Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bob Newhart's Chicago Days

Bob Newhart with the Dr. Robert Hartley
statue which is now at Navy Pier
Most everyone knows that legendary comic genius , Bob Newhart was from Chicago -- got his accounting degree from Loyola University and that his hit 70s sitcom was, at least fictionally, based in Chicago.

But Newhart's breezy, 2006 autobiography, I Shouldn't Be Doing This - And Other Things That Strike Me As Funny, heaves up a wealth of other trivia about his Chicago days.

Here goes:

-- Bob Newhart was actually born in Oak Park Hospital, but his family lived down the road in much more modest Austin, which is where he grew up.

-- Newhart went to St. Catherine of Siena grammar school (which still exists) and despite living just 8 blocks from the elite Catholic Boy's Fenwick High School, he commuted 45 minutes daily by CTA into the city to attend the Jesuit St. Ignatius High School.

-- He got his undergraduate degree in business from Loyola University/Chicago and then went to Loyola U's Law School, but dropped out because he really couldn't stand the study of Law and was spending much of his time testing the waters onstage for his future career as a stand up comic.

-- Bob Newhart is of the 2nd largest ethnicity in the US being of Irish/German derivation (According to self-reported US Census Bureau reports German is #1, German/Irish is #2 and Irish is #3)

-- Newhart was attending family Thanksgiving dinner gatherings in Chicago as late as 1989

The Bob Newhart Show statue at Chicago's Navy Pier
-- Newhart's mom was a Cubs fan. His dad was a Sox fan. He frequently went to Wrigley Field with his mom and never set foot in Comiskey Park. He claims to still be able to reel off the entire 1945 Cubs World Series lineup from memory.

-- While at Loyola U, Newhart took boxing lessons and sparred with Loyola classmates at the Oak Park YMCA and the Northwestern University gym. He got a deviated septum from his activity in the ring.

-- Newhart got his first "real job" as an accountant for Chicago-based U.S. Gypsum in '56 and ''57. He then moved over to the accounting department in the Loop HQ of the Gliddens Paint Co.

-- In '58 Bob Newhart dumped his accounting career in favor of his 1st TV gig at the Chicago ABC affiliate, WBKB - precursor to WLS-TV. He provided comic relief on a morning show with "Man in the street" interviews, for which he made $300 a week ($2612 in 2018 dollars) for a daily 2 hour gig. He played a lot of golf that year.

-- With a buddy who was an account executive at the Leo Burnett advertising agency downtown, Newhart cut his first comic recordings (using the Burnett recording studio after hours.) They syndicated them to 3 radio stations in small markets and lost money on the venture. But it served as a prototype for Newhart's smash #1 grammy-winning comedy albums which topped the charts in '60 and '61.

-- It was Newhart's idea to place his '70s hit sitcom, The Bob Newhart Show, in Chicago. While the opening and closing sequences were filmed in Chicago, everything else was shot in Hollywood.

-- The Newhart show script has Bob and Emily living on the 5th floor of the "Meridian Beach apartments on Lake Shore Drive." According to the book, the actual shot which appears in the credit sequences is of the 7th floor of the Buckingham Plaza at Randolph and Lake Shore Drive. But that may be wrong (perhaps a ghostwriter's error) as local lore recommends their abode as shot on the show, was the condo building on the beach at 5901 N. Sheridan Rd. It sure looks like it to us.

-- Despite living near the lake, Dr. Hartley is shown walking to his Lakeshore apartment from a Brown line EL station, about 7 miles West of the lake, where the non-downtown CTA train segments of the show were shot. It would have been a rather long and inefficient walk.

-- The opening sequence shot of Dr. Hartley walking across the Michigan Ave. bridge over the Chicago River, is not of Bob Newhart, but rather a stunt double. Newhart's daughter was seriously ill on the only day they had permission to shut down Loop traffic for that shot and he chose to be with her in the hospital.

-- One Newhart script had Bob attending a Cubs home night game, 14 years before Wrigley Field had installed lights.

-- Bob Newhart jumped at his first invitation to perform stand-up comedy in LA, because it was a chance to get away from the gruesome Chicago winter, which he could no longer stand.

Oh, and the odd title of Bob Newhart's 2006 autobiography comes from one of his favorite bits of characteristically dry humor.
It's from a joke about a man who is in bed making love to his boss's wife and in the throes of passion she yells, "Kiss me! Kiss me!"

To which he responds, "Are you kidding? I shouldn't even be doing this!"

Here's the intro to The Bob Newhart Show from the first years of its run:

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Last Straw: Cubs Leaving WGN

Corny as he was, Jack Brickhouse
endeared the Cubs to us
Word today is that the megabucks Ricketts family has decided to sever the Cubs' 65 year relationship with WGN.

It's their business and they certainly have a right to squeeze as much cash out of it as possible, but for me it's the last straw.

I have to admit that I'm one of those fossils who lamented the introduction of lights to the venerable old ball park on Clark and Addison. But I was resilient enough to adapt to that.

But the skyrocketing cost of bleacher admission from -- in my memory -- $3.50 to $25.00+ -- the smoking ban in the ballpark -- the skyrocketing cost of beer and other amenities, the injection of garish commercial signage into the Friendly Confines and the steady procession of eminently unpleasant, totally unlovable and utterly forgettable rent-a-player hired hands on the field have combined to persuade me to call it quits.

This really is no small matter coming from one who for many years was glued to Channel 9's televised play by play coverage, WGN radio's audio reportage and who hung on the Cubs' every up and down -- which, of course with the Cubs were mostly downs.

It was Jack Brickhouse on TV with his corny HEY, HEYs and Lou Boudreau on the radio with his veritable hefty bag full of verbal baseball arcana that originally drew me to the Cubs.

And the likes of Steve Stone, Harry Caray and yes -- even the often unlistenable Ron Santo kept me in the fold.

But the steady drip, drip Chinese water torture erosion of tradition really culminates in the jettisoning of the WGN tie.

Last summer I had my first entirely Cubs-free summer since college days, when distance and various hedonistic pursuits overcame Cubs affection.

Didn't listen to or watch a single Cubs game. Stopped by Wrigley Field only once and that was to join a few guys for a smoke outside the bleacher entrance (the new unofficial Wrigley smoking area.)

Now, with the Ricketts' cold calculation to end free WGN broadcasts, Cubs-free summers will be a permanent condition with me.

Just think of the beach side reading I'll get done.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Evanston Twp. High School is the "Jerusalem of Homosexuality": Witherspoon

Witherspoon implies that ETHS is
 "The Jerusalem of homosexuality"
During last week's snowstorm, some pranksters stomped the word "Fag" or "Faggots" in the snow at Evanston Township High School.

At least that is what we think the word was, but we can't know for sure because, in the leftist quasi-religious orthodoxy, the word - whatever it was - was too unspeakable to utter or print in doctrinaire, "progressive" Evanston.

The Daily Northwestern in its crack coverage of the event found the word too unspeakable to convey in print to its leftist-programmed readers, lest they be tainted by impure thoughts.

So they just reported that, "An anti-gay slur" was stomped in the snow. We're just presuming it was "Fags" or "Faggots." We figure it can't have been "Queers" because homosexuals themselves have embraced that term. They actually have a group that proudly calls itself "Queer Nation."

But it seems that mockery of homosexuals in Evanston has become a secular sacrilege -- kind of like taking the Lord's name in vain at a Mississippi Southern Baptist summer camp.

And judging from ETHS Superintendent, Eric Witherspoon's response, this boot-printed message in the snow is the crime of the century.

This overpaid educratic boob, who pulls down a cool quarter of a million bucks a year of the taxpayers' money, likened the prank to "painting a swastika on a synagogue," and said it "could warrant a hate crime investigation."

Witherspoon's Lovey-Dovey response
to pranksters who stomped "Fags" in snow
 He then urged his compliant little student sheep to go out into the snow and stomp out the word "love," which they obediently did.

Now this raises several logical problems.

If the act of stomping messages in the snow on ETHS grounds is a crime, which can be upgraded to a "hate crime" if it offends some privileged, protected class, why was the ETHS superintendent urging students to criminally stomp a nice, lovey-dovey message in the snow?

And if snow stomping is not a crime, how can it become a hate crime?

And if snow stomping a message deemed insulting to homosexuals at ETHS is like painting a swastika on a Jewish synagogue -- doesn't that mean that Evanston Township High School is a living symbol of homosexuality the same way that a synagogue is a living symbol of Judaism?

So apparently the insightful Superintendent Witherspoon views his educational fiefdom in Evanston as being a veritable monument to homosexuality.

Why is this? Did Witherspoon take a personal survey of the sexual inclinations of  his 3,155 students and find them to be preponderantly of the lavender inclination? Where did the manly Witherspoon conduct this survey - in the boys locker room?

Or perhaps Mr. Witherspoon  just got carried away with his near religious devotion to the leftist catechism of "diversity."

Perhaps Witherspoon is more interested in being a self-appointed,  Orwellian prosecutor of "thought crimes," -- which in the final analysis is what so-called "hate crimes" actually are.

Or perhaps the overpaid Mr. Witherspoon has no more a grasp of simple logic than an addle brained goose.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Celebrating German Militarism and Social Repression at Chicago's DANK Haus

With much fanfare, the DANK Haus, one of Chicago's German-American outfits, announced last week that it had raised enough dough to professionally restore a fancy antique oil portrait of, the founder of the 2nd Reich,  Kaiser Wilhelm I.

They say they're going to throw a big party in October to unveil it.

DANK Haus is restoring this portrait of German
warmonger and anti-Catholic bigot Kaiser Wilhelm I

Why this would be cause for elation by or interest to Americans of German descent defies imagination and reason.

You see, that dreary old Prussian autocrat's principal contribution to the development of German-Americans was in driving them out of Germany to come to America.

He did this by denying basic human rights and civil liberties, persecuting Roman Catholics and imposing a system of lifetime military conscription that makes our Vietnam-era draft seem like a barrel of laughs by comparison.

From the time he ascended to the Prussian throne in 1861 (after his older brother Frederick William IV went insane) until he kicked the bucket in 1888, about 4 million Germans hotfooted it out of his domain to come to America.

A good many of them were, like this writer's ancestors, not thrilled at the prospect of a lifetime spent as cannon-fodder via conscription into his ever-on-the-move Prussian war machine.

(Did I mention that Kaiser Billy earned the sobriquet, "the Bullet King" for firing cannons at unarmed civilian Republican and Social Democratic street protesters during the failed revolution of 1848?)

Many others, particularly from the South and West of Germany came here to escape the Protestant despot's anti-Catholic persecution.

He instituted what he called a kulturkampf, a cultural war, against Catholicism. That very term would be dusted off by Nazi theoreticians in 1933 to characterize their efforts to rid Europe of Jewish cultural influences.

He forced the Catholic church in Germany to close its seminaries and to educate all of its prospective priests in schools run by his government.

At the very time that the Catholic Jesuit educational order was -- in the free air of America -- building such venerable academic institutions as Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Fordham University in New York and Chicago's Loyola University, Kaiser Wilhelm's chief henchman, Prince Otto von Bismarck, branded the Jesuits a subversive force and threw them out of Germany on their ears.
"Gee, it's old, German and looks expensive,
let's restore it and throw a party"

In fact, Kaiser Wilhelm I anticipated Adolf Hitler's National Socialists and the 20th century Communist regimes of Europe by at least 50 years in persecuting and imposing state controls over Catholic religious institutions and schools.

But what might you expect of a fatheaded old world militarist who in 1888 - while the genial Grover Cleveland occupied the American White House -- was still prancing around in his plumed hat, insisting that he was anointed by God to a divine right to govern?

And true to his Prussian militaristic roots, in 1870 Kaiser Billy, through his boy, Prince Bismarck, employed Machiavellian treachery and deceit to launch a land war against France. That conflict, most historians agree, despite periodic time outs, didn't actually end until May of 1945. It cost literally millions of European lives.

DANK is a German acronym for German American National Congress.

It was formed shortly after WWII to ensure that Americans of German descent weren't subjected to the same anti-Germanic mania that accompanied World War I.

Given the fact that Germans in the US, by then were probably the most thoroughly assimilated of all ethnic groups and the fact that a full 38% of the returning victorious U.S. Armed forces were German-Americans (including the Supreme Commander of the European Theater and the Chief tactical officer of the Pacific Theater) those fears were entirely unfounded.

So DANK Haus settled in to becoming a social group, ostensibly committed to celebrating German-American achievement and salient aspects of German culture.

DANK Haus pea brains whooping it up at
 the 2011 Chicago homosexual pride parade
Where a celebration of the despotic 19th century, blatantly anti-Catholic, founder of the German 2nd Reich fits into that mission is anybody's guess.

And this DANK outfit makes a good bit of its cash renting out its hall for wedding receptions, more than a few of which are to German Catholics.

In fact, it now rents out room to St. Matthias Catholic School for classes. So you have the absurd situation whereby Catholic children are studying in the very shadow of the portrait of the very German despot who persecuted their ancestors for their Roman Catholic faith.

The dimwits at St. Matthias parish are subsidizing this DANK Haus, a group that is essentially spitting on their heritage. This is unforgivable. Can you imagine a Jewish yeshiva paying to have its kids study in the shadow of a portrait of Adolf Hitler?

Our guess is that some dimwit over at the DANK Haus on Western and Lawrence in Chicago found the portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm moldering in the attic there and thought, "Gee, this is old, it's German, it has a gilded frame and looks expensive. Let's restore it and have a party."

Let's just hope that one of the pea-brains at Chicago's DANK Haus doesn't stumble onto a dusty old, antique, expensive looking, oil portrait of the founder of the German 3rd Reich.

They just might be tempted to restore it so they can throw a party.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Complete Chronicle of Mick Jagger's Voluminous and Varied Sex Life

Once I house sat for a family in the Woodley Park section of Washington, D.C. and while they had a great collection of fine French brandies, their library left a whole lot to be desired.

"Sittin Jack Flash":
Mick Jagger turns 70 this July
So out of sheer boredom, I found myself sipping their fine restorative libations while reading an unexpurgated biography of the closeted homosexual movie star, Rock Hudson.

After a 300 or so page romp thru the smarmy, graphic and seeming non-stop homoerotic exploits of New Trier High School's favorite son, I had an overwhelming urge to wash my hands.

After wading thru 328 pages of Christopher Andersen's new biography, Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger, I felt a need for a more industrial strength washup -- something like 24 hours in a full service Turkish bath.

The book was, quite simply, all sex - all the time.

The exploits of Mick Jagger, who turns 70 this year, really were quite smarmy overall and reading about them, after a short while, simply became boring.

Andersen, a former editor of People magazine, seems to have interviewed every one of Jagger's purported 4,000 female conquests and a good many of the androgynous rocker's male bedfellows too.

He recounts a lot of this in mind numbing detail.

On those rare occasions when Andersen manages to mention the storied musical endeavors and achievements of Jagger and the Rolling Stones, the treatment is cursory -- more to set the chronological backdrop for the latest phase of Mick's bedroom antics.

We are treated to scenes of Jagger in a menage a trois with his one time paramour, glam rocker David Bowie and a voluptuous black girl.
Glam rocker David Bowie
and Mick had a torrid affair

We have Jagger in the kitchen screwing his kids' new nanny on the countertop while his then-wife, Jerry Hall, dozes in another part of the house.

We have Mick, Bowie and Bette Midler cloistered in a closet together, boisterously getting it on with each other for more than an hour during a New York soiree.

We see Mick, Bowie, Bowie's wife and the rock group Queen's principal queen, Freddie Mercury, "whooping it up" with a group of transvestites at a London gay haunt.

Some of Andersen's chronicles border on the truly disturbing, such as Mick's seduction of MacKenzie Phillips on her 18th birthday. "I've been waiting to do this since you were 10," he tells the teenage star of TV's One Day at a Time and daughter of his friends John and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas.

Mick, we are told, earlier had an affair with Mackenzie's mother and we are told that the teenager got her sexual start via an incestuous affair with her drug addled father. (p.192)

Had enough yet?

And pop biographer, Andersen devotes a full five pages to a controversy over the size of Mick Jagger's genitalia. The controversy was apparently started by fellow Rolling Stone, Keith Richards, who in an interview referred to Mick's equipment as being his, "tiny todger."


Andersen's output is pretty much what you might expect from someone who once scribbled for People magazine, which is, after all, little more than a glossy  glorified supermarket tabloid.

Keith Richards nicknamed Jagger
"Brenda" and "Her Majesty"
Nevertheless, some interesting little tidbits about Jagger's life manage to squeak thru the lurid scatological chronicle, to wit:

--Mick Jagger's father, Joe, was something like the post-war Jack LaLanne of Britain, a physical fitness devotee and evangelist with his own national TV show,

--On December 12, 2003, when Mick Jagger was to be invested as a Knight of the British Empire, Queen Elizabeth conveniently chose to have elective surgery that day so as to avoid having to oversee the ceremony,

--Jagger told British reporters in 1970 that, "The time is right now, revolution is valid." and "There should be no such thing as private property." He said this with a straight face, even as "street fighting man", Mick, was lavishing millions on his new Queen Anne styled mansion, furnishing it with priceless antiques, Flemish tapestries and Persian rugs. Jagger was chauffeur driven to that very press conference in his brand new Bentley limousine. (p.88)

--Jagger told fellow Stone, Keith Richards that as a young rocker, the idol whom he tried to emulate on stage, was not Elvis or Buddy Holly, but rather Marilyn Monroe. He wept bitterly when she died.

--Mick originally had a polished, upper middle class accent, but he acquired his trademark gruff, Cockneyfied sound as a result of accidentally having bitten off the tip of his tongue and swallowed it during a basketball game.

--Jagger seriously considered running for the British House of Commons on the socialist Labour Party line in the 70s, but thought that Bianca Jagger, his then wife, would be a political liability. (Altho with Bianca being a big fan of the Marxist Sandinistas in her native Nicaragua, you'd think that would be a big plus with the motley, neo-Leninists who constitute Britain's Labour party.)

All in all, this is not a very fun book to read, obsessed as it is with the obsessive sexual pursuits of a rather bizarre guy.

You'll probably not want to go out and slap down $32 for Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger.

Unless of course, you happen to be a giddy middle school boy in need of titillation, a National Enquirer reader or perhaps, an avid devotee of Bob Guccione's raunchy films.

Here is a 1966 performance of Mick Jagger's misogynist anthem, Under My Thumb:

And here from 1986 - introduced by Sir Paul McCartney - good buddies Mick Jagger and David Bowie perform live their reprise of the Martha and the Vandellas hit, Dancin' in the Streets: