Category Archives: Bill Cook

A New Baby, Not Yet Named

I had reps from the Cardinal Stage Company, the Bloomington Playwrights Project, and the Pigasus Institute on my Zoom screen Monday afternoon, talking about their at-the-time not-yet-announced merger, scheduled to take place on July 1st. One of my spies from inside one of those organizations tipped me off to the upcoming union and when I inquired about it, all parties were more than happy to sit for a Big Talk recording as long as I promised not to divulge the news before their own press release d-day of March 2nd at 1:00pm. That was today.

Those organizations have now revealed to the world that they’re becoming that organization and that they’re taking over the Waldron Center. It’ll be the new organization’s headquarters and, it is hoped, the old hulk of Bloomington’s former city hall and fire station will be reinvigorated as a destination for arts lovers. The Waldron has been a theater, gallery, exhibition, and classroom space, on and off, for quite a few years now. Of late it’s been off because Ivy Tech gave the place back to the city early last year. The local branch of the state’s community college system had been running the Waldron until — and, man, it sure gets tiring writing this — that goddamned pandemic put the kibosh on public gatherings. The Waldron no longer was pulling its own weight in terms of space rental fees, ticket and class revenues, art sales, etc. and so it because a millstone around Ivy’s neck. The city wasn’t thrilled to have it as a millstone either and then, lo and behold, along came the three aforementioned arts orgs who figured the more-than-century-old structure would suit their new, merged entity just fine. That is, as long as somebody coughed up a million bucks to put the edifice right.

The Waldron Center

Built in 1915, the Waldron has experienced any number of renovations and rehabs, usually grudgingly agreed to only after folks started worrying that somebody’d get kill’t sooner rather than later. By 2022, the old hulk was in need of yet another nip/tuck. And an extensive one at that.

The city unbelted a half million, which is as good a start as any, and a fellow named John Armstrong, the founder of Pigasus Films and the for-now exec director of the Pigasus Institute, who’s going to be the new organization’s chief fundraiser, had to find the other half mill. He put the touch on Carl Cook, scion of the Cook Group founder Bill Cook. Old man Bill was the richest bird in Indiana when he died eleven years ago. There was enough lettuce left in his estate to keep his entire family and their successive generations fat and happy until well into some future century, so long as we humans don’t burn ourselves up from global warming or nuclear fireworks. Sonny boy Carl just might have found a half mill by rooting around for change under his living room sofa cushions.

Anyway, I produced a nifty feature for WFHB‘s Daily Local News today about the merger and the acquisition of the Waldron. And, BTW, the Waldron deal isn’t technically complete yet although no one seems to think the final handshake will be delayed much longer than a few weeks. So, just in case you missed today’s DLN, I’m posting that feature for your pleasure. Click on the media bar up top.

Oh, and make sure you tune in to ‘FHB tomorrow, Thursday, March 3rd, at 5:30pm for Big Talk. You’ll hear the entire interview I had with the Cardinal’s Kate Galvin, the BPP’s Chad Rabinovitz, and Armstrong. Galvin will serve as the new entity’s co-artistic director with Rabinovitz. The Cardinal’s Gabe Gloden will be its new managing director. Armstrong, as I’ve already mentioned, will be the hat-in-hand guy.

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If you miss the broadcast tomorrow afternoon you can always listen online as all Big Talk editions are archived on the ‘FHB website. Go to, pull down the Programs menu, and select Big Talk.

One more thing: the new organization’s name is a closely held secret right now. Galvin and Gang will reveal the new name at a big fundraiser, the Big Bang, to be held Saturday, April 23, 2022 at One World at the Woolery Mill. Tickets for the bash will soon be available on the Cardinal’s website.

Your Daily Hot Air

Hard Earned

The Loved One and I went to the Cook Group‘s 50th anniversary bash last night at the Indiana University Assembly Hall.

Assembly Hall

IU Assembly Hall

It was the usual corporate self-congratulatory pep rally, complete with an endless conga line of people climbing the stage to get handshakes from big shots for being with the outfit for anywhere from five to 35 years. We sat through videos telling us how much of a family Cook people are and how the world just might spin out of its orbit should the assembled 6000 suddenly stop making probes for various body holes and micro-tools for surgically righting what nature has wronged.

But let me drop my carefully crafted smart-assed-ness to say that of all the corporate shindigs I’ve ever attended (usually as a reporter and only a few times as an inmate) this one’s boasting rings somewhat true. The company does make indispensable equipment for yanking rocks out of people’s ureters or probing their arterial systems to find and squish tumors.

Central Venous Catheter

“Don’t Worry, I Won’t Feel A Thing”

And, for some odd reason, the people who punch the clock there really are sort of familial.

Bill Cook became a billionaire several times over, running the firm himself from its inception in 1963 until he died two years ago. Now, my observation has been that anybody who has built him or herself up to billionaire status usually has the morals of a hyena and the human sensitivity of a Mob hit man. And this is true in nearly every case. Save for Bill Cook.

He threw scads of dough at the city of Bloomington and, for that matter, much of Southern Indiana, for historic preservation. He funded countless arts and education ventures, not to gain some kind of tax advantage but, well, because he was a good Joe.

So, I can still say billionaires make me want to retch, and be 99.99 percent truthful. But that .01 percent, as represented by Bill Cook, remains. I’ve often wondered what separated Cook from such archvillains as the Koch Bros.


Sibling Scoundrels

Funny thing is, he explained it himself last night during one of those fawning vids. Cook explained that one of his rock-solid principles was that the Cook companies would always be privately held. Which sounds awfully quaint in this day and age, considering entrepreneurs almost exclusively like to start businesses only so they can sell them off to bigger entities or peddle stock to the public.

In other words, the only thing American businessmen are interested in making is money.

Cook, on the other hand, said nix to all that.

He said [I’m paraphrasing here]: We’ll never go public because you can’t be totally responsible to your customers while simultaneously trying to please stockholders.

Wow. Now there’s a capitalism I can dig. We make a widget and you buy it. You’re happy and we’re happy. Simple.

Bill Cook

Cook And His Widgets

No degenerate gambling on stock prices, hostile takeovers, and selling off company assets just to make shareholders moan with pleasure.

If the Right Wing hewed to that line I wouldn’t spend half my life pointing out that it’s far too populated by lunatics.

If I Were A Rich Man

The Pencil Today:


“We need to get over this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about children.” Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General of the United States (h/t to Susan Sandberg)


Fountain Square is a lovely development and Bloomington will forever be in debt to the late Bill Cook for ponying up the dough to rehab the place, but let’s be frank — it’s tough for a retailer who doesn’t have sidewalk frontage to make a go there.

Hello? Anyone There?

Brynda Forgas, boss-lady at The Hidden Closet boutique, has been surviving in Fountain Square for a few years. She hopes to thrive elsewhere now.

She’s opening up new digs behind the Book Corner in the old home of Glorious Moments, an art emporium that closed down suddenly under fishy circumstances a couple of months ago.

Forgas & Friend

Brynda and her husband are hustling to rebuild the interior of the space for the Closet’s “grand-ish” opening party, Friday, June 1st, at 5:00pm. She says she’s calling it “grand-ish” because she doesn’t want to raise people’s expectations too much but she did reveal she’ll be serving cream puffs.

That’s grand enough for me. See you there.


Speaking of Fountain Square, one of Bloomington’s secret pleasures remains hidden there.

That would be Stefano’s Ice Cafe, down in the lower level of the mall. Fab sandwiches and sides. The place is run by a husband and wife team from Afghanistan. They treat customers as though they’re long-lost cousins.

If Stefano’s had a streetside storefront, the line to get into the place would be halfway around Fountain Square.

As it is, you can go there at lunch time, get served in the snap of a finger, and eat like a king. May as well take advantage of it now, before they move out, too, and you’ll have to wait.


BTW: Have you ever wondered why the US Surgeon General always wears a uniform?

Here’s the answer: the US Public Health Service, which the SG commands, originally was a uniformed arm of the nation’s defense apparatus. When it was formed in the 18th Century, the USPHS originally was called the Military Health Service. It’s job was to tend to sick and injured sailors (at the time the US only had a naval military service.)

The post of Surgeon General today carries a military rank equivalent to a vice admiral in the Navy.

The wearing of the uniform had fallen out of fashion among SG’s until C. Everett Koop came along under the Reagan administration. Koop was a national health evangelist and he felt wearing the uniform would would cause citizens to pay a little more heed to him than other fed bureaucrats.

Surgeon General Koop

Considering the fact he yelled at Americans to stop smoking and stood on his head to raise AIDS awareness, any trick he could think of to get us to listen was worth a shot.

Koop was a strong anti-abortion advocate, although I can’t come down too hard on him because his belief stemmed from years of treating fetuses and newborns, so I don’t suppose it was born (pardon the pun) of some lockstep religious conceit. He also wouldn’t take to the bully pulpit to condemn doctors who performed abortions or women who received them.

Anyway, Bloomington has a notable Koop connection. In 1982, local parents of a child born with severe Down Syndrome, esophageal atresia, and a tracheoesophageal fistula wrestled with the decision to treat the child or let him pass. The attending physician advised them the boy, known as Baby Doe, only had a 50 percent chance of recovering fully from surgery and even if he did, he would be virtually unable to care for himself for the rest of his life due to mental retardation. The parents elected to withhold food and water from the boy and he died after six days.

Koop, a noted pediatric physician before taking his government job, had performed surgery on hundreds of newborns with the maladies and said he’d never lost a patient. Moved to action by the Bloomington Baby Doe case, he advocated a national statute protecting children born with severe birth defects, eventually passed by Congress as the Baby Doe Law.

Koop seemed a decent Joe despite the fact that he championed a “right-to-life” agenda. Just goes to show not everyone we disagree with needs to be demonized.


Hey, don’t forget to check the Pencil’s GO! Events Listings.


From one of the five greatest pop albums of all time, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?

If you don’t have this disc or mp3, your collection is incomplete.

The Pencil Today:


“Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (But who will guard the guards themselves?)” — Juvenal


So now Monroe County Auditor Amy Gerstman is facing another charge: She hasn’t been taking minutes at county meetings, as she’s required to do by state law.

This, of course, is on top of the charges that she used credit cards issued to her office for personal expenses like groceries, gifts, and even her kids’ private school tuitions. The county board voted to censure Gerstman yesterday.

The Soon-To-Be Ex-County Auditor?

Board members say Gerstman has been notably absent from board and committee meetings even though it’s her duty to record their proceedings. For her part Gerstman says she’s entitled to send a proxy to do that grunt work.

That would be fine if, say, Gerstman came down with the flu on the date of a meeting. But, if county board members are to be believed, this “flu” has lasted a long, long time.

I suppose we can’t blame Gerstman for not wanting to show her face at public meetings, considering the silly and embarrassing things she’s been doing with county dough. Admittedly, she has paid it all back but, as I cracked earlier, the bank robber who tries to return the sack of cash he took at gunpoint still is a bank robber.

Gerstman didn’t show up to work yesterday, indicating she may be contemplating doing the right thing. That’s resigning.

I mean, honestly, the woman is the auditor, for pity’s sake. Her job is to make sure the county’s money is being spent correctly. The Gerstman saga is the equivalent of learning that Sheriff Jim Kennedy runs a local crime syndicate.

And, BTW, Gerstman hasn’t been the only official who feels the county’s credit cards are really hers. Human Resources Director Rhonda Foster quit her post abruptly last week after it was learned she, too, had played fast and loose with county plastic. If not the flu, then something‘s going around the Showers Building.

The Ex-HR Chief

A regular county commissioners meeting is scheduled for tomorrow at City Hall at 9:00am. The smart move is for Gerstman to submit her resignation at the meeting and, perhaps, issue a heartfelt public apology at the same time.

We’re forgiving folks around here. We’re happy she’s paid back the money that she used for personal expenses. We hope she’s learned her lesson and will go on to thrive in the private business world.

But we know this: We don’t want Amy Gertsman watching our public funds anymore.


Yes, I realize I may be run out of town for this statement, but I’m glad somebody’s giving Indiana University a pile of cash for something other than a sports cathedral.

Kelley School of Business Dean Dan Smith and IU President Michael McRobbie are patting each other on the back for scoring a $33M grant from the Lilly Endowment for an expansion and renovation project. Kelley’s undergrad factory will gain an additional 71,000 square feet and will be decked out with all the latest hi-tech gadgets by 2015.

Excessively Straight-Backed Biz Students Watch Vid Screens In Their New Digs

That thirty-three large will be thrown in with some $27M already collected from alumni and other donors to round out the planned $60M job. The Lilly grant is the largest the Kelley has ever received as well as one of the biggest in the university’s history.

Smith says: “The new facilities will allow the school to more fully execute an experiential learning approach to business education.” I think he means the new plant will make Kelley students smarter.

Which I’ve always thought was the aim of a major university. Or even a minor one, for that matter.

See, I only arrived on the scene a couple of years ago. Native Bloomingtonians may be used to it, but I was shocked at the size and scope of IU’s sports facilities. And the area’s deep-pocketed usual suspects, like the late Bill Cook and the still-kicking John Mellencamp, seem always to be donating bread for another towering, sprawling gym or shower room.

How clean do our “student-athletes” need to be after a workout?


WFHB Music Director Jim Manion dropped by the Book Corner yesterday. He’s still crowing about his daughter Riley’s nomination to the Phi Beta Kappa Society in December.

They say pride is one of the deadly sins but when a guy is walking on air because his daughter has been named to one of the most prestigious academic societies on the planet, well, that ain’t no sin, baby.

Riley (l) And Jim Manion

The Pencil extends its warmest congrats to Riley and Jim.


Barrett Strong‘s “Money…” can be considered the granddaddy of all Motown hits. Start-up record impresario Berry Gordy, Jr. released the 45 in 1959 under his Tamla label and it became a hit in early 1960. Its success spurred Gordy to incorporate under the Motown banner that spring.

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