By Michael G. Glab
— Nineteen —
It’s that special moment when the bride and groom seem to be an island unto themselves up on the dais. Anna and Anthony watch as the rest of the crowd swirls in front of them before dinner is served. Anna is Anthony’s tour guide, discreetly pointing out this one and that one, neighbors and associates, the people who make up the Dudeks’ world in Galewood. It’ll be Anthony Pontone’s world once again now.
Galewood Big Shots
Anna points out Mickey Finnin and Rocco Bianco and a passel of lesser local politic lights. There, she says, is Mister Adamowski. Ben Adamowski. Lives on the next block over, Nagle Avenue, in a nice bungalow.
Once a rising young star in the Democratic party, Adamowski did the unforgivable and tried to clean up Chicago’s dirty politics. Even tried to expose a bit of the unholy alliance between City Hall and the Outfit. As a reward, he was frozen out of the Democrats’ inner circle and eventually had to bolt the party. Ran as a Republican in 1956 for Cook County State’s Attorney and won.
Adamowski then tried to take on the corrupt Chicago Police Department and the even more corrupt Traffic Court. May as well have tried to spit on the flag and piss on everybody’s apple pie. The Outfit even tried to get tough with him and his boys. Late one night, one of Adamowski’s assistant investigators got a phone call; the voice on the other end said, “I just read your brother’s obituary in tomorrow’s paper.” Still, Adamowski and his boys helped uncover a ring of bad cops up at the Summerdale district station; the cops had been working hand in hand with a band of professional home burglars.
Adamowski figured he’d capitalize on his successes and run against Mayor Daley. Took him on in 1963. Didn’t do too badly for a Republican in Chicago. Daley’s Machine only beat him by a shade under 140,000 votes. Still, he was finished. The big powers downtown hardly knew he was alive anymore. The Galewood big shots kept inviting him to their kids’ weddings because they felt sorry for him. He was, they all agreed, really a nice guy, albeit not too bright.
The Hippie Table
Oh, and there’s Charlie Solari and his wife. The fireman. Lives up the block. Anthony looks at him and asks Anna, “That guy? I’ve seen him. He drives a great big Cadillac. He’s a fireman?” Yeah, Anna says. She tells Anthony the dirty little secret about Charlie Solari that everybody in Galewood knows.
Charlie was stationed in the Chinatown firehouse on 22nd Street, a mile from McCormick Place. World’s largest exposition hall. All gleaming white concrete and steel, big as the Empire State Building laid on its side on prime lakeshore property.
One night in January last year Charlie’s asleep at the firehouse when the alarm sounds. It’s McCormick Place. Charlie’s engine company is the first on the scene. Flames are already licking out 40 feet in the air between cracks in the concrete on its north side. Within an hour the place is destroyed. 60,000 visitors in town for the National Housewares Manufacturers Association convention are stuck in their hotel rooms with nothing to do. The Four Seasons are supposed to sing there the next night. Only there is no there there anymore.
For the next few weeks, all Charlie’s neighbors and friends want to talk about is the city’s second biggest fire ever, next to the Great Chicago Fire. Charlie only shakes his head and mumbles, as if it’s far too painful for him to discuss the destruction of one of the city’s icons. In February Charlie buys himself a new car — Caddy Eldorado, tan with a white landau roof. All the neighbors admire his car and tell him, “Not bad, Charlie. Not bad for a fireman.” Then in March Charlie and his wife go to Hawai’i for two weeks. Now Charlie’s neighbors tell each other, “Not bad for a fireman — but I wonder how he does it.” When Charlie comes back, he wife’s got diamond earrings on the size of chandeliers.
In April Charlie has a new roof put on his house. In May, he has central air conditioning installed. By then the neighbors aren’t saying a word. In June, one of the garbagemen starts telling some of the neighbors about a little story he’s been hearing. It’s about the McCormick Place fire. Seems one of the exhibitors had stored $25,000 dollars-worth of small diamonds in a strong box at his booth. Was hoping to give the diamonds away in a series of raffles throughout the convention, maybe generate a little publicity for himself and his company. Went to McCormick Place the afternoon after the fire and inquired about his diamonds. Talked to cops and firemen and the managers of the hall. They all had the same response: “Diamonds? What diamonds?” The guy says, “Yeah, I had them in a strongbox at my booth.” The response: “Strongbox?”
One day Charlie asks the garbageman to step into his gangway for second. Charlie grabs the garbageman by the scruff of the neck and says, “Hey, no more stories. Y’got me?”
Anna And Her Bridesmaids
And there, that’s Angie Zacharias. Sweet girl. Married her grammar school sweetheart, Randy Nielsen. They didn’t go to St. Giles. Went to the public school, Lovett. Still, they were nice kids. She works at Cook County Hospital. A nurse in the emergency room. Was on duty one night two years ago when the ambulance brings in a drifter who’d apparently downed a bottle of sleeping pills at some flop house on Madison Street. She sets him up on the examining table. Grabs his hands. Sees tattooed lettering on his knuckles: Born To Raise Hell. The resident on duty walks into the ER bay and sees Angie staring at the guy’s knuckles. “What’ve we got here?” he asks. She shows him the tattoos.
The resident had just read in the papers that the lone surviving nurse in the most notorious mass murder in the city’s history has told the cops that the killer had Born To Raise Hell tattooed on his knuckles. The resident places his fingers on the drifter’s carotid arteries and squeezes. The drifter’s eyes begin to roll to the back of his head. The resident says, “You did it, didn’t you?” The drifter says, “Yeah, I did it.” Within minutes, the Cook County ER is lousy with cops and reporters as Richard Speck is taken into custody.
And there’s Greg LaCasa. Runs LaCasa’s Realty over on Harlem Avenue. Lives just around the corner from the Dudeks. Always keeps his nose clean, Always keeps to himself and his family. A real hard worker. Then, out of the clear blue, he gets a call from the mayor’s office. It’s the mayor’s own secretary. She tells him he’s being invited to a special meeting of real estate men to be held the next day at City Hall. Don’t tell anybody about it, she says, just be there, on time. Greg LaCasa thinks it’s a gag and tells the woman so. He hangs up. Ten minutes later, Mickey Finnin calls him. Mickey yells into the phone, “Whaddya think yer doin’ hangin’ up on the mayor’s secretary?”
So Greg LaCasa shaves extra closely the next morning. Combs his hair for about five minutes. Wears his best Montgomery Ward suit and his tie clip from the Realtors Associaton. Takes the elevator up the to fifth floor at City Hall. Is ushered into a mahogany office. And there’s the mayor, sitting at the head of the conference table like Henry VIII in a dark suit. Bunch of businessmen on either side of the table. Greg LaCasa recognizes a few of the faces. They’re big names in the city’s real estate world. Big names!
And at the other end of the table, several Negroes. He doesn’t know who they are except for one. And that man is one of the most recognizable human beings in the world. Martin Luther King Jr. For the next couple of hours, Greg LaCasa sits and listens as the big real estate shots and the Negroes argue back and forth. Now and again voices are raised so high that the Mayor has to stand and rap his gavel on the table. The Negroes say, “There must be open housing!” The real estate big shots say, “There can’t be open housing!” Greg LaCasa never says a word. When it’s all over, Mayor Daley shakes Greg LaCasa’s hand, hands him a glass paperweight with the seal of the City of Chicago etched on it, and says, “Thank you for your wonderful contribution.”
Greg LaCasa takes the Lake Street el out to Oak Park, calls his wife on the public phone at the Harlem station and asks her to pick him up.
Anna points out David Pergler, a young news reporter for WBBM-TV. Everybody calls him Galewood’s TV star. She points out Sal SanFillipo, the cop who once broke his hand on his wife’s jaw. “I hate him,” she hisses. She points out Muggsy Collera. He’s a Cook County Sheriff’s deputy. Joey has told Anna that Muggsy’s always bragging about knowing where the pot fields are in the unincorporated areas of the county. Muggsy says to Joey, “Whenever youse wanna go pick some pot, you just lemme know.” That’s what Joey says, Anna says to Anthony as she rolls her eyes.
And that chubby guy there, Anna says, that’s Lenny LaFemina. Works for the city — who doesn’t? — but he isn’t a garbageman or a fireman or a cop. He’s a lawyer. He’s with what they call the corporation counsel’s office, whatever that means.
Anthony smiles at Anna. “We’ve got quite a lineup out here in Galewood,” he says.
“Ah,” she says. “Nothing ever happens in Galewood.”
To be continued