The Pencil Today:


“Society can overlook murder, adultery, or swindling; it never forgives preaching of a new gospel.” — Edmund Burke


Imagine being a 12- or 13-year-old in the mid-1960s and your daddy-o is the biggest music impresario in town.

Imagine being able to say to your grade school chums that you see the guys from the Buckinghams or the American Breed or Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs or the Kingsmen all the time.

The Buckinghams

Oh yeah, you could crow, I brought them Cokes when they were waiting around to go onstage at my dad’s place.

That’s the life Patrice Madura Ward-Steinman lived until a summer Sunday morning in 1967.

Patrice’s pop owned Madura’s Danceland in Hammond, Indiana just outside Chicago.

I met Patrice and her husband David Ward-Steinman yesterday at the Book Corner. They’d dropped by to see how her book was doing. Authors like to do that: It’s as though they’re visiting their children at college. Nancy Hiller or Michael Koryta or Joy Shayne Laughter will stop in here to visit their books.

Patrice’s book is called “Madura’s Danceland,” natch. It’s part of Arcadia Publishing Company‘s Images of America series, each title of which covers a city or region’s local history. There’s a Bloomington and Indiana University title available, for instance. The books are heavy with photographs — Patrice said she had to come up with more than 150 pix for her book.

She dug through her family’s keepsakes and put the call out to old friends and fans of Danceland for photos she could use. The book covers the history of Madura’s from its opening in October, 1929 through the day it closed.

Patrice today is a professor at the Jacobs School of Music, specializing in choral music, jazz, and jazz history. She knows her stuff.

Her grandfather, Mike Madura, had managed a roller rink on the shores of Wolf Lake, which straddles the state border with Illinois. As time went by he began to present musical acts at the rink, which held about a thousand people. A few years later he bought a dance hall that was standing on the site of the old Boardwalk amusement park in Hammond. The Lever Brothers soap-making oufit had bought the park and was planning to build a factory on the site. So after purchasing it, Mike had it moved by a team of horses to a new location a few blocks away and scheduled a fall grand opening.

A list of the acts that played at Madura’s reads like a who’s who of American pop music for the four decades it was in business. There were the orchestras of Paul Whiteman, Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Dorsey, Tex Beneke, Russ Morgan, Guy Lombardo, and too many others to recount here from the big band era. Conway Twitty, Bobby Vee, and Bobby Goldsboro played there in the ’60s.

The place once drew a crowd of some 7000 for a dance broadcast live on Chicago’s WIND radio. Couples glided over a “spring-cushioned” dance floor.

Mike’s kid, also named Mike but more commonly referred to as Mick, worked as a radio announcer in his early 20s. Mick, who was kidnapped by mobsters in 1934, eventually took over Danceland. Mick put his whole family to work in the place, including his youngest kid, Patrice.

The whole operation came to a halt when a bolt of lightning during a summer storm started a fire that destroyed Madura’s Danceland on July, 29, 1967.

Patrice has photos of that sad day, too. They’re all in the book.


We are a weird, weird species, no?

A few weeks ago, some knuckleheaded American soldiers burned copies of al-Qur’ān and tossed the identifiable remains in the garbage can outside Bagram air base near Kabul, Afghanistan.

I call them knuckleheaded because they should have known doing such a thing would turn Southwest Asia’s religious zealots even more goggle-eyed than they already are. As if on cue, Islamic protesters took to the streets to express their outrage over the incident.

Dozens of people were killed in the ensuing “protest.” The festivities even spilled over into neighboring Pakistan.

Flash forward to this week. An apparently lunatic US soldier snuffed out the lives of 16 townsfolk in a couple of villages in southern Afghanistan. The soldier’s killing spree also has ignited protests. And, again, many Pakistanis are getting into the act.

But here’s the weird, weird part: this week’s reaction has so far been remarkably muted compared to the al-Qur’ān burning bloodfest.

I suppose the message the protesters are sending is that they’re saddened and outraged by the killing of innocents.

But they’re mortified — hell, they’re driven mad — by the desecration of a book that, by the way, can be purchased at any bookstore or mosque in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or, for that matter, any country in the world. Hell, Barnes & Noble sells al-Qur’āns right here in good old Indiana. al-Qur’an is available for free on the internet.

With more than a billion adherents of Islam populating this funny world, it’s a safe bet that there are hundreds and hundreds of millions of copies of the text in circulation.

Those 16 men women and children that a so-far unidentified US Army sergeant is alleged to have murdered each were unique — except, of course, in the eyes of a man driven mad by war.

In the wild world of religious zealotry, though, a mass-produced, bound stack of papers is far more dear than 16 human beings. Hell, it may mean more than every living soul on Earth.


The Monotones wondered who wrote it back in 1957.

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