A state court judge had ruled that she can’t hide behind the Stand Your Ground laws because, well, she’s black and the imminent danger she faced was coming from her ever-loving husband. And if a man can’t beat his own wife nowadays, then what did our Christianist Founding Fathers fight and die for, huh?

Alexander

Not White. Not Male. Nobody.

Marissa Alexander faces a retrial that could land her in the joint for up to 60 years now. Those who enjoy sexual relations with their guns are applauding this latest turn of events because, again, Alexander is the wrong color and a wife and what the hell rights do such nobodies have anyway?

As for McConaughey’s speech — I didn’t see it but it’s raised a lot of fuss on the interwebs and, like all ‘net twaddle, will be forgotten by lunch time.

Hot Air, Please!

Baked, Bumped, Besotted, Etc.

The list you’ve been waiting for:

From The Weeklings

Click Image For List

Wait a sec: $3 million on cocaine? Steven Tyler of Aerosmith sez that’s how much he’s spent on blow in his lifetime. Doesn’t that sort of count as a crime against humanity? Like, y’know, when there are people dying of starvation somewhere while he’s pissing all that scratch away to get bumped?

Anyways, all the usual suspects are here: David Bowie of the late 1970s and early ’80s, Nick Drake, Lou Reed, Captain Beefheart, Fleetwood Mac when Stevie Nicks was burning a hole through her nasal septum, Marvin Gaye on the road to getting shot to death by his daddy-o, Billie Holliday — natch, and even one of my teen faves, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

Brown

Arthur Brown, Wearing His Trademark Flaming Mask/Helmet

[h/t to Maxxwell Bodenheim of Forest Park, Ill. for pointing this out.]

Those Who Do….

Spent a cool night in the recording studio with the multi-talented Tony Brewer yesterday. He’ll be the next guest in my new interview series, Big Talk, carried over the air by WFHB and in print in The Ryder mag.

Jeremy Hogan Photo

Tony Brewer [photo by Jeremy Hogan]

I dunno, I think I might give myself an inferiority complex if I keep doing these chats. First up was cartoonist, graphic novelist, record producer, musician, and otherwise walker-on-water Nate Powell. Now it’s Brewer, who’s been a sound effects guy, poet, roller derby announcer, pro typesetter, improv comic, artists’ consortium bwana, filmmaker, DJ, and…, aw, I’m getting tired just typing out what he’s done.

How do these people do it? I know I get exhausted washing the dishes. I need to take a nap after brewing my morning coffee. Where do all these movers and shakers get the drive and energy to do what they do?

That’s one question we may eventually answer in the Big Talk series. We’ll see.

Logo by KLR

The New Radio/Print/Online Interview Series

So, here’s the Nate Powell chat that ran on WFHB. The full interview will run in the March edition of The Ryder. The Brewer tête-à-tête should air within a week or two, depending on how quickly I transcribe and edit the piece. But, trust me, there’ll be a lot of naps interspersed with the work.

Drinking Games

Just thought I’d bring up a blast from the past. Remember when Michelle Obama told schoolkids they oughtta drink an extra glass of water a day ‘coz it’d make them healthier or some such thing?

The joke became, Now the Me Party-ists and all those crazy Right Wingers’ll come out against water, haha.

And, lo and behold, that’s what happened!

All true. Rush Limbaugh and the Washington Times and a bunch of Tea Party loons got all uppity, saying the FLOTUS’s science was hogwash and that she was now turning into Mrs. Michelle Hitler Stalin Attila the Hun bin Laden Obama.

The Guardian Photo

Tyrant!

These, kiddies, are the folks the Dems are now a’scared of in this fall’s mid-term elections.

Politics today is so frustrating. The other guys are whack jobs and my guys are tadpoles (i.e. invertebrate larvae). Sheesh.

Hot Airedales

Hanging In There

Ju-u-u-u-ust wondering: What if a noted B-town expatriate who is now an ex-expatriate wanted his old job back here?

And what if that old job, mirabile dictu, is still open from the time that ex-expat left this glorious metrop.?

What might happen?

Would the governing board of the local cultural institution communicate through winks and nudges that, although the ex-expat would have to go through the formality of the application and interview process that all other seekers of that plum-ish job have endured, he might as well start hanging his awards back up on his old office walls? Those board members who will vote on the job vacancy wouldn’t be letting the other applicants hang like chads?

Or would they?

Dalmatians

Who Doesn’t Love Dalmatians?

More, More, More

Staying on the local scene, yet another of our ink-stained wretches, Joy Shayne Laughter, tells me poet/Superman Tony Brewer actually has published three books now. I neglected to mention yesterday his first book, The Great American Scapegoat.

Hurts So Good

Alright, this is really whacked, so bear with me. Ever since I emerged from my blissful, childlike slumber at the age of 11 in 1967 and became a Cubs fan, I have endured precisely 3869 of their regular season losses. In addition, my heart was broken a total of 19 times in those rare years the Cubs qualified for post-season play.

That’s right, my beloved Cubs have proven themselves inferior nearly 4000 times since I hitched my emotional wagon to them.

And you wonder why I occasionally show signs of bitterness and hopelessness.

Grace

Fat Man Was a Firecracker

And, in case you were wondering, it is now Day 3 of what has been variously described as a “pinprick,” a “slimdown,” “not a big deal,” “nothing to worry about,” and countless other borderline criminal euphemisms.

Yes, the Shutdown. Some 800,000 federal employees are out of work for the time being. Many, no doubt, are wondering how they might keep up with such trivialities as utility bills, rent, mortgage payements, and keeping the larder stocked but, y’know, that’s not a big deal.

In other news, Tea Party-ists have signed a letter to the residents of Nagasaki, Japan telling them to quit bringing up the events of August 9, 1945, because, after all, it was only one airplane dropping one bomb. Jeez, people, get over it!

Nagasaki

Oooh! Aaah!

Hot, Hot, Hot Air

Hot & Cold

Books are flying out of Bloomington authors’ computers at a dizzying rate. For instance, prince of the city Tony Brewer, has just released a verse collection entitled Hot Type Cold Read.

Brewer

Renaissance Man

It’s his second, following up Little Glove in a Big Hand.

Tony Brewer is a sound effects savant, golden-throated announcer (he’s one of the voices of the Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls), screenwriter, e-typesetter, and, natch, poet extraordinaire. Is there anything this guy can’t do?

Pick up his book as soon as you can, otherwise you’ll be left in the dust.

Sex Symbol

Alright, I’ll admit here and now before the assembled Pencillistas and the rest of the world.

Elizabeth Warren is hot.

She’s sexy.

Vanity Fair Image

Yes, Sexy.

Honest.

If I weren’t madly in L with The Loved One already, I’d go for a dame like the junior senator from Mass.

BTW: How weird is Murrica? These are the top four autofills when a Google user types in the word Elizabeth:

  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Elizabeth Smart
  • Elizabeth Olsen
  • Elizabeth Banks

Screenshot from Google

Proof

FYI: E No. 1 is a long-dead film icon, No. 2 is a former kidnapping victim, No. 3 is the younger sister of the skeletal Olsen twins, and No. 4 is, I have learned, some blonde actress. Elizabeth Warren is not to be found. Sigh.

Anyway, my definition of hotness in a woman includes the traits plain spoken, caring, smart, strong, and dedicated. That’s E. Warren, no?

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.” — Elizabeth Cady Stanton

WORKING MOM?

Look, I don’t care if Ann and Mitt Romney had ten kids, Hilary Rosen was right.

All the corporate media pundits are saying the Rosen flap is a win for the Romney campaign. Maybe. I don’t know.

Perhaps a significant number of middle class and poor mothers around this holy land will say, Golly gee, I raise a family and I know it’s a tough business.

It is — for them. For Ann Romney it was not.

Do you think she spent countless hours on her knees scrubbing the toilet?

Did she struggle trying to put together a healthy dinner for a family of seven on a budget more amenable to a family of two or three?

Did she ever have to take a bus to her kids’ school for a parent-teacher conference?

Did she keep her fingers crossed that her 14-year-old car wouldn’t crap out suddenly?

Did she wear tattered underwear because her family’s health insurance premiums precluded her from buying new ones?

Whenever her kids bawled or sassed or puked or spilled orange juice all over the kitchen floor, was she the only responsible adult around?

Or were there any paid helpers around to suffer the abuse or pick up the pieces?

Did she ever have to sew up holey socks?

Nope

Did she ever check the mail every single day for weeks at a time in the hope her federal income tax return check had finally come?

Were gangs a problem at the exclusive schools she sent her kids to?

Did she lie awake at night wondering how she could prevent one or more of her kids from dropping out of high school?

Did she ever worry about her credit card bill?

How often did she shrug her shoulders at the suggestion of sex because she was too exhausted from chasing kids around all day?

Really, did she ever have any of the worries, did she ever suffer any of the ordeals, that the vast majority of American moms have had to endure?

I know the answer and you do too.

So let’s cut the bullshit: Ann Romney has never had to work a day in her life.

HAROLD

Yesterday was the 29th anniversary of one of the weirdest municipal elections in memory.

On April 12th, 1983, Harold Washington, US Congressman from Illinois’ 1st District, was elected mayor of Chicago.

He was the first black man to attain that office in what had long been called the most racially segregated city in America.

Yep

My hometown had been run from 1955 though the end of 1976 by Richard J. Daley, the last of the big city machine mayors. As a little kid I actually thought Mayor Daley was a single word that meant any city’s boss. I recall watching the news one day and seeing that New York had elected a new chief executive. I concluded, therefore, that John V. Lindsay was that city’s mayordaley.

Chicago’s Big Cheese For 21 Years

Then Daley dropped dead in his doctor’s office a few days before Christmas in the Bicentennial Year. The City’ Council’s President Pro Tem announced he’d be the acting mayor until a special election could be held, per the city’s charter.

Well, the City Council wasn’t going to let that happen because its President Pro Tem, Wilson Frost, was a black man. Hell, the city just might slide into Lake Michigan if a black man became mayor, if only an acting one. So the Council did what it does best — it made a closed door, illegal deal to select a harmless alderman named Michael Bilandic mayor.

Bilandic, naturally, won the special election and seemed a lock to retain the office in the next regular election until a 20-inch snowstorm paralyzed the city days before the 1979 primary. Chicagoans blamed Bilandic for the massive expressway and el train snarls that resulted and threw him out in favor of a feisty former Daley department head named Jane Byrne.

Bilandic And His Snow

Even though she possessed the wrong genitals in certain Chicagoans’ views, many liked Byrne because she was tough as nails. For instance, on election day 1979, she phoned Alderman Fred Roti, the Mob’s man in City Hall and a notorious ballot box stuffer. Look Fred, she said to him, I’ve got a good chance to win this thing. All I ask is that you and your boys give me a fair count. If you do, I’ll be fair with you. If you don’t, I’ll cut your balls off.

It was Fred Roti, by the way, who proudly told this story again and again.

Janey Was Tougher Than Roti

Anyway, by the time Byrne came up for reelection in 1983, Harold Washington had thrown his hat into the ring. Most observers figured he was being silly. The voters of Chicago would never in a million years elect a black man mayor, they reasoned.

Then a strange thing happened. Daley’s kid, Richie, the State’s Attorney, started thinking the mayor’s office was a family heirloom that was rightfully his. He, too, entered the Democratic primary race.

Voters living in the vast Northwest and Southwest sides of the city (read: white people) began suffering from the vapors. By good god in heaven, they shrieked, that dumb Daley kid’s gonna split the white vote!

Old Man Daley’s Kid

But Richie Daley wouldn’t drop out even when polls showed him neck and neck with Byrne.

Lo and behold, on the day of the primary Daley and Byrne canceled each other out and Harold Washington won the Democratic nomination.

You never saw such hand-wringing in “The City that Works.”

The Republicans, meanwhile, hustled to put up their own candidate for mayor. Previously, the words “Republican candidate for mayor of Chicago” were merely a more verbose way of saying “loser.” But the heretofore moribund GOP, sensing their first real shot at the office in half a century, selected a member of the Illinois House named Bernie Epton to go up against Washington.

Bernie Epton

The idea that a Republican — and a Jew — could become mayor would have been laughable only two months before the general election. But the city’s white electorate was far more terrified of a black man than a Jew. Come election day, Washington won by the narrowest of margins.

Harold was a fascinating fellow. Personally charismatic, he was a master at pulling a reporter or a fellow pol close while shaking his hand and whispering some pearl of wisdom in his ear. It was as though Washington trusted him and him alone with what he had to say. I’d been pulled close by Washington a couple of times; the gesture made me feel like the biggest shot in the room — next to him.

Washington also had served time in the federal joint before becoming mayor. The IRS claimed he hadn’t filed income tax returns for 19 years, although it admitted he’d paid his taxes in full. Many wondered why such an astute lawyer (he was the only black man to graduate from the Northwestern University School of Law 1952 class) could be so dumb as to not file his returns.

Some Washington biographers claim to have evidence that Washington’s daddy-o was the South Side’s premier policy wheel operator (“policy” was the black ghetto’s illegal lottery game). According to these biographers, Washington himself earned a bit of spare cash from his father’s racket and decided it was better to risk being charged with failure to file rather than declaring income from a criminal gambling operation.

Typical Chicago Policy Wheel

After a brief marriage during World War II — he served in the Philippines with the US Army Air Corps — Washington remained unmarried until he died. Republican operatives during the 1983 election floated the rumor that Washington was gay. When that didn’t prove effective enough, they began whispering that he’d actually gone to jail on a child molesting rap.

Washington’s supporters countered that he was a great ladies’ man. One backer later claimed that if you put all the women Harold had slept with in one corner of City Hall, the structure would sink five inches into the ground.

Harold changed City Hall after his election. While he was mayor, the Hall became a festive place, filled with blacks and Puerto Ricans and more women than would ever be seen there under previous bosses.

Under him, City Hall became a mirror of the city itself.

Harold Waves To Well-Wishers After The Votes Were Counted

Washington was reelected in spring 1987. Then, a few days after Thanksgiving that year, while in a meeting with his press secretary, Alton Miller, Washington, sitting behind his desk, dropped a pencil. He bent over to pick it up but, to Miller’s puzzlement, remained bent over. Miller got up to see what was wrong but Washington was already dead. His heart, enlarged due to his widening girth and high blood pressure, had simply given out.

Even in death, Washington inspired delirious creativity in his supporters as well as his enemies. Certain Republicans claimed the Cook County Coroner had found cocaine in his body during his autopsy. His backers countered that he’d been poisoned to death by unnamed white people.

Here’s my favorite Harold Washington story. I heard this from someone in his administration who was there when it happened.

Washington was in a meeting with three people. It was getting late in the afternoon and the four hadn’t eaten lunch yet so Harold suggested they send out for sandwiches. One by one, each of his three underlings specified which sandwich he wanted with one of them jotting the information down. Finally, they got around to Harold. He said, “That sounds good. I’ll try that.”

The note-taker asked for clarification: “You mean that last sandwich?”

“No,” Harold Washington responded. “All three of them.”

He died fat and happy.

WRITERS READING

Hey, get yourself over to the Windfall Dance Studio this evening at six o’clock. Bloomington’s own master-ess keyboard clacker, my pal Joy Shayne Laughter, is reading a terrific short story there. (You know, the word mistress just didn’t work for me there.)

Joy’s story is called “The Last.” It’s based on the recollections of her great-grandfather who, as a young man, left Indiana for the wild’s of Kansas to take a job as one of the last of the wolf-poisoners. Honest, that was a position in great demand back a century and more ago. Cattle ranchers wanted to protect their livestock from predatory wolves so they hired guys to set out wolf bait laced with deadly poison.

Joy’s reading is part of the ongoing series “Early Drafts” featuring works in progress read aloud by local writers. The incomparable Tony Brewer is scheduled to spout some poetry tonight as well. There’ll be music, an act from a play, and other arty-fun things.

Windfall is located at 14th and Dunn.

BE PATIENT

If you’ve read this far, thanks. Please bear with me. I’ve got to post right now even though I haven’t selected and placed my pix yet. If I don’t get up off this seat, Soma Coffee’s gonna charge me rent.

I’ll have images up later today.

Okay, you’ve got pix.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.” — César Chávez

THE SMILING MAN STOPPED ME IN MY TRACKS

I stomped into Soma this morning like a bull in a coffee shop. Man, I was ready to lay into the Republicans for their union-busting triumph yesterday in the Indiana statehouse.

But my screed will have to wait. Just for a moment, mind you, but wait it will.

I purchased my customary pint of life-giving joe (which is really my ever-ready first priority on any given day) and strode purposefully to the cream and sugar bar to make the drug palatable.

There I saw Soma’s Toastmaster General, Smiling Kevin Sears.

“You look like a man who’s got something to do,” he observed.

“Yer damned right,” I said as I sweetened the pint. “Those goddamned Republicans aren’t gonna know what hit ‘em.”

“Alright,” he said. “but let me ask you this first.”

“Go ahead,” I said, hoping my tone conveyed my urgency.

“What do people value more,” he asked, “their car or their connectivity?”

This? (The General Lee)

Suddenly and for the moment, I forgot all about my rage. I honestly didn’t know the answer.

Or This? (The Phone Car)

Smiling Kevin explained that he’s wondering what to do about his investment portfolio. Should he continue to sink his dough into oil and transportation stocks or should he transfer at least some of his wealth into telecoms?

So, Smiling Kevin’s finances aside, I put it to you, loyal readers. What’s more important to you — your hot rod or your smart-assed phone?

Remember, I’m from Chicago so I encourage you to vote as often as you like!

HOLDING ALL THE ACES, WANTING EVEN MORE

Now, then. The Republicans.

Okay, babies, you’ve got your anti-union legislation.

The GOP Has Discovered A Better Way Than This To Crush Unions

And that’s because you’ve got your Indiana General Assembly.

And you’ve got your Indiana Senate.

And your Indiana governor.

And your two US Senators from the Hoosier State.

Oh, by the way, you’ve got your entire US House of Representatives, too.

And your Reagan/Bush/Bush US Supreme Court.

And, for chrissakes, you’ve got your own 24-hour TV public relations agency.

And, let’s be honest, you’ve got your own race.

Party Faithful

So if I hear one more of you sons or daughters of bitches complain about how the liberals or socialists or feminists or Black Panthers or NPR reporters or Sharia Muslims or any other bogeymen that you want to scare the couch potatoes to death with are taking over this holy land, I’m gonna scream.

And I’m gonna do everything I can to get everyone I know to scream.

Book it, babies.

BOYS IN THE FEST

So Steve Llewellyn didn’t spend all his college days staring out the window or eating lunch. Of course, he was a grown man when he took some Communications and Culture classes at our hometown reformatory. He paid attention when he heard about the Iris Film Festival.

A few years later, after working on “The Trouble with Boys” as a cinematographer, he nudged director Chris Rall and screenwriter Tony Brewer and told them to enter their video opus.

And so they did. And it was accepted. And, this coming Saturday, TTWB will be screened along with 17 other works of cinematic genius at the IU Cinema.

(l to r) Rall, Brewer, & Llewellyn

Here (direct from the Iris FB page) is the complete lineup:

  • “Lester Kannon” by Graham Walsh
  • “Project Z-6463″ by Chris Eller & Sophia Parkinson
  • “TTWB”
  • “Petie Stewart, Manny Pacquiao’s Biggest Fan” by Duane Busick
  • “Black & White” by Sahar Pastel-Daneshgar & Emily Erotas
  • “Fertility 2.0″ by David Ross
  • “Dance of Souls” by Caz Tanner
  • “Two Crowded” by Peter Johnson
  • “Lorelei” by M.C. Madrigal & Ryan Miyake
  • “A Song for the Undertaker” by Josh Tuthill
  • “The Single Mother” by Jesse Lacy
  • “The Woods” by Austin Gardener
  • “Gloom” by Jackson Van Meter & Ryan Smythe
  • “The Keeper” by Mark Johnson
  • “Reflection” by Kevin McClatchey
  • “DADT: A Film from America” by Kaleb Basey
  • “Imprints” by Javier Ramirez & Maggie Rossman
  • “Food Fight” by Laura Caldie

SPEAKING OF VIDEO BRILLIANCE

Have you heard the Stephen Colbert interview with Maurice Sendak yet? Click on their photos for the link and enjoy.

Sorry kids, I can’t embed the vid — you know, copyright issues and all. Trust me, though, it’s worth the extra step.

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